The wait is over for yet another Chicago rooftop bar, this one opening tomorrow atop Fulton Market’s new 159-room Ace Hotel Chicago (311 N. Morgan St.). While most rooms and almost every other facet of the hotel have been open since mid July as part of a discounted “preview period,” tomorrow’s rooftop opening (with nighttime entertainment featuring DJ Duane Powell and other live performances) signifies a literal capping off of the project and the official grand opening of Ace Chicago.
Chicago was invited for a first look at Waydown, the seventh-floor rooftop bar and lounge that takes its name from a John Prine song. According to beverage director Caitlin Laman, who joined us for the tour, there will be no reservations accepted here. “We really want it to feel very casual and very much like a chill, hangout bar,” says Laman, who previously helmed bar programs at San Francisco’s Trick Dog and Chicago’s Mezcaleria Las Flores.
That easygoing vibe extends to its game tables and bench seating upholstered by the NFL leather supplier, Chicago-based Horween Leather Co. It’s also roomy and lofty, with capacity for 250 that spans 4,111 square feet and lots of views. Its two long bars and DJ booth, sculpted by Chicago artist Steven Haulenbeek, face a small outdoor patio to the west that seats 15 to 20, a wall of tall windows that look north and down to graffitied water towers along train tracks, and a large covered outdoor bar and patio to the east with views of the downtown.
It’s a rare view from here, at the edge of Fulton Market and across from Google’s Midwest headquarters—something reminiscent of the views from neighboring Soho Chicago’s rooftop. At the same time that it feels edgy, like someplace you’ve never been before in Chicago. For a brand like Ace, which aims to both connect the local scene and deliver a sense of adventure, this feeling above Chicago on Waydown’s rooftop is a moment of success.
The beverage menu will be reasonably priced with $4 canned beers, $4 shots, frozen cocktails starting at $9, and most drinks around $11, tax inclusive. “That’s super reasonably priced for this neighborhood, where it’s hard to get a drink for less than $15,” says Laman. “We wanted this to be a place where everyone is welcome.”
Laman's favorites: a frozen espresso martini and a nutty sherry colada, served up. “I like those cheesy '80s and '90s drinks that most bartenders turn their noses up to because it’s fun to use good ingredients and make them well,” she says. Bar food will include a patty melt, crab kimchi dip with cream cheese, and Texas caviar, which Laman describes as “a big Mexican-inspired platter of fun things.”
Beyond the rooftop, guests can dine and imbibe at the hotel’s first-floor lounge or City Mouse, the onsite restaurant headed up by Team Giant’s Jason Vincent and Ben Lustbader, with chef Pat Sheerin, formerly of Trencherman.
A strong aspect of the Ace brand is about inclusivity and elevating the communities in which it operates. During its preview period, Ace Chicago raised $30,000 through special programming open to the public, including performances by Vic Mensa and Madame Gandhi, and 10 percent of room reservations. These funds went directly to support the three Chicago organizations Ace Chicago is partnering with: Little Black Pearl, Young Chicago Authors, and 826CHI. Ace Chicago will continue hosting events for the community, and efforts to support these three partners will be ongoing.
The rooftop bar and lounge will be open Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., and Sunday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Room rates at Ace Hotel Chicago start at $229 this month. Look for the first Stumptown Coffee Roasters in the Midwest to open its doors at street level this fall.