No View From the Top


Yesterday, we continued a family tradition that started in June 2005. What is it, you ask? Taking our kids to a very special place for lunch to celebrate their 13th birthday: The Signature Room on the 95th Floor of the John Hancock Building, in downtown Chicago. Truth be told, we not only continued the tradition yesterday but also did it for the last time, since we only have two kids and will not give birth to any others, but let’s not get that technical!

Eating at the Signature Room is a real fine dining experience. Also, as you can imagine, it’s very upscale (read: pricey). The service is fabulous; they are very attentive as you would expect. The restaurant itself, besides having normally gorgeous views of Chicago, is decorated in an Art Deco style, which I love. Of course the food is spectacular as well. We celebrated our anniversary there in December 2001 (a slightly unnerving experiencs, as 9/11 was still fresh: we were a little freaked out about being at the top of that building!) and had a lovely dinner. Even with the gift certificate Julie bought for us though (thanks Julie!), it was super, super expensive for our budget. But we still wanted to go back. What to do, what to do?

Enter the Lunch Option*! Yay! Here’s an insider tip for you Chi-town people. Lunch is, though not as reasonable as, say, TGIFridays, pretty reasonable for the experience! They offer children’s options for $10 and other things (like burgers and other sandwiches) for $12 and up. A word to the wise, from the wise: don’t make the same mistake I did when taking the kids for the first time and not asking if they offered free refills on soda. We spent about $25 on soda that day…Ooops!

*Other options include: going to the Signature Lounge on the 96th Floor for drinks as well as snacky “bar food”, or going to the Hancock Observatory on the 94th Floor if you just want to have the View minus the Food, but honestly: it’s $12 per adult and $8 per child aged 5-12. Why not pay a bit more to have some good food??

The last time we went, it was a gorgeous summer day and the views were plentiful. Yesterday, not so much. There was a little blizzard going on up there, though not on ground level. The clouds kept moving in and out of there and it was very gray outside. But…we didn’t go there JUST for the view. Lunch was delightful! Of course I have pictures, and I also pulled up some from our last visit.

Here’s the little logo for the restaurant. Isn’t it cute?


Here are a couple of photos of the decor. Love it!



Here’s the view as it was three years ago:


Here’s the view as it was yesterday:


Here’s the view of Navy pier as it was three years ago:


Here’s the view of Navy Pier as it was yesterday:


You know those crossbar looking things on the outside of the building? Yes, they’re structural, and they are part of the restaurant.


The fifteen-year-old actually bumped his head on the building. He hurt his noggin a couple of times, but of course we all laughed.


We even sat in the same order at the table as last time. Here we are yesterday:



Here we are, three years ago:



Gotta love it when you get a personalized dessert for your birthday. Here’s three years ago:


And yesterday:


The almost-thirteen-year-old had citrus cheesecake (above). Jim had apple crisp:


The fifteen-year-old had molten chocolate cake with port wine reduction and whipped cream:


I had vanilla bean creme brulee. I can’t stop thinking about it and am considering buying a kitchen torch so I can make it at home.


Then it was time to go home! We walked back to the car and I finally got to take a photo of this statue that has creeped me out for several years. See that “man”, hailing a cab? That’s no man, that’s a statue, baby, and it’s in front of the Four Seasons Hotel.


In a Chicago winter, you have to be careful on the days when things start to thaw just a bit: people have been killed by ice falling off the buildings!


We also stopped at Tails in the City, a luxury dog boutique, where I had a major shopping spree for Roxie, in my own mind. (I never could have gotten away with buying any of the stuff) They had toys like a “Chewy Vuitton” squeaky purse and such. Lots of designer dog clothing, and of course, swarovski crystal initial tags. I wanted to take photos inside, but figured I’d get in trouble. The place was so small, there was no way I could even use my stealthiness.



  • me & them

    The view was amazing (three years ago, and slightly less this year!) and the boys have certainly grown up alot since the last photos!
    Happy Birthday to the 13 year old!
    Tails in the City looks like a fun place to shop 🙂 *hides Sahara’s swarovski crystal name tag*
    As for TGI’s here – a burger is $30 ish!

  • me & them

    The view was amazing (three years ago, and slightly less this year!) and the boys have certainly grown up alot since the last photos!
    Happy Birthday to the 13 year old!
    Tails in the City looks like a fun place to shop 🙂 *hides Sahara’s swarovski crystal name tag*
    As for TGI’s here – a burger is $30 ish!

