The achingly elegant courtyard of The Drake Hotel
is best known for its English afternoon tea, a dainty service complete with finger sandwiches, scones, fruit breads and jam. A harpsichordist strums every afternoon, while nighttime sets the stage for a solo pianist who performs Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the Palm Court Jazz Quartet lays down the late-night groove.
The corner bar features a wine list of 100 selections, with a cocktail menu that tempts with a spread of sauce: The Drake's famous "Executive Cocktail" offers four ounces of gin, vodka, scotch or bourbon served in a lipped snifter. Classics like Manhattans and Rob Roys are rumored to be Chi-town's best, and "Magnificent Martinis" come in sweetly-shaken flavors: Look for the Drake Chocolate Kiss made with Bailey's and dark chocolate Godiva liqueur.
With a regal fountain bearing gilt-encrusted cherubs, enormous paintings of mandolin-playing Italians and swooping damask curtains, the Palm Court is a lesson in Old-World opulence. To underline the refinery, look for signs indicating "powder room" at the back of the space: The ladies' room lives up to its flowery name. This may be the only restroom in the city with palm-tree murals, in-stall makeup tables and a line of delicate chandeliers.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg