Chez Moi – a remarkable French restaurant in Chicago

Country French with be-feathered crystal chandeliers
Country French with be-feathered crystal chandeliers

Okay, I have not tried every French restaurant in Chicago yet. But people have been asking me for years what’s my favorite restaurant in Chicago and, up ’til, now I’ve not been able to name a specific place. Have had many, many pleasant experiences, some exceptional (hello, Chef Lee Wolen and Boka). But last Saturday my friend and I were both overawed with the food, the ambiance and the service at Chez Moi, 2100 N. Halsted.

If this meal was indicative, Chef Dominique Tougne is doing an extraordinary job of bringing authentic French cuisine to our city. Friend and I both felt we might easily have been in a small bistro in or outside Paris, soaking in the candlelit warmth, the darkly dramatic artwork on the walls, and the feather-encrusted crystal-drop chandeliers. The dark-and-thick-crusted bread with butter was good – and hard not to eat more of. But we knew we were truly in the presence of French food artistry when we tasted the first dish – Black Truffle Quiche.

Quiche. Okay, you’re probably thinking heavy egg-cream concoction baked atop a heavy pastry crust with maybe some bacon and cheese in it. But that is decidedly not what you get from Chef Dominique. This dish is an ethereally light custard, kissed with seared foie gras and set snugly in a feather-light pastry crust that almost melts into and becomes part of the custard. Topped with a tiny nest of greens, and surrounded by a puddle of rich port wine reduction, this quiche will take you into a realm quite beyond the ordinary. And it was rich enough for us to share and feel content.

The Qualidou, said to be “either a larger appetizer or a smaller entree” size, combined half a confit quail, thinly sliced seared duck breast and foie gras, accompanied by thinly sliced sauteed mushrooms, all in a generous pool of concentrated wine sauce. With all these intense flavors, we had no trouble splitting this and feeling satisfied. And I love the fact that they give you a spoon with every dish that has a sauce. Let us respect – and savor – the sauce!!

When the onion tart appetizer arrived, we were surprised at its size – generous enough for 3 people. And, oh the pastry crust! Flaky and layered richly with butter, it made a fabulous base for a nice combination of onion, bacon and creme fraiche.

Our server explained that the Gateau Breton de Solidou is a shortbread cake. Well, who knew? This incredible dessert had tender crustiness and richness in equal measure. The butter flavor was extravagant. The sauce was heavenly, and the vanilla ice cream (house made) made the combination exquisite.  Could eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner and need nothing else.

Chez Moi offers a small but obviously carefully curated list of beers, cocktails, liqueurs, and French wines. The by-the-bottle listings yielded several options under $50. We selected the French Malbec and, after it breathed for a few minutes, it made a nice pairing with our meal.

Chef offers a prix fixe menu selection all week, Sunday through Thursday – three courses include a salad, then your choice of entree (hanger steak, roast chicken, seared salmon or roasted vegetables) and tiramisu for dessert. Check out the rest of the menus here. We cannot wait to come back again. In fact, this place is tempting me to eat out much more often than I usually do. Exceptional experience. Will let you know if next visits measure up.

GOING ON NOW – a la Carte Chicago

You have until October 30 to take advantage of the deals during a la Carte Chicago, an 11-day food festival that celebrates contemporary French food. Participating restaurants, bakeries and more might be French or simply French-inspired – Shaw’s Crab House is in on it. The important thing is they’re all offering specials during the festival, including prix fixe menus. The fest also includes cooking workshops, tastings, cultural events, and activities for food lovers of all ages.

This is a great opportunity to get out and experience some of the many French-food-loving chefs and restaurants in Chicago. At a preview, guests tasted delicious tuna salad sandwiches on rich tasting French white buns from Chez Moi, 2100 N. Halsted – sandwiches that made us feel like heading over there ASAP. Ridiculously good chocolate hazelnut bars from Chef Martial Noguier at Bistronomic, 840 N. Wabash. Others include Cafe des Architectes, 20 E. Chestnut, Circle City Sweets from Indianapolis for heavens’ sake, and dozens more.

