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Drinks and Snacks on Top of the World

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 28, 2011 5:00PM

One of our standard "insider" tips for tourists is to bypass the Sears (Willis) Tower and head straight for the Hancock building. We like the view better, it's better located for shopping, and they have an entertaining new mascot in search of a name. In the past, we've recommended that people head to the Signature Lounge, but always with some reservations - we've never had a great drink there, and always just assumed that you had to pay extra and suffer the decor to get a great view. No longer! Now that we've found the Lavazza Espression Cafe in the Hancock Observatory, our recommendation to tourists and locals has officially changed.

The view from the Hancock Observatory is breathtaking, and one entire corner (and all of the attendant windows) is taken up by the cafe. It's great for families, because it's neither formal (like the Signature Room) nor a bar (like the Signature Lounge). There is a full line of reasonably-priced food, including wonderful sandwiches and pizzas. The coffee list includes the decadent "Espesso," created by superstar chef Ferran Adria. This "solid" espresso will delight any guest you bring up to the cafe. Can you imagine a more spectacular spot for a first-date coffee meetup? Beer, wine and cocktails created by mixologist and author Bridget Albert round out the offerings. Best part? The cocktails are at least $2.50 cheaper than the Signature Lounge.

Right now, Santa has set up shop in the observatory. So bring your kids and make an afternoon of it. Starting January 1st, you can go ice skating in the sky! Imagine skating 94 stories above Chicago, then grabbing a nice cocktail and cooling down.

The one downside - because it's in the observatory, you have to pay for admission. The upside? You get full access to the entire observatory floor for as long as you want. Keep your eyes open for discounts on admission offered through travel and daily deal sites. If you fall in love with the spot or want to work there (free wifi!) you can purchase an annual pass to the observatory, but otherwise you should probably save it for a visitor or a very special date. Try visiting during the week, or in the late afternoon. Grab a drink or a coffee, set up shop at a table by the window and gossip while watching the city 90 stories below you.

Even better? They have set up a special discount for Chicagoist readers. The coupon below will get you $1 off of any $5 food purchase. Enjoy.

Coup Chicagoist

The Hancock Building is located at 875 N. Michigan Avenue, on the 94th floor.