Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Ultramodern design with techno piping through the hallway speakers, but guests range from young Europeans to middle-aged business travelers -- not exactly the chic party scene the Pod's Web site tries to evoke.
Located in business-focused Midtown East, the Pod isn't located in an ideal spot for all-night action. Its Web site boasts a sassy photo gallery and the "Pod Blog," a guests-only message board that resembles a dating service, and occassional reviewers brag about seminude, youthful indiscretion. But it's pretty low-key most nights, with a laid-back staff playing host to a diverse group of international travelers in a loungey setting.
The Pod's design is rigorously modern. Decorated with artwork by J.M. Rizzi, the lobby and hallways are visually striking, set in primary colors and adorned with broad-lined scenes of people socializing in the city. Furnished with mesh metal chairs and white circular tables, the lobby looks like the posh lounge of a science-fiction movie, with acid jazz and techno playing through the speakers. But it's relatively quiet most of the day, and most guests just head straight for the front desk or the elevators, many toting shopping bags from Chanel, American Eagle, or any of the other retail outlets within a 10-minute walk of the hotel.
With friendly staff, quick check-in, and a knowledgeable concierge, service at the Pod is solid, especially for the price.
The service I received was great for the price of my room -- $109 without taxes or other charges -- which is to say it was proficient but not overtly doting. When I called for towels in the morning, Andrew at the front desk told me I would have to wait about 20 minutes. Nineteen minutes later, the towels arrived.
At the front desk, guests are greeted with a relaxed "How are you doing?" Check-in is quick, and the staff keeps things running smoothly.
There's no gym on-site, so I asked the concierge about a place to work out. She directed me to the New York Sports Club on 51st Street between Third and Lexington avenues (about one block from the hotel), where the daily fee would be "between $15 and $20." In terms of nightspots, she recommended the Meatpacking District for a more upscale experience and the Lower East Side, but she didn't name any clubs specifically and couldn't snag me a place on any guest lists. She said Turtle Bay Tavern was a good local place to grab a beer -- which is about the only nightlife around in this part of Manhattan.
Located in Midtown East, on 51st Street between Second and Third avenues, the Pod sits on a farily popular street peppered with restaurants that get a decent amount of foot traffic, even after nightfall. Among the standout eateries: Ess-a-Bagel (an Oyster favorite), La Meditarranee, Le Bateau Ivre, Montparnasse, and Morning Star Café. But there's not much nightlife in this area.
In terms of subway access, the Pod is just down the block from the 6 train and a five-minute walk from the E and V trains. It's not quite as connected as the hotels in Times Square or other major transportation hubs, so getting anywhere in the city will likely mean one or two transfers, and a little more waiting.
For all-night fun, you'll have to head downtown (about 30 to 45 minutes on the subway, depending on how long you're stuck waiting for a train). Central Park is a 20-minute walk away, as is Times Square and the theater district.
30 to 90 minutes from three airports.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, La Guardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Flying into JFK or LaGuardia is typically easiest and the least time-consuming. From JFK, it's a (one-hour) $45 flat-rate taxi ride to anywhere in Manhattan. From LaGuardia, it's about a (30-minute) $40 metered cab ride to Midtown Manhattan. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls) and can take more than 90 minutes. Don't forget to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
To save some cash, try the group shuttles that are available at all three airports for about $14 per person. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. You can also take public transit from any of the airports for as little as $7 per person, but travel can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairs. For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
The close quarters can feel like a novelty, but they aren't for the claustrophobic.
At only 100 square feet, the Double Pod (with one double-size bed) is tiny, really tiny. They're about half the size of most NYC boutique hotel rooms, which most guests already find small. They might hold the title for smallest rooms in NYC. (We haven't visited the youth hostels or by-the-hour hotels to be sure about this.) What's more, the Double Pod isn't even the cheapest room! The Single Pod or the Bunk Pod have shared bathrooms. For a little more space -- and only a little more -- you'll have to upgrade to the Double Double (two double beds), the Veranda Pod (one double and one twin bed), or the Townhouse Studio (a queen-size platform bed, a twin-size daybed, and a twin-size pull-out trundle).
