Looking to stay in downtown Chicago hotel that has a great location as well as a lot of character? The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel boasts a location in the thick of things on the Magnificent Mile as well as one of the city's most popular bars (that view!) all done in a stylish club aesthetic.
The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is located in a historical building built in 1893. There are original marble staircases, wooden panelling and the whole vibe is like stepping back in time to a sports club with people playing board games. You expect to see men in their cricket whites lounging around. It is a favourite for architecture buffs and those that like historical hotels with beautiful restorations.
You enter the hotel proper on the second floor and walk through the bar area where people are playing board games, tapping on computers and eating. The lobby is past the bars and there's another common area bathed in sunlight. Check in staff are perfunctory and fast but not warm.
I go up to my room #625 and initially it's a very dark room situated in the corner. I'm in a superior king room around 250-300 square feet. There's a very comfortable king bed fitted with custom SFERRA linens made for the hotel.
The room is stylish although dark (although from looking at their website you can get more light filled rooms). The bathroom is vintage tiled with C.O. Bigelow products in masculine scents-the room is quite masculine in flavour with its leather and wood finishings. Internet is free for up to three devices and it is of moderate speed.
Room service is available 24 hours and there is also the option to have Shake Shack delivered straight to your room between 3-10pm too as there is a branch on the ground floor. The menu includes the Shake Shack Chicago only hot dog called the Shack-cago dog with Rick's Picks shack relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt and mustard.
However some things that are a great idea but don't really work all the time. There isn't a kettle in the room so to access housekeeping you are instructed to text them. The request for a kettle and cups meant a wait of 1 hour with texts back and forth. However after the initial issues, texting them worked smoothly.
The rooftop bar at the hotel is one of the most popular spots especially in summer. Here queues for Cindy's Bar start at the lobby level and the prize position is on the patio (although the cold weather doesn't necessarily deter Chicagoans as they have a firepit outside). There is also a wonderful view of Chicago from the bar.
At Cindy's Bar I order a Howl at the Jun cocktail with Citadelle gin, ‘jun’ kombucha, grapefruit and sparkling rosé. Said to be a rosy riff of the French 75 the Jun is a Tibetan style form of kombucha made from raw honey. It's absolutely delicious and light.
Then we head downstairs to the lobby level and settle into a high booth at Cherry Circle Room. The award winning design is in line with the rest of the hotel, that is retro, historical, comfortable and luxe. The menu has a host of items like oysters, caviar, foie gras and steak but there are more regular options as well.
The focaccia comes as a ball, not so much focaccia but a round boule and it is served warm with dill butter, radish and salt. I dare you to stop at one piece (and hey if you eat the whole thing without cutting it, it is still technically one piece ;) ).
We order a dozen oysters with a jalapeno mignonette. There are two types of oysters: West Coast Royal Miyagi from BC Canada and the East Coast Irish oysters from PEI also in Canada. They're so fresh and briney.
I think I'm so used to seeing grilled octopus in Australia served as a single tentacle that I'm almost surprised at how this is presented. It's tender octopus, chopped and shaped into a sausage and sliced. It is served with pickled fennel, refried beans, pancetta and olive chimichurri.
But hands down my favourite starter is the foie gras pâté with apple pie puree, toasted hazelnuts, smoked duck consomme and pickled mustard seeds. It's a wonderful balance of flavours but also textures, especially if you get a bit of hazelnut in your bite.
It's time for the mains and I really enjoyed the house made stinging nettle cavatelli paired with cream, fava beans, morels and smoked burrata. It's a rich dish even though it is vegetarian, especially as the morels soak up the cream sauce.
I am a sucker for carrot cake. Whenever I see it on a menu I feel compelled to order it, especially in America. It's a deconstructed one with squares of spiced cake, cheesecake ganache, pineapple, sesame and a carrot pineapple sorbet.
My favourite dessert however is the lemon posset, all tart and fresh flavours with strawberry rhubarb gelee and a white sesame ice cream as well as sliced fresh strawberries.
So tell me Dear Reader, what do you think of this style of hotel? Does it appeal to you? And when you travel, do you stay in the city centre or outside of it?
NQN stayed as a guest of Choose Chicago and Chicago Athletic Association Hotel but all opinions remain her own.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, USA
Phone: +1 312-940-3552