Also, consider attending the screening of “Kings of Pastry” at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. at 4:45 on Sunday, October 30. Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer will be there in person, and after the movie there’ll be a free tasting of specialties from the French Pastry School. Go here for the complete list and check out the sweepstakes for a trip to Lyon, France.

Rabbit Hole bar and restaurant – a new Old Town hangout

It’s officially open: The Rabbit Hole bar and restaurant, 1208 N. Wells St., right off Division St. in Old Town. It’s a small storefront with a roomy interior and a stage for live music. The walls, painted to make you feel like you’re following the White Rabbit down the hole in Alice in Wonderland, and the many craft and draft beers, whimsical cocktails and wines are an invitation for you to go ahead and fall in.
Hot Karaoke live band
Hot Karaoke live band

On opening night they had a live band for karaoke. Seriously. If you are a wannabe singer, singing with real musicians behind you and the words in front of you has to be – as the saying goes – the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And on top of that, they serve elevated bar food that includes sharable appetizers, hearty salads, “grabbers” (otherwise known as meat-heavy platters), and an assortment of sides. Chicken Wings come with your choice of house buffalo, shogun sweet chili, Chef Diablo’s habanero or pomegranate BBQ, served with tri-colored carrots, jicama, house made ranch or bleu cheese. Other items: marinated Steakhouse Minis, The 1951 Burger, Queen of Hearts salad, and Jabberwock Angus Sliders. Try starting with Candied Slab Bacon – thick cut, Applewood smoked slab bacon, grilled and glazed with maple syrup. rabbit-hole-chicken-wings

And what fun that they have games – like large-scale Pictionary – you can play with your friends any and every night of the week. The Rabbit Hole has set a goal to become the new favorite go-to spot for everyone in the ‘hood. It’s certainly off to a grand start.
Craft and draft beers include 24 beer taps and a host of canned and bottled brews. Cocktails by beverage director Carlos Guerra have memorable monikers like the smoky White Rabbit on a Dirty Mule with Mezcal, ginger beer, lime juice, Jägermeister, and grapefruit juice, or the delicate yet complex Tweedle Rum with rum, rye, coffee vermouth, coconut, Fernet Dogma and cinnamon, to name just two.

A sports-friendly bar, with ten large screen TVs, it also serves as a distinctive backdrop for the viewing of any game. Live Band Karaoke on Wednesday evenings beginning at 9pm.

Open 4pm to 2am weekdays and 11am to 2am Fridays & Sundays, and Saturday from 11 to 3am. Happy Hour 4 to 6 weekdays, and brunch on weekends. Visit or follow @rabbitholechi.

Knife Chicago brings food and cocktails to an exciting new edge

Knife's deeply rich lobster bisque
Knife’s deeply rich lobster bisque

At the new Knife restaurant, 4343 N. Lincoln Ave., Chef Tim Cottini is bringing the Chicago steakhouse concept to a new edge with totally re-imagined dishes that incorporate farm-to-table freshness in meats, seafood and vegetables. Love their Lobster Bisque! Read more details and preview the menu here.

But Knife doesn’t stop at the food. Also not to be missed are the ethereally creative cocktails designed and named by Knife mixologist Anthony Muenger and served with flair, along with a generous supply of his entertaining personal stories and light-hearted humor. So, first, come in for a visit and sit at the bar. Revel in the feel of a unique, sensually rounded-on-all-edges marble bar top, shaped like a giant italicized “L” and set an an angle to the handsome bar wall. Let your eyes wander from the blood-red accent wall to the details of the smoothly swirled wall adjoining it. Makes you feel bathed in color and texture.

Looking to create a downtown feel in Chicago’s Northcenter neighborhood, Knife will offer many Wine Enthusiast-recommended wines as well as a collection of unique and fantastically named cocktails (derived, says Mixologist Muenger, from terms in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows). Ask him to show you how he uses a port hole infuser to soak various fruits in a lavender-infused German rye whiskey. The resulting cocktail, called Enouement, matures and changes as you pour from the infuser throughout your dinner, eventually transforming itself towards the end of the meal into an amari-type digestif.

