The Waldorf Astoria is located in the Gold Coast area of Chicago. The hotel opened its doors in 2009 as the Elysian Hotel but in 2012 was rebranded to a Waldorf Astoria. The hotel has won several awards including #1 in the US, according to Condé Nast 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards.
This hotel is a no-tipping hotel or that’s how they like to describe it but the truth is the only people you don’t tip are the Valet, Housekeeping, Concierge and Porter services. Let’s be real here, how many people tip Housekeeping, Concierge and Porter Services on the regular? I’ll guess and say very few do. So, the only thing different about this place is you don’t tip Valets. You tip at the spa, restaurant and on room service. I find their no tipping policy confusing. I had to reach out to the hotel to clarify who should be getting tips and who shouldn’t be.
Valet overnight parking is a cool $71.
I booked the stay on Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts website. I’ve written about this several times before but just a quick run down: Amex offers noon check-in (when available), room upgrade (when available), daily breakfast for 2, guaranteed 4pm check-out, wi-fi, and a unique property amenity, which in this case was a $100 spa credit. You have access to this booking site if you hold the Amex Platinum card or Centurion card (Black Card!).
I also could have booked on points. If my memory serves me right it would have cost 105,000 Hilton HHonors points but I wouldn’t have gotten free breakfast or really any elite benefits worth mentioning because Hilton doesn’t extend all Diamond benefits to Waldorf Astorias. And that’s one reason why I’m a Hyatt loyalist and a Hilton loyalist.
I ended up paying $365 plus taxes. Minus the $60 breakfast and $100 spa credit I felt like it was a decent deal. I ended up making 25,000 Hilton Honors points for the stay, which is a pretty solid return for a one night stay considering that’s enough for a free category-4 night.
I took an Uber from O’Hare airport to the hotel and back. It’s a 30-60 minute drive depending on traffic. It seems I took an Uber select on the way back to the airport which cost $64. Uber Black to the hotel cost $104.
Arriving to the hotel you pull into a circular cobblestone driveway. It feels residential and not like a hotel at all. A friendly bellhop greeted me and took my bags as I exited the car.
The rest of the check-in experience was forgettable. Once I entered the lobby I stood in front of the reception desk for probably two or three minutes watching the receptionist talk on the phone to another guest who was trying to be upgraded. Two or three minutes isn’t long but watching someone talk on the phone feels like an eternity.
The concierge desk is right beside the reception desk and the concierge never looked up or said anything. Finally another associate came out from a room behind the desk and welcomed me. It was the exact same check-in process I had the night before at a Hampton Inn in Moline, IL. She checked on upgrades but the hotel was completely full which I confirmed on my phone so I didn’t get upgraded this time. Also, the room wasn’t ready when I checked in at 2pm but after 30 minutes they called and said it was ready.
I remember checking in to the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. It felt personal, they brought me a hot towel and I was able to sit down and relax while she checked me in. This WA is supposed to be one of the best hotels in Chicago and this is how they welcome guests? I was very disappointed. Nothing about it felt luxurious, personal or memorable. It felt like checking into a Hampton Inn.
The lobby is small. Besides the reception desk and concierge desk the only other thing there is a newly opened cafe called Petit Margeaux by Chef Micheal Mina.
The elevators are located behind a glass wall to the left of the reception desk.
A real Pulitzer Prize winning photo right there for you all.
The hotel house car is a white Mercedes S550.
It’s on a first come, first serve basis. It will take you anywhere in a two-mile radius. This was actually the first time I was able to ride in a house car. It seems every time I stay at a hotel that has one it’s always gone. The driver was polite and it was a smooth ride to Duck Duck Goat.
I had room 2406 which was just to the left coming out of the elevators.
I really liked the color and ambience of the hallways.
I’ll let the photos do much of the talking for the room and bathroom.
The one nightstand beside the bed did not have power outlets. BLOWS MY MIND!
So, instead, I had to wrestle the nightstand away from the wall and unplug either the light or the alarm clock. Just put a damn outlet on the night stand. It makes everything so much easier.
In the closet on the far side of the room were the safe, laundry kit, robes, and slippers.
Here’s the laundry menu.
The mini bar was located just left as you walk in beside the bathroom. Nespresso Machine was located on top.
In the drawers were the mini refrigerator, snacks, and, surprisingly, a microwave. I don’t see too many microwaves in 5-star places.
The mini bar prices were decent, considering.
Here’s the list of channels for the TV.
The in-room wi-fi was solid.
The view from the room was ok. There are certainly much better ones to have in the hotel.
One other note, the AC worked great. It was freezing in the room.
The bathroom was located just to the left as soon as you entered the room.
The toiletries were from Salvatore Ferragamo. These are some of my favorites behind Aesop and Le Labo.
The blow dryer was not the best one I’ve ever found at a hotel.
I thought the size of the shower was small but other than that there’s not a lot to be said. Hot water was immediate and water pressure in the shower was strong.
The Spa won the #3 best spa in the US by the readers of Condé Nast in 2015.
