A Veteran Chicago Hotel Concierge Shares All Her Windy City Secrets
The Four Seasons' Kristen Klus shares her favorite restaurants, bars, shops and secrets around Chicago
This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in exactly that: long-serving concierges from the swankiest hotels in town.
Kristen Klus got her start in hospitality rather unconventionally, with an audition at Disney for the role of Cinderella. Despite being called back for a second audition, Klus was ultimately deemed too tall for the role of the glass slipper-wielding princess — by 1.25 inches, to be exact — but was instead offered a position at the Concierge Desk at the Yacht and Beach Club at Disney World. She accepted.
Fortunately, it was a natural fit, and so when Klus moved back to Chicago, she sought out a similar gig. At the Drake Hotel, following short stints in a variety of positions, Klus secured her first position at the Concierge desk. Later, in March of 2007, she transferred again — this time to the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago — where she served as a Concierge until eventually being promoted to Chef Concierge, a role she’s now held for nearly nine years.
Fast forward to 2022 and Klus now holds dual leadership positions (Guest Relations Manager and Chef Concierge), is an active member of the Les Clefs d’Or USA (the only national association of professional hotel concierges, with desks in the lobbies of mostly 4- and 5-star hotels nationwide, per its website) and is widely considered to be one of the most decorated and dedicated staffers at the Four Seasons Chicago.
“Kristen is an exceptional leader and one of the city’s best-connected concierge,” a representative for the brand says. “She is extraordinary at what she does and is a star in the eyes of our hotel.”
Given the fact that she’s also been a longterm resident and champion for the Windy City, it’s easy to see why Klus would make the perfect candidate to dish on all things Chicago: where to get the best cup of coffee, how to make the most out of a stay at the Four Seasons and the one thing locals hate the most. Below, everything you could possibly need to know in advance of your next trip …
InsideHook: What’s a unique service that Four Seasons Hotel Chicago offers that I won’t find elsewhere?
Kristen Klus: The Ice Cream Man! We have a bespoke ice cream cart that makes visits to guest rooms and you can make a custom sundae — it’s even in a take home bowl with our mascot Sammy the Skyscraper. Who doesn’t love an ice cream sundae brought right to your door?
What’s the best time of day to get my table of choice at Adorn (the Four Seasons restaurant overseen by James Beard Award-winning Chef Jonathon Sawyer?
Those low-key hours between lunch and dinner you have a few guests having a late lunch or meeting in the restaurant, but you definitely will be able to choose whatever table your heart desires.
What’s an underutilized part of your hotel?
I feel like our Social Lounge is the newest secret spot in the city — insiders are tuned in but there is still time to become a regular there before it’s too hard to get a table! I think it’s amazing that we’ve made caviar and champagne easily attainable before an evening out on the town. (Note: Social Lounge is currently closed for the season.)
Where can I get a cup of coffee near the hotel and go for a good walk?
I would head to 3 Greens Coffee bar on the ground floor of the 900 Shops. From there, I would walk along Rush Street to State, and north along State street through the Gold Coast. In this neighborhood you’ll find some of the oldest homes in the city, built by Chicago’s elite after our famous fire. Gorgeous vintage brownstones and greystones speak of a bygone era in our modern times and are still inhabited by the jet set of Chicago.
Where do singles hang out?
How about a restaurant where only locals go?
Riccardo Trattoria is the ultimate insider’s spot for authentic Italian in a cozy setting in Lincoln Park.
Late night spot where I can get into a bit of trouble? (But not too much trouble?)
Dublin’s is the classic old school late night spot in the Gold Coast. You never know who you’ll meet there — from local celebs to the latest touring rock band.
Best cheap eats in town?
L’Patron is the best spot for high quality tacos and Mexican food.
Where can I go for the best dessert?
Adorn is by far the best place for desserts in the city. Chef Juan’s menu spans the continent, evoking nostalgic classics from India to modern Columbian chocolate dreams.
Best place for a sunset cocktail?
The bar at Gibson’s Italia overlooking the Chicago River — perfect for watching the sun dip down under the sky and water.
Where should I go in the area for a day spent outside?
The Lakefront path offers a glimpse at both Chicago neighborhoods and our beautiful lakefront coastline. Renting a bike and cruising northbound, you have options to stop for lunch, pop into Lincoln Park or continue on to more neighborhood beaches. It’s the perfect way to spend an outdoor day in the city and something the locals do.
Where’s a good spot to snap an Instagram-worthy photo?
A picture by the “Bean” or Cloudgate is a must for a proper Insta moment in the city. Beyond that, I would suggest a Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute, in front of the famous painting with all the dots! (Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.)
Best neighborhood to take a four-hour stroll if I want to get acquainted with a more “authentic” side of the city?
I’d have to say Logan Square. Now this is a biased answer, as I live in Logan. However, the neighborhood has a little bit of everything for everyone. You have galleries, old-school restaurants that have stood the test of time, outdoor space to relax and bespoke boutiques next to cocktail bars. The farmers market on Sundays in the summer attracts visitors from across the city.
What’s the easiest way to get around town, in terms of transportation?
The L can take you almost everywhere you want to go — having the CTA app is key to helping get around. Pro tip: download CURB for a taxi when the train can’t take you there. No surging prices!
What’s a lesser-known cultural institution worth visiting?
Kingston Mines has been the place for blues for 53 years for a reason. It’s authentic and still books some of the best blues artists in town on a daily basis. It feels liked you’ve stepped onto the set of the Blues Brothers when you walk in.
What’s a cool architectural site that’s not mobbed with tourists?
The Driehaus Museum is one of my favorite under-the-radar places to visit. It’s a restored mansion form the gilded era of Chicago. It’s like taking step back in time.
What’s the best thing you can only get in Chicago?
Rainbow Cone — a Southside summer institution that is only truly fulfilled when you’ve knocked a cone over at least once as a kid.
What’s the best thing you can only do in Chicago?
The Architectural River Cruise. The birthplace of the modern skyscraper is the perfect city to take a deep dive into the soaring buildings that make up our skyline.
What’s something I can say or do to endear myself to locals?
You can make sure to pronounce the city the right way: “chi-CAW-go.” And locals never call it “The Chi.”
What’s something that tourists tend to do that really annoys locals?
Immediately hate on deep dish without making sure to try the best spots. They assume that the places that have the most national press are the best and that is just not the case.
What’s an item or activity that tourists tend to get ripped off on? Any tips on how to avoid that?
There are a lot of different “all inclusive passes” that people can buy for various attractions. Make sure to really think through how much you will actually do, what you are spending, what is included and if there are limitations on times or entry.
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