Bottom view of the St. Regis Chicago Hotel surrounded by bright green trees in full bloom.
St. Regis Chicago

Travel

Chicago: Where Architectural Beauty Meets Culinary Delights

by Tanvi Chheda

Resilient and innovative, Chicago knows how to play to its strengths. On the foundations of its architectural legacy, the Windy City welcomed a new addition to its famous skyline, the wavy, Jeanne Gang–designed St. Regis, and anticipates the opening of the South Side’s Obama Foundation Center by 2025. Not to mention its Michelin-starred restaurant count is up to 23.
A hotel room decorated in neutral colors that has a king-size bed with white bedding. There is a small table with chair next to a large window which reveals a view of the Chicago’s city skyline.
Park Hyatt Chicago

A large hotel room featuring a living and dining room space with a view of a city skyline. The décor is modern and sophisticated. The windows are dramatic with floor-to-ceiling views.
Sophy Hyde Park

Hotels in Chicago

SLEEP


Park Hyatt Chicago

Fresh from a $60 million renovation, the 182-room, Michigan Avenue hotel was the first-ever Park Hyatt, opening back in 1980. (The brand now operates more than 40 hotels worldwide.) In Chicago, sprawling rooms in cream, sand, and caramel tones remain the streamlined sanctuaries they’ve been, but better. For a sense of place, just look out the window: the views of Lake Michigan and the Water Tower are unmatched. parkhyatt.com


The St. Regis Chicago

The long-anticipated and frequently delayed St. Regis hotel, designed by starchitect Jeanne Gang, has transformed the Windy City’s skyline with its three wavy, interconnected towers. Hotel rooms, 192 in all, fill the first 11 floors with residences above. Just months old, the property has slated food and beverage offerings and a wellness program that sound equally standout: a Tuscan steakhouse by Chef Evan Funke and 12,000-square-foot spa. marriott.com


Pendry Chicago

The Pendry Chicago may be just 2 years old, but the 364-room hotel feels like it’s always been part of the city, occupying the 1929 green, terra-cotta, and black granite Carbide & Carbon Building on Michigan Avenue. Topped with a slender, gold-leaf cap, the 37-story Art Deco landmark resembles a bottle of Champagne (a daring statement during the days of Prohibition). Rooms feel contemporary but not modern, appointed with classic details such as crown molding and wainscoting, dark wood furnishings, black-and-white photographs, and herringbone marble baths. At the Château Carbide rooftop bar, playful drinks lean on floral and herbaceous notes. pendry.com


Sophy Hyde Park

Farther south, close to the University of Chicago campus, the 98-room Sophy keeps a standout, 600-piece art collection that includes works by students from local schools. Within the seven-story brick façade are elegant, thoughtful interiors and the popular Mesler Kitchen restaurant. While in the neighborhood, don’t miss the Gothic-style Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, colossal Museum of Science and Industry (the only building standing from the 1893 World’s Fair), and upcoming Obama center. sophyhotel.com

An elegant and carefully plated dish of thinly sliced, curled Hamachi, black rice, finger limes and mint.
Ever

Interior of rustic restaurant with several tables and chairs set up for dining. There are chandeliers hanging from greenery and wall paper designed with foliage.
Alpana

Restaurants and bars in Chicago

EAT & DRINK


Ever

Courageously opened in the midst of a pandemic, Ever—helmed by Michelin-starred chef Curtis Duffy, whose numerous accolades precede him—has gone on to earn two stars in its own right. Elegant courses showcase each season’s bounty, such as curled hamachi with black rice pudding, shallots, lime, and mint; white asparagus accented by mandarin, pumpernickel, and dill; and grapefruit heightened by jalapeño and ginger snap. For a nightcap, Ever just opened After cocktail bar and lounge: Go next door for caviar flights and heady cocktails. ever-restaurant.com


Esmé

Another Michelin-star recipient, Esmé takes the food-as-art metaphor to a new level. The whitewashed Lincoln Park restaurant draws inspiration from a rotating roster of local artists, enlisting them to create specific works to be installed on walls and used in service pieces: think a lined paper ceramic plate reminiscent of school supplies, in collaboration with non-profit Kitchen Possible, or a Cubist tabletop sculpture with shelves for nibbles by Courtney Shoudis. From the community spirit to the art to the food, Esmé hits it out of the park. esmechicago.com


The Office

Most travelers to Chicago have made the pilgrimage to The Aviary, the famous mixology-meets-molecular gastronomy bar where the In-the-Rocks cocktail involves using a slingshot to crack open an ice shell injected with cognac, rye whiskey, vermouth, and Benedictine. Such theatrics have made the 12-year-old Aviary the stuff of legend, but lesser known is its sister The Office, a speakeasy that sits just below. The 22-seat, dimly lit bar, which could easily pass for the billiard room or library from the board game Clue, features adroit bartenders and plenty of booze, much in the way of rare and vintage spirits. theaviary.com


