@ Dana Hotel & Spa
2 W. Erie St., 26th Floor (700N, 0W)
Chicago, IL 60610-3811
Perched near the top of the swanky boutique Dana Hotel is a cocktail lounge and outdoor terrace known as Vertigo Sky Lounge, which tends to bring out the inner voyeur in patrons. Whether it's observing the night habits of people in the surrounding high-rises, checking out the opposite sex in the communal restrooms, or observing the mating rituals of sugar daddies and cougars, you are sure to find plenty of entertainment at Vertigo. Though many North Side nightcrawlers berate the quality of service and older crowd, just about everyone loves the spectacular view at night, making Vertigo one of the most unique and best outdoor patios in River North.
Vertigo Sky Lounge is located on the 26th floor, so patrons enter through the Erie Street entrance. To your right is a velvet rope blocking access to the elevators, across from which is the free coat check in winter. Most will be carded by the bouncer, who mercifully doesn't charge cover and will guide you to the elevator, push "T" for terrace and slide his plastic card into the lift's reader as this is required for access. Chicago Bar Project tip: go early or during the week as, during prime time especially in summer, you will likely have to wait in a long line for the elevator, which only holds seven people at a time.
Once you step out of the elevator, you'll encounter a carpeted lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows and a smattering of low-slung leather seating and tables. A small bar is found just to the left of the elevators and a VIP room is just beyond that in the room's northwest corner, to the left of the elevated DJ stand. As you would presume, the clubby music gets progressively louder as the evening wears on but consists of a surprisingly good rock-alternative mix. Love it or hate it, the lounge also features a recently trendy communal restroom with private stalls, coed sinks and a shared waiting area with chalkboards for your inner Hemingway.
In warm weather, the main draw of Vertigo is their ever-popular, triangular outdoor patio, located just below the roof and on a southeast-facing terrace. A curved wooden partition is where patrons sit on top and in booth-like benches. Additional seating is found at a couple of small round-tops and chairs, and on gray, ottoman-like plastic cubes in front of an electric fire pit. Combined with space heaters, the fire pit is Vertigo's best attempt to keep the space open from October through May, at least for smokers—just make sure your cigarette doesn't hit the astroturf covering the concrete floor or it could get very warm in a hurry...
The reinforced concrete of the surrounding Dana Hotel gives the patio a post-industrial, minimalist look and large glowing orbs illuminate the space when the sun goes down. The terrace's exterior glass wall is supported by steel beams and allows for views that are more stunning at night than by day because the surrounding buildings block the lake but are impressive when lit up. Many also find the night-time views of the condos opposite rather titillating, whether it's shirtless cooking, brodeos or intimate bedroom "shows"... enough to give you a touch of, you guessed it, vertigo. You can also partially see the fireworks at Navy Pier on Wednesday nights at 9:30pm and Saturday nights at 10:15pm.
The drinks list at Vertigo includes an eclectic variety of tiki concoctions (Zombie, Singapore Sling) along with retro faves (Honey Bee, Old Fashioned, Pink Lady). Cocktails run $10-15 but are poured tall and served in plastic cups, presumably because there is nowhere to put your drink in the restroom, particularly for primping ladies at the sink. If you go the bottle service route, you might get a table even if it's crowded. Vertigo also serves up a handful of bottled beer and two on tap: Goose Island 312 and Matilda. We presume they paid a lot of money for this privilege, even though Vertigo is more of a cocktail lounge than a club (no dance floor). All of the above is served by semi-model quality waiters in white button-down shirts, and waitresses in alternating Catwoman leather and black hot pants, all of whom desperately try to keep up with drink orders from the crowd but seem to be overwhelmed during busy times. And if you don't want to pay via the card you leave for the tab, make sure you let them know this before they bring your bill.
"The lounge comes across as a very 'low rent' hotel bar trying too hard to be hip; from the plastic cups, to the bartenders/servers who don't have their specialty drinks memorized, to the young ladies dressed up as showgirls passing out shots bearing glowsticks, to the cheeseball patrons, it was all just a wee bit tacky for moi."
– Brett D. on Yelp (February 26, 2009)
The eclectic crowd at Vertigo ranges in age from the mid-20s to 50s; less of the twenty-something, after-work Citizen Bar crowd and more of the Viagra Triangle set. Upon my first visit, the place was much less packed than I expected for a Friday night and was also much cooler than at street level thanks to a nice breeze, particularly when standing or sitting away from the glass walls. I've heard that Vertigo offers a sushi menu courtesy of Ajasteak downstairs, but we saw none of it—probably a good idea since service was at a snail's pace to begin with.
"Vertigo is jam-packed with a much older crowd who probably just finished their dinner at the restaurant downstairs and wanted to grab a nightcap. And some old guys in suits. And a particularly tragic woman who was way too old to be wearing a gold sequined minidress that barely covered her ass. Happening? Not really. Oh yes... and they have communal hand-washing areas in the bathroom. I hate that! The application of lip gloss and readjustment of cleavage should not be done in the company of men."
– Angie M. on Yelp (February 21, 2009)
Vertigo opened in 2008 in the boutique 216-room Dana Hotel, which promotes personalized service with modern technology and luxury services like 24-hour room service, 37" flat screens and private wine reserves. Not only is it an amenity for hotel guests, but Vertigo Sky Lounge is also a good spot for when you want an elevated city view but want to avoid the pressing crowd at Rock Bottom or bypass the lines and tourists at nearby Signature Lounge in the Hancock Building. If you like Vertigo, you might also want to check out the terrace lounges, Eno at Fairmont Hotel, The Terrace at Peninsula Hotel, and the similarly named Terrace at Trump Tower. For more information, check out the Dana Hotel & Spa website.