When I was on holiday in San Francisco I joined the Marines’ Memorial Club for free because I applied as active duty, and in person at the hotel. If you apply online membership for Active Duty is $30, but totally worth it for the reciprocal membership at clubs all over the world. I was given access to the website after 2 weeks, and a month later I got a physical membership card in the mail.
If you want some time away of the real world, you can take advantage of the many private reciprocal clubs around the world. I am stationed in Chicago, and we have quite a few within the city. You can log into the website and request the automated system to send an introduction letter to the club requested to visit. Some clubs are quick to respond to email to confirm receipt, some don’t get back to you at all. In the case of the latter, just call and most will acknowledge receipt over the phone.
Below is a quick review of each club I have gone to so far:
The Cliff Dwellers (Aug 2017)
Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Carl Sandburg, Roger Ebert all were members of this club, although not in its current location on the 22nd floor of the former Borg-Warner building. On arrival in the lobby you check in with the doorman and he directs you to the elevator that I presume is called for behind the desk.
The signage is pretty well hidden on the side of the single elevator in the back:
Once you get to the 22nd floor you get the feeling being in someone’s penthouse apartment with walls full of beautiful original art work. They even have a rendering of The Illinois, Frank Lloyd Wright’s mile high skyscraper tucked away in the corner.
The club is quite small with a dining room, sitting room and balcony (think United club Terminal 2 ORD sized). The bar is quite small with two bartenders working. Drinks run about $7 and are well made with a very knowledgeable staff. Although the club is sitting on top of a relatively short 22 floor building, its proximity to the park, and lack of tall neighbors, gives the balcony a wide sweeping landscape of the lake:
I went in jeans and a button down shirt and had no problems. Honestly they didn’t even check my membership so I guess we didn’t make a scene. I had sent my letter of introduction a day before, but the staff seemed to not even look for it. I grabbed a drink at the bar and enjoyed the view from the balcony. The most amusing thing is they had an individual stall for a urinal, how very classy:
We had to make it to a show at the Chicago theater and didn’t have a chance to try out Daniel Burnham‘s deep dish fruit pie featured on the menu. Maybe next time!
Sangamo Club of Springfield, IL (Aug 2017)
Down the street from the Illinois State Capitol Building is The Sangamo Club where apparently the Illinois lawmakers hang out, and have been doing for the last 125 years.
Now it’s most current location has been around since 1974, I had the fortunate opportunity to dine with a former state house floor page who was sent to the club in the 70s to fetch a $5 cigar ($25 in today’s money). He said he could not find the club at all as it is well hidden behind all of the other buildings. The lawmaker drew him a map and he got the cigars for the Representative to smoke in the house floor. What a time it was to be alive back then! The club at one point was men only hence the split level dining room for male members to dine below as their wives an girlfriends dinned above in the balcony.
This is no longer the case, but diners in the main dining room are expected to “Dress their finest” so I opted to dine in the grill room which offers a more casual experience (dress shirt and khakis). Food and drink is priced at about $15 an entree and $5 for a beer. The service is top notch, for example, when my napkin touched the ground by accident they replaced it immediately without being asked. The club doesn’t serve my favorite Springfield dishes like the horseshoe or cozy dog, but rather some pretty good seafood from Chef Joe Martin. I got a perfectly cooked striped sea bass and my Mother in Law got a perfectly seared huge diver scallops.
All in all some of the best food and service I have had in Springfield! I was hoping to bump into some Senators and try to buy some influence, but they were not in session. Maybe next time, but certainly an experience checking out this club.
University Club of Chicago (Aug 2017)
Just an amazing location at 76 East Monroe Street, you could say the club’s front yard is the billion dollar Millennium Park. When you walk in you are immediately met by the doorman who will direct you to the front desk. On registration just present your Marines’ Memorial Club Card, letter of introduction, credit card, and you will be given a temporary membership number good for two weeks. You are limited to three visits total per year (two weeks each) which resets every 01 January.
After checking in you are free to roam about the club as if you were a member. Try not to act and dress like a dirtbag, because you will feel pretty out of place. There is quite a bit to look at:
I started with the Library on the 8th floor. There is a very attentive librarian at your service, as well as a massive collection of books and free WiFi.
From the plush leather seats you can get a good glimpse of the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Crown Fountain. You can also just sit and stare at the beautiful woodwork on the wall as well.
The grill room on the 7th floor was nice as well. Good views of the lake as well as the sunrise, free newspapers too!
I only had enough time to get breakfast before I had to go. I got a very Ketogenic bowl of berries with a side of sausage. There is no bill or tipping involved, but rather they write the order on a slip of paper and you sign it with your temporary membership number. The bill is settled at the end of your visit, there is an option to add the 10% tip at this time.
Unfortunately I had no time to check out the other 13 floors of activity. I wanted to check out the nap room in the basement since it seems unusual. The best part of the club is all the old man beauty products found on the first floor bathrooms:
Keep checking this site for more reviews of other clubs as it happens.