Our Best of Illinois reader's choicse categories couldn't possibly cover every inch of our industry. Here are a few winners in that "other" territory that deserve a nod, too. 

The Party Train

This boutique River North hotel is an editor’s pick for the second year in a row to honor some of the best guest experiences we’ve seen in the market. After being the first hotel in the country in 2014 to offer Google Glass as a complimentary amenity, ACME went off the rails again with a package deal that let guests charter their own private CTA train car. Who knew you could even do that? Marketed to bachelor/bachelorette parties, birthdays, weddings and visiting corporate groups, ACME Hotel helped participants create their own custom train routes with stops at landmarks, restaurants and shops. The package also included a 10-room block (keeping the party together on one entire floor of the hotel), a gift card to keep the train rolling, customized “Off the Rails” t-shirts, a late checkout and “hair of the dog” extras. Unfortunately this offer is no longer available, but ACME is now promoting a “Binge Watch and Chill” deal, which allows guests to rent out a floor of hotel and watch TV in custom PJs, that sets the bar again.

The Hotel with Heart

You might not think of a hotel to be a zoo’s keeper, but when the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center has bedding to donate, it gives the gently used linens to the Lincoln Park Zoo. That’s right, the luxurious 250-thread-count sheets that Hilton guests are used to are also used as nesting material and activity toys in the Regenstein Center for African Apes at the historic animal haven. This is only one part of Hilton’s ongoing environmental initiatives; a unique beekeeping program and horticultural gallery were also launched in 2015, but the zoo partnership is perhaps the sweetest.  

The Casual Conference Center 

When a new Dunkin’ Donuts opened at the corner of Willow and Shermer in Glenview last April, locals knew it as the place they could hop in and get coffee and a morning treat. What no one was expecting was that it would also become a legitimate business center. The franchise location is run by North Shore Management Group, which owns and operates 60 other Dunkin’ Donuts in Chicagoland, yet the Glenview spot has been touted as one of the most unique in the area. That’s because inside are five conference rooms open to customers, including local organizations and groups. Half of them can hold up to 10 people while a few others are singular rooms for private phone calls. Additional amenities include free Wi-Fi, lounge seating and flat-screen televisions. It’s also open 24 hours a day for meetings on anyone’s schedule, and with enough coffee to stay awake.  

The Go-to Fish Fry

The only thing better than a Midwestern fish fry is one with a mission. Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris, the chefs and owners behind this Northbrook restaurant, not only launched the Prairie Grass Fish Fry lunch and dinner in 2015, but also made sure it had a sustainable source. Instead of using typical cod, the chefs purchase Wild Alaskan Black Cod, which is on Monterey Seafood Watch’s “green list.” The Wild Alaskan Black Cod is a species that is not overfished and therefore purchasing it is saving marine life and, by proxy, aiding in global conservation. Stegner and Bumbaris are also active supporters of the Shedd Aquarium’s Right Bite conservation program that promotes the consumption of responsibly and sustainably sourced fish in the Great Lakes.   

Click here to view the photos from the night! Feel free to tag yourself and share on social media! #BestofIL2018


It’s not just the places and providers that make our industry great, but also the people. Here are the seven great minds we proudly celebrate as selected by the Illinois Meetings + Events Editorial Advisory Board.


Every year, we ask you—our faithful readers—to tell us the best of the best in the Illinois meetings and events world. Your votes always result in a diverse crop of winners, from F&B to event décor to A/V and more, and this year is no exception. 

Our winners are located all over the state, from Schiller Park and Chicago to Galena and Northbrook. Some have recently opened while others are passing decades in the business. A team of five work at one company, while another has thousands of employees.