For decades after it opened in 1906, the two-story Russian bathhouse on West Division Street shrouded famous locals such as Al Capone, Saul Bellow, and Nelson Algren in clouds of steam. More than 100 years later, the building underwent a full renovation. In a return chronicled by the Chicago Reader, WGN, and Time Out Chicago, the century-old retreat of the city's powerful was reborn as Red Square.
Today, as perhaps the only traditional Russian bathhouse left in Chicago, Red Square holds its heritage close with two floors of authentic wet and dry saunas (separated into male and female spaces) and a spa. In the traditional banya, cedar-plank walls and three-tiered benches surround brick and granite ovens, where clouds of steam erupt from superheated rocks. But visitors aren't just left to cook; cold-water taps beside each bench and cold-plunge pools that mimic Russian ponds reinvigorate bathers amidst the heat. Spa attendants wander the humid rooms, performing services such as the traditional platza—a rigorous massage and scrub with a bundle of oak, eucalyptus, or birch branches that mimic the relaxing sensation of falling asleep in a tree.
It might come as a surprise to find a spirit-stocked bar in Red Square's restaurant area. After all, "Many people will tell you it’s a terrible idea to mix alcohol and dehydrating heat chambers," says Time Out's Julia Kramer, "but none of those people are Russian." And so premium vodkas and Moscow Mules flow freely as guests, many of them still in their bathrobes, savor traditional Russian herring and caviar in the mahogany-paneled space, designed to resemble a 19th-century train car. To complete the locomotive vibe, curtained televisions at each booth screen looping footage of the Eastern European countryside and a conductor checks luggage for stowaways every half-hour.
Under the direction of Dr. William Evans, the medical aestheticians at Enfuse Laser Center & Medical Spa work to elevate their patients' self image with a full range of anti-aging and body contouring treatments. The staff uses advanced technology during services, from lasers that address sun damage, body hair, and unwanted tattoos, to injectables that alleviate wrinkles and furrows on the face. The clinic also specializes in NeoGraft hair transplants, an advanced method of hair restoration. Using an automated device to quickly harvest follicles from the donor area and move them to the recipient area, the process is less painful and invasive than traditional methods or training a chinchilla to sit on your scalp.
The team members at Soulistic Studio & Spa not only celebrate the connection between internal health and external beauty, but also the interconnectedness of people and the environment. They work at the only spa in Chicago to be certified as an Éminence Green Spa in recognition of its earth-friendly practices. Thanks to its exclusive use of certified-organic products and equipment such as an energy-efficient infrared Sunlight sauna, the spa earned a top-five spot on Health magazine's list of America's Healthiest Spas. As a member of the Green Yoga Association, the studio is equipped with Energy Star–rated appliances and low-energy lighting and fans.
Aestheticians draw on the Éminence Organic Skin Care line during facials, which, in addition to massages, energy work, and waxing, comprise the menu of holistic spa treatments. An Allure magazine staff member "left with inner peace and an outer glow" after a facial featuring blueberry-, rose-, and pumpkin-infused products. Guests focus on their inward glow via personal training and group sessions in the fitness studio, where offerings range from yoga and Pilates to kickboxing and Nia dance classes. Exercisers can keep an eye out for superheroes darting along the downtown Loop skyline through the second-floor facility’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
The research staff at 7E—a medical-aesthetic company that prides itself on skincare innovations—designs noninvasive treatments that combat the effects of aging and bolster all-over wellness. Once staff members have perfected a solution, they share the fruits of their labors with clients at 7E Fit Spa. One of these many fruits is the Torc Plus, an FDA-approved body-contouring machine that works to deplete inches and bulk up muscles in bodies through electrical stimulation. The spa’s noninvasive face-lifts tighten visages while evening out skin tone, reducing puffiness, and increasing circulation, and saunas detoxify the body and relax clients with infrared heat shoplifted from the equator.
Since 1996, colon hydrotherapist Christina Pfeifer has been promoting wellness with a combination of colonics, acupuncture, and other body-purifying treatments. While traditional colonics are the crux of her repertoire, her services extend to other areas of the body, as well—she leeches toxins from the feet with ionic baths and believably impersonates Fabio to fortify mental well-being.
Valeo’s personal-care consultants take an intuitive approach to spa treatments, loosely organizing their customized, pay-by-the-minute services into different wellness pathways. Within six clarity chambers modeled after Turkish and Moroccan hammams, or bathhouses, heated stone benches warm bodies in repose as skilled staffers apply aromatherapy wraps, detoxifying clay compounds, and other skin-pampering treatments. The Couples Connection suite hosts side-by-side spa experiences for duos, with optional romantic accouterments such as champagne, strawberries, and visits from the ghost of Barry White. The 20,000-square-foot facility also nestles eight individual experience rooms, a yoga room, a fitness club, and a pool, all within the JW Marriott hotel, located steps from sightseeing, shopping, and skyscraper-scaling opportunities in the Loop.
Each member of Ether Health & Beauty Spa's three-person team has a different specialty. Xiya Lin's is the corrective herbal facial, which uses products from Elina Organics to treat acne, dryness, or aging skin. The other two staffers handle the spa's bodywork sessions. Jillian Brown takes a clinical approach to massage, meaning she's a master of techniques such as deep-tissue and sports. Michael Hughes, on the other hand, is influenced by Eastern healing techniques. He sometimes mixes in acupressure, shiatsu, and fire cupping into his treatments.
Whatever service clients schedule, they can also enjoy the spa's sauna room. Here they'll find both dry and wet saunas as well as a whirlpool, which is sort of like a regular pool, except instead of water, there's just a bunch of people whirling in circles.