Virtue

From James Beard–awarded chef and restaurant owner Erick Williams, Virtue attracts locals and visitors to its inviting Hyde Park dining room for soulful and comforting Southern fare. Dig into honey butter–smeared cornbread, blackened catfish, or shrimp and crawfish with stone-ground grits. Virtue’s success is tied to Hyde Park’s success, thus Williams has gone on to open other neighborhood eateries (Mustard Seed Kitchen, Daisy’s Po-Boy andTavern, Top This Mac & Cheese) and invests in development projects in the area. virtuerestaurant.com


Alpana

One of just 269 master sommeliers in the world, Alpana Singh curates the food menus at her eponymous Gold Coast neighborhood restaurant around the wine, not the other way around. Dishes—such as a Brussels sprout crostini with apple saba, ricotta, marcona almonds—or housemade creste di gallo pasta with tomato grappa sauce—are meant to complement and balance the mouthfeel, acidity, and fruity sweetness of crisp sauvignon blancs from California, gamay reds from Beaujolais, France, and barolos from Piedmont, Italy. A 33-page tome with notes such as “pair a sauvignon blanc with anything you would squeeze lemon on,” the wine list is both an odyssey through the world’s grape-growing regions and an ode to Singh’s 25-year career in wine. alpanasingh.com

A modern building with a mix of glass and stone. The building is surrounded by lush trees and green space. The building has an unique, abstract shape.
Barack Obama Presidential Center

A sleek and sophisticated building with modern aesthetic. Large glass panels and dark metal cladding create a dynamic facade and design.
Steppenwolf Theatre

The large, stained art glass dome in The Grand Army of the Republic rotunda is a grand and iconic attraction at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Chicago Cultural Center

Things to do in Chicago

SEE & DO

Steppenwolf Theatre
This premier ensemble theater has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a basement of a Highland Park church. Along Halsted Street, between the Lincoln Park and Old Town neighborhoods, Steppenwolf has debuted the modern, steel-and-glass-encased Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center, with a 400-seat theater in the round as its pièce de résistance. A whimsical and humorous production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull opened in the space last summer. The $54 million building is part of an ongoing expansion to enhance the theater. steppenwolf.org

Chicago Cultural Center
In the shadow of Millennium Park’s shining “The Bean” sculpture and the Art Institute (with its 300,000-piece collection), a hidden gem across Michigan Avenue is the Chicago Cultural Center. Originally built as the city’s first central public library, the CCC hosts some 700 art, music, film, and lecture programs throughout the year. Drop in for a free tour and marvel at the Classic Revival architecture, mother-of-pearl mosaics, and the Preston Bradley Hall’s restored Tiffany stained-glass dome, which measures 38 feet in diameter and comprises some 30,000 glass pieces in the shape of fish scales. chicago.gov

Obama Foundation Center
Part presidential museum and library, part community center and gardens (including a one-acre wetland area and children’s playground), the $830 million Obama Foundation, in Jackson Park, within Chicago’s South Side, is expected to open in 2025. Husband-and-wife architectural team Tod Williams and Billie Tsien will incorporate words from President Barack Obama’s 2015 speech, honoring brave marchers who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, into the façade of the museum building. Along with a central plaza, the Obama Foundation Center will revitalize portions of Jackson Park to encourage visitors and families to connect with nature. obama.org

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Chicago
It’s no secret that Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of American architecture and Prairie-style homes has its roots in Chicago’s western Oak Park suburb. Tour his private home and studio, or the concrete and geometric Unity Temple, Wright’s only surviving public building from his Prairie period. Both the Chicago Architecture Center and Frank Lloyd Wright Trust run a variety of guided tours of individual sites as well as full-day overview tours visiting several of Wright’s buildings. architecture.org; flwright.org

Green Spaces
It arguably started in the 2010s with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who made “greening” Chicago his personal mission. The 18.5-mile Lakefront Trail is continually being upgraded, and most recently separated into designated bike and pedestrian paths. Next, The 606 (named for the zip code prefix all Chicagoans share) transformed an abandoned El train track into a 2.7-mile biking, jogging, and walking trail through some of the city’s liveliest neighborhoods. Now comes Lincoln Yards: a new 53-acre, mixed-use real estate plan on former industrial land along the northern branch of the Chicago River, which will add some 50 acres of riverfront green space. Lincoln Yards is due to be completed next year. lincolnyards.com