I made a spa appointment for the first afternoon since I had $100 credit. I ended up getting a pedicure (my first one ever). I think the associate did a great job and she was great to talk to but I literally got nothing out of it. Total waste of money. Like I said she did a great job but it did nothing for me. I should have gotten a massage.
She offered me water when I got there and I said sure. I was expecting a mini water bottle but she offered flavored or bottled, cold or room temperature. Having choices is nice.
The men’s locker room had showers, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, and a ton of lockers.
The sinks by the lockers had kits for shaving and plenty of soaps and lotions from Jack Black.
Overall I thought the spa was well-appointed and a relaxing spot. The steam room was hot as well as the jacuzzi. The spa was definitely one of the highlights of the stay.
The fitness area was located just past the spa entrance. The main area had adequate equipment and free weights.
As you can see there are only three, maybe four windows in the whole area so don’t expect any good views of the city while you work out.
There’s a small area on the far side of the gym with towels, water, and headphones.
Just down from the fitness area was the Gyrotonic and Pilates Studio. You do need to be with an instructor if you are using any of the equipment.
The equipment in this room looked way over my head so I stayed outta there.
Just past the pilates studio is the indoor lap pool. I read on their website that they used 102,600 patterned tiles to give the illusion of swimming on a bed of roses. I never got that impression and I didn’t even notice the tile was colored, call me crazy.
As you can see there’s some seating areas down the right hand side of the pool. There’s also a table and chairs on the far end.
I wasn’t impressed by the pool, I think it could have been a much better design. To me, it’s just kind of blah. Nothing really catches the eye but what do I know?
As I mentioned earlier they have a small cafe in the lobby called Petit Margeaux. The cafe also has a small outdoor eating area just beside the entrance. You can see it a little in the house car photo. I dropped the ball and forgot to shoot it. I did get one pic of the inside though.
The main restaurant located a few floors up is called Margeaux Brassiere. I ate here on three different occasions. Happy hour twice and late night drinks and apps the other. It opened two days prior to my stay.
They had a fantastic happy hour and regular menu.
During happy hour I had a Hemingway daiquiri. 7.5/10
Duck wings à l’orange. 9.1/10
Wood-fired oysters. Put cream and bacon on anything and it’s going to be good. 8.8/10
Gruyère fondue with truffled toast. Not bad, but it’s not something I’d ever order again. 6.6/10
Sorry for the poor quality photos coming up. It was very dark in there. From the main menu I ordered the sea urchin à la grecque. 8.1/10
The blue crab remoulade. 7.9/10
and finally chilled prawns. 9.1/10
The service and atmosphere were great each time I was in the restaurant. One of the associates remembered what wine I was drinking from the previous night. The first day I arrived they asked me if I wanted my martini shaken or stirred. I’ve been to some nice places and this might be the first or second time I’ve ever been asked that. I wish bartenders asked me that every time. The only thing I can think of that didn’t go perfectly was the server forgot my glass of wine for 15 minutes the night I was there but not that big of deal. I would give Margeaux brassiere high marks and recommend it even if you’re not staying at the hotel.
For Breakfast I ordered room-service. I had the hunters style waffles with duck confit, swiss chard and sauce chasseur. 8.3/10
With a side of maple sage sausage 7.7/10, over easy egg and some hash browns 8.1/10.
For $60 I felt like this was a great breakfast. It was brought promptly to the room soon after ordering and everything was pretty good.
Service was hit and miss. I’ll give it a 8.5/10. First off the two things that really bugged me; Check-in could be much better. Make it personal, memorable. This is a 5 star hotel in one of the best cities in the states, so you should be wowed when you stay here and that starts the moment you walk in the door. Secondly, when I would call them on the in-room phone they didn’t greet me by name. They know what room is calling, there’s no reason not to be greeted by name. One other small thing, when they emailed my final bill they still had breakfast charges on it so I had to contact the hotel and have them remove it. Not a big deal but something like this shouldn’t happen when you consider yourself one of the top hotels in the United States. Get it right the first time.
One of the really great things the hotel does is make it easy to communicate with an associate if there’s anything you need. They do this by having a message hotel button on the Hilton app.
Whenever I had a question I just messaged the hotel on the app and someone quickly responded. I wish every hotel had this feature.
I had big, HUGE expectations for this place. I keep thinking to myself am I being to hard on them but no, no I’m not. If this were the Hilton down the road I’d say they nailed it but this is the Waldorf Astoria that got voted #1 in the USA by Conde Nast readers. This hotel should be held to the highest standards and I think the hotel would want that and sadly they failed to meet my expectations. Not only was this not one of the best hotels experiences I’ve had, it’s not even the best Waldorf Astoria I’ve ever stayed at. I’ve stayed at the Langham Chicago and it was a far better experience at the same price point. Yes, this hotel is gorgeous and the location is great but If I were going to spend this kind of money again on a hotel I would not pick this place.
PS. Don’t pay any attention to any other Condè Nast Readers’ Choice Awards.