A server from Nico Osteria sets up dinner in a room at the Thompson Chicago hotel — Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch
Along a lively stretch of Chicago's Gold Coast, diners pack the Nico Osteria restaurant – talking, laughing, and enjoying their meals from James Beard Foundation award-winning chef Paul Kahan.
Meanwhile, upstairs, in the adjacent Thompson Chicago hotel, Nico Osteria meals are being served in an entirely different setting: in quiet hotel rooms, next to the beds.
It's part of the newly added in-room dining service at Thompson Chicago. Guests can order a few select items from Nico Osteria's menu and have them delivered up to their hotel room. This isn't the room service you're used to with boring burgers and fries and ketchup packets.
In-room dining at the Thompson Chicago hotel — Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch
Instead, you might start with a glass of wine, and then have a salad made of fresh, locally-grown lettuce with shaved carrots, peach slices, fried onion strips and shaved parmesan before your main course. The food is brought up on a cloth-covered table by a friendly server. There is no candle, probably for fire hazard-related reasons, but there is a little flower in a vase.
It's an intimate and romantic way to dine. You can eat in silence, while watching a movie on TV or listening to music from your iPod, or just as you work alone on your laptop. There isn't a waiter checking on you or refilling your water, so if you need something, you push the room service button on your phone and they will send someone up.
Fresh salad and rigatoni are on the in-room dining menu at Thompson Chicago — Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch
It's a cool way to dine in a very cool hotel. Thompson Chicago is a mix of luxury and contemporary, with creative artwork covering the walls. A standard room has a small couch and table area, a desk and a big comfortable bed.
While Nico Osteria will bring up a separate table for the in-room dining experience, a dinner for two will probably mean one person sits on the desk chair and the other sits cross-legged on the bed.
The first page of the Nico Osteria menu is a list of Midwest farmers – a sign that you're about to eat a fresh, locally-sourced meal. The in-room dining menu is small, nothing like the extensive menu available downstairs in the restaurant. But the food is delicious, and it's priced in line with what you'd be paying if you were eating downstairs.
The wonderful minestrone soup is packed with chunky fresh vegetables. The flavorful half chicken entree comes on a bed of beautiful leafy spinach, fresh peaches and parsley. But perhaps the best item is the homemade rigatoni, topped with a crumbled mixture of veal, pork and beef.
Food from Nico Osteria is offered in-room at the Thompson Chicago — Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch
The meal is served with a cute corked bottle of still water, some fantastic fresh Italian bread, plus a few rich and yummy chocolate truffles. The portions are not big, and the wine pours are a little light (better to order an entire bottle rather than just glasses).
The meal took about 30 minutes to arrive after it was ordered. It's not just a good meal, but a unique and special experience.