Five years after the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center opened in 2006, a previously unused outdoor space has been transformed into Terrace Lounge, a casual lounge that's only available when the weather is nice. Since opening in June, the spot has been building a following that extends well beyond hotel guests by offering a relaxed space serving excellent food and drinks.
Motif: Finding Terrace Lounge is a bit tricky since there's no signage to indicate that you actually have to walk through Sam & Harry's to get to the bar. Despite its proximity to the restaurant, the space feels secluded, lined with planters of bright purple and yellow flowers and trees dangling blue lights. The lounge features candlelit black wicker tables and plush orange-cushioned couches and chairs strewn with brightly colored pillows. Tall candles hang in wooden lanterns, and the Terrace is accented with sculptures, decorative plates and large wood bottles.
Terrace Lounge1551 N. Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg, (847) 303-4100, marriott.com
Hours: 4:30 to 11 p.m. daily
Crowd: The bar has been drawing in a wide blend of customers from twentysomethings looking for a light dinner and drinks to older business people who come for a cocktail before dinner at Sam & Harry's. Many guests come for food and then stick around to relax with drinks while listening to the music.
Service: Our server checked in regularly and had a clear mastery of the menu. She was even able to offer advice on how to reheat our leftovers.
Liquid consumption: The Terrace serves nearly two dozen wines by the glass and bottle, plus a selection of Midwestern-focused craft beers like Goose Island's Sofie and Half Acre's Daisy Cutter. But it's the bar's cocktail menu that really shines.
The drinks are both delicious and beautifully presented. The light floral-tasting Bloom, a blend of Grey Goose vodka, St. Germain and white cranberry juice, is served with a frozen orchid in the glass. The watermelon margarita resembles a slice of fruit, with a layer of watermelon purée topped by a bright green blend of 1800 Silver tequila and Midori, with watermelon cubes floating in it. The cucumber ginger-fizz is served in a glass lined with strips of cucumber peel and, even if you're not usually a fan of gin, the blend of ginger syrup and fresh lime juice makes it a refreshing sipper.
The Grandeur skips out on the flourishes but makes up for it in taste. The super smooth blend of Woodford Reserve bourbon, Grand Marnier, orange juice and vanilla syrup was one of our favorites.
Food: You can order anything off the Sam & Harry's menu at The Terrace, but we stuck to the bar's menu of shareable small plates. All of the food we tried was excellent. We started with the golden beet bruschetta, where the soft chopped vegetables blended wonderfully with the savory goat cheese. Ground pistachios added a bit of crunch.
The spicy shrimp salsa features big chunks of avocado and seafood, given a bit of a kick by the tomatillo and served with house-made chips. Lots of places serve sliders, but the ones at the Terrace really stood out, with the incredibly tender dry-aged beef dripping with juice and given even more flavor from the topping of Swiss cheese and truffled mushrooms. For more substantive fare, try the braised short rib flatbread. The dish features crispy bread topped with sweet caramelized onions, light Gorgonzola, tender meat and a layer of fresh arugula.
If you can save room, dessert is also well worth it. The flight of beer ice cream is a novel treat, a set of four tiny cones that really do taste like chocolate stout, an Irish car bomb and other beer-blended flavors. The Terrace also serves the best doughnuts we've ever had. They're big, warm and fluffy, dusted with powdered sugar and made even better by the lightly sour crème fraîche and sweet strawberry-rhubarb jam served with them.
The menu's focus is on using fresh, seasonal ingredients, so you can expect offerings to change seasonally. For a great deal, come from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday when the Terrace's entire food menu is half price.
Music: Local artists perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 6:30 to 7 p.m. When we were there, a guitar and keyboard player was providing some easy listening, with his set list including hits from John Mayer and Marc Cohn.
Parking: There are plenty of spots in the huge free parking lot.
Overall: With great food, drinks, atmosphere and service, the Terrace Lounge offers another reason to love the warmer months.