Travelers tracking the hot hostelry usually brace themselves for a haughty hotel staff who specialize in putting the "snoot" in snooty. From South Beach to downtown L.A., a chilly check-in can strangle delight no matter how many Aveda amenities appear by the sink. So it's a pleasure to come across a hotel that's both stylish and friendly. Downtown San Diego's 10-month-old Ivy (600 F Street; +1 619-814-1000) will make a guest feel both fussed over and cool at the same time.
As luck had it, I spent my two-night stay in a handicapped-accessible room. Usually a design afterthought, my room at the Ivy was certainly the coolest one I'd ever been in. (Though it lacked the funky design flair in the hotel's 6th-floor suites, with their see-through shower panels between bath and bedroom. Those frost up at the flick of a switch for the more shy among us). But my room more than sufficed, what with its fresh fruit, complimentary copies of Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone and the Keurig coffee machine, an idiot-friendly device that dispenses shots of Green Mountain dark roast with a flourish. So intent on playing barista, I almost didn't notice the wall-mounted HDTV.
Ivy's public spaces are handsome and sleek without being slippery. Decorated in zebra wood and walnut-brown leather, they evoke an old-school Hollywood glamour. On weekends the place gets rocking. There's a nightclub named Envy and a sprawling rooftop bar called Eden populated with heat lamps and comfortable lounge chairs and a great view of the surrounding high rises (condos mostly). Damon Gordon's Quarter Kitchen restaurant is a tour de force of style by a Hollywood-based design team called Powerstrip Studios. The Kellys, a local family, who bought and restored the 1914-era building (the late, unlamented Maryland Hotel) did a great job.
But what was really impressive was the staff. "They're young, laid-back, former beach kids," says Debra Shinn, Ivy's Director of Guest Experience who used to work at the Wynn Las Vegas. "They have that certain sweetness that San Diegans have." Seth Sullivan, the concierge, can print out a boarding pass or suggest a good burrito place (he recommends Los Panchos at 4th and E) in the Gaslamp Quarter, the hotel's downtown neighborhood and the city's late-night playground.
To sum up, there's some glitter on the bottom of the Left Coast. Check it out and check in to the Ivy.
Photos: Above, the Sweet suite; below, the Eden rooftop bar. Courtesy of the Ivy Hotel.