We Miss Writing About Travel. So, We Wrote Hotel Reviews of Our Apartments
After a month of lockdown, Fodor’s Editors are reviewing our apartments like we review hotels.
We are totally and utterly obsessed with hotels (as you might already know). Right now, a hotel stay is totally off-limits as we practice social distancing and staying home. But we’ve now reached the stage of quarantine where we’re pretending our homes are hotels, where we’re both the staff and the guests. Here are our reviews:
The Highland Park Plaza Hotel
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
Upon check-in, guests of this hotel will notice that the lobby is also conveniently the fitness room and media lounge. Guests are welcome to hop on a recently-installed stationary bicycle and sweat it out in full view of the other guests as they alternate between episodes of Tiger King and games of Overwatch .
The guest room is outfitted with randomly-tossed off laundry that’ll find its way to the closet eventually and what is certainly the most complicated-to-assemble bedframe offered by Ikea. There are no alarm clocks, but rest assured, you won’t need them. The wake-up call comes promptly at daybreak courtesy of an 11-year-old golden retriever panting his morning breath directly into guests’ faces. The wake-up call is not optional, but it is very cute.
The on-site restaurant is helmed by one of two chefs. One [my boyfriend] has taken time to perfect his Portuguese Caldo Verde soup and chicken à la Kiev. The other [me] serves scrambled eggs smothered in Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning for three meals a day. Guests are welcome to browse the hotel’s wine cellar (okay, a single cardboard box), which boasts the finest collection of vintages available during the latest buy-one-get-one-for-five-cents sale at BevMo.
The Bottom Line: If you love the screeches of feral parrots in the morning and the ominous howling of coyotes at night, you’ll love The Highland Park Plaza Hotel. 5/5 stars.
(Hopefully Not All) Four Seasons Bed-Stuy
WHERE: Brooklyn, NY
This boutique hotel in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, is perfect for long term stays; you can book one of four guest rooms anywhere from two weeks to indefinitely. The property is managed by a capricious Egyptian Mau kitten who might appear in guest’s rooms unannounced (how did she slip in without you noticing, and how long has she been there?!).
There is a common area with a flat-screen TV exclusively for watching reality television such as My 600-Pound Life and The Real Housewives of Atlanta . A note to guests: Do NOT adjust TV or Wi-Fi settings as it may cause chaos throughout the hotel.
Guests are responsible for their own meals; should you choose to utilize the kitchen you may receive unsolicited advice from other guests [my roommates] on how to improve your dishes. Another note to guests: smoke alarms have been disabled so please use the oven with caution. Most patrons, however, opt for delivery from nearby establishments such as Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.
Shower amenities include a large bottle of Tresemme that should last well into the apocalypse. In an effort to remain an eco-conscious property, bath products will not be replenished until you’ve scraped all remnants from the inside of the bottles (the concierge can provide you with a spatula).
The Bottom Line: Despite its quirks, the overall feedback from guests is that this property has “good vibes,” whatever that means. An unequivocal 5/5 stars.
The La Brea Lodge
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
This two-bedroom stay in the not-so-cute but still near everything neighborhood of Mid-City is perfect for someone looking to explore Los Angeles. A block from the world’s smallest Trader Joes, with a Starbucks around the corner (Ansel Elgort has been spotted here, which is why you are being charged a “Hollywood” fee), and a short Uber ride to more exciting parts of town, this place has everything you might need.
When you enter the hotel, take the elevator up to the third floor and keep walking until you get to the door with dirty running shoes outside. Once those have been spotted, you’ve found your stay!
Warning: the elevators do drop a few inches here and there; while startling, they are totally safe (as reported in their last inspection, circa 2009).
This space offers a slightly comfortable sleeper couch, though one of the two beds is recommended. The fridge will always be stocked with just the right amount of food that you are never able to make a cohesive meal, but on the bright side, it bears to be repeated that Trader Joe’s is a three-minute walk. The Brita water pitcher in the fridge is filled, but be warned that it is used simply for cooling, as there is no filter.
