At Cindy’s, a cast-iron pot of garlicky Frogmore Stew overflows with crab claws, shrimp, clams, sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob.
On a 13th-floor rooftop opposite Millennium Park, a Gatsby-worthy party is already underway by the office-cheating hour of 5 pm. Revelers have breezed past the hostess and the dining room’s lacquered picnic tables to the outdoor terrace, disoriented and giddy from the Bean-to-Indiana panorama spread before them. And while there is no bootlegging mystery host presiding at new rooftop restaurant Cindy’s, there is a parallel social spirit in its namesake.
Cindy’s is the capstone to the structure below, the former Chicago Athletic Association building originally constructed by the city’s biggest names in business—think Wrigley and Comiskey—to prove to attendees of the 1893 World’s Fair that Chicago was not the roughneck Wild West. They imported Italian mosaics for the floors, installed carved wood fireplaces, and had whole staircases made of marble.
The bar and picnic tables are enclosed by a light-filled glass conservatory.
Now, with the building having just undergone a three-year restoration and redesign as a 241-room hotel, an elevator whisks guests from the Old World-ornate lobby to the wholly unexpected Cindy’s, a light-flooded knockout enclosed by a glass conservatory and opening onto a 50-capacity deck with stunning Lake Michigan views. “We wanted a counterpoint to the very masculine men’s club—a feminine counterpoint that was breezy and light,” says Michael Mason, director of restaurants and bars at the hotel. Elegant but playful, Cindy’s suggests a nightly garden party on a Great Lakes estate, with strings of bulb lights that trace the metal seams of the glass roof and jars of honey that glow on the backlit bar.
Cindy’s crowd-friendly dishes could feed a Mackinac Island yacht crew. Raw shellfish platters pile fat lobster tails, pumpedup shrimp, oysters, and crab legs on a bed of crushed ice. Cobs of corn and spiky crab claws overflow the castiron pot that holds the garlicky Frogmore Stew. What looks to be a full pound of burrata cheese oozes across a platter, piqued by aged balsamic vinegar. “Food is meant to bring people together,” says Executive Chef Christian Ragano, a former chef de cuisine at NoMI. “With a family, are you going to do 15 small plates or a few massive ones?”
Hamachi crudo with corn relish.
If Ragano’s heart-on-his-sleeve-tattoos approach roots its charm in honesty, Nandini Khaund, who left James Beard Foundation Award-winning mixology spot The Violet Hour to design Cindy’s bar menu, provides the mystery. Take, for example, the Golden Boar, featuring aquavit and spices like dill and caraway, which was inspired by a Viking ship that sailed from Norway to Chicago for the 1893 World’s Fair. “I wanted to do something strong but feminine,” she says. “I like to introduce people to things they maybe don’t know yet.”
As the weather cools to a chill, management promises blankets on the patio in fall and snowchic waiter wear in winter, in addition to menus that channel ski chalet hide aways. Perhaps hibernation season will frost this foodie hot spot’s allure—but with more than 100 revelers already filling the place by 4 pm nightly, don’t count on it. 12 S. Michigan Ave., 13th Fl., 844-312-2221