If iconic Chicago is what you seek, look no further than The Drake Hotel— where elegantly curated cocktails and fare are just what they serve.
When you have lived in Chicago your entire life, winters are something and the challenge is real. But if there is a bit of sunshine and an opportunity to stay at a legendary hotel on Chicago’s Gold Coast, you jump at the chance. It’s an unexpected respite in an unbelievable place.
We were invited to The Drake Hotel on a February weekend where the air was crisp and the sun was bright. Hot tea in the Palm Court was just what the doctor ordered in the salon that was packed with those who knew what a Midwest treasure this was.
With a beautiful harpist playing in the background and the serene sounds arising from the central fountain, there was no more beautiful setting for a Saturday afternoon than the heart of The Drake Hotel. Almost as soon as we took our seats, an endearing waiter took our order. Tea begins with a perusal of the Palais de Thes menu, which features 17 unique tea blends including classic selections like the English Breakfast and Earl Grey to modern yet delightful twists like the Mélange du Cap, a delicious pairing of cocoa nibs and vanilla pods for a warm and sophisticated blend.
Tea is served in individual tea pots accompanied by the traditional three-tiered tea tray filled with an arrangement of gourmet artisanal finger sandwiches; delicious, from scratch, breads and scones; and dainty petit fours with accoutrement complements of house made preserves, lemon curd, and English double Devon cream prepared by pastry chef Bruno Bell Alves. Everything is prepared in house.
With Tea fit for the Queen, reservations are heavily encouraged due to the popularity. Full tea service seating lasts 1.5 hours, so The Drake Hotel suggests you plan accordingly to experience afternoon tea in its truest form. A glass of their favorite Prosecco is a must to mark the occasion.
Once you’ve enjoyed the best of afternoon tea and some time with Chicago’s most historic landmarks, it’s comforting to return to The Drake to appreciate what made this hotel one to visit.
The promenade on the first floor was once filled with dress boutiques and hair stylists that would make over Chicago’s socialites so that they could properly ascend the stairs of The Drake Hotel.
Once there, guests could dine on Chicago’s culinary favorites, just as today’s visitors enjoy The Drake’s finest foods at Coq d’Or.
The second establishment in Chicago to obtain a liquor license, this Gold Coast neighborhood fixture opened on December 6, 1933, following the repeal of prohibition. The patina of Coq d’Or blends rich wood paneling, rogue leather accents, live weekend entertainment, and a cozy glow to evoke a truly nostalgic vibe.
Here, pre-prohibition standbys, eight decades of iconic cocktails and new favorites are mixed, shaken or stirred to astonish the taste buds and amaze the eye. And for those who like it on the rocks or straight up, their branded Rye Whiskey curated in conjunction with FEW Spirits, an award-winning local distillery, is one of numerous batches and blends that will ignite and delight the palette of any whiskey connoisseur.
And the soup…is the perfect bowl of tradition. The Bookbinders Red Snapper Soup named after the restaurant of its provenance, Bookbinders, which opened in 1865 in Philadelphia, has been served here since the 1930s. A tomato-and-roux-based soup with meaty red snapper fish accompanied by a crystal decanter of sherry is a real Chicago tradition among locals.
We enjoyed the Lobster Croque with Maine lobster and shrimp salad with whole grain mustard on a brioche and The Drake Burger on a potato roll with aged white cheddar tomato and Dijonnaise mustard. There were smiles all around at these Drake classics.
The engaging staff wouldn’t let us leave without trying dessert, a number of specialties that have been carried over from the famous Cape Cod Room that closed in 2016—a place where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio famously carved their initials in the bar. The chocolate brownie hazelnut cake with espresso ganache and sour cream gelato and baked Alaska chocolate cake with butter cookie and whiskey and strawberry gelato didn’t disappoint.
The Drake Hotel hasn’t maintained it’s allure simply because of its history. It embodies the spirit and flavors of the city it marks.