This is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom stay. Both showers work most of the time and only one door’s handle falls off when you shut it. The highlight of these bathrooms is the copious amount of untouched beauty samples—feel free to use!
As for rules: The neighbors are allowed to watch Schitt’s Creek as loud as they want starting at 10 p.m. because you are not looking for an argument. The rooftop pool is a hot-spot, and while there are many guests that will opt to tan every region, we recommend leaving your bathing suits on. Trash goes out once the trash can and the Trader Joe’s paper bag next to it have both been filled to their tops. No smoking inside.
The Bottom Line: If you’re missing your just post-grad dig, this is the place for you! 4/5 stars.
The Hideaway Hotel
WHERE: Sunnyside, NY
This cozy little hotel in Queens is hidden in a quiet residential neighborhood sandwiched between an eerily abandoned warehouse district and a massive graveyard just a 25-minute subway ride from Times Square. With a 1:1 guest-to-staff/husband-to-wife ratio, The Hideaway is unmatched when it comes to service (The owner of the hotel [my husband] is also the chef, housekeeper, bartender, butler, and concierge.). Guests [me] enter through the basement door into the small and unassuming lobby filled with shoes, umbrellas, hats, and a closet full of tools and unfinished DIY projects. Downstairs, there’s an open kitchen where diners can get a seat at the counter to see the chef at work. There’s no menu here, but the chef will ask you what you want to eat and then make something completely different (but still delicious): fresh sourdough bread, huevos rancheros, Sri Lankan dhal, or delicious salads—all with ingredients sourced from the local farmers’ market. Meals are included with the room rate, but you have to pay for half the groceries and you’re responsible for the dishes—there is no dishwasher on staff.
There’s just one bedroom here (you have to share the bed with the only hotel employee—don’t worry, he doesn’t snore). The bedroom is sparse in a chic way, outfitted with a white bed with a fluffy comforter and crisp linens and the bedside tables come pre-stocked with a pile of books to stave off the anxiety of spending all day trapped inside. While the rest of the house has a modern bohemian vibe, the bathroom here looks like it was designed by Carmela Soprano, with marble tiles and brass fixtures accentuating a deep soaking tub surrounded by potted plants. Mismatched tiny bottles of lotions and potions pilfered from other hotels make a nightly bath a highlight of any stay and something that you should indulge in as often as you can.
The Bottom Line: The food is great, there are tons of books, but this hotel is definitely missing a few dogs and cats. 4/5 stars.
Haven in the Heights
WHERE: Hudson Heights, NY
Perched on hilly terrain in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Hudson Heights, the Haven in the Heights guesthouse delivers exactly what you would expect of a property recently-purchased on a day-drinking whim and opened between a mid-life crisis and a pandemic: good butt muscles (it really is hilly), volatile service (it really is a crisis), and staff [me] with home-dyed pink hair (it really doesn’t cover grey hair). This multiculti, artist-filled neighborhood a half-hour from midtown Manhattan has a hint of Lin-Manuel-Miranda appeal, but where that name once suggested that hotel guests [me] might get discovered singing show tunes at Fine Fare grocery, these days that name is just another member of the neighborhood needing toilet paper In The Heights .
