|By Glenn Jeffers, Chicago
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 7, 2008 - Inside, I forgot about the cranes and the skeletal concrete framework. The scaffolding, large and blue and looming over the first-floor lobby, seemed to disappear. The bright, marble-laden lobby washed away that sense of incompleteness, even as I heard construction workers clank away a few floors up.
It didn't matter. I was standing inside a Trump Tower. In Chicago.
I hate to admit it, but I felt a slight sense of awe walking into the new hotel, a soon-to-be-92-floor diva if there ever was one. Since breaking ground in 2005, the riverfront building has enthralled downtown dwellers as it grew, took shape and fought the city on everything from antennae size to safety permits.
After its proposed Dec. 3 unveiling, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago opened Jan. 30 to much less fanfare -- and no celebs. Very un-Trump-like.
Why should you go now, when only 60 of the 92 floors are finished? You can get a discount rate of $325 a night, which is a little less than competitors in that league such as the Peninsula and the Ritz-Carlton. When Trump is complete, the rooms will start at $525 a night, said hotel spokeswoman Janet Isabelli, with top-end suites approaching $2,600.
The downside? Well, it won't be the full Trump hotel experience. The in-house restaurant, Sixteen, just opened for dinner about 24 hours ago. The health club, spa and hotel bar, Rebar, won't open until mid-March. And don't even think about Sixteen's terrace, which sits right in front of the Wrigley building. That won't be open until summer 2009.
Better to get in now and soak up the glamour. Even with the limited amenities and construction noise, a stay at the Trump Chicago is worth the $325.
When it comes to space, service and style, the Trump Chicago shines. Even the standard rooms boast about 600 square feet, almost double the size of your average hotel room (325 square feet), and larger than most luxury rooms (470 square feet) according to American Hotel & Hotel Association.
Although guest rooms only fill floors 14 to 27, they still provide some majestic views, thanks to each room's 10-foot floor-to-ceiling windows. From my 21st-floor king guest room, I could see the "L" tracks stretching down Wabash Avenue over to Lake Michigan. That kind of panoramic view is on par with any other downtown hotel. (Note: Hotel officials knew of my visit, so that may explain the view. Still, we paid for everything.)
Inside, the room is devoid of the excess one expects from the Trump brand, with the exception of daughter Ivanka Trump's jewelry catalog in the magazine rack, complete with order form. (Two words: Tack. Key.)
Instead, the decor screams understated and practical. The room's muted tones blend well with the in-room kitchenette's Italian wood cabinetry (full kitchens in the suites), Sub-Zero refrigerator, electric ranges and built-in dishwasher, which are standard in every room. The cabinets held enough stemware, utensils and plates to serve a family of four. The bathrooms sport marble, separate shower stalls, rainfall shower heads and deep-soaking tubs. The king-size bed offers a great night's sleep with a plush, pillow-top mattress and soft 500 thread-count bedsheets.
And despite some opening-day jitters, the staff did a fine job. Every room service and the front desk request was answered promptly, whether it was a room service order of miso-glazed salmon, roasted to drool-inducing perfection, or when Jimmy, one of the night managers, subbed out a remote for the in-mirror television in the bath.
The food hits the mark you'd except from a luxury hotel. Despite Sixteen's limited service, 24-hour room service was available (with a menu that included everything from tiger shrimp cocktail to walleye pike). My favorite dish arrived in the morning with a trip to the 16th-floor restaurant where I ordered a well-seasoned petite filet served atop "home fries," with a soft-boiled egg ($26). It makes me yearn to see what executive chef Frank Brunacci will do for dinner.
And there it is again: the incompleteness. You do notice it. A carpenter painting a hallway or a construction worker measuring out a doorway. But it doesn't keep you from enjoying a stay. There's no hammering at 3 a.m., and I didn't see a single speck of dust.
If you can afford the full price, you may want to hold off until the spring. But if the current discount seems more appealing, try it out. It's not everyday you stay in a Trump Tower in Chicago. But it's about to be.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
401 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-588-8000, http://www.trumpchicago.com
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