Muenger says Chef Cottini accepted the offer of the whiskey people’s barrels to age Knife’s own steak sauce in – so look for that unique treat with your bone-in ribeye. Another of his unique cocktails is his sour-style version of Clover Club, served with a bit of raspberry and Roobios tea. The Ellipism cocktail has tiny house-made spheres of Remy Martin VSOP cognac floating in a delicious mix of house-made orange liqueur, lemon and bitters. $13.

In short, Knife is a hot new contemporary seafood and steakhouse where you can celebrate with unique food and drink in Chicago. Whether it’s a special occasion – or just Wednesday night – you’re bound to find something to delight your tastebuds.

Folio Fine Wine Partners bring luxury wines to Chicago

Swift and Sons beautiful private dining area
Swift and Sons beautiful private dining area

Folio Fine Wine Partners chose a perfect setting – a private dining area of the elegant Swift & Sons restaurant, 1000 W. Fulton in West Loop – to showcase a series of equally elegant luxury wines by Luce della Vite from Italy’s Montalcino region. ‘Midst a forest of sparkling glasses filled with several iterations of one of Luce’s finest wines, attendees did a vertical tasting as representatives from Luce della Vite told the story of how the label – a stylized emblem representing the sun – came to be chosen as a symbol of the winemakers’ passionate commitment to quality.

Wines on offer for tasting afterwards included many from the Folio Fine Wine Partners portfolios. To name just a few: AttemsBruno GiacosoCoppo (our review of 3 of their red wines), Danzante, Donnafugata, Luce della Vite, Frescobaldi, Masseto, Ornellaia, Villa Sandi, Fillaboa, Palacios/Remondo, and Vall Llach.
The Mondavi family established Folio Fine Wine Partners in 2004 with the goal of bringing exceptional and distinctive wines to American consumers. Today they act as importers, fine wine agents and as producers of quality wines. They manage a diverse portfolio that spans six countries, three continents, and every premium price point. They work with other family wineries who share their passion for making great wine.

Wine has been the Mondavi family business for four generations. It began with Cesare Mondavi, an Italian immigrant who established a grape growing business in Lodi, California during Prohibition. They put down roots in Napa Valley starting in 1943 when they purchased the historic Charles Krug winery. Cesare’s son Robert later started his own winery with Michael, his eldest son. Rober Mondavi Winery helped establish California as the premier wine-growing region it is today. And now the legacy continues with Folio Fine Wine Partners.

3 rich, robust red wines from Coppo

Luxury is defined by quality and generally by price. Sometimes, though, its possible to find fine wines that fall squarely into the luxurious taste category yet can be purchased in the  super premium range of $15 to $25 – within reach for almost any wine lover for special occasions. A number of Italian wines from Folio Fine Wine partners fit that bill, including two of the three excellent wines below from Coppo.
Any of these reds will grace your table and make you proud of what you’re serving with your rich, meaty dishes. For those who love dry, deeply flavorful reds, one of these would be perfect for upcoming holiday meals. If too heavy for turkey or fish, serve one with a plate of fine aged cheeses after dinner for a royal touch. Hopefully, you can locate a bottle or two through your favorite wine merchant.
Folio Fine Wines supplied samples of three lovely reds from the Coppo collection for review. Notes below.

2014 Coppo L’Avvocata Barbera d’Asti DOCG – Excellent, rich, deeply flavorful wine. Ruby red L’Avvocata offers Barbera’s typical intense aromas of ripened cherry and strawberry. Round, full-bodied and balanced with a spicy finish of cola and ripe berries. Pair it with pasta with rich meat sauces, roast beef, kebabs, ribs and aged cheeses. ~$15.

