Just Back From…The James Hotel, Chicago

Suitcase art installation in The James lobby

I must admit,  I am generally suspicious of so-called “design” boutique hotels – I have found many of them all style and little substance. When I booked my reservation at The James, a member of the Leading Hotels of The World (LHW), I did so with some hesitation. After all, the standard room rate was $199 – how good could it be?  But I was eager to try a something a bit different than the gold standards of Peninsula, The Ritz or the  Four Seasons (I also didn’t have the budget to stay at any of them) and that was near the shopping in downtown Chicago’s Miracle Mile.

The Lobby

I used my Leaders Club membership at LHW to secure a room and hoped for the best. I was a bit suspicious coming out of the taxi to piping hip-hop music at the hotel’s front doors (but kudos for the dog water bowl and bones on the sidewalk). My first impression of the lobby was that is was a bit drab and sterile – an art installation of vintage suitcases piled up by the guest elevators was …umm interesting. It did bring a bit of needed color into the lobby, though.

All my reservations ended at the check-in desk.   I was welcomed with a complimentary full breakfast and upgrade from a standard room to an “apartment suite”  (both Leaders Club perks) – a spacious 2-room space designed in a mid-century/contemporary style (It would  fit right into AMC’s Mad Men set) and fitted with everything I could possibly need (2 TVs, spacious bath with Kiehl’s products, internet station, mini-kitchen…).

Apartment Suite at The James

I was really impressed by all the little touches provided by the James. As a LHW Leader’s Club member (I swear this is not a plug for LHW - a former employer) all my preferences (ie. high floor, down pillows, newspapers) were provided without having to request them.  Most of the time, I have found I have to ask for these during the course of my stay, regardless of what program I booked through. And the appearance at turn-down of  warm chocolate beignets with rasberries, a favorite dessert at David Burke’s Primehouse located in the hotel, was swiftly devoured with much appreciation.

What I appreciated most, beyond all the comforts and amenities, was the service. No matter when I arrived or departed, there was always someone standing in the lobby to greet me. From the restaurant, to the concierge, front desk and bellhop - you can tell this hotel is “customer-centric”. That is what makes this hotel truly stand out.

What I loved: The Business Center taking up part of  the lobby, offering several stations for free Mac and PC internet access. The super comfy bed, the sincere “green” efforts (you must put a note on the bed if you want sheets and towels changed), the dog treats and water in front of the hotel!

Nice touch for the pooches!

What I didn’t love: Music piping out from the lobby to the sidewalk – felt cheesy. Hallways bit too dark and ominous for my taste.

Don’t Miss: The delicious breakfast at David Burke’s Primehouse restaurant, located inside the hotel. The spa and well-equipped gym (although I didn’t have time to test either).

The Last Word: The James Hotel is a great hotel providing amenities and service of many of the majors …at an unbelievable price.

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