There’s a new kid on the block in Chicago’s bustling hotel scene, one that embraces innovative design and style with the 21st-century traveler in mind. Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago (100 West Monroe St., Tel: 312-326-1234. www.theloopchicago.centric.hyatt.com) is ideally situated in one of the Windy City’s most coveted areas and is poised to deliver a new kind of Hyatt experience.
Those looking to take in all that Chicago has to offer are lucky to find Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago’s Director of Sales Daniel Lewellin on staff to steer them in the right direction. Whether it’s planning a visit to coincide with one of the city’s many festivals, or discovering an off-the-beaten-path neighborhood gay bar, Lewellin’s seven years in Chicago afford him an insider’s perspective that further elevates the hotel experience.
Lewellin’s industry career began at a small hotel in his hometown of Hinkley, Minnesota. Through the years he’s worked in virtually every aspect of the hospitality industry. His interest was piqued when the Hyatt Centric Chicago’s arrival was announced in February 2015.
“The brand encourages us to be ourselves, unscripted and genuine. There are so many [hotels] out there where everything you say or do is rehearsed. This isn’t the case with Hyatt Centric,” says Lewellin. “They encourage individuality and want us to interact with guests on a genuine and human level. We get to be creative and work outside the box, creating experiences for our guests that showcase Chicago from a local’s perspective.”
Where are some of the trending places to go for cocktails?
Two of my favorite spots include Marty’s Martini Bar (1511 West Balmoral Ave., Tel: 773-561-6425. www.facebook.com/martysmartinibar), where you’ll find the best martinis in the city, and a portion of the proceeds from every Sunday are donated to local charities such as PFLAG and Care for Real (Edgewater’s food pantry). Closer to downtown, be sure to check out The Aviary (955 West Fulton Market. www.theaviary.com), a sophisticated cocktail lab where you can enjoy à la carte drinks or go for the kitchen table experience, which includes seven courses of cocktails and food pairings ($165/per person). Note that this is a ticketed venue and it books far in advance.
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
I love RPM Italian (52 West Illinois St., Tel: 312-222-1888. www.rpmrestaurants.com/rpmitalian/chicago) where you’ll discover plenty of small plates like big-eye tuna bruschetta and fried burrata, housemade pastas, and hearty steaks like the Tuscan porterhouse for two. The sophisticated atmosphere in neutral tones, leather, and dark wood is perfect for a date. Of course, it depends on the kind of romance you’re looking for! I personally love going to Bricks Pizza (1909 North Lincoln Ave., Tel: 312-255-0851. www.brickschicago.com) in Lincoln Park. It’s the perfect spot after an afternoon at the nearby Lincoln Park Zoo. They also have an amazing beer list, including locally made drafts from Half Acre Beer Company.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch in town?
There are so many. For visitors, I think brunch is a great excuse to explore an undiscovered
neighborhood. My favorite right now is Angelina Ristorante (3561 North Broadway St., Tel: 773-935-5933. www.angelinaristorante.com) in Lakeview—a.k.a. Boystown! They have a bottomless mimosa special for $10, and it’s a fun way to spend the afternoon and people watch; just be sure to have cash on hand as it’s cash only. Plan on spending the rest of the day wandering around the neighborhood to check out the locally owned shops or pop into The Center on Halsted (3656 North Halsted St., Tel: 773-472-6469. www.centeronhalsted.org), our LGBT center. I also love m. henry (5707 North Clark St., Tel: 773-561-1600. www.mhenry.net) in Andersonville. It’s BYOB, so grab a bottle of bubbles beforehand and then order freshly squeezed orange juice for the perfect (and budget-friendly) mimosa. The outdoor patio is pretty awesome when the weather is nice. Make sure someone at your table orders “Fannie’s killer fried-egg sandwich,” a toasted sour boule layered with two eggs, applewood bacon, plum tomatoes, gorgonzola, and fresh thyme.
What are the hottest shows in town, and how do I get tickets?
Broadway in Chicago (www.broadwayinchicago.com) showcases the most current national tours. Big shows this season include the much-anticipated Hamilton. There are a lot of terrific local companies, too. The Goodman Theatre (170 North Dearborn St., Tel: 312-443-3800. www.goodmantheatre.org) presents some of the best shows in the city. I suggest securing tickets one to two months in advance. You can also find out about discount tickets through the League of Chicago Theatres’ website, www.chicagoplays.com.
What museums are a must-see for visitors?