  • me & them

    The view was amazing (three years ago, and slightly less this year!) and the boys have certainly grown up alot since the last photos!
    Happy Birthday to the 13 year old!
    Tails in the City looks like a fun place to shop 🙂 *hides Sahara’s swarovski crystal name tag*
    As for TGI’s here – a burger is $30 ish!

  • Jules

    I totally recommend the Signature Lounge if you’re just looking to have some apps and good, dirty martinis. I’ve done that more than once and it’s always fun. The high class dinner option is good, but comes along less often in my life than the need for a filthy, dirty martini. You can always blame the staggering on the fact that you’re so high up in the air and that the building slightly moves with the wind. At least that’s what we do.
    House of Jules

  • Melisa

    Katie: Don’t hide that crystal name tag! I’m jealous! LOL
    Also, I just looked at a currency calculator to see how your dollar compares, and WOW–that is a high price to pay for a burger from Fridays!

    Joodie: Thanks for the commentary on the lounge! We’re a regular Fodor’s travel guide or something! I couldn’t give any real experience stories since Jim and I haven’t been to the lounge…

    Melissa: Wait til the weather’s better, for a better view! 🙂

  • Kat

    What a great time you must have had. The restaurant looks very cool and the view, well even with all the clouds, is just breathtaking. Happy Birthday to your son.

  • JaniceNW

    Your boys have grown up so much!! Isn’t that scary…how fast they go to looking up at us to us looking up at them. They are darn good looking boys and you buy them chastity belts, if you find any I need one for Ry. Kee’s a lost cause at 19.

    I would never ride that elevator…I be phobic about heights and slightly phobic about elevators that one can see out of.

    Glad it went well.!!! Hugs to moms of teens!!!!!!!!

  • Melisa

    Kat: Yep, the view is (normally) something to behold. We didn’t let the clouds and snow ruin our fun.

    Janice: They TOTALLY grew so fast. The good news about the elevator is it’s an express, going from ground level to stops only on the 94th, 95th, and 96th floors! It’s not that bad, just the ear popping. 🙂

  • suchsimplepleasures

    i love chicago!! growing up, my parents used to take my sister and i there a couple of times a year! we had good family friends and a cousin or two that lived there!
    i love giordanos and eduardos pizza…and i’m quite sure i spelled the names wrong but…what.ever!

    anyway…looks like an amazing and wonderful time, and…yummy desserts.
    i love creme brulee…and now, my mouth is watering!!!
    thanks for sharing the pics!

  • SpAzzGiRL

    Love the Signature Room….so deliciously pricey!
    Although I never sit near the window because I am deathly afraid of heights (so what’s the point really?? I don’t know)
    Happy Birthday to your teen!

  • Melisa

    SSP/Melissa: You should come back to Chicago for a pizza visit! LOL

    Spazzgirl: Isn’t it though? Thanks for the b-day wishes. He actually turns 13 this Sunday, but since they only serve a deliciously pricey Sunday Brunch (no lunch menu) on Sundays, we had to go on Saturday.

    Look for my special b-day post on Sunday, everybody! 🙂

  • Mags

    I love love love the 3 years ago and yesterday pictures! So cute!!

    Also, I highly suggest you buy a creme brulee kit. They’re fantastic.

  • Melisa

    Mags: It’s funny you commented on that! Well, not funny-funny I guess, more funny-coincidental, because I was–of course–going to ask you for some advice on that very kind of thing! hee hee
    I’m not sure if it would be a wise investment though, because I probably wouldn’t make creme brulee often, but if I WERE to check out a kit, where would you recommend I get one? Williams Sonoma? 🙂

  • Sniz

    OMG! I love this post! Our daughter turned eight a year ago last October and we took she and her cousin to the American Girl Store in Chicago. The John Hancock building is across the street and we were some of the poor saps who paid to just go to the top and look around. If we would have known about this restaurant, we would have done that instead in a heartbeat! That is just the kind of experience I LOVE! That is such a neat tradition your boys will always remember!

  • Melisa

    Andie: I know! Me too! Memories last forever…or something like that!

    Sniz: Oooh, well, at least you’ll know about it the next time. And for the record, although I have boys and I haven’t been there since going with a friend several years ago, I LOVE the American Girl Place. So much fun!