The Virgin Hotel, Chicago: Miss Ricky’s

virgin hotel miss rickys
Hello, Miss Ricky’s!

We’re lucky. We love Richard Branson and we now live down the street from his first foray into hospitality located in downtown Chicago, The Virgin Hotel. The property opened about a year and a half ago and, we’ll admit, they struggled a bit to find their way. Cocktails were too sweet and their wines were less than stellar. Since then, they’ve dug their heels in and are making vast improvements. Plus, their hotel rooms are well designed and offered at a great reasonable price. You can’t beat the location as a tourist either. You’re close to Millennium Park and all the great art museums, like The Art Institute.

One place that has been solid since inception has been their downstairs diner, Miss Ricky’s.

chicken and waffles
Hello, Miss Ricky’s!

You don’t come here to diet (although I did eat the Dark Greens Salad – seen below), but you will find some perfect brunch and late night “I’ve had just enough drinks not to care” fare. I mean, will you look at those Chicken + Waffles and Tres Leches French Toast? They’re a sight to see. And, they were delicious. I’ve been to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles, a famous spot for Chicken + Waffles and, although my California friends  and purists might kill me when I say this… I like Miss Ricky’s more. The chicken they use tastes like a high quality chicken breast and the syrup is the perfect compliment because it’s not thick and heavy, but rather, a light and spicy Sriracha maple combo. To die for!

french toast tres leches
Hello, Miss Ricky’s!

There are two things everyone likes. Tres Leches cake and French Toast. If you don’t, I don’t want to know you. So, when you combine the two it is obviously a winning combination.

kale salad shrimp
Hello, Miss Ricky’s!

Of course, since I have to try my share of fattening foods to write about them, I ordered and devoured the Dark Greens salad. The dressing was light and perfect and they chopped it finer for me since there’s nothing that bothers me more than a salad with big chunks of lettuce or kale. Momma likes it finely chopped and I’m pretty sure most of the world does too (why else would all those chopped salad places start popping up, right?).

What I like most about Miss Ricky’s, however, just might be the staff. They come by and ask you, genuinely, how things are. They want to make improvements. And they do. Typical of a company run by someone like Branson, they listen and they learn. So, for diner fare, I given them a solid thumb’s up for speed, quality, and gluttony. I think they need to continue to refine their cocktail menu to remove some of the sweetness and work on the current trends in the cocktail space (e.g. spice, tart, botanical, etc.)

With that in mind, we recommend Miss Ricky’s for a solidly delicious brunch or late night meal that you’re going to enjoy. You may have to get a room to sleep it off or hit the skate rink at Millennium Park to work it off, but it’s damn good.

Top Dude Ranches for The Ultimate Escape

Waunita Hot Springs
Waunita Hot Springs

Courtesy of the Dude Rancher’s Association, if you’re looking for the ultimate winter escape, look no further than these all-inclusive dude ranches, each of which offers cold weather retreat in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the country.

Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado
The outdoor activities are just as invigorating as the inside comforts are cozy at Latigo Ranch. Experienced skiers know Latigo has some of the best snow conditions and finest cross-country skiing in Colorado. Other winter activities include snowshoeing and tubing, or enjoy the quiet and seclusion from the front porch of a historic log lodge with a panoramic view of 100 miles of the Continental Divide.

Latigo Ranch – Kremmling, Colorado

Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana
Things move a little slower at Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, and that’s just how it’s meant to be. Treat yourself to horseback riding, sleigh ride dinners, square dances, snowshoeing, ice skating, dog sledding and ice fishing. Cap off the day with a soak in the hot tub, a game of pool, or a relaxing book and some music. And don¹t forget to leave time to enjoy a magical sleigh ride accompanied by hot chocolate or even dinner.

