Chicago, we’re getting quite posh. Sir Richard Branson’s first-ever hospitality foray, the Virgin Hotel, recently opened in the former Old Dearborn Bank Building, a 27-story, Art Deco-y tower in The Loop. The rooms, they say, are “chambers.” The WiFi, they say, is “free.” So we, like you, were curious. Because we, like you, have in-laws whom we’d prefer stay elsewhere. And we, like you, enjoy the occasional romantic hotel stay. So we spent the night. Here’s what we found.
Check-in. There’s no lobby. There’s no lobby? There’s no lobby. Just red-carpeted stairs. A small kiosk. And Jessica — a blonde in a red overcoat who greets me by name.
“I know. Creepy, right?” she says.
Yes, creepy, right. But ok, since your British accent is delightful.
A young pompadoured swinger with an iPad checks my date and me in. Banter exchanged. As are my credit card and room keys. He ushers me to the bronze Art Deco elevator doors, “Big plans today, mate?”
I plan to drink my way through this assignment, so yes.
And I have no plan except to wander through this entire place, drink in hand and pinkie raised. God save the Queen.
Room 1108. Grand Chamber King. All rooms are “chambers” here. There’s a dog statue in front, the hotel’s sybaritic way of marking pet-friendly rooms.
First impressions of the room: tech-forward and detail-oriented. But it’s 10 a.m. and without coffee I am nothing.
I head downstairs to the sunlit Two Zero Three — the coffee bar that faces the corner of Lake and Wabash. No line — which makes for good quick-service coffee joint. The joe’s from Lakeview coffee roasters Bow Truss. I order a cup and settle in.
Lunch time. I visit retro-inspired diner Miss Rickey’s, where David Burke’s Primehouse vet Rick Gresh is dishing out old-fashioned American grub.
My waiter wastes no time with recommendations: tres leches french toast; the double-patty Miss Rickey’s burger. But their most popular, he says, is the chicken and waffles.
“It photographs really well.” He shoots me a glance as if I’m a junkie who was just offered a bump.
But does it taste really well, my dude? That’s what I care about.
I thank him and order the chicken and waffles with a side of potato hash.
Damn, this chicken though.
So good I wish I snapped a top-down photo before digging in. Sure you can find one on Instagram, anyway.
Not sure what to do next. Our waiter tells us about the in-house Tesla.