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REVIEW – The James Chicago

james chicago lobby

The James Chicago

  • Rate: £98.75 per night
  • Room Type: Loft Suite
    • Complimentary upgrade from standard Double Room



There is quite a lot of choice at the high end, for hotels in Chicago. Having run price comparisons on both Kayak and Trivago I made a simple choice: the best looking hotel with an entry level room under £100 a night and a central location.

I wasn’t interested in upgrades because I’d only be spending a few hours in the room. Free breakfast wasn’t a huge concern as I wasn’t convinced I was actually going to be hungry after eating: Breakfast aboard Club Europe, second breakfast in the Concorde Room, the new Do&Co catering for lunch on LHR-JFK, snacks in the JFK Flagship Lounge and Admiral’s Club, followed by a multi-course *** Michelin tasting for dinner – at Alinea!

Upgrades and breakfast are two of the main draws of hotel loyalty programs and without them I was unshackled, free to see how an independent operator does things.

In a lot of ways The James’ marketing reminded me of Kimpton hotels: free wine, free coffee and baked goods, cool interior design, a lively bar and a laid back atmosphere. I was really looking forward to seeing if this hotel could deliver!



We arrived at the hotel at around 11:30pm, delirious with tiredness after a day that had begun 25.5 hours earlier at 5am Prague Time ?

I wasn’t sure whether I was hallucinating or not when I saw this sign stuck to the door:

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No guns allowed at The James Hotel Chicago

We all know that Chicago has a history of violence but I must admit that seeing this sign was slightly surreal.

Thankfully, the inside of the hotel was a lot more welcoming and reminded me a lot of an Andaz.

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The James Hotel Chicago – Lobby

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This area was really inviting and warm feeling, more like an amazing living room in a private home than a lobby in a hotel.

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This concierge desk served in addition to the stand-up reception area and doubled as the location of the complimentary drinks and snacks.

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The bar area.

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The bar

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Lobby Artwork

Thankfully the check-in process was super quick and my friend and I were handed our keys in under a minute. My room was located on the 8th floor.

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Definitely not a cookie cutter business hotel…

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Up until this point I had no idea that I’d been upgraded, although as soon as I saw the distance between my room and the next, my suspicions were definitely aroused.


Loft Suite

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Immediately upon walking through the door, it was abundantly clear that this was no ordinary double room.

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A quick glance at the floor plan revealed that my room was the largest on this floor and also rather unusually shaped…

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Right next to the door was the wet bar. It might seem like a small detail but it’s not often that you get a sink by the mini-bar in a hotel room. It was nice to be able to leave dirty glasses here and fill up the kettle, without having to traipse through to the bathroom.

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A decent selection of spirits priced at $20-$35 a bottle.

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Sound system and tea/ coffee.

Unfortunately there was no Nespresso machine but I actually find the Starbucks Via sachets to be considerably stronger and better tasting than the usual watery swill that American in-room coffee makers produce. Back when I lived in New York, Starbucks were running a promo to introduce Via and every shop was giving away one free sachet per customer, that came with a voucher for a free coffee. My record was 16 of them in one day.

I literally never paid for a coffee until the day I left the US and drank nothing but Via when I went hiking in the Rockies and then aboard the train from Denver to San Francisco!


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Please excuse the poorly made bed, it is a reflection on my skills and not those of the staff at The James. I couldn’t take good pictures until the morning and wanted to at least try and make the room look presentable.

I was worried that I would wake up super early but the bed was so comfortable that I slept right through to 7:40am despite having spent the previous night in the Prague Airport Hotel, seven time zones away. Extra kudos for providing five pillows too. My ideal sleeping position requires at least three but if I can get an extra couple to use as chocks to wedge myself in place, that’s even better. (NB: pillow forts are also an option)

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Bedside tablet with USB ports. I can’t say I made a great deal of use of the electronic features but I appreciate being able to charge devices next to bed and also not having an unnecessary clock ticking loudly and generating light next to me whilst I sleep (so many hotels get this wrong).

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The view from the bed.

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The regular living room area. It felt a little barren here, nowhere near as cosy as the lobby. The wall could have done with a painting and a lamp would not go amiss either.


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The bathroom was very spacious. However the shower curtain made it feel a little cheap, I would have much preferred a glass wall or doors. There was also no fixed rainfall shower head, just a limp handheld shower.

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The marble sink and clothes horse style towel rack were nice touches.

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I really liked these toiletries, you don’t even usually get body buff at an MO or Four Seasons!

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I like that you didn’t have to call down for a toothbrush. It seems like small detail but only providing toothbrushes on request belies a penny pinching mentality in a hotel.

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The Apelles shower gel, shampoo and conditioner were dispensed from large, fixed bottles.

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On the other side of the bed you have an area which could serve as either a dining table or work desk.

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On the other side of the bed you have an area which could serve as either a dining table or work desk.

Video Projector

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This was a totally unexpected surprise. My suite came with a chill out room, with a video projector and day bed!

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If you had young kids, this could absolutely double as a second bedroom. The day bed came with fresh linens too.

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The projector had an intuitive interface which permitted streaming from personal devices, using the hotel’s movie library or connection to Netflix, Hulu etc. The Bose 5.1 surround sound system was very good too.



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Despite working my way through a prodigious quantity of food the day before, I woke up hungry. It wasn’t exactly warm outside, being December in Chicago, so I lazily headed downstairs to the James Kitchen for breakfast. I was surprised at how empty the place was on a Sunday morning. I guess this is what it looks like when hotels don’t have loyalty programs that include free breakfast!

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I ordered a Steak Omelet with fillet tips, caramelised onions and cheese. I was happy that this came with a side salad rather than the mountain of home fries that my friend got with his ‘Omelet your way’. I wouldn’t classify this as good value though at $19 plus tip and tax. Hence, the empty tables.




I was actually a little sad to leave here after such a brief stay. Apparently the gym is absolutely spectacular but we were so pressed for time that we didn’t get a chance to check it out. A huge snowstorm had hit London overnight and we needed to get to the airport ASAP to sort a new route home.

My room was big and comfortable enough that I could easily spend a week there without feeling boxed in. I can imagine that when the winter really starts to bite, it is great having a cozy area in your room where you can kick back, relax and watch movies all evening.

The decor was cool and modern, the free coffee downstairs was also very much appreciated and the location… well we didn’t do much exploring but there seemed to be plenty of shops and restaurants nearby.

When I next return to Chicago I’d have to get a pretty amazing deal to consider staying anywhere else!

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