Just across the street from the Trump Tower in the base of the Marina City complex, a new drinks and supper club invokes a bygone era of dark wood paneling, Dover Sole, martinis, and rich cigar smoke. Of course, smoking is banned and this club is not old. As architect Bill Bickford said, “We wanted to give it the feel and look as if it’s always been there, like this 1920’s tavern may have sold its air rights to a midcentury developer.” And that’s exactly what he’s accomplished in collaboration with designer Jenny Brown.
Chicago has lost many iconic dining rooms: the Pump Room was Schrager-ized and the Coq D’or of the Drake was Hilton-ized. This can be good or bad, but definitely leaves a nostalgic gap. Bickford sought to fill that void first with paneling reclaimed from the Pump Room’s renovation. Guests will find it in the lobby and the hall leading back to the restaurant’s offices. The detail within each room lends a residential or club-like feel. The Tortoise Club is divided into three distinct spaces: a tavern, main dining room, and parlor. The latter is most certainly the design vixen with red-lacquered walls and shiny, tufted booths visible from the other spaces through antique glass windows.