Some neighborhoods seem to pop up suddenly, fully formed. Chicago’s West Loop has been a culinary breeding ground for years, ever since Blackbird, Avec and Publican—Paul Kahan’s supernal trinity—debuted on and around West Randolph Street. But it wasn’t until the Ace Hotel Chicago premiered last year that the neighborhood could claim a bona fide hangout of its own. That has a lot to do with the Ace brand’s general approach. More than mere hotels, Ace properties tend to blur lines; they do double as performance spaces, bars, lounges, restaurants, art clubs, and boutiques. They’re basically lifestyle centers, a concept that can be annoying unless it’s done well. And Ace does it well.
Chicago’s iteration, in fact, does it supremely well. As a simple hotel it stays true to the brand’s aesthetic that borders on an almost camp version of hyper masculinity. Guest rooms are a butch mix of industrial, artisanal, Boys Scout camp, athletic club, and ‘50s throwback; there are enigmatic metal racks, stripped wood desks, iron beds, and open shelving, along with turntables in selected rooms. All of which seems like a good fit for Chicago, or at least the still lingering meat and potatoes, cliché of the city, a dumb Midwestern lug.