Where to Dine, Shop & Play In One of Chicago's Most Glamorous Gems
Neighborhood in Brief: The Gold Coast is considered one of Chicago's most prominent and wealthiest neighborhoods, and one of its earliest settlers was Potter Palmer, who co-founded the iconic Marshall Field's Department Store and built the Palmer House. Its status grew rapidly following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, as Potter started developing land throughout the area.
Throughout its history, the neighborhood has counted a host of noteworthy people as residents, from Joseph Medill, founder of the Chicago Tribune and a mayor of Chicago, to current Bulls superstar Dwyane Wade and his famous actress wife, Gabrielle Union. In addition to the Gold Coast's high-profile residents, it boasts a number of luxury hotels, designer boutiques/retail stores and glamorous restaurants and bars.
Where To Stay
Sofitel Chicago Water Tower in Brief: Designed by French architect Jean-Paul Viguier, Sofitel Chicago is a showpiece skyscraper in the Gold Coast. Its eye-catching prism design sparkles on all 32 floors containing 415 rooms, including 33 luxurious suites, as well as a grand ballroom, award-winning restaurant and sultry cocktail lounge.
Sofitel is a luxury French import, so expect to see European influences everywhere. From artwork by local and international artists to a cosmopolitan vibe making guests feel as though they've been transported into the chicest part of Paris, the atmosphere is very fashionable.
There's a French focus, of course, at Café des Architectes, the hotel's vibrant restaurant where the color red dominates the room. The rich palate perfectly complements the bold cuisine, which uses seasonal ingredients that are local whenever possible. Some items to always expect on the menu include house-made charcuterie and cheeses, a juicy Iowa-raised ribeye and Amish roast chicken. A seven-course degustation menu is available and comes highly recommended with wine pairings.
A trip to the dazzling Le Bar--which just happens to be one of our favorite French-focused bars in Chicago--should always be on the agenda. An exotic playlist serves as background music as guests nosh on chef-driven small plates paired with French-accented cocktails and other beverages. Each month the bar features food, drink and culture from a different region in France, from Bordeaux to Saint Tropez.
Amenities: Highlights of Sofitel Chicago Water Tower include great views of John Hancock Building, complimentary hot breakfast (with special package), free Internet and a quick walk to the beach. Dogs are allowed.
Room Rates: Rooms range $229-$464 per night.
Parking: Street parking is available, but scarce. The hotel offers valet parking and there are nearby public parking lots.
Address: 20 E. Chestnut St., 312-324-4000
Additional Hotels in the Area
Where To Dine
Maple & Ash in Brief: We love Maple & Ash for its over-the-top burger and tableside "Sundae Service," but this glammed-out gem takes its steakhouse concept seriously. It unapologetically goes against traditional steakhouse convention beginning with a seafood tower to end all seafood towers dubbed "Baller." It's stacked to the top with fire-roasted bites of Alaskan king crab, Maine lobster, oysters and Manila clams finished with garlic butter and chili oil.
They pretty much throw everything from the menu on the wood-fired hearth, ranging from a 28-day, dry-aged bone-in ribeeye to whole branzino. The entire menu is punctuated by an exceptional wine, spirits and cocktail menu.
Address: 8 W. Maple St., 312-944-8888
Additional Restaurants in the Area
Fred's at Barneys New York Chicago
Where To Drink
Sparrow in Brief: This specialty cocktail lounge is a nod to the past with a strong emphasis on rum. Owned and operated by the same people behind West Loop sensation The Betty, Sparrow transports guests to the 1930s and emulates the grand hotel lobby bars of that era. Visitors may settle into the restored bar--this venue originally opened in 1927 under another name--and sip on classic and contemporary rum cocktails from the frothy, minty Grasshopper to a Santiago Daisy of American rum, lime, yellow Chartreuse and seltzer.
Address: 12 W. Elm St., 312-725-0732
Additional Bars in the Area
Where To Play
Zebra Lounge in Brief: In terms of live music, the Gold Coast has changed drastically within the last 10 years. The neighborhood used to be the place to go for those looking for live jazz or blues, but all those destinations have been transformed into retail stores. What's still hot are piano bars, and Zebra Lounge is at the top of the crop. It's been around since 1929, boasting the third-longest liquor license in Chicago, and is tucked away on the first floor of an apartment building. Musicians perform seven nights a week, 365 days a year, cranking out everything from Sinatra to Jay Z.
Address: 1220 N. State Pkwy., 312-642-5140
Additional Places To Play in the Neighborhood
Equinox Gold Coast (gym)
FFC Gold Coast (gym)
Where To Shop
900 North Michigan Shops in Brief: The city's only Bloomingdale's retail department store, plus luxury boutique stores like Gucci, Karen Millen, Kate Spade, MaxMara and Michael Kors are on seven levels. There are more than 70 retailers, plus several restaurants, gym and full-service salon and spa. The Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is located on the sixth level.
Address: 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-915-3916
Barneys New York