Staying At The St. Jane Hotel And Dining At Free Rein In Chicago

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My annual summer trip to Chicago was met with a big first for me – it would be the first trip with my 4-month-old daughter Marie! Usually, on my trips, I freely roam the city, restaurant to restaurant doing whatever I please. There was one time I went with all my girlfriends and we had a blast! We got mini bus rental chicago so we didn’t have to worry about keeping together on public transport and it made everything a lot easier… those days are over.

Now that we’re traveling as a family, I have a lot to consider when looking for a hotel. I wanted to make sure my stay was comfortable for baby Marie, charming to the eye for my husband and food-centric for myself. I was a little nervous about staying at a boutique hotel because I wasn’t sure how baby friendly it would be. Many boutiques I’ve stayed in, tend to be a smaller in bedroom size, with more sophisticated furnishings – great for adults but I need to consider the little one.

We decided to book a junior suite at the St. Jane Hotel, which opened in July, and it delivered on all 3 counts.

This boutique hotel is located in the 37-story Carbide and Carbon Building, built in 1929. The outside maintains an art deco flair with its black granite and gold accents and the moment you walk in, it feels half Great Gatsby half Lana Del Rey – Jazz age meets hipster chic.

Carbide and Carbon Building

Baby Marie loves the art deco style!

The Premiere Junior Suite is a bit of splurge, but it’s so perfectly spacious that it’s worth it or a family vacation. The astonishing views of the city, a roomy shower (that also has a beautiful city view!) and a big comfy bed are worth the upgrade. Bonus: the toiletries are products by Mason Margiela’s ‘Replica’ Jazz Club line, my all time favorite perfume!

A view from our room at night

St. Jane Hotel’s key restaurant is Free Rein, a modern French brasserie led by chef Aaron Lirette, who obtained a Michelin star for GreenRiver. Free Rein serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offers a coffee shop, full bar and provides the hotel room service. Here’s how I savored the hotel with an ultimate epicurean stay.

I started the bright and early at their café, which is separated from the main dining room. The coffee is provided by Chicago fan-favorite Dark Matter and pastries by fellow Michelin star collector, pastry chef Evan Sheridan of Sixteen.

The Ham and Cheese Croissant, although not shaped in the classic crescent style, the Ham and Raclette is still flaky, buttery and I loved the addition of mustard on top. I loved my Dark Matter lattes every morning too, but with the time changes and general baby exhaustion, I did fuel up on their Nitro Cold Brews as well.

Ham and Raclette Croissant

Latte

Later on, Chicago Girls on Food blogger Hilary met up with me for lunch, where I was able to get a little break from the family and do what I love to do the most – explore a new restaurant. Highlights from this lunch included:

Sweet Corn Soup– corn, scallion, and coconut

I always love a presentation of soup pouring!

Kanpachi Crudo– English peas, heart of palm, citrus, caviar

Soft Shell Crab BLT– Bacon, gem lettuce, Old Bay aioli

Saffron Spaghetti – tomato, fine herbs, parmesan

I loved all of Chef Lirette’s artful takes on American classics for lunch. If I had to choose tops spots, my number 1 was definitely the Soft Shell Crab BLT. This succulent sandwich is paired perfectly with the crispy Old Bay seasoned fries. The Kanpachi Crudo is a close second, it felt like a spot-on execution of “summer on a plate”. For lunch, I recommend washing it all down with a glass of Virtue’s Rosé Cider, it’s crisp, lightly floral but pairs perfectly with any of the dishes above.

Virtue Rosé Cider

For dinner, the lights dim down and it feels a little fancier at Free Rein. The menu expands out to a number of new options, including large format items, intended for sharing.

I started with a glass of Clos des Papes “Le Petit Vin d’Avril” a rich, Rhône blend to pair with decadent dishes. The absolute favorite item was the Foie Gras Tourchon with black truffle, Marcona almonds, cherry compote and summer berries. This item will be available on the Fall menu, so make sure you pop in there soon!

Foie Gras Tourchon

My other favorites included the Tomato Salad, with black garlic, cucumber and sourdough and the large format Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye with chanterelle mushrooms, potato puree, and beef jus.

Tomato Salad

Dry-Aged Slagel Farms Ribeye

Staying in a very touristy part of town and relying on the hotel to have extraordinary food sets a bar very high and sometimes isn’t realistic, but Free Rein and the St. Jane Hotel exceeded my expectations.

GOF Tip: The room service menu offers some items from the Free Rein menu – go for the Smoked Whitefish Toast. Since I was watching Marie, it’s nice to have an easy-to-eat but still gourmet meal around!

Baby Marie admiring the gold elevator doors

Although the lunch portion was provided by Free Rein, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Julianne

Actress and Founder of Girls on Food: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Sacramento, California. I grew up a typical “McDonald’s kid”. I was very picky about what I ate and refused to try new foods. No fun, I know. My Mom started taking me on trips to Europe when I was a teenager and that’s when my palate for finer foods began to develop. Some of my most memorable favorite meals include Veal Bolognese in Rome, Gyros in Athens, Paella in Lisbon and Duck L’Orange in Paris. While this helped me grow out of a fast food phase, I still eat out quite a bit. I know I should be at home cooking, but I love dining out. I started working in restaurants in various front of the house positions at age 15. Since my start, I’ve worked in every casual restaurant setting you can think of: a teriyaki stand, brewery, sushi nightclub, trendy Mexican, family-style Italian, American diner, pizza parlor and even a BLT themed food truck. I can't help but notice that many of the LA food bloggers don't have any sort of background working in a restaurant. A lot of my perspective on food and dining out comes from my years of experience in the biz. Since starting this blog, I have shot appearances on a couple of cooking competition shows as a taster (including MasterChef Junior and another upcoming show). We have also started producing a Youtube Channel. IMDb page here: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2023647/ For this site I contribute content from all over Los Angeles (and the world) to showcase my favorite fine-dining spots, steakhouses, exclusive supper clubs, Hollywood nightlife and our very own #GOFx events, which I plan and coordinate.

2 Comments

  1. Reply

    Marji Gabert-Milam

    August 23, 2018

    I was in Chicago 2 weeks ago and wish I had known about #freerein I’ll make it a point to stop in the next time i’m in town. #chicago #michelinstar #girlsonfood #babyfriendly

  2. Reply

    Elizabeth Weldon

    August 28, 2018

    I am so excited to check out this hotel! Anything the Aparium Hotel Group touches seems to be pure gold!

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