Location: The Robey’s painstaking four-year restoration breathed new life into the famously beautiful but infamously neglected Coyote Building at the six-way intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee Avenues, one of the most iconic intersections in Chicago, where the trendy neighborhoods of Bucktown and Wicker Park converge. This is the residential area’s first serious hotel — and it’s got the best possible location with absolutely spectacular views of the downtown skyline. The L train (blue line) stops next door, providing quick-and-easy access to the airport or downtown. The neighborhood is known for its innovative chefs and independent shopping boutiques (although a few smaller chains have started to creep in).
Room: Urban King, #906, with sweeping city views. The interior design is sexy as hell: deep grays, crisp whites, distressed wood floors, wire-mesh glass, occasional splashes of color. The bed is gloriously firm without being hard, and the feather pillows are perfect. Several of the wall outlets include USB ports. The closet area is challengingly dark but otherwise functional. The safe easily holds two 15-inch laptops and a bunch of camera gear. The sound of the L train is omnipresent but strangely soothing. The room could use an extra luggage rack.
Food/drink: Cafe Robey on the ground floor serves breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner. The coffee is strong. The cocktails are superb. And the lobster roll is a must.
Noteworthy perks: Le Labo toiletries are a nice touch. And while the hotel’s website references their “signature soft denim robes,” the hotel in fact DOES NOT provide bathrobes. They do offer cute gray slippers, but no robes. Perhaps the robes are still back-ordered? They would certainly be welcome on a wintery night in Chicago.
WiFi: Fast and free throughout the hotel.
Public spaces: The front desk are is tiny, almost cramped, but efficient. The quaint rooftop lounge, Up & Up, accommodates only about 15 people at a time. You’ll need to get your name on the guest list the very instant you check in because access is not guaranteed even if you are staying in the hotel. For now, the upstairs lounge opens at 6pm; it’s too bad it’s not open all day. However, a second floor lounge serves as the hotel’s living room and includes an all-day bar; this is also where breakfast is served for hotel guests. Come spring 2017, the Cabana Club and outdoor pool will open on the 6th floor (on the rooftop of the adjoining building).
Service: The hospitality here easily rivals the luxury brands like Park Hyatt and Four Seasons, even if their resources are limited compared with those heavyweights. Everyone from the doorman to the housekeepers made us feel like we were family.
Bottom line: This is one of Chicago’s coolest and most creative neighborhoods, and now there’s finally a good hotel in the heart of it. The Robey is a fantastic bargain (as most Chicago hotels are) but also a warm and welcoming place to stay. This is the real Chicago. The location is a bit removed from the hustle of downtown but easily accessible. It’s also a cinch to get to/from the airport on the blue line, even with luggage. Once it catches on (which will be soon), it will probably become one of the toughest hotels in town to book, given there are only 69 rooms.
2018 W. North Avenue, Chicago