A couple of weeks old, this intimate boutique property has had its share of teething problems, including three patronizing fire alarms that drolly announce dinner with “There’s a fire!” until all guests are on edge; what usually follows makes Marriage Story looks like a romantic comedy. The pre-pandemic move has also been plagued with delivery issues, but what the Haven lacks in furniture, it more than makes up for in booze, plants, an Irish-literature-heavy library, records for every mood, and a ryokan-style calm where pajamas are encouraged for breakfast and dinner. Warm Irish hospitality is on display in the form of fresh scones and a topped-up teapot. Otherwise, you can forget the usual trimmings. There’s no room service, but the kitchen—designed by a Tony Award-winning production designer (see “resort fee” on your tab)—is always open and well-stocked. Note: the owner has a tendency to rearrange the open shelves and drawers at 3 a.m., so finding a fork is a daily game of “Where’s Waldo?”. There’s no gym, but there’s a rowing machine that tucks neatly into the kitchen (a tiny-house-living feat), and the resident mutt puts guests through their paces exploring nearby Riverside and Fort Tryon parks four times a day. There’s little in the way of formal entertainment, save for the club-like sound system when the resident teen [my son] showers, and the neighboring concert pianist who practices perfection for several hours a day. Otherwise, it’s magically peaceful and still—a true safe haven.
The Bottom Line: This mom-and-pop property has benefitted tremendously from the Marie Kondo method: all items that did not spark joy have been purged so that only the good dishes remain. 5/5 stars.
WHERE: Hoboken, NJ
Located 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan by bus (there’s also ferry and train service nearby), this establishment caters to a needy clientele, so if you want to be waited on hand and foot, this is the place for you. The owner-operated B&B is smackdab in the heart of the family-friendly Mile Square City, and almost everything is within walking distance—parks, waterfront esplanade with views of Manhattan, bars, restaurants, boutiques—though it’s best to call ahead as hours have changed drastically in recent weeks. The numerous nearby restaurants offer a wide range of cuisines that can be enjoyed via takeaway or delivery.
Reached through a lovely brick archway and a nice two-story climb (think of it as added exercise), the B&B’s perch has windows on three sides that offer great views of the now-quiet streets below. The palatial six-room spread (including two guest rooms and a bathroom) is filled to the brim with homey accents—comfy couch, large dining room table, and yes, you read that right…one bathroom that all the guests and staff share (don’t worry, it adds to the charm). Speaking of charm, the guest rooms have that in abundance—one has a well-loved queen bed, while the other has vintage bunk beds where you’ll most certainly feel like a kid again (and possibly come across an actual kid). There are lots of personal touches sprinkled throughout the space like family photos, priceless works of art from the owner’s personal collection, and what one might call knick-knacks. But don’t pack a lot, as closet space is already being used by the staff.
Another perk? The onsite restaurant, adorably called Kitchen, is literally always open (despite the chef claiming otherwise), and the award-winning menu features dishes like Annie’s White Shells Mac and Cheese (this is a customer favorite), hot dogs, hamburgers, not-handmade pasta, cheese sticks, EGGO waffles, and sugary cereals (Lucky Charms, anyone?). Desserts from the acclaimed pastry chef include half-eaten cartons of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, leftover Girl Scout cookies, and lollipops. Offerings from the stocked bar (beverages are definitely included) run the gamut from hand-stirred hot chocolate and Capri-suns to Polar Seltzer (another customer favorite), beer and boxed wine (management must-haves), as well as half-consumed liquor bottles. Best not to touch the Tito’s.
The house-keeping is top-notch. No need to worry about toilet paper running out or if the sheets and towels are clean. The in-house laundress [me] is doing laundry around the clock, and the staff is restocking amenities constantly. Just don’t expect high-end bath products like Jo Malone or Kiehl’s, as bulk basics like Sauve and Dove do the trick here.
Guests rave about the activities specialist, Wii, who offers a wide range of exercise classes from boxing and golf to tennis and baseball. Other members of the entertainment team—Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus—provide additional hours of entertainment, and there are unending opportunities to entertain yourselves with things like LEGOs, Barbies, American Girl dolls, and the must-visit crafts and art area.
The Bottom Line: The ability to make you feel like you’re part of the family continues to garner The Sequester a solid 5/5 stars from guests that never seem to leave.
