I have been visiting Chicago for over a decade, but I’ve never checked out the West Loop.
Until this year!
Unfortunately, in 2020 Covid forced a large wedding into a small wedding. Fortunately, our friends decided they still wanted to throw a big party to celebrate. Yay! I love a party! They suggested The Hoxton, so we could explore the area and stay within walking distance to the party venue. Sounds like a win-win to me!
A Brief History of the West Loop Chicago
This neighborhood is HIP and HAPPENING at the moment–but it wasn’t always! Once Upon a Time (aka 1887–but taking shape since the 1850s), the Fulton-Randolph Market District was a meatpacking district. It was also a wholesale market for produce and livestock.
I can’t help it–I’m just imaging scenes from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
Picture it: at the height of the Industrial Revolution, labor unions are gaining in power and popularity. Strikes are becoming more and more common across the country as the labor unions organize workers and actively call for more humane working conditions. In 1886, in the Fulton District of Chicago, one such multi-day strike results in the death of police and protestors.
The Haymarket Square Riot or The Haymarket Affair ultimately helped bring about the successful passing of the 8-hour work day rule.
Here’s where we pause and give thanks to all the people who fought for better working conditions in this country. If you think your boss/company doesn’t care about you now, imagine the kinds of conditions people (and children) toiled in a mere 130 years ago.
Makes me think. Some of the most shining moments in the history of our country. . .they played out alongside some of our darkest humanitarian hours. Good thing we keep a historical record. Without it, we’d be taking all the good things in our society for granted. Maybe even repeating some past mistakes. Ya know?
Ok. That’s all.
Speeding forward in the timeline, Oprah and a team of investors purchase what had once been a cold storage warehouse. They transform it into Harpo Studios. This is where the Oprah Winfrey Show starts filming in 1989. And you know how popular that show becomes! Restaurants spring up to feed employees and visitors, and Randolph Street becomes known as Restaurant Row. After surviving the mid-2000s recession, The West Loop really starts booming. Many of the old industrial buildings are reincarnated into airy condos, loft apartments, and glass-walled business buildings. Continuing into the present, new development is carefully planned to keep the industrial feel of the Fulton Market District neighborhood.
All.The.Eats in the West Loop Chicago
Randolph Street today is very much the heart of the action and there is so much to see as you stroll along! Check out all the little shops as you take a much-needed walk between eating all the food. I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a bad meal in the West Loop, and to my mind, it absolutely earns its title of ”foodie mecca”.
Speaking of eating, we lucked out and walked into a table at Cabra for brunch on Saturday. This is Chef Stephanie Izard’s “Peruvian-inspired” spot at the top of The Hoxton. Chef Stephanie’s other delicious and inventive restaurants around the West Loop Chicago include Girl & The Goat and Duck Duck Goat. After our delicious food and fantastic service at Cabra, I think all her restaurants must be worth their weight in chorizo.
We pigged out at brunch, walked it off on Randolph Street, and stopped at J.P. Graziano, where a spicy muffuletta called to me. This spicy, carb-y delight was scarfed in our room, accompanied by a bottle of 2013 L’Ermitage brut bubbly from home. After the sandwich, I tried to get into shape wear and my fitted Alice + Olivia dress. Oops.
After getting settled in on Friday, we dressed up and walked across the street from The Hoxton to BLVD. This restaurant is nondescript on the outside and old-school Classy Steakhouse on the inside. Complete with live jazz filtering down into the bar area from a room on the mezzanine level. We shared a main course (dayboat scallops) in favor of trying more menu items. Crudo, steak tartare, mussels & frites from the Starters section. Corn & crab from the Sides. The banana cream pie (banana pastry cream + hot buttered rum) came back with us to the hotel. It’s literally a SLAB of pie! 4 people can share it no problem. That being said, I ate most of it! The banana cream dream went perfectly with my coffee in the morning. No regrets, just more cardio the week we got home, haha.
Staying in West Loop Chicago | The Hoxton
Now about where we stayed! It’s clear from a perusal of the Hoxton website that lifestyle hospitality company Ennismore has been meticulous in their selection of locations for their hotels, and the design team has created some incredible spaces. Hoxton Chicago opened in 2019. It’s the 7th of its name and the 3rd in the US.
Hoxton Hotel Chicago is a perfect marriage of the Fulton Market District’s industrial past and revitalized present.
The best element of this hotel is the exterior architecture and interior design.
It’s everything good about our current collective obsession for mid-century.
Globe lighting, clean lines, curves, velvet, brass.
As a tribute to the building’s past life in meat packing and car manufacture, there’s also a healthy dose of industrial design elements. Velvet couches and leather chairs are grounded by concrete walls and ceilings, shiny brass lighting plays over blackened iron shelving.
One really cool and unique feature in Hoxton is their “working from_” co-working spaces. Located on two different floors, these areas are relaxing and serene. More mid-century velvet couches and leather chairs are in small groups, and a kitchen area is the perfect spot for coffee breaks. The addition of homey touches like books, plants, and pottery lends a comfortable, lived-in feel. It all adds up to fulfill their concept “like working from home, without the distractions”. I even spotted yoga mats next to the door that leads out onto the outdoor terrace space.
At the time I booked, the only room available was the “Cozy Up”. Most of the square footage is dedicated to a fantastically tiled, large bathroom and a thoughtfully tricked-out bedroom. A retro luggage rack/clothes hanging/drawer unit is perfectly the perfect size for a weekend stay. Built-in shelving sacrifices zero floor space and houses a coffee maker, some books to read, and a mini-fridge! Floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom and the bathroom make the space feel expansive. You can play some Chicago blues through the little bedside Marshall bluetooth speaker. With the L passing by every 20ish minutes it’s 100% Re-invented Industrial West Loop Chicago.
So. . .what didn’t we love?
Only a couple of things struck a sour note in this hotel experience. Curious as to what exactly “doggy friendly” meant, I called to ask about the pet policy when we were still in Indy, and the front desk agent said ALL pets are welcome. This is not actually the case. The Hoxton allows ONLY dogs. They were gracious enough to allow us to check in with our Bengal cat Samson, and they did warn about a possible cleaning charge–but at that point, what were we going to do but say ok?
This cleaning charge concept got even more annoying when we got into our room and saw dust on the hardwood floors under the bed and a little piece of broken glass next to a nightstand. Grrr.
That being said, the hotel staff is very friendly. And for the record, we didn’t get charged for room cleaning.
We didn’t love the LOUD music in the Hoxton’s main entrance area. I get it–they’re clearly catering to a young, hip crowd–but damn.
It makes checking in that much harder, between the loud beats and the sheer volume of people and their conversations echoing off the concrete, steel, and glass. Probably it was also irritating because we had just driven 3 hours and navigated through the chaotic Chicago-on-a-Friday traffic. That sort of situation doesn’t really put me in the mood for club music at full volume before I’ve even checked into my room.
However: I LOVE the live DJ and beats at Cabra for brunch. Not sure the 20-somethings at the next table felt the same way; they were probably up later and (possibly) drinking more than I did. So. It’s clearly a personal preference. I certainly learned about myself that I prefer a hotel lobby to be a bit more serene, filled with background music and the hum of background conversation that doesn’t jar my senses when I walk in.
Isn’t that one of the best things about traveling?
You can’t help but learn things about yourself.
In all, we had a great time celebrating our friends and exploring a new place! And even though the L passing by had him a bit rattled, and he technically wasn’t allowed at the Hoxton, Samson is glad he tagged along. If you’re planning a Chicago trip, be sure to check out the West Loop and the Fulton Market District.