Posts Tagged ‘hotel’

The Soniat House, New Orleans. A Quaint Hotel in the French Quarters.

Friday, July 8th, 2011


For this Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I wanted to avoid the crowded scenes in destinations such as Las Vegas or New York. We had an amazing time in Austin only a few months before after going down the Texas BBQ trail and since then, the South has left us yearning for a return. But I had been told that to truly experience southern comfort, one must immerse himself in the allure of one of America’s oldest, food/booze-obsessed cities, New Orleans. Jeni had been there nearly a decade ago but this would be a much different trip because our tastes and interests have changed as we’ve grown older. And as we always do on our travels, we enjoy seeking only the tastiest food and most delicious cocktails.

We drove into the French Quarters from the airport and I’ll admit that I wasn’t so excited once I saw the bead-wearing tourists drinking out of tall plastic cups that held over 32 oz. of an anonymous concoction. One that would promise them a night of memorable shenanigans and a painful throbbing in the head the next morning.

But we thankfully drove past Bourbon Street into a more residential sector of the French Quarters and arrived at a beautiful hotel known as the Soniat House. Built in the 1830s by a plantation farmer, this property became the Soniat House only 20 years ago once three of the houses were combined. The result is a comforting, quaint hideout from New Orleans cake-like humidity, hot sun and screaming drunkards.

In addition to the comforting property, we were most impressed by the service staff, who were extremely helpful and kind. As we head upstairs to our room, we are kindly reminded by the front desk person that we MUST not leave the Soniat House before having their biscuits for breakfast – widely acclaimed as some of New Orleans best. Give us 20 minutes advance, she says, as they must be served hot. The rooms were beautiful, with classic double front doors and high ceilings. The balcony opened up into the quiet streets, devoid of any naked, bead-wearing college people.

On the day we checked out of the Soniat House, we heard a light rapping on the door. A young man named Jamal in a white coat and bow tie smiled at us and brought up our biscuits on a silver platter with fragrant coffee and tea. He opened the basket of biscuits and we were hit with a waft of pleasant butteriness. The biscuits themselves were quite small and set upon a heating stone. Crispy, hot and soft in the middle – they were divine. You only need two to feel content.

This is where we stayed, now get ready to see what we ate and drank real soon. You may find yourself booking a ticket to New Orleans sooner than later. Thanks for reading.

See our piece on New Orleans at tablettalk.com.

Hotel San Jose – Austin, Texas. Southern Comfort at Hotel San Jose.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

If you’ve read Day One and Day Two of our adventures on the Texas BBQ trail, then you can understand why it was imperative that we had a comfortable place to rest our bodies due to savory BBQ. We came across a posting on the Hotel San Jose by Memphis-based photographer/designer Sophorn McRae of Norococo. Her photos not only convinced us that it would be a great place to stay but she also beautifully captured the mood we were looking for. We love the Ace Hotel in Portland and Palm Springs and it was an easy choice to go with the Hotel San Jose right in the SoCo (Southern Congress) district. We landed in Austin on Friday night at around 10 pm and grabbed a few drinks to try and enjoy somewhat of a Friday night. In a few hours (6 am), we would be driving to our first BBQ stop nearly 90 mins away. Shall we begin your visual stay at the Hotel San Jose?

The trend in boutique hotels is the revamping and renovation of old buildings or institutions into something inhabitable. Frankly, the more bizarre it is, the more hip it is. In Boston, the Liberty Hotel was one of Massachusetts most famous jails built in 1851 – the Charles Street Jail. In Portland, Oregon, the Kennedy School is an elementary school turn hotel with a bar inside called the Detention Room. The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs used to be an old Howard Johnson motel that underwent hipster-fication. The Viceroy Hotel in Los Angeles was once a Holiday Inn. Seems like the stale, average places provide the best canvases for interior design. The San Jose Hotel is no different, and in fact, I would almost describe it as the Ace of the South.

The Southern Congress area seems to be the main breeding ground for socialites from all walks of life – college grads, prowling cougars and music-goers. The Hotel San Jose is located right in the heart of the SoCo area and its surrounded by various bars, pizza joints, food trailers and novelty shops. We found everything we needed, minus the BBQ, by walking around. If renting a car isn’t a requirement, then you’ll be good hanging out in this area. Taxis run through Congress Avenue frequently.

The Hotel San Jose is beautifully designed with all remnants of the previous motel cloaked by tastefully chosen wood, sandy cement and various shrubbery. For the Texas feel, cactus are laid out all over the grounds. The parking lot is right next to the hotel for convenience with no parking structures.

On the right is the main office. Here you can grab some coffee in the morning, buy hip souvenirs, rent a Polaroid camera or bicycle by the hour/day.

The outside of our double room.

I believe there are two types of room here at the Hotel San Jose – doubles or suites. The two story buildings are the suites.

Contrary to the inviting pool at Ian Schrager’s Waikiki EDITION hotel, the pool seems more like a piece of ambiance – inviting guests to grab a beer and chill out. We were here in March and it wasn’t warm enough to make us jump in the pool. Still, the pool is designed beautifully.

The patio/courtyard area by the pool is also laid out nicely with plenty of tables and benches to enjoy your coffee and iPad.

On the weekends, the main office also becomes the lobby of the beer and wine bar (no hard liquor), with A DJ set up out on the patio.

The Hotel San Jose was a very peaceful and relaxing spot. I loved the close proximity to a good pizza shop (Home Slice), an excellent oyster bar (Perlas), good morning coffee (Jo’s) and various bars. If you’re in Austin for BBQ, SXSW or the Austin City Limits festival, definitely consider the Hotel San Jose if it’s not already booked. We were here the week of SXSW (South by Southwest) so it was a good opportunity to see Austin at one of its liveliest moments. Thanks for reading.

Hotel San Jose
1316 South Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78704
(800) 574-8897
www.sanjosehotel.com