Drink Hopping

This weekend my aunt came to town and we ended up going from fancy restaurant to fancy hotel restaurant/bar/lounge/roof-garden getting a drink at each place.  It’s a great way to experience a city! We went to The Drake, Nomi @ Park Hyatt, The Peninsula, RL, & Sixteen @ Trump.  Many of these places I have walked by a million times but never bothered to venture into.  It was a lesson for fabulousness and it was nice to have the side-by-side comparison of service, food and ambiance.  Here are my reviews:

The Drake Hotel — Afternoon Tea @ 1:30PM

Tea Set, The Drake

Food: I hate to admit it but it wasn’t the best.  Much of the food tasted like it was prepared yesterday or even earlier in the week.  The silverware wasn’t fully polished (some of the silver looked like it was beginning to tarnish) and when they brought out the towers for the sandwiches and desserts the servers carried them by their tops so that they swung a bit when they walked as opposed to brining them in on trays or carts.  However the tea selection itself was excellent and I enjoyed my choice Orange Dulce very much.

Sandwich & Dessert Tower, The Drake

Service: There was plenty of staff around but they stuck to watching their own tables.  It was decent service but not over-the-top.

Ambiance: A very classy feel.  Not a laid-back atmosphere.  A beautiful fountain with an incredibly impressive flower arrangement centers the room.  Dress is upscale casual — they do have a woman who plays the harp dressed in a fancy gown, so take that as you will.

Notes: Most of the clientele seemed to be celebrating or doing a special occasion tea.  Going earlier seemed to be better as more people were arriving closer or after 2.  Tea is available at 1PM.

Nomi @ The Park Hyatt

Food: We only got drinks but the food looked excellent.  I got the “Two Step,” a raspberry & vodka summer creation.  It had ice shavings in it which I wasn’t expecting at first but kept the drink cool and was good once it had melted.  There are a lot of seeds in it though which I wasn’t expecting either but mostly sat at the bottom.

Service: Great!  We were in the “Garden” and it was pretty hot.  They have some shade however we weren’t quite in it but staff offered us water and they definitely worked as a team to make sure we had what we needed.  At least 4 different people touched our table and as a restaurant industry girl I truly appreciate that.  If we needed water we got water.  Two people asked us if we needed a check when we looked ready to leave.  Drinks, food, anything we wanted, someone was available to give.  We did have the same primary server but I liked that other staff members didn’t hesitate to stop by our table and didn’t overwhelm us.

Ambiance: Very chic yet laid back.  This place looked like it was a strong mix of locals and some tourists  with an overall classy clientele.  The set up was more fun and made me feel like I was on an island vacation with it’s wooden bar and fun employee outfits of navy-and-white-checked shirts, navy pants and red shoes.  The Garden is definitely a place to relax and enjoy the weekend!

Notes:  Go and have a drink because it’s fun and you just should.

Ralph Lauren (RL) Restaurant
Food: Again, we didn’t eat but even the bread looked amazing.

Service: Excellent.  They were attentive but not overwhelming.  We sat outside and received just as good of service — they don’t neglect their patio diners!  We had plenty of water and my mojito was perfectly made.

Ambiance: Inside it was dark and seemed like somewhere you may only want to go on special occasions.  The clientele seemed slightly stuffy but the servers weren’t.  They were a good combination of friendly and professional.  I appreciated the perfectly polished glasses and silverware.  Outside was more laid back and being between Water Tower and Michigan Ave it served as a great people-watching spot.

Notes: A good place to go if you’re feeling fancy.

“The Lobby” @ The Peninsula

My Bellini at The Peninsula, Florals by Kehoe Designs

Food: We got bread with our drinks this time which was good.  Everyone gets their own little butter plate which I like — it avoids awkward butter-sharing or having to even ask for butter which I find many girls don’t want to have to do.  They also serve afternoon tea which looked phenomenal.  Their afternoon tea list is nice as you can do a set menu or order ala carte with a generous choice of delicious options.

Service: Not as good as Nomi or RL.  They were a bit slow coming around and we waited a bit for orders and the check.  She did come around a few times to check on us but it wasn’t very busy and there was quite a lot of staff around who didn’t even make eye contact when we needed something.  Overall it certainly wasn’t terrible but I would have liked to seen more team work with the staff.

Courtyard View from the Dining Room, The Peninsula

Ambiance: Absolutely beautiful.  Even though it wasn’t full it didn’t need to be.  A black grand piano sits in the room and a live string quartet plays from a balcony.  The windows look out onto the beautiful courtyard (which was closed off due to a wedding).  The setting is impressive right down to the well-polished silver and the hard marblesque tables.

Notes: A beautiful place for an upscale after noon drink or tea with the girls, perhaps a baby shower or surprise birthday.

Sixteen @ Trump International Hotel & Tower

Food: Very expensive for what we got.  I could only stand a few sips of my overly-sweet $18 drink and we were charged $24 for a cheese platter that had about 6-7 small slices of cheese with a few sprigs of arugula and not even a handful of candied fruit.  While very good it was only worth $10-12 in my opinion at most.

Service: We sat outside and our server almost never came around.  Or she would walk by and not even look at us.  It was a bit frustrating.  I’ve dined inside and had excellent service but it seemed that perhaps they were short-staffed that evening.  It seemed evident that our server would have rather been somewhere else (not that I blame her entirely on a beautiful Sunday night), however for a $24 cheese platter that didn’t even come with bread or crackers or fruit I would hope she could at least see if we needed water.  We were offered none and by the time someone would have come around for us to ask for it, we were ready to go.  There was additional staff that stopped by once to clear plates but didn’t wait long enough to see if we had any additional requests.

Ambiance: Breath-taking.  Where Sixteen lacked in outdoor service they made up for in unbelievable views of the city.  Intimate views of the Wrigley Building, Chicago Tribune Tower, the Chicago River AND the Lake, this is the perfect date-night spot in the summer.  Exposure on the 16th floor right on the water meant for a cool night and provided beautiful panoramic views.

Note: Definitely go but order everything you may want at once if you sit outside.

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