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.

The Renaissance Re-Brand: Luxury Savings & Romantic Escapes

Paris Arc de Triomphe Luxury Hotel RoomFinally!  Renaissance Hotels, part of the Marriott group, is celebrating the launch of two incredible new hotels and a whole new look for the Renaissance brand.

On September 17th, they’ll be holding a simultaneous launch event in NYC & Paris to celebrate the opening of Renaissance NY Hotel 57 and the Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe, along with 9 days of exclusive packages at Renaissance hotels around the world.

These amazing packages are for purchase and bid, offered at a savings of 50% off, and include things like a holiday package in both Paris and New York with NYE in Times Square, elephant trekking in Thailand, backstage access at Oprah, tracing your ancestry in Ireland, celebrity chef experiences, and riding on a float during Mardi Gras, “These fun, incredible deals,” as Elizabeth Caminiti, Marriott’s PR Manager for International Relations, says, “speak to what Renaissance is all about… incredible experiences and discovery.”

Sample packages:

Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Hotel

Sweet Suite in Paris, offered at $2,500, includes:

Three nights in a luxurious suite, VIP welcome including a bottle of Champagne upon arrival, in-room Indonesian massage for two, private cooking lesson with chef of Makassar restaurant, exploring Paris’ hidden treasures with insider’s tour with hotel Concierge, two tickets to “The Lion King”, and, get this… an unlimited in-room mini-bar!

Must stay before December 30th

New Orleans Luxury HotelsRenaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette HotelMardi Gras Spectacular in the Big Easy auction package includes:

3 nights in deluxe suite, a tasting menu at the Chef’s Table in the kitchen at MiLa, an exclusive viewing of the parades on St. Charles Street’s Intercon Stage with Bourbon Street balcony passes, a ride in the Krewe of Endymion Parade, ending the evening at the Endymion Ball in the Louisiana Superdome with limo transport. Not to mention… a couples massage at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, dinner at Le Cote Brassierie at the Renaissance New Orleans Art Hotel with a parade view, the Krewe of Bacchus Parade, front row seats at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, and breakfast for two each morning plus brunch at the famous Brennan’s restaurant!

Package available February 12-15, 2010

Other packages include:

The Blackstone Renaissance Chicago HotelBE Blackstone VIPs – Auction Package

Renaissance Koh Samui Resort & SpaRomantic Bliss at Koh Samui is offered at $950

The Shelbourne Renaissance Dublin HotelRoots in the Old Country: An Irish Special is offered at $950

Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & SpaA Hollywood Red Carpet Treatment is offered at $900

La Concha Renaissance San Juan ResortLiving LA VIDA: San Juan Style is offered at $1350

Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach Resort & SpaSun and Fun, In Miami Beach is offered at $2,700