Once upon a time, the roofs of hotels housed only their unsightly heating and air-conditioning hardware. Then, in 2000, the Park Hyatt Chicago opened NoMI Garden on the 7th Floor of their hotel. They, unknowingly, also opened the floodgates to what can be termed the "Rooftop Renaissance". In the past year alone, 5 more posh spots have joined the growing list, now giving Chicago a total of 8 airy lounges. Hotelier's current cry appears to be "The Street's Not Neat" or riffing Frank Sinatra, "Fly Me to the Roof".
To help About’s readers make sense of this liquid lollapalooza, I, along with a fellow fan of potable pours, visited all eight establishments and put them to a Zagat-like test. We rated each roof (actually, most are terraces) on four factors: View, Drink Quality, Service and Overall Ambiance. Both of us weighted the four factors between 1 and 5 points. The top score that any bar could achieve was 40.
When a rooftop/terrace sported a special feature, we awarded an extra point. At four rooftops, we entered incognito and identified ourselves only when the check appeared. However, at four others, we had to make a prior reservation. This meant we were recognized and accorded top service. We deducted two service points from such places, meaning 8 was the top rating they could get since we felt regular imbibers would not receive equal treatment.
Since these pleasure pits are in choice locations, the scores are high and bunched within a hair’s breadth of one another. To guide readers further, an age ratio index charting the percentage of youth (under 40) and adult patrons is included. Such an equation can change by the day or even the hour. Usually, after 7 p.m., the crowd turns more adult.
Highlights of our stay at each establishment have been noted along with a final verdict. Armed with all this ammunition, you should have no trouble finding the spot that suits your fancy -- and pocketbook. Better yet, get someone else to take you to the top spots and put it on their expense account. Skol, Bon Sante or simply Cheers to you all!