Casita de Sadie
WHERE: Miami Beach, FL
Just a five-minute walk from the beach, this modest second-floor walk-up is a charmer with lots of historical details. By historical, we mean the orange and teal tile in the bathroom was likely chosen in the 1960s. Still, the address is hard to beat. On a residential street enveloped by tropical flora, it’s directly across from Flamingo Park (currently closed), a few blocks from South Beach (also closed), and around the corner from a cute French cafe (hopefully open again someday).
A gate ensures privacy, though the small courtyard out front is mostly used as a pathway to access shared outdoor laundry facilities. Inside, the décor includes the latest IKEA models, accented by a few succulents (the only plant the staff [ahem, me], can keep alive despite plenty of Florida sunlight pouring in through large windows).
Where the hotel really shines is the service. You’re greeted enthusiastically by the hotel’s resident dog, Sadie, who gives a comprehensive tour if you tip her in treats. She’ll guide you to the living room, where there’s a surprisingly comfortable pull-out couch, then to the owners’ bedroom, through the bathroom made of the aforementioned questionable tile, and finally to the kitchen. Fervent stares tell us this is a highly-recommended room.
A live-in cook makes most meals here, serving a mean French toast for brunch along with whatever else he can find at Publix, and he doubles as good company on regularly scheduled Netflix nights. Bonus: He keeps the place spotlessly clean.
The Bottom Line: Though it’s nothing fancy, this central South Beach hotel makes you feel at home the second you curl up with its namesake dog. 4/5 stars.
The Studio Apartment Hotel
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
Built in the 1920s with a claim to being one of the best places to chill out for multiple hours during days where you don’t know what time even is anymore, this hotel is like a cozy studio apartment.
Since this is Los Angeles, many acclaimed guests have been here during the 2.5 years the hotel has been open. The building has a storied past of the plumbing being weird and old and then there was that one time an actual peacock walked by outside the window. The building is known throughout the neighborhood for being “one of the 14 apartment buildings in the immediate area.”
Immediately upon walking into this room, you realize one thing: It is quite small (just one room) and also LOOKS LIKE A LITERAL CIRCUS. There are more goose statues here than should, legally, ever been allowed into one room, as well as multiple paintings of birds wearing clothes, a lot of skeleton memorabilia, a slightly disconcerting tapestry with a Christmas elf on it, and Godzilla is just everywhere. One plant sits slightly hidden by the television, and there are so many books in here that it is safe to assume that a Huge Nerd would be very happy here.
This hotel has only one room. The bedroom is nice because it is, as mentioned before, inside all of the other rooms. There’s a comfortable Casper bed and plenty of throw blankets. The bathroom is fine. It’s small, but it has stuff you need, and there’s a shower. The toothbrush holding device has six spots for six (six!) different toothbrushes.
The only dining at this hotel is inside the room. The kitchen and the living room are, in fact, the same room. There is a stove and a microwave, but it should be noted that should you try and use the stove or the oven, the smoke alarm WILL go off. The fridge in the room is always stocked with beer. However, it should be known that drinking hours on weekdays are after 8 p.m., and there’s a strict limit! There is also a gas station across the street if you need to restock at any point.
The lobby of this hotel is absolutely haunted. It has been haunted since before the hotel even existed. Upon walking in, you are greeted by an inexplicably old piano that sounds like crap and no one ever plays—but it must stay put because that’s where the king ghost lives. When you walk into the hotel lobby, you must tip your cap at the piano (and if you don’t have a cap, you can do a little curtsy) to signal to the ghost that you respect it. The hallways also look haunted. If you’re lucky, the lights will flicker when it is nighttime.
During the day, you’ll hear your neighbor yelling, “Dude, I didn’t even realize my walls were this dirty! It must be because I smoke so much weed in here!” to which you will think to yourself, Where is this man’s voice coming from? You will never find out, but you WILL hear him every single day as he screams into his phone. At night, you will hear your upstairs neighbor playing his favorite game of throwing his couch into his wall, and in the morning you will awake to his morning ritual of flopping out of bed and dropping everything he owns for seven or nine hours.
