The Library, Chicago
Anthony Bourdain, a man of many loud opinions, asserted on one episode of No Reservations, that there are only two real cities in the United States – New York and Chicago. We have to agree. Recently, in search of skyscrapers, culture and crowds, we ventured to the Manhattan of the Midwest and stayed at Public Chicago. We were quickly reminded that there’s something else a real city offers as well: fantastic hotel bars. The Library bar located in Public Chicago boasts a spectacular pedigree as part of this Ian Schrager property which just opened its doors on October 11, 2011. Having sampled cocktails at the Mondrian, St. Martin’s Lane and the Sanderson over the years, we feel confident in saying that the bar is the heart of a Schrager property, and The Library is no exception. Everyone knows Schrager as the pioneering hotelier who revolutionized the industry with his “boutique” lodgings as well as his concept-driven spaces, seeing the lobby as an arena for socializing and the hotel as a “home away from home”. The focus of this hotel, as the name suggests, is its public spaces. We found our rooms to be minimal at best – the furnishings weren’t much of a step up from those found at Ikea. But Schrager, whose reputation was forever canonized with Studio 54, knows how to deliver a scene, and The Library is right where the action is. Hopping from mid-week through the weekend, culminating in a jam-packed Saturday night, it is clearly the place to see and be seen, a sentiment exaggerated with the surreal portraits of women which adorn the space that gaze out upon their audience. We had our very own Studio 54 moment when we were able to bypass the gaggle of revelers queuing for entry outside the hotel by waving our key cards at the doormen. Older now, and marginally wiser, we prefer The Library mid-week, in the late afternoon, when it is a serene spot to nurse a beer or sip one of their signature cocktails while lounging in comfortable chairs by the roaring fireplace. Schrager and his team are experts at engineering the psychology of space and they have carefully orchestrated different seating options to suit the variable moods and needs of their guests: tall chairs at the bar, arm chairs and sofas surrounding low tables, seating around a large communal table, as well as tables along a long sofa banquette. The space encourages lingering with magazines and books strewn for perusing. In the morning, the chaos of the previous night is swept away and the space is transformed into a tranquil coffee bar offering baked goods, pastries, and much-needed caffeine. The perfect antidote to a long night at the bar.