Mercifully, the room was organized to maximize what space is available, to mixed effect. The bed frame contains drawers for clothing storage, and the closet area (it has no door and is more an "area" than a "closet") contained a single shelf that can accommodate several small carry-on bags.
Sometimes the space saving went too far. My double bed, a Sealy Posturepedic Celestial CSS-firm, was aligned such that use of the headboard left my feet dangling over the edge.
The bedside table, air-conditioning unit, bed frame, closet-area shelf, desk, and window shutters were made of pale finished wood with black trim. The dark-gray carpet and maroon bedcover absorbed a great deal of the room's light, making for a dim stay.
The thin walls failed to shelter me from noise. At 10:24 p.m., scraping sounds from the room across the hall were audible. Earlier in the evening, another guest's music, played at high volume, could easily be heard. On TripAdvisor, guests complained of noises ranging from "idle chatter" to "amorous activity."
In the bathroom, perhaps to enhance the feeling of space, the shower was separated from the sleeping area only by a pane of completely transparent glass -- not a lot of privacy. A translucent sliding door could be pulled over the window for privacy, but such a move would leave the toilet in sight. Similarly, the stainless steel sink was a few short steps from the bed. Towels, toilet paper, and a hair dryer were also stored within plain sight. Fortunatelly, the shower has a high-pressure rain-style showerhead. Unfortunately, the toilet didn't have much flushing power, and the lever-style handle was a bit tacky.
My room was on the chilly side, and temperature regulation was a significant issue for several TripAdvisor reviewers. The in-room "Pod Survival Guide" reveals that heat and air conditioning are centrally controlled on the second and third floors. The concierge said I could call for help if the temperature problems persisted. I declined -- all for the sake of research -- and awoke stiff and shivering the following morning.
Thin: no ice machines, no gym, no room service, and no business center.
Several features are notably absent from the Pod, another reminder that the relatively low price comes with relatively few amenities. A call for ice was met with the grave reply, "There are no ice machines in the building." There was also no gym, no room service, and no business center. The shared bathrooms further contribute to a sense of incompleteness. But as Rebecca Otengo, one of the guests I interviewed from Uganda, explained, the "modest" features are fair for the price.
Guests have access to the 14th-story rooftop, which is pretty short for Midtown East, where the average building is at least 40 floors. The most exciting buildings to see are the tall yet unspectacular Citigroup Center skyscraper and the even less inspired Trump World Tower.
Not ideal for families -- the Pod is more of a youth hostel than a hotel.
The hotel doesn't offer any kid-specific features, and you'll have to upgrade to the Townhouse Studio, the Double Double, or the Veranda Pod if you want anywhere for the kids to sleep. They just won't fit in the Double Pod standard rooms.
The Pod upholds a high standard of cleanliness, although the common bathrooms present some specific challenges.
My Double Pod room was in excellent shape, despite a few light scuffs and smudges on the desk. The carpet and bed were free of stains and litter, and there was no dust anywhere. The private bathroom was very well maintained as well, with no signs of streak marks from cleaing products. The showerhead and sink fixtures were free of rust or other signs of wear and tear. All told, you can do a lot worse for these prices.
The common bathrooms (shared by guests of the Single Pod and Bunk Pod) were cleaner than at most youth hostels. I saw the housekeeping staff up early in the morning, specifically targeting those areas.
The Pod Café is closed in the winter, but there are pleanty of nearby restaurants.
With the Pod Café closed for winter, there were no on-site dining facilities. Although they share the same address, the French restaurants that flank the Pod, Le Bateau Ivre and East Side Social Club, are separately owned and operated. The former is a French restaurant with a solid wine list and entrees ranging from $8 to $25; the East Side Social Club serves Italian and opened in November 2009. (Click here for Le Bateau Ivre's web site and here for East Side Social Club.)
Part hotel, part hostel (with shared bathrooms), the Pod is pretty basic for business-focused Midtown East. But it's still not the cheapest hotel. Rooms -- those with their own bathroom -- also have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and iHome iPod docks. But they're tiny -- maybe the smallest in New York. For the price, opt for the Holiday Inn Sixth Avenue in far-hipper Chelsea.