2012 Coppo Camp du Rouss Barbera d’Asti DOCG – Delicious with food. Deep red in color with garnet highlights. If offers textbook Barbera aromas of crushed cherry and wild berry jam, followed by notes of leather and herbs, and a hint of smoke. On the palate, Camp du Rouss is bright, with luscious, soft tannins. The supple layers of fruit are backed by Barbera’s trademark acidity making it the ideal food wine. Pair with meat in rich wine sauces, roast beef, cured meats and aged cheese. ~$23

2010 Coppo Pomorosso Barbera d’Asti DOCG Loved this luxury-priced wine. Deep ruby red in color with garnet hues, Pomorosso offers a complex and fragrant bouquet of ripe cherries and blackberry, deliciously integrated with subtle notes of cherry liqueur, chocolate, vanilla and espresso. This Barbera is very intense and toasty in character with a solid yet velvety structure. You are bound to enjoy this gorgeous and elegant Barbera with rich, meaty sauces and pasta, polenta with sausages and mushrooms, or any red meat dishes such as roasted game, fillet mignon and roast beef. ~$75

About Coppo
Piero Coppo founded the company in 1892 in the town of Canelli in Asti, Italy. Now his four grandsons and, recently, two cousins make the fourth generation to manage the family winery. They are all committed to applying  integrated agriculture that has a low environmental impact, exceeds regulatatory requirements, and uses biodynamic principles in its viticulture and winemaking practices. The Coppo family produces a range of regional specialties, but it’s best known for producing outstanding Barbera d’Asti. Its 1984 Pomorosso was the one of first in the region to show Barbera’s true elegance and its capacity to age gracefully.

6 beautiful Soave white Italian wines

Small but mighty Soave region
Small but mighty Soave region

Known as #ColorsofSoave, an outstanding collection of Italian white wines from the region around Soave, located 12 miles east of Verona, came calling in Chicago recently. If you’re a baby boomer you probably remember that Soave Bolla was a huge a phenomenon during the 70s in the United States when Americans were just being introduced to wine as a way to enhance foods. Who knows what happened, but the name Soave seemed, for all intents and purposes, to drop off the face of the earth for the next several decades. Until now, that is.

While the sponsors admit it’s true that about 70% of Soave wines are extremely basic – call them forgettable by today’s standards – the varietal now also comes in really fine renditions. #ColorsofSoave put out an extensive display of these multi-layered, complex wines – all labeled Soave – that included still, sparkling, and semi-dry versions. Detailed maps of the region’s geography and samples of the several types of volcanic and limestone-based soils from the area gave guests a glimpse into the terroir. The specially selected varietal tasting was sponsored by the Soave Consorzio and held in the super-cool, elegant surroundings of The Boarding House bar and restaurant, 1720 N. Wells.
Blind tasting of beautiful Soave wines
Blind tasting of beautiful Soave wines

Ten Soave whites were set out for a blind tasting – guests had no information about the wines available as the tasting proceeded. Participants first tasted each of the unidentified wines in a fairly chilled state and rated/wrote comments. Then, as the leader slowly revealed the name of each wine, guests re-tasted them in a more opened, less chilled state. The most important observation we made was that these were all delicious – mostly 4- and 5-star ratings. Below is a list of three of our 5-star and three 4-star picks.

Surprising Boarding House fruit salad
Surprising Boarding House fruit salad

Several more varieties were set up with the food courses. A sparkling Soave accompanied the appetizers of ahi tuna ceviche and prosciutto-wrapped melon and heirloom tomato bruschetta. Other still versions accompanied the surprising tomato, peach and melon salad with Chevre cheese, the seared halibut with super-smooth parsnip puree, braised fennel and apple, and the incredibly light and flavorful fig and caramel cheesecake with apricots and streusel. Two lovely semi-dry dessert versions of Soave made the final courses taste especially lovely. Lots of kudos to the Boarding House for the excellent food.

