A couple months ago I was in Chicago to meet with some people at Hyatt and took advantage of the opportunity to try some of their hotels in the city since my only other stay in the downtown area was at The James well over five years ago. Surprisingly, the Hyatt Place Chicago River North was better than the Hyatt Regency we stayed at later, and possibly the nicest Hyatt Place I’ve ever been to. I told Jeff Zidell something along the lines of, “If you build more Hyatt Place properties like this, you might have some difficulty filling your higher end hotels.”
This hotel is actually one of three that operate in the same building, and I found it amusing that if I walked to the end of the hallway there was a door that opened into a different universe, with an Aloft by Starwood on one end and a Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott on the other. They even have separate gyms if you go downstairs to the basement. They’re located across the street from Frontera Grill, a Rick Bayless restaurant where we ate at on our second night. As far as Mexican food goes outside of California, it was pretty good.
I didn’t notice anything particularly special about check-in, though the service was friendly and attentive. The lobby is very large and includes a large dining space off to the left for a complimentary breakfast in the mornings and a bar and snacks in the evening. However, most people go to Beatrix at the Aloft instead. Our breakfast there on our third day was extremely good. It was always busy, so be prepared to wait.
The front desk gave me a room on the top floor with a view looking out toward Clark Street, which didn’t show much except for a McDonalds a few blocks away. I’m sure there are other hotels if you want a view. But inside, it was a noticeable step up from the average Hyatt Place — and isn’t quite done justice by this blurry photo.
One reason I like this brand — and Hyatt in general — is that it’s so consistent. I know what to expect from Hyatt in terms of service and elite recognition, and with Hyatt Place I can even predict the floor plan. (I once saw a close up picture of a friend’s baby while they were on vacation and commented that they must be at a Hyatt Place because he was playing with the same blanket.) Hyatt Place is generally better than any other roadside budget hotel.
But what works on Route 66 doesn’t necessarily pass muster in the city. The sofas had a different, less carpet-like upholstery, and the room divider had a tree branch pattern that lent it a slight Asian vibe. There was also some more interesting “modern” art on the walls.
Unlike the traditional Hyatt Place living room with an office nook and wet bar, this one had a shared TV stand and desk along one wall that is similar to what I find in some Hyatt Regencies. It was fine with me. I sometimes find the nook too dark, and I don’t need a wet bar, which I think may be a holdover from converting older properties.
What really impressed me was the bigger, more private bathroom. Most Hyatt Place bathrooms have a toilet/shower room and a sink in the bedroom. It works well enough. This one had one enclosed bathroom by the door with a large sink and walk-in shower. Aside from the limited bath amenities, I could have imagined myself in a full-service Hyatt.
If this is the future of the Hyatt Place brand, I’m excited to see it expand to more markets. It’s generally been an affordable, high quality experience at every property I visit, though I might prefer a good Hyatt Regency or Grand Hyatt when visiting most major cities. Still, it’s better to set moderate expectations and exceed them than to fall short. This looks like good competition for the Fairfield and Aloft hotels under the same roof.