Pros:Style, comfort, distinction, without too much attitude.
Cons:Cozy but cramped rooms; no closet and internal soundproofing problems.
The Bottom Line: Hip and fun with some flaws. Artsy. Not boring. Nice people on the staff.
KIMPTON IN CONTEXT
Four members of the epinions community liked the Allegro in 2001, and in September, 2004 it is still a fun place to stay in Chicago: with a few reservations. For those of us bored with the sameness of the big chains, the San Francisco based Kimpton group offers 3 dozen unique properties in some 15 destinations (a dozen in San Francisco and 6 in D.C.) all with interesting restaurants, a kaleidoscope of color schemes, a nearly theatric sense of style and comfort, usually delivered without pretension. Most of the hotels are in older buildings with some interesting history. Their prices also appear to be competitive with their more conventional competitors. (This based on my staying at 5 of their properties).
ALLEGRO IN THE LOOP
Let's zero in on the Allegro. In the heart of the Loop Theater District, the hotel is conveniently located for entertainment venues, downtown business and shopping. The forty foot tall Bismarck Hotel was built on the site in 1894 and razed in 1924. In 1926 a new 600 room hotel, with the same name replaced it, with a theater and office tower attached. After a substantial rehab, the Allegro debuted in 1998. Currently, there are 483 rooms. The outside of the hotel is rather non descript. We were greeted by a cheerful doorman. To one side is "Encore", a "Lunch Club and Liquid Lounge-a fairly exuberant watering hole.
The spacious and comfortable lobby is one floor up from street level with via a dramatic staircase, or by elevators that also serve the rooms. Bold primary colors (cobalt blue, tomato red and mustard yellow) in the comfortable furniture leaps out from the soothing beige carpet and dark brown walls. There are several nooks and side rooms that would be ideal for a discreet business or romantic conversation.
SERIOUS DINING AT 312
While a late one course lunch and an early breakfast are not definitive, my first impressions of their Italian oriented restaurant, "312" (the old Chicago area code) were very positive. Arriving at the hotel at a quarter of two, famished, and knowing that an early business dinner was in the offing, discipline suggested that an entree and a non alcoholic beverage were in order. The highly praised chef (Dean Zanella) and restaurant (praised by "Food and Wine" and the local newspapers)offered plenty of temptations-even for lunch: ex. Gulf Shrimp and Scallop Ravioli with Braised Leeks and Caviar Cream Sauce; Spit roasted Chicken with Asiago Potatoes and Natural Juices and Oven Roasted Wild Salmon with Rapini, roasted Garlic and Potato Puree. A half dozen tempting starters, a quintet of salads and some home made gelati were all deferred to future trips. I settled on a spot on perfect risotto with asparagus and fava beans. My colleague had a near perfect caesar salad with foccacia croutons and freshly shaved parmesan cheese. Breakfast the next day focused on some beautiful smoked salmon and capers over bagels and cream cheese. Really good coffee. In sum, having a destination restaurant in your hotel is not a bad thing!
JEWEL BOX ROOMS
Small can be beautiful-and cramped. The well lit art deco corridor, striking brown and beige striped wallpaper and distinctive carpets lead you to your room. The walls of my room were done in a striking damascene coral which you are unlikely to be neutral about. You will either find it soothing or irritating. Upholstered and oversized "Chocolate and cream" striped head boards. Down filled blankets. Funky lamps, a large array of pillows on a queen size bed that filled more than half the room. A small desk area, an arm chair and ottoman; a medium sized flat screen TV in an armoire. The room is more of a shipboard size state room than a hotel room. The desk lamp has a place to plug in a laptop, connecting to a slow telephone dial up. For the more technically sophisticated, the hotel has Wi-Fi throughout. (There is a "24 hour business center" somewhere in the hotel, with presumably other options). My biggest peeve: the "closet"-really a five or six inch deep broom closet foisted off as something else. Why put a dozen hangers in a closet which could only hold my garment bag "flat", along with the ironing board and iron squeezed therein?
The cramped theme was even more reprised in the bathroom. While fresh new tile and reasonable lighting and mirrors reflect refurbishment, the old clunky sink was so close to the toilet that you have to rest one arm on the sink to sit down. The clearance to the other side was equally tight. A new fiber glass shower unit at one end of the tub was grafted on to an old (style)tub and seemed somewhat out of place. It worked fine. Aveda soaps and sundries, and plush towels, hair dryer, quality amenities rounded out the bath room suite.
The high floor inner courtyard location promised a quiet night's sleep. Someone coughing in the next room in the middle of the night, however, suggested that while outside sound had been mitigated, that between rooms had not been muted.
The hotel boasts room service; 24 hour valet and self-parking; 24 hour on site fitness center;hair salon; gift shop; Kimpton's pet friendly policy; and a large brandy snifter of tootsie rolls at the front desk.At $180/night, before taxes, a reasonable buy in the heart of Chicago.
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