What It’s Like to Spend 24 Hours in the New Hoxton Chicago
The world’s buzziest urban hotel brand lands in the Windy City
Fulton Market just welcomed its newest boutique hotel, The Hoxton, Chicago (pronounced hucks-tin unless you’re British), and it’s a winner. The seventh property from the London hotelier is its third stateside edition, following Brooklyn and Portland. LA will follow later this year.
With a slew of “Best New Hotel” coronations already to its name, the Hoxton — like the Ace, Moxy or Thompson hotels that came before it — aims to be more than just a place for weary tourists to rest their heads. In Chicago, that means Cabra, a new Peruvian restaurant from local legend Stephanie Izard, as well as an emphasis on beautiful public spaces for guests and locals alike to gather. Curious to see whether the hotel stands up to the buzz, we recently spent 24 hours inside. Here’s what we learned.
I step into the lobby and am immediately surprised that there are people everywhere. It’s by design, as the towering room allows the lobby to bleed into a comfortable seating area which in turn bleeds into the bar and then the lunch restaurant. It’s a great great room with a wall of windows to let light pour in. Families meeting for Saturday brunch cross paths with hotel guests checking in at the front desk. Fulton Market shoppers grabbing coffee share tables with laptop warriors typing away. The L shimmers by (somehow silently) and the whole scene resembles Chicago at its most European.
My eyes travel up to windows and the floor above. According to the elevator I’m looking at “The Apartment”. Hoxton is an international chain and every property has one of these “Apartment” spaces. The Chicago version has meeting rooms, a kitchen and would be perfect for private events.
Check-in is simple. Guests receive a Hoxton survival guide and local map. Behind the desk are assorted snacks and drinks so guests can build their own mini bar. Rather than upcharge guests for rarely eaten minibar food, Hoxton has curated a local-ish selection at non-hotel prices. Chicago popcorn mix and two Topo Chico’s it is. Checkout is at noon tomorrow, but if we are moving slow we can get up to three extra hours for just $10 an hour. Challenge accepted.
Before lunch, my traveling companion and I drop off our things in the room. We’re staying in a Cozy, the mid-sized option of the hotel’s 182 rooms. There’s also Snug and Roomy. Rates start at $129 a night. Note, this is not a suite hotel, but corner rooms have double windows if you’re looking for something swankier.
We arrive for lunch at Cira. Boka operates the food out of The Hoxton Chicago, and the Mediterranean lunchtime spot is helmed by Chris Pandel (Swift & Sons, Balena). Weekends offer a brunch menu, but if you’re in the area on a weekday it doubles as a superb lunch spot, especially for vegetarians. West Loop seems heavy on the meats lately and the Mediterranean entry brings some variety to the neighborhood.
You can get ALL the pastries. All of them for $15. Done. Easiest decision I’ve ever made. Daily selections include baklava kouign amann, strawberry-rhubarb brioche galette, sour cherry jelly donut and blueberry cream cheese coffee cake.
For me, the kouign amann is a top-five all-time pastry. Pro tip: this piece of heaven is available at the coffee bar inside the lobby if you can’t or don’t want to sit down at Cira. Hotel guests can also order Cira food straight to their room.
I forgot there was more food coming, but alas plates of shakshuka, French toast, eggs and potatoes have arrived. My biggest shock is the bang for the buck. Compared to typical hotel food, the prices are lower ($2 for scrambled eggs, $5 for a heaping bowl of potatoes) and the quality is higher.
Back in the hotel room and now that I have time to take it in, I really dig it. The rooms are small but efficient. A king bed, reading chair and stool/ottoman all fit thanks to the smaller TV credenza and open closet. The ceilings are concrete, the walls are color-block pink and the entire exterior wall is windows.
It’s a busy mid-century modern but small touches everywhere aim to surprise and delight. There’s a bedside bluetooth Marshall amp, a starburst chandelier on a dimmer, paper bags for a complimentary breakfast and a selection of curated books by a “Hox Friend” that are custom to your room.
The plan was to spend the afternoon at the rooftop pool, but it’s spring in Chicago so it’s snowing. It will become a full-blown scene come summer. The pool is on the same level as Cabra and each end of the restaurant has glass garage doors that can open the entire thing into one outdoor space. Beyond the obvious midday use, it will be the perfect spot to have a fireside drink and catch a summer sunset. And it’s open to the public, so add it to your summer to do list.
With time to kill before dinner and no option for poolside activities, I crack open “A Super Useful Huxton Survival Guide”. It offers a recommendation for a bouldering gym a few blocks away. Perfect way to kill some time before dinner.
Cabra is bumping. I take my drink, the Alpaca My Bags, with both hands because my grip strength is non-existent post-climbing. Puns (and sours) feature heavy on the drinks menu, so I’m immediately sold.
A live DJ and busy bar add to the hype; if it weren’t for the quality of the food, the place would be the liveliest rooftop bar in town. But the food beats all here, so Cabra will be known as another feather in the cap of Steph Izard. It’s a small plates menu — half cold (de la barra), half hot (de la cocina) — which will let you try a lot. Our meal played out in the following rounds …
Duck ceviche and walu tiraditos.
Chicken thighs, grilled shishitos and chicken empanadas. With the chimichurri sauce, the empanadas are exotic and light; without they’re a tiny chicken pot pie. I’m not mad at either.
Yucca fries and sweet potato ceviche. For the final plates course I went off the Vegetarian menu and was not disappointed.
Let me make something simple for you, don’t read the dessert menu, just order the mango soft serve and split it with a group.
After running into some friends from college (it really is a scene), we meet up with two friends for drinks at Lazy Bird, the hotel’s speakeasy-style cocktail lounge. As the elevators open to the basement I can smell booze and hear muted laughs mingling with tickled ivories.
Our party snags a coveted booth seat. Each person gets two giant pillows; it’s the most comfortable I’ve been in a bar in some time. The menu is a 52-page hardcover book complete with illustrations and instructions of how to create each cocktail. Broken down by liquor type, every drink in the book is $15. Have your order ready because it’s a packed spot and if you can grab the wait staff’s attention, pounce. I start with The Blackthorn.
Emerging from the basement, the Lobby has transformed into a giant bar. Drake music plays while groups post up in the velvet seating. Definitely a great date spot if you’re looking to impress or people watch.
Noise complaint received. Turns out the Marshall amplifiers do indeed amplify. The hotel staff came gently knocking before the Lizzo song had even finished, so good response time on them. We call it a night.
Outside the room, the paper breakfast bag now hangs full: overnight oats, an apple and OJ, as advertised.
Even with the complimentary breakfast, I was dreaming of the baklava kouign amann, so we return to Cira. We take it at the bar to enjoy a new vantage. A woman a few seats down chats with the bartender about how she’s getting married here in a few months. I’m trying my best to get invited to the wedding so I’ll have an excuse to come back.
Valet via app means one text and the car is on the way, with an estimated arrival time updating live. It really is 2019.
Come for the food scene, stay for the hotel. It’s a hip property with great rooms, excellent food and a boutique feel.
Like the Shinola Hotel in Detroit, Hoxton is making an effort to support the community — albeit in a different way. The hotel’s programming, including wellness classes, feature local businesses and artists, and I was glad to see the likes of Garfield Park and Pilsen represented. Additionally, the public nature of the space itself and the upcoming workspaces (two entire floors will debut in Fall 2019) position it to become a community hub. I’m excited to see where they take it from here.
TL; DR: If you want to boil it down to its most basic parts, The Hoxton Chicago is a Soho House for the people. And the people are here.
Words + Photos: Claire Young, Chicago Writer / @youngspeople
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