The high life in Chicago
THE ROBEY IS A hip and handsome art deco tower looming over the historic six-street intersection in Chicago’s Wicker Park area. The views from its upper storey rooms are quite extraordinary – the Chicago streets ploughing a furrow through the city as far as the eye can see. Housed in what was formerly known as the Coyote building, the hotel has 69 sharply elegant rooms with a mixture of modern and industrial style. Firm comfortable beds, wooden floors and bathrooms that mean business, outfitted in porcelain and steel. There is a terrace pool and bar, and on the ground floor is Café Robey which serves strong coffee, restorative cocktails and dishes such as eggs Benedict, peeled shrimp, and Montauk fried calamari.
And what a cool and appealing area Wicker Park is. Shoreditch basically, before it got too hip. It is chock full of food, bars and bookshops. You can swagger up Milwaukee Avenue, namechecking Tom Waits all the way, and have a fantastic breakfast in Dove’s Luncheonette, a Tex-mex ’50s-style diner with tequila and linen napkins thrown in (doveschicago.com); or go to Wormhole (thewormhole.us) for a galvanising coffee and a look at the newspapers. You can happily spend the rest of the morning browsing in the familyowned Volumes Bookcafé (volumes books.com) or the Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co, which supports writing programmes in Chicago. If by then you are ready for lunch but have spent all your money on books, Flash Taco is the place to go for takeaway (or perchon-a-stool to eat in) scrumptious and very inexpensive Mexican food.
The Robey could not be better located – two minutes from the subway stop Damen, which is on the Blue Line going directly to O’hare airport – and a 20-minute train ride downtown to everything else in Chicago. Like the lovely Grant Park, where Anish Kapoor ’s famous Bean is located (its actual name is Cloud Gate, but is always known as the Bean) – which looks like a giant jellybean made of mercury, but is actually covered in 168 highly polished stainless steel plates.
The city boasts one of the finest art galleries in America, the Art Institute of Chicago, which is so spacious, artfully laid out and imaginatively curated that we had no problem spending an entire day there. And of course there’s The Willis Tower (better known as Sears Tower) – a 108-storey 1,450-foot skys crap er which i s the eighth-tallest building in the world and has unreal, science fiction-like views.
There’s a city beach, too: it feels peculiarly modern to sit on the sandy shore of Lake Michigan with skyscrapers right behind you. Chicago is a lively, vibrant city, full of paradoxes. It has the best shops, the best culture and amazingly beautiful, towering buildings. Go, before the weather turns.