Over the last few days I’ve had the pleasure of staying at the Palmer House Hilton (17 East Monroe). I got a chance to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of this historic hotel. It’s a beautiful hotel that has all the splendor and glamor of old Chicago. From the moment you get there, you know it isn’t your average run-of-the-mill hotel, the character and history is in every detail. The single best part about arriving is walking into the main lobby, it’s a work of art. The color scheme has a very royal quality with plenty of gold in the details, but the main attraction is the ceiling. Not only did my jaw totally drop when I first laid eyes on it, I witnessed everyone who either walked up the stairs or rode the escalator up have the exact same reaction. As you can see in the photo above, it is the Chicago version of the Sistine Chapel. I would be willing to bet you wouldn’t find a more culturally satisfying hotel lobby in the city.
After checking into my room (one of 1,639 beautifully appointed rooms), I went down to Potter’s Lounge for a small reception expecting nothing more than a couple of drinks and some pretzels, but was pleasantly surprised to see that they actually have good food. It’s a little hidden in the corner, but it’s definitely worth visiting when you want a quick bite or drink. The cheese tray was the main attraction for the majority of the table, but I personally devoured the incredible Margherita pizza. Potter’s is the perfect compliment to its big brother. Lockwood.
Lockwood is the Palmer House’s heavyweight restaurant that features a seasonal American menu. I had three meals at Lockwood over the course of my stay and none disappointed. First was the breakfast buffet where your head will spin from the choices you have with muffins, scones and croissants alone. I decided on some eggs, steel-cut oatmeal, a waffle and a couple pieces of bacon. But I definitely had to make a second trip to grab a cinnamon scone. Other choices from the buffet included chicken-apple sausage, pancakes, cereal, lots of fruit and much more.
The next meal was afternoon tea, and if you’ve never had tea before you’re in for a treat. I started off with a mimosa and proceeded to devour the tower of goodies that was brought out. The amount of finger sandwiches I ate should be embarrassing, but they were so good I couldn’t help it. The top tier of the three-tiered food offering had egg salad and chicken salad sandwiches with some type of salmon on toast thing (the actual name escapes me but you get the point, it was good). The bottom two rows featured the sweets and due to my extreme obsession with all things involving sugar, I did my job excessively well and tasted every single thing. The sugar cookie and raspberry cheesecake were the clear winners according to my taste buds, whom I trust dearly.
Last but not least, my final meal at Lockwood was dinner, where I had the Chef’s Tasting Menu (pictured in the gallery below). It consisted of amuse bouche, beet and carrot salad, sweet corn risotto, skuna bay salmon, filets of beef, and for dessert (Pastry Chef Fabrice is the man) there was trois chocolate and the newest pastry sensation cronuts (a croissant/donut hybrid). I enjoyed every bite of food, the presentation was flawless and the meat was cooked to my particular liking, I couldn’t ask for more. Dinner started at 7:30 and we didn’t get up from the table until after 10. You know the saying, “time flies when you’re having fun,” and I was enjoying some great food with very good company.
Due to my fawning over the Palmer House you can tell I had a wonderful time. My room was nice, the hotel is gorgeous, the food was delicious, and the hotel is centrally located in the South Loop so it’s close to so many amazing Chicago attractions. But I have saved the very best aspect of the Palmer House Hilton for last, and his name is Ken Price. Officially titled the Director of Public Relations Ken Price is more than a title can convey. He is the living, walking, talking heart and soul of the hotel. He is known as the Palmer House historian and leads the History is Hott tour. If you don’t care about anything else I have written, and you only do one thing at the Palmer House Hilton, it should be this tour. Ken has a personality that can light up any room and it shines brightly when he talks about all things Palmer House. Because when it all boils down, the history of the Palmer House is a love story, the hotel itself is a symbol of undying love from a determined man (Potter Palmer) to his bride (Bertha Palmer). I am convinced there is no one better at telling that story than Ken Price. But please don’t just take my word for it, whether you live in the city or are just visiting, you HAVE to go on the History is Hott tour and meet the man himself, it is more than worth the price of admission. To learn more about the tour, the hotel, or the restaurants don’t hesitate to call (312) 726-7500 or visit www.palmerhousehiltonhotel.com for more information.