New Windy City Luxury: The Dana Hotel
Photos in order: Nikko Lencek-Inagaki; Courtesy Dana; NLI; Courtesy Dana (2); Courtesy ajasteak(2)
Once, only huge resorts far away combined top-tier service, beautiful views, in-house clubs, famous restaurants and blissful spas. Thankfully, healthy crops of boutique hotels have sprouted closer to home in recent years, offering us the same high amenities and service that used to be so rare.
Chicago has recently become home to one such urban oasis, the Dana Hotel and Spa, which boasts being the city's only boutique hotel built from scratch. Just off the Loop's downtown bustle, Dana's sleek building soars 26 stories up, it's 216 luxe rooms taking full advantage of her height with floor to ceiling windows providing stunning views of the city.
Full of stylish, iPod-compatible gizmos, the rooms are surprisingly successful at combining technology, art loft sophistication (exposed concrete ceilings meet hardwood floors), and Buddha lounge décor (Ohm-inspired art; earthy, subdued colors; and over-sized white cloud-pillows). The mini-bar is nothing to sneeze at, but the best is the unique shower situation -- a glass box from which one can view the bathroom on one side and the rest of the room and the city beyond on the other (there's a curtain for privacy, if one needs it).
If the dual showerheads remind you of getting a massage, head to the fourth floor spa, where Dana's incredibly knowledgeable and attentive aestheticians work their magic. Make an appointment, though, because the spa is at least as popular with locals on their lunch-breaks and after work as it is with hotel guests.
Topping the 26 floors is the aptly-named Vertigo Sky Lounge, which mimics the rooms' floor-to-ceiling windows and provides stunning, nearly 360-degree views of Chicago's skyline (pictured above). The outdoor patio may not function at 100% during winter, but it promises to be a great summertime bonus. Well-heeled or not, the crowd can get a bit rowdy late on weekends, but guests can always grab a cocktail and retreat to their rooms.
On the ground floor, by contrast, an upscale Asian-fusion restaurant keeps things fairly subdued. Hugely popular despite special-treat prices, ajasteak's ground floor windows let passers-by ogle the delectable Kobe and Wagyu steaks on the menu. Wisely served simply, Executive Chef Joshua Linton's two side sauces -- a white truffle butter and a smoked tamarind and chipotle -- are still tasty and welcome options.
More adventurous and highly inventive, Linton's chilled Kinalau salad of marinated yellowfin tuna, coconut, lime and mint is a clean mix of flavors that is delicious if eaten in small tastes, and a little overwhelming if devoured in one go.
Finishing the meal Italian-style, Linton's zabaione dessert (sugared, whipped egg yolks) is air-light and divine, even without the organic strawberries and mandari n oranges, and the espresso is hands-down the best I've had out of Italy -- thick, aromatic and completely lacking bitterness. Especially for dates, ask for a table upstairs in the sushi lounge, away from ajasteak's ground floor windows and somewhat clustered tables.