ACME Hotel (15 E Ohio St, 312-894-0800)
It’s hard to believe you can stay in a boutique hotel just steps from State Street and three blocks from Hubbard’s restaurant row for as little as $169 a night. ACME pulls off the price by breaking some of the dated conventions of a luxury hotel. For example, morning coffee service is simply a thermos left in a paper bag outside the door. We don’t miss the awkwardness of a hotel employee wheeling a cart into our room as we scramble to fasten our robe. In fact, ACME is just the right mix of hip, haute and high-tech: graffiti-style handprints above the bed and giant LED lips on the bathroom mirror, muted paint color on the walls, rich wood furniture, an alarm clock that doubles as an iPhone dock, free 100MB bandwidth (read: really fast) Wi-Fi and original 1920s terrazzo tile in the lobby. A nifty HDMI setup in every room means you can hook your smartphone or computer directly to the TV to stream from your Netflix, iTunes or Hulu accounts.
Dining The hotel has plans to hand off the restaurant space—a long and narrow room alongside the lobby—to a local, still undisclosed restaurant group, which will open a new concept in the fall.
Bar scene You’ll also have to wait until fall to imbibe within hotel confines; for now, we dare you to walk more than ten feet out the front door without finding a source of alcohol. (May we suggest WaterShed in the basement of Pops for Champagne?)
Fitness/spa The basement has a caged-in gym (MMA chic?) with all the basics. There’s also a large hot tub and sauna.
Room rates Starting at $169, including free parking in the garage next door.—Marissa Conrad
Hotel Lincoln (1816 N Clark St, 312-254-4700)
Between the neon sign outside the building, the plaid hallway carpeting and the wall of what appears to be a collection of framed thrift-store paintings next to the back stairwell in the lobby, Hotel Lincoln teeters on the edge of kitsch while maintaining a classic Chicago vibe. Check in at a front desk made of vintage dresser drawers, pick up locally made caramel snacks downstairs for a midnight bite before heading up to your room (you won’t find a mini bar) and, after settling into the warm, flat-screen-TV-outfitted room, take advantage of a free two-hour Heritage Bicycle rental to check out the neighborhood. Wi-Fi is free in the common areas, but if you left your computer at home, pay for time at a desktop Mac in the business room. Make sure to request a room with the lake view.
Dining Located across the street from the Green City Market, Paul Virant’s Perennial focuses on seasonal cuisine with rotating dishes including pan-fried green tomatoes, housemade sausage and gnocchi. While you can brunch here, too, try Elaine’s Coffee Call (next to the hotel lobby) for a casual bite. Decorative touches like the row of colorful old-school telephones behind the counter are cute, but the savory crêpes, baked goods and bottled La Colombe Pure Black iced coffee, not to mention the inviting reading nook, might keep you from making that morning Starbucks run.
Bar scene Good luck finding a spot to sit, or even to put your drink down, at Hotel Lincoln’s 13th-floor rooftop bar. The drinks are categorized by destination (Chicago stakes a claim on the Moscow Mule and “Parker” Collins), the space is lush with greenery complementing the park view, and the crowd is well-heeled in neon jeans, shimmery sweaters and dress shirts. Call for reservations to ensure access.
Fitness/spa While you’ll have to head a block down the street to Equinox’s spa for massages and facials, a small but industrial-chic fitness room equipped with a few treadmills, an elliptical, a bike, free weights and a TV offers a nice alternative to running by the lake.
Room rates Starting at $139.—Jessica Herman
The Ivy Hotel (233 E Ontario St (312-335-5444)
Luxury and ecofriendliness go hand in hand at this 15-story, 63-room boutique hotel in Streeterville. The majority of the hotel’s sleek, white-clad rooms are suites and feature amenities such as mirror TVs and soaking tubs, which means you can watch HBO while taking a bath. Wi-Fi is free, and the bedside alarm clock includes a dock for your MP3 player. As for the Ivy’s green initiatives? The converted office building boasts LED lighting, bamboo flooring, energy-efficient heating systems and more. The hotel is quiet and under-the-radar (there isn’t much of a lobby here), but we suspect that will change once people realize it offers a rooftop bar (pictured).
Dining A low-key bar/dining area greets you when you walk into the hotel and features a full bar and basic food options such as pasta and burgers. Room service, available until 10pm, includes typical hotel fare (omelettes, salads, sandwiches).
Bar scene The rooftop bar offers decent views of downtown. It wasn’t open on our visit (it had rained earlier in the day), and we hadn’t heard much about it prior to our stay, so this might be the one rooftop bar in Chicago where you can actually score a seat.
Fitness/spa You won’t find any facilities on-site, but hotel guests can get free guest passes for the nearby LA Fitness.
Room rates Starting at $225.—Kevin Aeh