The Bottom Line: This place has character. Despite being a little small, and the neighbors being, well, neighbors, there’s honestly no other place around that will make you feel as cozy and safe during this anxious time of being restless and doing mental backflips all day while stuck inside. Also, the ghosts are really kind and most of them are inside your head.
The Doors Inn
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
Housed in a historic LA craftsman, this spacious, railroad-style hotel has many built-in architectural charms to puzzle and confuse you, like a Murphy Bed hidden in the dining room, a bookcase included in the bathroom, and a bathroom door featuring a window (just what a bathroom door needs!). Oh, and do you love doors? That’s great because this place has many! You’ll open them and ask, why is there a door here? What’s the point of all these pocket doors? Why does the kitchen need so many doors? Doors! Just when you make peace with the doors, you’ll discover windows that make no sense! A frosted pane overlooking the laundry room? Why not? This place sure is ~kooky~!
But if you’re looking to never leave the premises for the outside world ever again, this hotel is definitely for you. The entertainment amenities are top-notch with cushy couches and chairs, a projector with a huge screen, and enough movies to keep you distracted from pretty much everything going on, forever. The walls are lined with an eclectic analog media collection to rival the National Archives (with just as much dust!). The snacks are killer and there are libations always stocked, but the service is extremely spotty. You can pretty much expect to get everything on your own, but do feel free to help yourself.
The bedroom is serene, with minty walls and plush bedding, plenty of natural light (some guests even complain that there’s too much natural light). Clearly a focal point of the hotel, the bed is made for long hours; its cozy setup includes luxurious linens, padding, and pillows (some guests complain that there are too many pillows). If you find yourself at the Doors Inn, you probably won’t want to leave your bed.
The Bottom Line: You’ll never get tired of the endless combinations of layouts you can create by simply opening and shutting doors. But if you do get tired, there are myriad spots to curl up for a good snooze. 4/5 stars.
WHERE: New York, NY
Located just a few blocks from the north woods of Central Park, this spacious bed-and-breakfast does a great job at capitalizing on the recent trend of people with zero cooking skills needing a place to spend the next several months where they won’t starve to death. With a bearded (and very cute) on-site chef [my boyfriend] who somehow actually genuinely enjoys cooking every single meal for two weeks straight, it is really the perfect accommodation for anyone who has ever Googled “how to boil salt” or has ruined a Thanksgiving dinner by making mashed potatoes with sugar in them. The only downside is that the chef will wear the same clothes for two weeks straight and you will not be able to call him out on it.
The spot comes with a medium-sized kitchen that you will never have to step foot in. Set up shop for the morning at your dining room slash workstation where your host convinces you to have waffles for breakfast every single morning. There are other things on the menu, but it’s impossible to say no to this request with everything that’s going on.
The decor is a minimalist’s nightmare, with the chef’s artwork covering the walls and no less than seven separate tchotchke shelves displaying a decade-plus of travel adventures and long-abandoned hobbies. This includes an Ouija board inexplicably handmade out of cardboard. Do not ask about this and do not move it ; trust us, things will only get worse than they already are. Naturally, tarot card readings are available upon request.
You’ll share the space with five plant friends that really wish their parents would learn the concept of rerooting when they get bigger (Enrique is the friendliest, but Daphne gives the best advice). You can try and spend the evening browsing the large collection of books, but will most likely be distracted by the hourly drive-bys of dirt bike and quad riders; you’ll hate the noise but will respect them for trying to have some fun in these trying times (they ARE riding six-feet apart, after all). Uplifting daily phone calls from the host’s mom are also available for an extra fee.
The Bottom Line: This space will entertain you for the length of your stay with its endless supply of random occult items, books, and dinosaur lamps. But most importantly, it will also keep you alive with its endless supply of home-cooked meals. 5/5 stars, mostly for the seven out of seven days a week you will be eating waffles.