Such a pleasure to re-discover this incredibly versatile wine. And interesting to learn that the Garganega grape is the main ingredient – minimum of 70% required to be called Soave. Most are made with 100% of this grape; the rest are made with about 80% Garganega and 20% either Trebbiano di Soave or Chardonnay.
Many thanks to Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein and Enologist Giovanni Ponchia for presenting this informational and enjoyable program.
Our 5-star ratings:
  • Cantina del Castello 2015 Classico Pressoni – Apple aromas with a long finish, and made by winemaker Arturo Stocchetti, known for his passionate commitment to the craft.
  • Gini 2014 Soave Classico “La Froscá” DOC – complex layers, a slightly sweet finish, no sulfur. Comes from 50- to 100-year-old vines and made in one of the areas oldest, richest cellars, and proves that these wines can age gracefully.
  • 2015 I Stefanini Soave Superior DOCG Classico “Monte di Fice” – lots of delicious layers. Great with food that’s not too rich – seemed not to hold up well to a rich cheese.
A few other notable Soave labels:
  • Rocca Sveva 2014 Superiore “Castelcerino” DOCG – light and lovely blend that’s smooth and clean-tasting. Made by the leading producer of Soave; nearly 1 of every 2 bottles are exported. U.S. distributor: Mionetto USA.
  • 2015 Bolla Superiore Classico Tufaie DOC – known for appearing in Federico Fellini’s films (probably how it came to be known in America), it has a very slight sweetness to it that’s quite pleasant.
  • 2014 Coffele Recioto di Soave DOCG Classico “Le Sponde” – a semi-dry sherry-like dessert wine that’s beautiful with fruit, fruit cakes, blue and goat cheeses.

Everest celebrates Shakespeare with prix fixe pre-theatre menu

Chicago’s beloved Joffrey Ballet is putting on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at The Auditorium Theatre, October 13 through October 23. So Chef/Proprietor J. Joho (bio) of Everest Chicago, 440 S. LaSalle St., has imagined a Shakespeare-inspired pre-theatre menu worthy of Julius Caesar and reflecting the cooking trends popular in Rome in the time of Apicius. And you will love the views!

Prepare to be charmed and delighted first by Everest’s regular amuse bouche – a trio of delicious bites that on opening night consisted of a tiny pewter cauldron of artichoke soup with basil oil, a refreshing emulsion of yellow pepper with cucumber gelee served in a spoon, and a small marinated scallop topped with a dab of American roe. Especially flavorful, all.

Next, a server – many servers played a role in making the evening as pleasant as possible – brought a tray of breads around, and we were invited to pick slices of the types we liked. Given that in our house, bread is a treat reserved for eating out, we picked more than one to try. And were delighted to see the silver salver brought to the table with a sizable and seriously thick slab of cold butter – oh, the joy. It looked like there was room underneath to put ice chips to keep the butter cold. We could not have been happier, until we put some on and bit into the bread. The weight and texture and flavor were so satisfying that we could easily have made that into a full meal at some other time. Absolutely delicious. Hard to stop eating.

But we had to stop with the bread eventually so we could enjoy the rest of the Shakespeare Menu. First course, Great Lakes wild whitefish, braised in garum and lovage, was a creamy yet flaky fish, cooked just right and served on a bed of tender, meat-broth-infused lentils. An unusual combination that worked well.
Second came an au naturel capon fricassée with Roman herb seasoning, served with chickpea panisse and sautéed romaine. The chicken was intensely flavored and the sauce had a slight hint of what we thought might be vinegar and/or pickling spices. Light and tasty poured over the chicken and the romaine. The panisse was creamy inside and very slightly crisp on the outside and made a nice neutral accompaniment to the richly flavored capon.

Fromage Blanc Bamboloni “Roman Beignet” served with a compote of dried fall fruit and pistachio and a touch of honey. The deep-fried spheres of dough were crispy outside and tender inside, and the delicate cream on the side had barely a hint of sweetness.

