Waldorf Astoria Chicago (11 E. Walton St., 312-646-1300; from $345 a night) recently announced that Brendan Sodikoff (Bavette’s, Gilt Bar, Au Cheval, Dillman’s) is now overseeing the hotel’s food and beverage offerings, which includes reconcepting the hotel’s only restaurant at the moment, Balsan. (The hotel closed its beautiful marquee restaurant, Ria, more than a year ago). A spokesperson for the hotel also told Chicago magazine that Sodikoff will be developing a café for the lobby that will likely serve coffee and sandwiches during the day, light bites and cocktails at night. Both the lobby restaurant and the reimagined Balsan are expected to open in June.

Which got us wondering: How does a Chicago hotel with only one small restaurant, no rooftop space, and some rooms without a compelling view continue to reign as one of the best city hotels in the world? Last year alone, Waldorf Astoria Chicago was named the No. 2 Large City Hotel in the Continental U.S. and No. 44 among the Best Hotels Worldwide by Travel+Leisure’s 2013 World’s Best Awards, the No. 1 U.S. Hotel Spa by Conde Nast Traveler’s 2014 Readers’ Spa Poll, and No. 1 Best Hotel in Chicago by U.S. News & World Report.

Waldorf Astoria’s no tipping policy and anticipatory service—both of which started when the hotel first opened in 2009 as the Elysian—are hallmark offerings and something many say you have to experience first hand to really appreciate. For example, a concierge contacts every guest in advance to help orchestrate arrangements—and remains a personal point of contact throughout the stay.

And, the luxurious accommodations are probably all you really need: Residential-style rooms start at a roomy 614 square feet; the average size is 889 square feet. Many come with a big fireplace. The 14,000-square-foot spa includes a mosaic-tiled lap pool, exceptional spa treatments, and a relaxation lounge just for men, outfitted with leather furniture, a fireplace, and a flat screen TV. Balsan, pre-Sodikoff, offers a bistro-style menu and a fresh raw bar, and the hotel’s hushed and cozy Bernard’s Bar feels like a classy hideaway for good conversation.

Travel News

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