Bar W
Guests ride a horse drawn sleigh at the Bar W Ranch near Whitefish Montana

The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado
When the legendary snowfalls blanket the Elk River Valley in powder, The Home Ranch transforms into a sparkling white wonderland and becomes one of the most beautiful cross-country ski resorts in Colorado. Located just north of Steamboat Springs, the ranch offers some of the best Nordic skiing in the world, rustic accommodations, and a world-class chef that prepares what he calls ‘haute mountain cuisine’ for every meal. A typical day during a winter vacation could even include helping feed the ranch¹s herd of 100+ horses with a sleigh.

Home Ranch
The Home Ranch – Clark, Colorado

Western Pleasure Ranch in Sandpoint, Idaho
A favorite activity of visitors to Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in North Idaho is a scenic horse-drawn sleigh ride powered by one of the ranch’s draft teams. A two-mile loop trail takes passengers through a dense forest, treating them to fantastic views of the Selkirk Mountains. Sleighs are available in sizes ranging from two-passenger to 12-passenger. Western Pleasure also has ski trails for all levels.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
An all-inclusive winter vacation to Vista Verde Guest Ranch combines the amenities of a luxury Colorado resort with the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a ranch vacation. Hide out in a cozy log cabin with a private hot tub and enjoy delicious, freshly prepared meals in between snow-filled adventures. Winter activities include skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, tubing, sleigh rides, culinary classes, yoga and photography classes.

Lone Mountain
Lone Mountain – Big Sky, Montana

Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana
Lone Mountain Ranch offers the ultimate winter adventure. The ranch is perfectly situated just six miles from some of the best skiing in the country and was voted as the No. 1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Skier magazine. Winter activities include skiing (Nordic, downhill and backcountry), snowshoeing and sleigh ride dinners. Guests can even take a short shuttle ride to explore Yellowstone National Park or the Gallatin National Forest by skis or snowshoes.

C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado
The winter weather is surprisingly mild at C Lazy U, thanks to the bright sunshine. Backcountry snowmobile and horseback riding tours, snowshoeing, private on-property snowcat skiing, ice skating, tubing and the C Lazy U Luge are favorite activities among winter guests. There¹s even ice hockey on the pond, as well as major ski resorts nearby.

Seven Devils
Seven Devils Lodge – Council, Idaho

Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch in Council, Idaho
Located in central Idaho, just south of the Seven Devils mountain range, Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch lies in a unique area, neighboring jutting canyons, high desert, and soaring mountains. It offers some of Idaho’s finest backcountry boondocking, with terrain for all levels of riders. The ranch tailors the experience to match each guests’ riding style and even offers Back Country Basics riding clinics for those looking to improve their skills.

Sundance Trail Guest Ranch in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
Winter is Bed & Breakfast Mountain Lodge season at Sundance Trail Guest Ranch. Guests are welcome to come for one or two nights, or for a week, during which time they can enjoy lodging, meals and morning horseback rides. Even four-legged travelers are welcome during the off-season! Sundance Trail is popular during the winter for family reunions, romantic getaways, and even honeymoons and elopements.

If an escape from the cold and snow is more your speed, check out these two all-inclusive guest ranches this winter:

Hideout Ranch – San Simon, Arizona

Hideout Ranch in San Simon, Arizona
See the West the way it was meant to be seen ­ from the back of a horse. Hideout Ranch’s strategic location along the Arizona-New Mexico border provides easy access to thousands of miles of mountain and high desert riding trails ­ trails no other ranch in Southeastern Arizona rides. Prepare to let your stress melt away in the bright blue Arizona sunshine and crisp, clean mountain air.

Tombstone Monument Ranch in Tombstone, Arizona
Travel back in time to the era of the cowboy at this unique ranch, which is set up like an 1880s Western frontier town. Each of the ranch’s 18 rooms has a special Western theme and is decorated in turn-of-the-century style. Explore miles of open country by horseback, enjoy live music around the campfire, or take a walk to the monument of Ed Schieffelin, the founder of Tombstone, located right on ranch property. The ranch offers trails for all levels of horseback riding.