Talbott Hotel

Take a horse-drawn carriage ride from The Talbott Hotel to American Girl Place.

The dark wood, the understated elegance and the first-class service of The Talbott Hotel in Chicago make it easy to imagine Leo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby strolling through the lobby. But this venerable 1920s-era boutique hotel has enough modern amenities to make ol’ Gatsby gasp.

If you happen to be a shopper, the hotel’s location within blocks of Michigan Avenue, Water Tower Place, and Oak Street makes it a prime choice if you don’t want to walk too far laden with all those shopping bags.

For younger guests, there’s the nearby American Girl Place, most elegantly reached by a horse-drawn carriage ride through Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. For more mature guests, there’s a Talbott Hotel special that includes shopping at Chanel, Hermes and Prada via chauffeured Phantom Rolls Royce.

Upgraded Technology at Talbott

Technology at The Talbott HotelWhen I visited as a guest of The Talbott, I took the carriage ride and checked out the opulent American Girl Place at Water Tower, but I would have been perfectly happy staying in my luxurious room.

The building might be 86 years old, but it’s up-to-date on technology and energy efficiency.

When I I walked into my room and turned on the television, I was greeted by name. It’s the Mac Mini computer system in each room–when you check in, your name is programmed into the system, which makes for a nice greeting after a long day of high-end shopping.

The technology extends to the housekeeping staff. There are no Do Not Disturb signs to hang on the doorknob. Instead, you simply push the button on the pad next to the door. It lights up the do not disturb light outside the room, disables Talbott Hotel Do Not Disturbthe doorbell and sends a signal to the iPods used by the housekeeping staff so they know not to stop by. It’s equally easy to summon housekeeping. Just push the button asking for service.

The thermostat in the room is connected to a motion detector so no energy is wasted heating or cooling an unoccupied room.

Cows on Parade at The Talbot

The hotel isn’t all serious luxury. There’s also a sense of fun, embodied by the painted cow mounted on the side of the building.

It’s a vestige of Chicago’s Cows on Parade event in 1999. (While the painted cows decorate cities everywhere these days, Chicago was the first American city to station the whimsically painted fiberglass cows around town. That was thanks to the visionary former Chicago Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Lois Weisberg, who saw a display on a visit to Zurich, Switzerland, where the idea originated. You can still see a few painted cows on display in various spots around the city and there’s a bronze statue mounted on the sidewalk outside the Cultural Center at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street.)

The Talbott sells stuffed animal versions of the Ladybug cow that adorns the building to raise money for Chicago Gateway Green and is running a contest to give away free nights at the hotel.

Little Market American Brasserie at The Talbott

This charming little bistro on the street level of the hotel is a quiet spot for a drink or a light dinner after a hard day of shopping. I was treated to a meal and a glass of wine. The “small share plate” corn, truffle oil and herb risotto was tasty, but a little on the salty side. Same for the Baja lobster roll (not a dish you expect to find in Chicago), although the fries were perfect.

Little Market BrasserieIf you’re not terribly hungry, order dessert first. You won’t want to waste one calorie of the PBC, a flourless chocolate cake with peanut butter powdered sugar, caramel corn popcorn and chocolate sauce. It’s a restaurant specialty.