BITE INTO THE DOUGHNUT CRAZE
- Treat yourself to one of Chicago’s tastiest artisanal treats
- Sample ingenious twists like peanut-butter-cup and maple-bacon
Those of you trying to avoid sugar and carbs should probably skip to the next entry. Why? Because Chicago is in the throes of a serious—like, hard-core—artisanal-doughnut trend. At last count there were at least a half dozen craft doughnuts shops operating around the city, from Stan’s Donuts in Wicker Park to Streeterville’s Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken (which also serves a knockout fried-chicken sandwich). But the finest of the new batch is just steps from the Conrad Chicago in River North: Firecakes, opened in 2012, feels more like a small-town bakery, with its candy-striped wallpaper, chalkboard menus, and collection of vintage eggbeaters on the wall. By opening time at 7 there’s already a line out the door. Our picks? A traditional old-fashioned buttermilk, or the signature treat: a maple-glazed donut studded with brûléed pineapple and (why not?) smoky Nueske’s bacon. Best of all, they’re open late into the night, so you can return after dinner to try another on your way back home.
Firecakes is on West Hubbard Street between Dearborn and Clark, just a 10- to 12-minute walk south of the Conrad Chicago, and is open from 7 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. daily, till midnight Thursday through Saturday (or until they sell out). There’s another location in Old Town at 2453 N. Clark Street.
GIVE YOURSELF A SHOPPING BREAK
- Book a 30-minute massage at an ultra-luxe spa
- Enjoy a reviving steam, sauna, and soak
- Unwind over a perfectly made macchiato
Feet weary from a day of pounding Oak Street and Mag Mile sidewalks? Find your second wind at our sister hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, seven blocks north of the Conrad. The luxurious fourth-floor spa is open to Conrad guests (you can even charge treatments right to your room). If you’re pressed for time, the spa offers a restorative 30-minute Spot Massage, targeting achy shoulders or tired legs and feet. Take a turn in the Jacuzzi or sauna and steam rooms before or after your treatment. Then stop by the Waldorf’s lobby coffee bar, with its sleek Faema E61 espresso machine. The beans are from Chicago’s own Sparrow Coffee, acclaimed for its meticulous sourcing of organic beans and innovative, smoke-free roasting process. You’ll find loose teas from Chicago’s Rare Tea Cellar as well; a highlight is the Samurai Rose Noir, a blend of high-mountain black teas from Sri Lanka, India, and China spiked with wild aromatic roses. Or, if you’re ready to start your evening, partake of the bar’s whiskey and cognac selection.
The Waldorf Astoria Chicago is on East Walton Street between Rush and State Streets, seven blocks north of the Conrad Chicago. Conrad guests can book complimentary car transfers to and from the Waldorf, pending availability.
DARE TO LOOK DOWN
- Test your nerves atop two of the nation’s tallest skyscrapers
- Thrill to a novel form of sightseeing
- Enjoy epic views of four states on a clear day
Among Chicago’s storied rivalries—Cubs vs. White Sox, North Side vs. South Side—the competition between the city’s sky-high observation decks has been reenergized by some cool new innovations. In this corner, weighing in at 110 stories: Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest building (still often referred to as the Sears Tower, its original name). In the opposite corner, weighing in at 100 stories: the John Hancock Center, ranking fourth-tallest in the city. Both offer spectacular views from their observation decks—you can gaze across the lake to Michigan on a good day. But now it’s not just what you see from the top; rather, it’s how you see it. At Willis Tower’s 103rd-story Skydeck, daring visitors can step onto The Ledge, which juts out several feet from the tower’s façade, letting you look straight down through a glass floor to the sidewalk, 1,353 feet below. Not to be outdone, the Hancock’s 94th-floor 360 Chicago observation deck recently installed TILT, where eight participants at a time press themselves against the glass as the wall slowly tilts out 30 degrees. Your kids will freak out; you probably will, too.
The John Hancock Center is five blocks north of the Conrad Chicago, on North Michigan Avenue between Chestnut Street and Delaware Place; TILT operates from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily (last entry at 10:30) and requires separate admission. Willis Tower is on South Wacker Drive between Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street; the Skydeck is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and also levies a separate charge. At both, crowds are fewer and lines move faster Mondays through Thursdays, especially in early mornings and the later hours before closing.
SLIP INTO A SPEAKEASY
- Claim one of 14 seats at star chef Grant Achatz’s semi-secret bar
- Sample updated classic cocktails made with rare and vintage spirits
- Graze on osetra caviar and Wagyu beef tartare
You’ve surely heard of Alinea, chef Grant Achatz’s boundary-pushing, much-acclaimed restaurant in Lincoln Park, which won a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for outstanding restaurant in America. (Alinea recently emerged from a top-to-bottom renovation, with a warmer and softer new look, and the food is as amazing as ever.) You may also have heard of the Alinea team’s Aviary bar, which took Achatz’s inventive approach to gastronomy and applied it to mixology: a typical drink might be presented in a vacuum pot or with a flaming spritzer of mace. But you might not have heard of the Office, the exclusive speakeasy bar below Aviary, with only 14 seats in a space reminiscent of a midcentury gentlemen’s club: well-worn leather armchairs, ornate carpets, tasseled lamps. In contrast to the wacky creations at Aviary, here the focus is on classic cocktails reimagined with premium ingredients and served in gorgeous vintage glassware; all drinks are priced at $20. (There’s also a short menu of high-grade bar snacks, including foie gras terrine, Uruguayan caviar, and a beef tartare.)
The Office is located underneath the Aviary bar on West Fulton Market, in the burgeoning West Loop neighborhood, a 10- to 15-minute taxi ride from the Conrad Chicago. Space is extremely limited and reservations are essential; the Conrad concierge can assist with bookings. Alinea is located in Lincoln Park, a 15- to 20-minute taxi ride north of the Conrad, and also requires reservations well in advance.