Good times are a-brewing!
It’s been a few years since we revisited the proper afternoon tea situation in Chicagoland, and a lot has changed. Post-pandemic, many old favorites have curtailed the tradition, and some have even closed. But fear not! We’ve found some special options — some new, some old — that carry on this wonderful tradition of afternoon tea in Chicago. It’s time to gear up for copious amounts of tea sandwiches, delicate scones, impressive sweet and savory treats, herbal and caffeinated teas and perhaps a glass or two of bubbly. Pinky fingers out!
This iconic Gold Coast hotel’s in-house restaurant, the Ambassador Room, has brought back the afternoon tea. Tea sandwiches, scones and European-style pastries — all Great British Bake Off finale worthy and made from locally sourced ingredients — are paired with a fabulous selection of tea blends from Chicago’s own Rare Tea Cellars. Available Saturday and Sunday from noon – 3 pm; $65 per person.
1301 N State Parkway, Chicago
There’s a child inside all of us, and nowhere is that more true than this Mag Mile paean to American kids and their beloved dolls. Reserve this spot with your favorite doll-loving youngster and they will be in absolute heaven. The full teatime experience includes tea sandwiches, sweets, tea or hot cocoa and even a craft activity. Be sure to bring your American Girl doll; they provide a booster chair for them to sit with you at the table. $40 per person, minimum 2 guests, with $50 deposit due at time of reservation. Available on Sundays only; book up to 90 days in advance — they sell out quick!
835 Michigan Ave, Chicago
The “High Tea with a Chocolate Twist” at this extremely chocolate-centric Old Town shop requires some forethought: you’ll book the experience as a private event for up to 8 people. But it’s well worth the effort! This is a lovely 3-course afternoon tea, starting with savory items, then a few select pastries and the big finish: bonbons and rich drinking chocolate. Prices start at $37.50 per person, depending on menu; served in the private tasting room between 2:30 and 5pm only.
1651 N Wells St, Chicago
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Looking to hang with your besties mid-shopping spree and have a little fun? Meet the “Tipsy Tea Party,” a happily boozy take on the traditional afternoon tea, but this time there’s cocktails, small bites and a DJ spinning the latest tunes in addition to sweet treats and tea. Look for special themed events during the year, inspired by Mean Girls, Sex & The City, Beyonce and more. $65 – 80 per person, prepaid reservations available on Tock. Seatings at noon and 2:30pm on Saturday, and 1pm on Sunday.
521 N Rush St, Chicago
The Afternoon Tea experience doesn’t get much posher than the magnificent Peninsula Hotel, winner of Best Hotel (City) in Better’s Best of 2022: Travel awards. Treats range from traditional scones and tea cookies to perfect sandwiches of cucumber and dill-lemon cream cheese, or lobster and shrimp salad sandwich with fresh strawberry. Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and children’s menus are readily available — and the tea selection is stellar. Add a glass of Taittinger Brut Champagne for that real sense of celebration. Best of all, the Peninsula will donate $10 from every afternoon tea sold to a local charity: The Chicago Public Library Foundation. How very civilized! Adults $135/ $155, children $55. Holiday tea served daily from 2:30 – 4:30pm. Reservations available through Tock.
108 E Superior St, Chicago
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This special place comes with a side of history: they’ve been serving tea here for nearly a century to tourists and celebrities alike: Lady Di, Queen Elizabeth, The Obamas! The 17 unique tea blends served are exclusively from Palais de Thés, and they are spectacular. Linger over your tea with a three-tiered presentation of artisanal finger sandwiches, such as roasted turkey with fig-whipped brie, petit fours, scones and more while listening to the live harpist play. $74 per person, $35 for the “Little Prince and Princess.” Served every day during the holidays, and Thursday – Sunday the rest of the year.
140 E Walton Place, Chicago
To my mind, there is no more beautiful room in Chicago for afternoon tea. Light streams in through the two-story windows with Chicago’s glorious skyline in full view, and you are surrounded by fantastic artwork. What a setting! There’s a reason that The Langham won Best Staycation in Better’s Best of 2022: Travel awards. The food, also, is exceptional, from delectable savory selections link Pink Shrimp Toast with fennel pollen and finger lime or Potato-Manchego Tart with kale and bacon to light-and-airy scones with clotted cream, vanilla butter and house-made red berry jam. Expect to be wowed by the mini dessert selection, not to mention the comprehensive list of teas, with many exclusive blends in the mix. $125 per person, $55 for children 5 – 12 years old. Served Monday – Thursday from 1 – 5pm, and Friday – Sunday from 11am – 5pm. Live music on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Mad Hatter would be most pleased with this French-inspired — it is a patisserie, n’est-ce pas? — afternoon tea. Elegant finger sandwiches, petite scones with all the fixings — lemon curd, passion curd, clotted cream — and the yummiest Vanille goodies, including their famous macarons. You’ll enjoy your choice of looseleaf Benjamin Tea, made here in Chicago. $79 per person, and reservations must be made 72 hours in advance via the Vanille website; service available Tuesday – Sunday at 11:30am, 2pm, and 4pm. Vanille also offers an Afternoon Tea for four packed and ready for you to pick up for $185. Again, order ahead.
2108 N Clark St, Chicago
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Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.