My personal favorite is the Museum of Science and Industry (5700 South Lakeshore Dr., Tel: 773-684-1414. www.msichicago.org). It is extremely interactive, and, if you are a geek like me, you can easily spend the entire day running around like a little kid. There’s a terrific temporary exhibit called “Find Your Inner Builder,” which features giant LEGO constructions by Chicago-native Adam Reed Tucker. I also love spending a day wandering about The Art Institute of Chicago (111 South Michigan Ave., Tel: 312-443-3600. www.artic.edu). Be sure to check out their “New Contemporary” exhibit with iconic works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichenstein, Jasper Johns and more!
Chicago is known for its unique neighborhoods. What are some of your favorite destination-worthy parts of the city?
I live in Andersonville, which is located in the northeast part of the city and is home to one of Chicago’s largest LGBT communities. I have been there for seven years, and I just can’t imagine living anywhere else in the city. You’ll find awesome restaurants along Clark Street, great shop- ping, and bars—and the people watching is top notch! It’s also home to some of the best coffee shops in the city. My favorite is La Colombe (5158 North Clark St., Tel: 773-942-7090. www.lacolombe.com). I also love exploring Wicker Park. The neighborhood is young and energetic. You’ll find great boutiques on both North Avenue and Milwaukee. It’s also home to some of Chicago’s most notable restaurants—especially if you’ve got a Michelin checklist! These include Takashi (1952 North Damen Ave., Tel: 773-772-6170.
www.takashichicago.com), which offers French-American fare with a Japanese twist; as well as Schwa (1466 North Ashland Ave., Tel: 773-252-7466. www.schwarestaurant.com), whose $130 tasting menu is an investment, but it’s certainly memorable (gourmet ants on a log, anyone?).
Where can you go to get the best views of the Chicago skyline?
Head to Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago’s rooftop bar Aire on the 24th floor. [This is] a great place to begin your evening with sunset cocktails and light bites featuring locally sourced ingredients. Or grab a bottle of wine and some snacks before heading to Montrose Harbor (601 West Montrose Ave., Tel: 312-742-7527. www.chicagoharbors.info/harbors/montrose) where you can watch the city light up as the sun goes down.
Do you have any suggestions for the smart shopper?
Michigan Avenue is known for its high-end (and high-price-tag) retailers, but head over to State Street, just a couple of blocks from the hotel, where you’ll find well-stocked discount outlets like Nordstrom Rack (24 North State St., Tel: 312-377-5500). Chicago is also known for it’s great thrift stores such as Thrift & Thrive (6025 West Irving Park Rd., Tel: 773-283-1653. www.thriftnthrive.com) located in the far west neighborhood of Portage Park.
What are the best LGBT-friendly bars in the city?
There are plenty of options! My personal favorites are Replay (3439 North Halsted St., Tel: 773-975-9244. www.replay.com) in Boystown or Andersonville. Enjoy a huge selection of whiskeys and bourbons, draft beer, and free vintage arcade games. Other low-key bars where you can mingle with the locals include The SoFo Tap (4923 North Clark St., Tel: 773-784-7636. www.thesofotap.com), and legendary Big Chicks (5024 North Sheridan Rd., Tel: 773-728-5511. www.bigchicks.com), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this December as one of Chicago’s most notable LGBT watering holes.
What are the most popular gay dance clubs in the city?
Berlin Nightclub (954 West Belmont Ave., Tel: 773-348-4975. www.berlinchicago.com) on Belmont is open until 4 A.M. (5 A.M. on Saturdays) and attracts a really fun and eclectic crowd, and they’re always brewing up some kind of special event. Nearby Roscoe’s (3356 North Halsted St., Tel: 773-281-3355. www.roscoes.com) also plays great music and has a decent dance floor.
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
After you’ve hit all the bars and clubs in Boystown, head to Taco and Burrito Palace (3507 North Halsted St.) This small walk-up shop has great Mexican food, including overstuffed burritos and my personal favorite, torta al pastor, a roasted pork sandwich topped with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, and salsa. It’s open until 2 A.M. during the week and 4 A.M. Fridays and Saturdays.
Don’t leave Chicago without checking these three things off your list:
Chocolate Cake Shake at Portillo’s (Multiple locations. www.portillos.com). While most travelers head to Portillos for its fully loaded, Chicago-style hot dogs, it’s the chocolate cake shake that’s the real treat! A live show at the Riviera Theatre (4746 North Racine Ave., Tel: 773-275-6800. www.jamusa.com/riviera-theatre). Head uptown to this historic theatre that was built in 1917, converted to a dance club in 1986, and now home to live concerts. A doughnut from Glazed and Infused (Multiple locations. www.goglazed.com). Take your pick from cake, raised, or bismark (filled with custard or jelly) doughnuts, and you’re in for a sweet treat.