Hotel Lincoln’s enviable north side Chicago setting – across from a tranquil 1,200 acre park on sparkling Lake Michigan – might make you forget for a moment that you are in the third-largest US city. However, the cloud-popping skyline views from the buzzing rooftop bar, the original artwork that animates its hallways and suites and its skipping distance to renowned theatres and starred restaurants all confirm the hotel’s decidedly cosmopolitan locale.
Rooftop bar with a view
Friendly local vibe
Steps from Lincoln Park
Choice of bottle of red or white wine upon arrival
In the know
Also need to know:
In addition to the hotel’s fitness centre, guest passes are available for the nearby Equinox Athletic Club for a fee.Grab your trainers for a staff-led trail run along the shores of Lake Michigan. Or, let someone else do the legwork when you take a scenic pedi-cab ride around the neighbourhood.
With acres of inviting green space just steps away, have a picnic blanket handy for an afternoon spent contemplating the clouds.
Cosmopolitan casual: gussy up designer jeans with pumps and classic bucks. Leave baseball caps and well-worn sneakers behind.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
One Monday evening, gathering everything I would ever need for a long-haul holiday, I loaded up the car (ignoring the soft cry of our leaf springs) eager to get on the road at 6.15. I set off into the waning sunlight and arrived at my destination. 15 minutes later.
I’m not usually one to stay local. When it comes to taking time off of work, it had better be for something irrational, inconvenient and impractical. I want to trek across Morocco on an unruly camel. Or venture to a remote fishing village off the coast of Ireland, and live in a stone cottage with no running water or neighbors who’ve never even heard of Breaking Bad. My ideal escape starts out in Portugal on Sunday, and ends a week later in Poland. Or Peru.
But, when the opportunity to bunk at the Hotel Lincoln, a buzzed-about hometown newcomer in Chicago’s leafy Lincoln Park neighborhood, came knocking, who was I to say no? It’s true, Mr Smith and I had steered clear since the hotel’s opening last year. Wiser (OK, maybe just older) we were waiting for the press to quiet down, along with the queues of twentysomethings comparing tattoos as they waited for their spot at the happening rooftop bar.
Bracing ourselves for ironically bearded lounge-dwellers and a too-cool attitude, we were pleasantly surprised to find an interior that felt more living room than lobby and no overstyled facial hair in site. We were greeted at reception by friendly staff and a massive wall soaring with vintage, thrift-store paintings straight out of a Victorian brothel or the glossy pages of The World of Interiors. I was smitten.
After maxing out my iPhone photo library with every last delicious design detail in the lobby, Mr Smith nudged me towards the elevator. Even that – wall-to-wall plaid carpeting and navy shagreen wall coverings – had me all aflutter.
Our 10th-floor room, a light-filled Lake View Junior Suite, was more subdued in style than the common areas (what, no rawhide walls?), but it certainly didn’t lack character. Or square footage – it was the size of my college apartment. A full-length Warhol-esque mirror greeted us and Chicago-inspired art filled the walls. The several windows were generous with the panoramic views of Lincoln Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo and rolling Lake Michigan waves. But, it was the piles of plush pillows stacked to the ceiling that invited me to call this room home. Well, for the next few days, anyway.
Unpacked (or, rather, moved in) we headed up to the top-floor J Parker bar, named after President Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguard. Reminiscent of a glass slipper atop a skyscraper, it boasts views of the city in every dizzying direction from the see-through balconies hovering above the verdant park below. However, at these heights, I wouldn’t recommend drinking as much as I did… so, swill your deftly built Lazenby (Beefeater gin, Lillet Blanc and Death’s Door Vodka) cocktails responsibly.
Back in our room, we revived with still-bubbling fruit cobblers quickly delivered by room service, and watched Leo DiCaprio throw lavish parties on a television the size of a VW. And, just 15 minutes spent on the ginormous bed was enough to knock us out cold. Damn you, sleep-seductive thread count.
Maintaining the fantasy of our new pied-à-terre, we made our way downstairs to Elaine’s Coffee Call for breakfast the next morning. Hello, tartan cushions tossed on the large black sofa… hi there, adorable barista and master of the perfect latté leaf… how utterly charming you all are. We settled in with lattes and newspapers from the stack perched on the 1970s record player. All that was missing was a shaggy dog chewing my shoes.
Anxious to explore the neighborhood, Mr Smith put an end to our lounging. Most hotels, it seems, are set in a prime location designed to assault you at every turn with the tourist experience. However, nestled comfortably in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, casually overlooking a sprawling park and a world-famous lakefront, the Hotel Lincoln lives like the locals do.
Once a residential hotel (playwright David Mamet lodged here), you get the impression that nothing on the surrounding blocks has changed in the last century. A florist squeezes in against a coffee shop, next to the most adorable stationery boutique. It was enough to make me want to relocate permanently.
The best was yet to come though – we had a reservation that night at adjoining Perennial restaurant, a farm-to-table favorite in town. We cozied up in the glow of the golden room decorated with Mason jars of mysterious pickled things that demanded to be Instagrammed. Award-winning chef Paul Virant is a dedicated canner and the many pickled items – from summer beans to ramp relish – are his specialties.
Focused expertise is a hallmark of the restaurant, as demonstrated by our waiter’s impressive knowledge of Midwestern cheeses that could have landed him on Top Chef. Bellies blissfully full, we returned to our suite in the sky.
Waking up to the sparkling sunrise over the lake the next morning though, reality set in. We didn’t actually live at the Lincoln. We had to pack up sans darling barista, acclaimed in-house chef, cloud-like down pillows or shagreen walls.
So, for the moment, let’s just forget all that exile-to-a-remote-island-with-no-plumbing business. Who would have thought that a hike across town could be just as eye opening an escape as a trek across a distant desert? Our little adventure led to another fascinating development: we were now staycation evangelists. Turns out there’s no place like your home away from home…
1816 NORTH CLARK STREET, Chicago, Illinois 60614, United States
3.0 mi / 4.8 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- Room service
Award-winning chef Paul Virant is behind both Elaine’s Coffee Call (named for the switchboard operator who hooked David Mamet up with his caffeine when he called the hotel home) and Perennial Virant restaurants. Sink into to one of the artfully mismatched couches with a strong cup of La Colombe coffee and a homemade fruit-studded scone at vintage-chic Elaine’s. Chef Virant’s strict adherence to farm-to-table and seasonal fare is evident in both his hearty breakfast and more refined dinner menus. This is no fad devotion, though; Virant is a dedicated canner and the many pickled items – from summer beans to ramp relish – are his specialties.
The chummy communal tables in the heart of this open room are perfect for groups, or if you’re looking to chat up new friends. Slide into one of the high-backed banquettes that line the room and take in the action from a more private nook.
Elaine’s Coffee Call is open from 6:30am to 5pm. Perennial Virant does weekday breakfast from 6:30am to 10:30am, weekend brunch from 10am to 2pm and dinner nightly until 10pm on weekdays, 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Last call at J Parker is 1am.
Perennial Viant’s changing seasonal menu is available for room service from 6:30am to 10:30 am and from 5:00pm to 10:00pm.
No matter the season, J Parker draws a well-heeled local crowd to take in the flawless Lake Michigan and shining skyline views from its elegant 12th-floor perch. Nibble on inventive small plates from Chef Virant and sip smooth, potent specialty concoctions like the Lazenby – a mix of Beefeater gin, Lillet Blanc and Death’s Door Vodka.