For years, the Avenues restaurant at the Peninsula Chicago hotel was considered among the finest in the city's fine dining. But when the Peninsula closed it to make room for more meeting space, they opened a restaurant in the lobby that feels accessible to leisure travelers—even families with young kids—and the food is outstanding. French influences flavor the steak, chicken and seafood dishes, and with entrees at about $30 each, you can have a genuinely decadent meal at a reasonable price.
We couldn't pass up what has become known as The Lobby's specialty: a full roasted chicken stuffed wih fresh herbs. The dish serves two and costs $54; servers bring it out for you to admire before the chef carves it, and it looks like it belongs on a magazine cover. Looks aside, the taste is what you'll remember. The poultry is perfectly moist, seasoned and buttery; a small crock of dark meat bathed in cream sauce and a side of sauteed apples catapult the dish into something swoon-worthy. (This is after we nibbled on fresh-baked rolls smeared with salted goat-cheese butter.) We were too full to try dessert, but the chef treated us to a dish of airy house-made macaroons and little loaves of pumpkin bread topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.
If we had one complaint about the experience, it would be our server, who was competent but not particularly friendly or present. From what we hear about The Lobby, our experience on that score seems rare. It's a wonderful way to enjoy one of Chicago's premier hotels, especially if you can't spring for an actual stay, which starts at $395.