Just Back: Ian Schrager’s New Public Hotel in Chicago

I’ve just come back from a tour of Ian Schrager’s Public Chicago hotel (www.publichotels.com) in Chicago. I give this one a two thumbs up. It’s on a side street just off Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile, which means it is close to all the good things that come with the Gold Coast. But staying here also gives you a feeling of mingling with the upscale locals, who come in to use the public spaces because there’s a great coffee bar set up with tables that have plenty of magazines, newspapers and games around them and because there’s free WiFi. It’s very democratic environment with communal work tables with iMacs that takes away the sterility of a cookie-cutter hotel. You feel you’re living somewhere pretty cool, if only for a day or so.

Upstairs, the rooms are painted a pristine white. They’re large with big closets and while the bathrooms aren’t huge, they’re also a pristine white with new tiling and tubs and plumbing. This was the former Ambassador Hotel, which enjoyed its heday in the thirties and the forties…and beyond, so many a celebrity stay here, including Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. One-bedroom suites are named after them in fact. I toured the Marilyn Monroe suite and loved it; it has the extra perk of a room with a treadmill.
The Public opened late last year and as a promotion it’s still selling King rooms for $110 a night during certain times with downsized amenities; this means you’re getting Public’s soaps and shampoos in the guest room and no turndown service. We say for that price, we can live without it.
The Pump Room restaurant in its glory days was even more famous than the hotel and black and white photos of the huge array of celebrities line the walls of the dining area entry way. Think Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, David Bowie and the list goes on and on. In fact, if you stop to gaze at it you ‘ll likely forget to go in for your supper, which should be pretty darn good, considering Jean-Georges Vongerichten  designed its new concept. If you’ve thought ahead, you’ll ask for the table that was Frank Sinatra’s favorite, a rounded booth table in the corner, in the back, in the dark, which allowed Frank and his entourage to not only survey the entire Pump Room and the outdoor street scene, but helped him stay true to his credo of never dining with his back to the door.
Be sure to stop by the Public in the evening, with lovely amber lighting, the place is quite pretty in the dark. The Library is the place for a cocktail and you may even consider bottle service if you snag a good corner seat or a perch by the fireplace.

For more information, visit www.publichotels.com

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