The Hotel Blake is three-and-a-half star hotel in what used to be the Morton Salt building. According to the Hotel-Rates web site, it's done in modern decor remniscient of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School. I don't like modern, but this is classy and attractive.
Our room is not the $500 a night kind but it is nice. It has a full-sized desk, an armchair with a footstool, a very comfy bed with a down comforter and bench at the foot, a plasma TV, a cordless phone, another phone in the marble bathroom, and an iHome clock radio with an iPod dock! I've always wanted to stay in the kind of hotel that includes bathrobes, but when I saw the iPod dock, I forgot all about the bathrobes! Needless to say, the first thing I did was see it my Nano worked with it -- and it did. :)
After we got settled in our room, we decided to walk around the neighborhood before dinner. We headed up State St. to the Loop where there are lots of stores. I was impressed with the Macy's. It reminds me of the actual department stores I vaguely remember in downtown Flint before everything moved to the mall, but it was even better, and huge! Not only is it multi-floored and beautifully decorated for Christmas inside and out, it connects to an underground pedestrian walkway, similar to the underground mall in Toronto. Speaking of Christmas decorations, downtown Chicago is stunning at this time of year. Even the subway entrances are decorated! I took this picture from our car, so it's a bit blurry, but you get the idea:
We ate dinner at Custom House, Hotel Blake's restaurant. It's a gourmet restaurant "showcasing a delightful fusion of contemporary American cuisine and Mediterranean influences," according to their web site. It was expensive but definitely worth it! For our appetizer we had steak tartar which I've always been curious about but never tried. It came with poached eggs the size of Robin's eggs and a basil sauce; it was incredibly delicious! For our entrees, Roger had roasted lamb and potato fingers with Black Truffle essence; I got the New York strip steak with sun-roasted tomatoes and Pommes Anna (thinly sliced potatoes with bacon). All were outrageously good and far more than we could eat. Their breakfast menu looks equally delicious and equally expensive, so I think we'll have breakfast elsewhere tomorrow.
Update Dec. 22: I added a picture of the choo-choo decorating a subway entrance. I also realize I forgot to mention that when we were walking aroud in the Loop we passed the Palmer House Hilton where I attended an academic conference a few years ago. I didn't know it then, but it's where my Uncle Jim stayed for Army basic training during WWII; they did their calisthenics in the nearby park.