The first thing you'll notice walking into the Hotel Lincoln is that it's not in downtown Chicago. No five-minute stroll to Navy Pier. No looking up to face the 900 Shops or the John Hancock Center.
Good for them.
The boutique hotel, which opened March 8 in a vintage 1928 building, eschews the standard travelogue fare to give out-of-towners a more genuine way to experience Chicago: as part of a neighborhood.
Nestled at a three-way intersection at 1816 N. Clark St., the hotel sits diagonally from attractive brick-covered town houses. Around the corner and down a flight of stairs lies Brick's Chicago, a local pizza joint known for its spicy pies. Stanley's Kitchen & Tap, a favorite watering hole, is about two blocks up the street.
Across the street is picturesque Lincoln Park with its zoo, its conservatory and a lagoon for rowing and fishing. The hotel offers bike rentals to help you navigate the grounds.
And starting in May, locals will flock one block down to Green City Market's outdoor location for farm-fresh produce, cheeses and bread.
"We're close to downtown, but we have so many amenities that a lot of hotels don't necessarily have," said Bob Shelley, general manager. "A lot of us live here every day, so we know what the experience is like."
Already, the hotel's restaurant, Perennial Virant, has become a hot spot for the neighborhood's after-work crowd. On a recent Thursday night, the bar was packed by 5:15 p.m., with locals toasting over a bevy of independent brews (Abita, Great Lakes) and cocktails from the mad mind of head bartender Matty Eggleston. The Napa Chard is a great conversation starter.
Much like the drinks, the food shines. The Tribune's Phil Vettel gave Paul Virant's newest foray three stars for good reason. The celebrated chef's play on arancini is molten, cheesy goodness, his pork belly over creamy grits silky yet balanced. And my dining companion went with a winter pasty that would make any fan of root vegetables happy.
But don't be surprised if those dishes are unavailable. Perennial Virant changes its menu frequently, if not daily. The better news, though, is that guests will have those dishes and specials available via in-room dining, a rarity in hotel service.
"We update our menu every single day," said Kevin Boehm, co-owner of Boka Restaurant Group, which owns the restaurant along with Virant. "Paul's getting the freshest food from local farms, and we wanted to give that to the guests. It's nuts."
As for the rooms, most come with either southern views of downtown or, of course, Lincoln Park to the east. For the lake view, book a room on the eighth floor or higher.
Standard rooms lean a little on the cramped side (opt for a junior suite if you can) but come decorated in a vibrant scheme of gold and blue. Trunk-style nightstands, full-size mirrors and art from local charities Marwen and Project Onward add to the room's playfulness.
Meanwhile, the lobby cries rustic, with a front desk made from vintage dressers and signage you would expect at a 1950s drive-in. Elaine's Coffee Call, named for the hotel operator who would tend to then-resident David Mamet's beverage needs, brings a sleeker vibe with retro wall coverings and a white-brick facade.
The staff is welcoming and helpful, especially when it comes to items that seem trivial until 4 in the morning (i.e. saline solution. Thanks, guys). But like most new hotels, there are still a few kinks. The rooftop bar doesn't open until summer. And to nit-pick, rooms could use a once-over on those lingering details; room-service menus and "Do Not Disturb" signs come to mind.
But the hotel seems to be a fine addition to Lincoln Park and for travelers tired of high-rises.
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
1816 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
Cross streets: Lincoln and Clark
Public transportation: CTA bus: 22-Clark, 36-Broadway
Parking: Self (though difficult) and valet
Prices start at $179 a night, excluding taxes (rates may vary)
Hotel amenities: Meeting rooms (one), restaurants and bars/lounges (three), 24-hour business center, 24-hour fitness center, rooftop lounge (opening in June)
Room amenities: Flat-screen TV, work desk, coffee maker, safe
Features: Room service, turndown service upon request, pets allowed ($35 nonrefundable fee per stay), complementary Wi-Fi, shopping nearbyCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times