Where To Have Afternoon Tea In Chicago guide image


Where To Have Afternoon Tea In Chicago

Where to drink tea, eat tiny desserts, and feel like the main character of a Victorian novel.

Afternoon tea can feel like kind of a scam. After all, the tea can be bought at the store for a fraction of the price. But that's not the point—high tea is about the experience. The opportunity to eat things like little cucumber sandwiches, mini tarts that make you feel like a giant, and the chance to let anyone with an unhealthy Downton Abbey obsession live out their aristocratic fantasies. The next time you feel like spending 90 minutes eating too much cake and drinking tea with your pinky up, here’s where to go.


The Lobby At The Peninsula review image

The Lobby at The Peninsula


108 E Superior St, Chicago
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Starting at $135 per person

Tea at The Peninsula is everything you'd expect—assuming those expectations include soaring ceilings, impeccable service, a complimentary glass of Tattinger, and cello players playing the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. The tea selection is excellent, the pastries and cakes are fantastic, and you'll get a chocolate cupcake as a parting gift. This experience is perfect for a special occasion, or if you just want to dress up and try the best afternoon tea Chicago has to offer. Keep in mind: It’s usually booked up weeks in advance (only two seatings per weekend day), requires prepaid reservations, and, at $135 per person, is one of the most expensive options in the city.

Starting at $85 per person

Afternoon Tea at LondonHouse skews informal (service takes place in the hotel’s lobby lounge/bar), but you wouldn’t know it by the presentation of the food. Everything comes out displayed on a geometric tiered tray that’s probably from CB2, and you’ll find tasty things like a duck sausage spring roll, pea falafel, and an asparagus tart instead of the usual cucumber sandwich. The sweets can be hit-or-miss with the flavors, but they’re always visually playful. Tea service is available daily, and most weekdays will be relatively quiet, with the exception of the occasional business traveler taking a Zoom meeting at the table next to you.

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Starting at $80 per person

For a traditional afternoon tea that doesn't feel stuffy, go to the Ritz-Carlton. Tea service happens in a calm space with lots of big windows and skylights, and exceptionally deep chairs you can sink into while enjoying the creative snacks—like a lobster roll stuffed into a cannoli shell or a lemon buttermilk tart decorated like a baby chick. Presentation is clearly important here, from the artfully designed food to the attentive but not intrusive service. Despite not having a large tea selection (only six options to choose from), the Ritz is one of the best spots for a relaxing tea service.

Starting at $55 per person

The Allis is Soho House’s lobby bar and restaurant, and also happens to be where they host afternoon tea on the weekends. The setting means that the tea skews casual—you’ll be sipping tea with your pinky up surrounded by hotel guests eating lunch, and travelers at the communal table frantically sending emails before rushing to catch their flight. But this is one of the few tea services that's a great solo experience. There are plenty of small tables lining the big windows looking out onto Green Street, which makes for fun people-watching over a three-tiered tea tray stacked with mint chocolate tarts and lemon choux pastries.

Starting at $65 per person

Bar Pendry is the type of spot you reserve for a bachelorette party with that friend from college who yells “Woo!" Their Sunday high tea (which includes a boozy option) is full of groups drinking champagne, a DJ spinning (sometimes very loud) music, and a crowd of tourists constantly walking by the windows. The space is small, and right off the lobby of the hotel on the main floor. All this can lead to more chaos than you'd expect during afternoon tea, but the food, unique tea-based cocktails, and the crackling fireplace are a great choice for a celebration.

Starting at $69 per person

The Drake Hotel is the epitome of old Chicago glamour, and afternoon tea here is like being a cast member of the Real Housewives of Gold Coast. While the Palm Court is a beautiful space—there’s a massive water feature in the middle of the room, stone statues and pillars, along with hundreds of fake flowers—the food isn’t particularly inspired. But it’s worth overlooking the flaws because of this spot’s history, great tea selection, and excellent service.

Starting at $36 per person

"No-frills" is the best way to sum up afternoon tea at Michigan Avenue staple Russian Tea Time. There’s no pretension here, just a casual Russian restaurant that happens to offer tea service from 11am until 7:30pm daily. For $36, you’ll get the basic tea service including one type of tea, some crackers with various toppings, and a few small desserts that may or may not be from Costco. Afternoon tea here feels less like a meal and more like a good snack option when you need to kill time before heading to the Art Institute across the street.

Starting at $65

This upscale Mediterranean spot in the Gwen Hotel is from the same team as the fancy French restaurant Brindille. On Saturdays and Sundays from 12-4pm, Kostali has a Tipsy Tea Party. It’s essentially high tea with cocktails, which means you’ll get tea, booze, and small bites like pecorino gougeres, cream cheese and caviar sandwiches, and saffron cake with jam. Packages range from $65-$185, depending on what kind of tea party you want to have. It’s a lot of fun, but just know that the fact that you’re eating on the fifth floor in the middle of a hotel is inescapable, and you can hear the crowd from the bar in the lobby during your tea.

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