Dried-out burgers, doughy waffles and expired buffets might be the standard fare at some hotels, but not all hotel restaurants are created equal. The five options below, located within properties around Chicago, are standout options that could go up against most fine dining establishments. Bonus: They’re located just steps from your guests’ hotel rooms.
A Gem All Its Own
Baptiste & Bottle is located on the 20th floor of River North’s newest property, Conrad Chicago, which is fitting since its offerings are elevated from most hotel restaurants. Opened last November with Latinicity’s Richard Sandoval at the helm and Charlie Trotter’s James Lintelmann serving as executive chef, the American-style restaurant and accompanying whiskey bar strays from the notion that hotel food is bland and boring.
“Hotel restaurants can get a bad rap,” says General Manager Kelly Vohs. “We wanted to avoid that at all costs.”
As such, the menu offers such stunners as bone marrow and oxtail marmalade, as well as red snapper and a triple-seared prime New York steak. Custom millwork further draws guests into the 162-seat space.
Baptiste & Bottle also has private event space—which features a glass wall that separates the area from the restaurant—that can seat 12 comfortably. Specific sections of the restaurant can also be reserved for semiprivate dining.
“We built Baptiste & Bottle to be unpretentious with a communal atmosphere, where locals can come together in a comfortable setting that’s rare in a luxury hotel,” says Vohs. “This concept was designed to be an insular restaurant that’s totally distinctive.”
A Global Presence
Shanghai Terrace may be located inside The Peninsula on the Mag Mile, but its décor and food help take you out of Chicago and into Asia.
Bolstering the authentic vibe is Elmo Han, the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, who hails from Beijing and offers staples such as Peking duck and dim sum as well as original dishes not found in other area Chinese restaurants, such as wok-fried scallops in black truffle sauce and foie gras dumplings.
Being part of The Peninsula gives Shanghai Terrace brand recognition that other hotels may not have. With sister restaurants and hotels across the world in locations such as Hong Kong, Paris, Bangkok and Tokyo, the hotel group has an international footprint, giving it an upper hand both in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
“The reputation of the Peninsula brand, and the level and quality of service that comes with being part of a five-star hotel, sets us apart from many other Chinese restaurants in the city,” says Manager Tomohiko Waseda.
For meetings and events, Shanghai Terrace has a private dining room that seats up to 30. As well, from May through September, an attached terrace offers additional space for 450 reception-style or 180 banquet-style.
A Parisian Affair
Walking into Hotel Felix’s signature restaurant, Troquet River North, is akin to walking into a cozy Parisian café. Guests munch on cheese plates and charcuterie boards while drinking French wine and enjoying the European feel of the environment.
“Troquet has a very welcoming, warm and casual atmosphere,” says Nicole Quaisser, coowner of the LM Restaurant Group, which owns and operates Troquet. For example, in addition to enjoying an incredible meal, you can also watch a sports game. “I love that we show a variety of international sports,” she says. “It’s great to be able to watch a game in a place that isn’t a typical sports bar.”
As a part of the hotel, Quaisser says Troquet offers catering opportunities for room service and meetings held at the property.
The restaurant also features a smaller private space, called the Jade Room, that can fit 20 seated. If more space is necessary, a full buyout is available, which accommodates 100 reception-style or 80 seated.
Troquet’s menu changes seasonally, but perennial favorites include croquet monsieur, steak frites and onion soup gratinée.
For Quaisser, the best part of the restaurant is the location: “We’re lucky to have a wonderful prime location in the River North neighborhood,” she says. “We love that Troquet has become a neighborhood place for nearby residents.”
Sable Kitchen & Bar has been home to a number of incredible culinary artisans over the years, like “Top Chef” alum Heather Terhune and currently Shane Graybeal, who joined on in November after a stint at BIN 36. That has given the dining establishment at Hotel Palomar (A Kimpton Hotel) a unique reputation.
“Sometimes people believe that hotel restaurants aren’t unique in their own right and are just a function or amenity of the hotel,” says Catering Manager Kelsey Oberlin. “As a brand, Kimpton strives to debunk that theory.”
The work the River North restaurant does to separate itself from other standard-fare hotel restaurants is abundantly clear upon looking at the New American-style menu, which changes seasonally. Options can include scallops with an apple bacon relish; chicken and a cornmeal scallion waffle with a bourbon maple glaze; and deviled eggs with goat cheese and pancetta.
Sable’s semiprivate dining space—Upper Sable—can host up to 30 for events, but full buyouts can host up to 200. The restaurant also caters the meeting space inside the hotel itself.
“Being connected to Hotel Palomar offers the possibility of extending a chef-driven menu and an award-winning beverage program to guests,” says Oberlin. “We don’t serve your typical banquet food.”