Optional wine pairings ($29) coordinated nicely with each dish. The sommelier chose the following for the fish, Château Villa Bel-Air, Sauvignon Blanc, Graves  2014 ~ Bordeaux, France; 2) Lemelson “Six Vineyards” and for the capon, Pinot Noir  2013 ~ Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Make your reservation between 5 and 5:30 p.m. and enjoy the unique prix fixe three-course menu with complimentary parking for the evening. Your server will make sure you are on time for the performance! Call 312-663-8920 or visit for more information.
  • What: Shakespeare 400 Chicago: Culinary Complete Works – Pre-Theatre Menu
  • Where: Everest, 440 S. LaSalle St.
  • When: October 13-23, 2016
  • Who: You and Chef/proprietor J. Joho and members of the professional staff at Everest

Boka hosts and enhances Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Tour

Chef Paul Liebrandt and Chef Lee Wolen
Chef Paul Liebrandt and Chef Lee Wolen (Photo credit: Jack Daniel’s and Getty Images)

It was a night to remember when Chef Paul Liebrandt and Chef Lee Wolen teamed up with Jack Daniel’s to create a totally off-the-charts evening of food and spirits at Boka Chicago . If you think that spirits don’t go with fine cuisine, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Collection came together with these culinary stars to show you otherwise. (Yes, the photos below are dark – the layers of light were quite subtle at Boka – but we loved the ambiance.)

“Single barrel” means the spirits come from only one barrel and are not blended with any other. Perhaps you already know that 100% of the color and 65% of the flavor in a whiskey comes from the barrel it’s aged in. But did you know that Jack Daniel’s makes its own barrels? That’s what you call making sure of your quality control.

This collection of premium spirits is being introduced to the world with a series of special events across the country. The chefs and the locations are selected on the basis of their having the same passion for using only premium ingredients and applying extreme creativity to making the food and drink items stand far out from the ordinary. Boka Chicago Restaurant was a natural choice.

The evening started with oysters on the half shell with apple and celery, and a creamy, smoked something-or-other on a super thin and crispy black chip, adorned with a flower petal and a carved bit of radish – layers of delicious flavor. Served with these was a delectable drink consisting of white grape, lemon and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select topped with a splash of sparkling Chenin blanc.

The drink, served in flutes, had even those who admitted having previously only a tepid appreciation of whiskey, expressing surprise that it tasted so good. Plus, the atmosphere on the handsome, subtly lit patio just outside Boka’s main dining area, the soft almost-summer night, and the warmly professional service by the bartender who created the recipe, made the reception a lovely prelude to an extraordinary meal.

Once seated, guests found their places adorned with small crystal clear glasses of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, designed to be drunk neat or treated delicately with tiny dropper bottles of water in case one’s palate required tempering the pure spirit slightly. The food feast began with softened butter and warm rolls – guaranteed to warm the heart of any Chicago steak house fan. But there any resemblance ceased. First course a single, perfectly seared Diver scallop, shiny with a Jack Daniel’s-infused glaze, was surrounded by a super-smooth puree of potato and smoked haddock, and accented with quince and with green mango chutney.

Second came the beef tartare: raw beef was served minced rather than finely sliced, seasoned with black garlic and sorrel, mixed with crunchy bits of puffed buckwheat, and topped with black caviar – a truly memorable combination. The cocktail accompaniment combined Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, nebbiolo grape, pu-erh fermented tea and bitters – a perfect complement to the rich, oily meat.

Next, a unique fish that was unusually firm – somewhat rubbery to the fork but melting in the mouth – called Kindai Kanpachi. The small triangle of fish was surrounded by a smooth puree of charcoal grilled beetroot (delicious!) and dotted with small circles of yogurt and licorice-laced bits. The presentation was gorgeous, the combination of flavors excellent, and the accompanying Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye combined with yuzu (Japanese citrus), raspberry and orange blossom, a delightful melange.

OMG - foie gras sausage and whipped foie gras with Jack Daniel's gelle
OMG – foie gras sausage and whipped foie gras with Jack Daniel’s gelle

A little slice of juicy foie gras sausage came alongside slices of rare breast meat from a whole roast duck, and was served with a small pot of sinfully delicious whipped foie gras frosted with a gelee that included a Jack Daniel’s  reduction – OMG. The whole plate was out of this world. Dessert (raw milk ice cream with beautiful accompaniments) and its paired Jack Daniel’s’ Single Barrel Select amaro-style cocktail were equally impressive.

