This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize the exactly that: long-serving concierges from the best hotels in town.
The Langham Hotel Chicago has it all: The Forbes top five-star rating, a central city location, rooms with a view, an opulent top-floor club level, and chief concierge Philippe Gills, their Chicago Concierge Hall of Fame inductee and longtime member of Les Clefs d’Or USA, the international association of top concierges. We asked Gills to uncover the unique things that make the Windy City such a special place.
What’s a unique service that The Langham Chicago offers that I won’t find elsewhere?
Our Cinema Suite Experience, which features a 111-inch screen and comfortable reclining seating. Guests can enjoy the classics like popcorn, soft drinks, or more culinary inspired choices.
What’s an underutilized part of your hotel?
Our Children’s Suite, it is a one-of-a-kind space with a rubber floor, walls that can be written on, and, of course, games.
Where can I get a cup of coffee near the hotel and go for a good walk?
Intelligentsia on Randolph; great coffee that doesn’t finish bitter — and the location positions one perfectly to attack Michigan Avenue afterward.
Where do singles hang out?
Back in the day it really was about the clubs owning the night; they still exist, of course. Now lounges like Gilt Bar and Underground Cocktail Club offer a nice alternative with swanky sophistication, killer cocktails and atmosphere.
How about a restaurant where only locals go?
Tio Luis Mexican Restaurant in Archer Heights/Brighton Park. Once you try their Guadalajara-Jalisco region cuisine and those fabulous margaritas, you will be hooked. They are the real deal, and they just completed their patio, off street level and large for al fresco dining.
Late night spot where I can get into a bit of trouble? (But not too much trouble.)
Untitled, where they have a massive bourbon program, one of the biggest in the city, and live music on the weekends.
Best cheap eats in town?
I love Kimski in Bridgeport, with their Korean/Polish street food; great flavors plus you can essentially custom design your food according to your diet/tastes. Bare bones seating, with outdoor space in summer.
Where can I go for the best dessert?
Travelle at The Langham! Yes, it’s inside The Langham, but I challenge you not to fall in love with our Espresso — rich chocolate mousse cake, espresso chocolate mousse, passion fruit, with a nice scoop of salted caramel ice cream to cut into that decadent chocolate.
Where should I go in the area for a day spent outside?
Our hotel is so fortunate to be steps from the Chicago Riverwalk. It’s so perfect! From here you chart your course — one mile east via the Riverwalk takes you to the Lakefront Trail, from there head south towards Museum Campus, or turn inward and go west at Monroe, which places you strategically between the Art Institute to the south and Millennium Park to the north.
Where’s a good spot to snap an Instagram-worthy photo?
Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean,” gets a lot of hype as it should, however if you are up for the trip, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry in legendary Jackson Park sits the 24-foot-high Statue of The Republic. Although a replica installed in 1918, it remains an awesome remnant of the Columbian Exposition/Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.
Best neighborhood to take a four-hour stroll if I want to get acquainted with a more “authentic” side of the city?
Hyde Park located south of Museum Campus offers a bit of everything, the lakefront with its promontory point, incredible architectural diversity, the University of Chicago grounds with gothic to contemporary architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes are here, along with others by Chicago’s greatest architects. Cool local shops like Silver Room, and multiple galleries showcasing African American art like Gallery Guichard make a trip here a unique experience minus pretension.
What’s the easiest way to get around town, in terms of transportation?
CTA trains and bus; it’s hard not to be near your destination using these. The network is vast and functional.
What’s a lesser-known cultural institution worth visiting?
Stoney Island Arts Bank, located just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. There is nothing like it in all Chicago. Originally a bank built in 1923 and now restored into a thriving space featuring contemporary artworks by acclaimed Theaster Gates. It’s also home to the Johnson Publishing Company archives, containing some of the greatest photos of the Black American experience in the 20th century.
What’s a cool architectural site that’s not mobbed with tourists?
Oddly enough, it is the Architecture Center. Housed in a Mies van der Rohe building, it contains a built-to-scale model of Chicago’s downtown and a must-see skyscraper gallery containing models on loan from some of today’s greatest architectural firms.
What’s the best thing you can only do in Chicago?
Run-walk-bike the length of Chicago, while enjoying Lake Michigan, on the Lakefront Trail. It is 18 miles of bliss!
What’s something I can say or do to endear myself to locals?
Ask about something other than Al Capone or Michael Jordan; yes, they are big parts of the story, but we’ve got a lot of chapters.
I’m looking for a low-key brunch. Where to?
Beatrix, it’s fantastic, with fresh ingredients prepared with precision, and laid back.
Finally, what’s the best book to read about the area before I come?
Along the Streets of Bronzeville by Elizabeth Schroder. It takes a look at what I knew and saw every day growing up in Bronzeville/Hyde Park, that Chicago was a revolutionary place for Black arts in Chicago and America. This book celebrates those contributions in a beautiful way.
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