The idea of hotel dining doesn’t typically trigger salivation; but the thought of Richard Sandoval’s (Latinicity) food probably does. When the new Conrad Hotel (101 E. Erie St., River North) opens its doors this summer, it will do so with three distinct dining and drinking concepts, all dreamt up in collaboration with the international superstar chef.
“Saying you can’t do great food at a hotel is just quitting. You have to commit,” says Conrad’s general manager, Kelly Vohs, who stresses that the restaurants will target locals just as much as hotel guests. “How well our eggs are cooked is as important as any other aspect of the hotel,” he adds.
Vohs is confident that Sandoval is the man for the job: “[With Sandoval, we’re] dealing with someone who is humble and can be part of a project and not the project. Most importantly, he’s a great chef who creates bold flavors,” he says.
To help you plan your visit accordingly, here is a taste of each concept—ascending from the ground level up.
Il Tavolino, the ground floor’s breezy café
For the indoor/outdoor Italian restaurant, Sandoval plays off River North’s heritage as Chicago’s “Little Sicily” (who knew?!) and draws from his travels through Italy, where his family also happens to own a Chianti winery (naturally).
Open all day, Il Tavolino’s offerings will run the gamut from breakfast panini and pastries in the morning to salads, flatbreads, pastas, and meaty main dishes come midday and evening. To drink, look for locally roasted coffee, draft Negroni, housemade Italian sodas, and, obviously, wine.
Baptiste & Bottle, the 20th floor’s bourbon haven
Sandoval labels this one an American kitchen with a tavernesque setting. He mentions shared plates such as calamari and Parmesan-crusted scallops, plus heartier dishes including burgers and New York strip for lunch; and a raw bar, salads, and grilled meats for dinner.
But B&B’s pièce de résistance will be its bar program—specifically, bourbons aged onsite in small barrels and shaken, poured, and stirred into cocktails tableside.
Noyane, the rooftop’s Japanese stunner
Any new Chicago hotel worth its salt must sport a ritzy rooftop scene, and Sandoval has chosen a Latin-influenced Japanese number for the Conrad’s (which will be open seasonally). The MO: skyline views served up alongside sushi, sashimi, and hibachi-style grilled meats; Japanese whiskey-based cocktails, sake, and beer to wash them down. The planned aesthetic will be “soothing,” the décor Japanese, and the people-watching likely excellent.