In short, the evening was full of gorgeous flavors in the food and drink, each option paired beautifully and served creatively in a lively, friendly atmosphere by knowledgeable professionals – every server knew the answer to any question about the food. The end result: everyone came away with a heightened respect for the talents of the chefs and mixologists and the versatility of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskies.

Tasting notes:

  • Single Barrel Barrel Proof – aromatic & smooth with notes of sweet brown sugar giving way to rich toasted oak and hints of dark spice. Drink neat or with a couple of cubes.
  • Single Barrel Rye – 94 proof makes this rye big and bold without overpowering. Ripe fruit flavors mingle with light toasted oak notes so the rye grain shines through with a rich peppery spice and pleasant lingering finish.
  • Single Barrel Select – Only 1 in 100 bottles reaches this elevation. Rich toffee and caramel notes touched with cinnamon. Significant body with layers of orange peel, cloves and gentle dusty lumber notes. Finely balanced among many integrated flavors with a moderately long finish and a soothing blend of sweet and spice.

Chicago Loop welcomes The Kimpton Gray Hotel

Cool seat in the Kimpton Gray Hotel lobby
Cool seat in the Kimpton Gray Hotel lobby

The Kimpton Gray Hotel, 122 W. Monroe St. at LaSalle, is the newest upscale lodging option in the heart of the Chicago Loop’s legal and financial district. Located on the second floor, the lobby – known as “The Living Room” – welcomes guests with coffee, tea and muffins in the morning and wine and cheese receptions each evening. Naturally, the Wi-Fi is free. The huge arched windows, framed with floor-to-ceiling black velvet draperies with gold headers, let in natural light and spotlight views of bustling Monroe and LaSalle Streets.

Just off the lobby guests can join locals for lunch, dinner, drinks and more in the bar and restaurant Vol. 39, so named because it refers to the legal volumes that fill the bookcases surrounding the eating area. Handsome lighting and luxurious seating arrangements are perfect for intimate meetings, whether business or pleasure.
The new hotel is the dramatic result of a complete rehabilitation of the former New York Life Insurance building, originally built in 1894. A sweeping marble staircase leads from the entrance to the second floor lobby – graced with the sound of a jazz quartet at the grand opening. Many of the hallways in the 15 floors are still lined with the original marble. At the grand opening designers made dramatic use of lighting – electric, multi-colored, candles, spots and more – to showcase decorations and finishes. A large section of the meeting room space was strikingly decorated with candles and complementary yet completely different items to hold candles and flowers.
The elegant modern bar at Steadfast
The elegant modern bar at Steadfast

Besides Volume 39, guests and locals can select breakfast, lunch or dinner available at Steadfast, the restaurant and bar located at 120 W. Monroe and situated within the main floor of The Kimpton Gray. Its menus offer unique items like duck liver mousse crostini and a laminated brioche sandwich with Serano ham, Manchego, quail egg and caviar.

Check out unique menu items at Steadfast
Check out unique menu items at Steadfast

The presidential suite was beautifully appointed with sleek modern fixtures in a gray/white/black theme and was, well, presidential in its grandeur – easy to picture a president relaxing there. Other size rooms and suites were equally handsome though somewhat smaller, of course. On the 15th floor the rooftop restaurant/bar BOLEO offers a menu with a South American flair and a comfortable place to take in some unique views of downtown. The grand opening featured a hot-tempo video/DJ combo and soulful trumpet by Kafele playing along.

Kafele playing hot licks in the cleared-out dining space of Boleo
Kafele playing hot licks in the cleared-out dining space of Boleo
Elegant. Understated. Service-oriented. Kimpton always does a great job. And now The Gray is a new top pick among the Chicago Loop’s eat-drink-and-stay choices.
Even the powder rooms are cool at The Kimpton Gray Hotel
Even the powder rooms are cool at The Kimpton Gray Hotel