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  • Adrienne Fawcett

The Deer Path Inn: The Place to Be Seen … And Get Lost In

By Adrienne Fawcett

It’s Friday evening, that time when the stress of work and school give way to the weekend. Meeting a friend for drinks and dinner is the perfect idea -- but who to ask, and where to go? If the answer to the second question is “Deer Path Inn,” the first question is moot because there’s a good chance of running into friends at Lake Forest’s favorite go-to English pub, fine-dining restaurant, boutique hotel … and sushi bar.

The Deer Path Inn’s Hearth Room has the magical quality of being both festive and relaxing during the holiday season.

The Deer Path Inn isn’t just popular with locals. The 57-room National Register of Historic Places hotel is a retreat for city dwellers and has been ranked the No. 1 Best Resort in the Midwest by Travel & Leisure for three years in a row.

Its three dining establishments offer a great selection of food (from filet mignon to fish ‘n chips), but it’s best to call before you go. If you hanker for specialty cocktails and pub food and you don’t mind waiting a bit, you can get into the White Hart Pub or The Bar (which has both an actual bar and a sushi bar that everyone raves about). If you’re fancying, say, Chilean Sea Bass, it’s best to plan ahead, as reservations in The English Room book up weeks in advance. This is especially so during the holidays and for special events. Afternoon Tea is even more sought after; reservations fill up months in advance.

The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for the Deer Path Inn to think outside its Tudor-style walls. When stay-at-home orders began in 2020, the inn shifted to carry-out dining -- and curb-side orders are still going strong today.

Established in 1929, the inn has creatively responded to changing conditions many times in its 90-year-plus history.

You may wonder why the Deer Path Inn is named Deer Path at all, given that its address is 255 E. Illinois Road. It’s because an earlier version of the hotel was located on Deerpath and McKinley Road at the turn of the 20th century, according to Lake Forest historian Arthur Miller.

By the 1920s, the need for more and better short-term housing had grown in tandem with the popularity of golf, polo and other seasonal sports, and plans were put in place for a new, larger Deer Path Inn on Illinois Road, according to Miller. In the 1930s and into the 1940s, some of the rooms were rented for long-term stays. And after a fire destroyed part of the building in 1938, the inn was restored by architect Stanley Anderson. More recently, its 2016 renovation was designed by architectural firm Knauer, Inc., with Craig Bergmann as landscape architect.

These days the inn’s heavy double entrance doors are usually opened by not one but two doormen whenever a visitor walks up the canopied entryway. The staff works hard and seems to have fun doing so -- check out the inn’s Instagram account to see the playful videos and posts inspired by P.G. Wodehouse, one of Britain’s great comedy writers of the 20th century. Lately the posts have featured a staff member dressed as Elf on the Shelf shopping local for the holidays.

As 2021 closes out, visitors can enjoy Deer Path Inn’s Christmas charm with chief spirits officer Jorge Centeno’s specially crafted holiday cocktail menu at The Bar. Drinks include the Snowfall cocktail and Adult Red Velvet Hot Cocoa. For extra holiday fun, guests can book a customized, two-hour private mixology lesson with Jorge to learn how to make their own creative cocktails.

The Inn also is offering a new experience inspired by Home Alone! Guests can take a page out of Kevin McAllister’s book and celebrate the season by getting “Lost in Lake Forest!” The package features many local treasures and is available for stays booked up to Jan. 2, 2022.

It promises so much fun, guests just might want to stay lost.


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