The brand new Virgin Hotel is quite possibly the coolest hotel in Chicago, and the restaurants have their own pedigree—Rick Gresh (David Burke’s Primehouse) is handling the menus at Miss Ricky's, the diner; Commons Club, the all-purpose restaurant/bar/lounge; and Two Zero Three, the coffee shop/wine bar. Here's a run-down of each space, and for more on the hotel, here's what it's like to spend a night there.
Two Zero Three
Two Three Zero is a coffee shop by day and wine bar by night. With silver counters, tables and a few bar chairs, it seems primarily designed to accommodate people working on laptops during the day—it doesn’t feel right as a wine bar. There’s a small case for cheese and charcuterie, along with a display case for Shinola products and, overall, the space feels too hard and generic to encourage lingering over several glasses of wine. My date and I had a glass of wine apiece and shared a plate of West Loop Salumi charcuterie and some funky cheeses from Chicago’s Great American Cheese Company. It’s not a bad spot for a quick drink, but in terms of ambiance, the hotel's other spots are just better. Consider this a coffee bar, where you can get Bow Truss coffee and pastries.
The Commons Club
If you’re having dinner at Commons Club and not staying at the hotel, here’s a bit of advice: Between 6–7pm, it’s pandemonium, because Virgin offers a free happy hour for hotel guests, and the fight for the dozen or so bar seats is fierce. My date and I were jammed into a tiny table next to a raucous post-work group, but when we returned later in the evening for a beer (it has Ale Syndicate, Local Option and Goose Island on draft, along with a handful of crowd-pleasing cocktails), it was much quieter.
Commons is a restaurant, bar and lounge, so there are places to work using free Wi-Fi, and a cool vibe, with a distinctive bar with booze circling the top and the “shag room,” with a ‘70s theme. The menu has slight Japanese tinges, including the fatty noodles, udon tossed with well-cooked lobster, rapini and furikake, a Japanese seasoning that includes sesame and fish flakes. Then there are flatbreads, charcuterie, pasta and a rib eye, so the menu offers the kind of broad range common to hotel restaurants. At dinner, there are snacks to start, like mashed potato tots, but while those were creamy and salty, the shrimp egg roll was just greasy. A benign shaved raw cauliflower salad included Parmesan, croutons and crispy Brussels sprouts, and tuna tartare had a nice range of textures from the crispy shallots and peanuts mixed in. It’s not the most thrilling of menus, but this is essentially a hotel lobby, and there’s a better option elsewhere in the hotel.
The funky first-floor diner is the best place to eat at the Virgin. The all-day menu includes breakfast, so props for that, especially since it includes Ina Pinkney’s Heavenly Hots pancakes from the shuttered Ina’s, and salty-sweet chicken and waffles with sriracha honey. There’s a diner counter, a back room that can be turned into a private space, a serviceable club sandwich, and a gooey crab and shrimp dip that made a great late-night snack. Skip the watery Bloody Mary and sip the creamy, balanced Main Street, which includes tequila, Campari, cream soda and passionfruit. Miss Ricky's is open late and screens silent old movies on the wall. It’s not a bad place to end the night, whether you’re staying in the hotel or not.