Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The lobby of the Bowery Hotel is like a pair of pre-distressed jeans on a well-heeled hipster: Sure, the look is a bit contrived, but the pants are very flattering -- and damn if the overall effect isn't almost ... perfect.
With its faded oriental rugs, shabby-chic vintage (and faux-vintage) furniture, and wrought-iron detailing, the lobby of the Bowery Hotel is unlike any other in New York. The atmosphere is darkly brooding and richly nostalgic; you wouldn't be surprised to see the dandified thug played by Daniel Day-Louis in Gangs of New York stroll past tasseled velvet couches, examine one of the strategically placed peacock feathers, and sit in one of the leather club chairs.
In fact, the Bowery tends to attract well-to-do guests in their thirties and forties who appreciate the curated decor and are savvy enough to know that the neighborhood is no longer synonymous with Skid Row. On the other hand, they are no doubt attracted by its punk-rock and counterculture associations. After all, the Bowery (the neighborhood, not the hotel) was a stomping ground for Patti Smith, Joey Ramone, and William S. Burroughs. And even if the heyday of those movements are decades in the past, a few vestiges of the neighborhood's grittier days are still around: CBGB's, the temple of punk that was once across the street, is gone, but the homeless shelter next door is still there. That street cred probably helps draw in the celebrity crowd as well: Ashley Olsen, Blake Lively, and Rachel Bilson have all reportedly stayed at the hotel recently, and I shared an elevator with comedienne Sarah Silverman, who told me she always stays here when visiting from LA.
The rooms themselves are also a big draw. Bright, comfortable, and ultra-luxurious, they bring Old New York to life by way of wainscoted ceilings, par avion envelopes in the desk, and C.O. Bigelow bath products and Marvis toothpaste in the bathrooms.
Given the glut of ultra-mod, glass-wrapped hipster hotels cropping up all over downtown Manhattan, including the new Cooper Square Hotel down the street, the nostalgic vibe here feels oddly refreshing and new. All in all, I'm tempted to call it an instant classic.
Warm and attentive service
The Bowery, the street the hotel is located on and named after, is a mile-long avenue in Lower Manhattan that was for much of the last century associated with the down-and-out: the homeless, the drug addicts, and the punk rockers who often fell into both those categories. But these days the Bowery looks more like SoHo than Skid Row. A Think coffee shop, trendy clothing boutiques, and hip eateries like the newly opened DBGB, the latest endeavor from renowned French chef Daniel Boulud, now dot this once-desolate street.
The area still has some edge and grit -- there's a homeless shelter next door to the hotel, for example -- but thanks to the active foot traffic, it feels safe even late at night. In fact, it's the juxtaposition of the old and the new, the modern and the gritty, that makes the neighborhood what it is today, even if the purists still mourn the closure of CBGB's, the temple of punk that used to be just a few doors down. (There's now a John Varvatos store in its place.)
Located on the edge of the East Village, and just two blocks south of the Cooper Square Hotel, the Bowery is within easy walking distance of the Lower East Side, SoHo, and Union Square -- an ideal base, in other words, for exploring Manhattan's vibrant downtown nightlife scene. And it's only a 10-minute walk to NYU.
The one downside to the location: It's a bit of a hike to the subway. The 6, B, D, F, and M lines are closest to the hotel (within a few minutes' walking distance), or you can walk 10 minutes north to Union Square to catch an additional seven lines.
Bright, immaculate, and beautifully appointed, these rooms are virtually flawless.
These rooms are bright, beautiful, and comfortable. The small details in particular really shine: the antique, doily-like fabric draped over the backs of the chairs, the wainscoted ceiling, the brass fixtures, the Villeroy & Boch sink, and the pencils and par avion envelopes in the desk drawer.
Dogs under 30 pounds welcome; no cats.
Dogs under 30 pounds are welcome to the hotel; cats are not. Owners must sign a document promising to cover any costs of cleaning up after their pets.
Not really a child-friendly atmosphere, but cribs are free, and Aerobeds are available.
Kids don't really fit in among the lobby's distressed antiques, decadent low light, and dark wood paneling. And this isn't a particularly child-friendly neighborhood, either. But cribs are free and fit into any room size. Aerobeds are available for a nightly fee, but fit only in king deluxe rooms or suites. The hotel also offers babysitter services.
There's a small section of kids movies in the hotel's extensive (and free) DVD collection. In addition, the hotel's restaurant, Gemma, has a decent kids menu with adult-sized prices: peanut butter and jelly with a glass of organic milk, grilled cheese and fries, and ants on a log, among other items.
The Bowery is still fairly new and has been immaculately maintained, save for some rust-colored mildew in the marble shower.
The oriental rugs that line the floor of nearly every square inch of the hotel probably hide dust and dirt very well. And the lobby is so dark it'd be nearly impossible to spot a stain or drink ring. With the exception of the faint bit of rust-colored mildew in my shower, public areas are well-kept.
Gemma is located on the ground floor of the hotel, and its rustic wooden tables, candelabra chandeliers, copper pots, and wood-fired oven combine to create a lively bonhomie befitting a trendy trattoria in an even trendier hotel. But be prepared to raise your voice at dinner -- the restaurant is loud and packed elbow to elbow until at least 11 p.m. most nights. The good news is that the restaurant accepts reservations for hotel guests only. (For everyone else, it's first come, first served.) Everything I ordered was delicious. But is it worth passing up the scores of great options in the surrounding neighborhoods? Probably not.
Breakfast is reasonably priced, with dishes ranging from $7 (hard-boiled eggs on toast) to $12 (bagel with lox).
Note that guests at the Bowery can get a coveted reservation at the Waverly Inn, the exclusive (some say pretentious) restaurant co-owned by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and Bowery hoteliers Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson. But reservations must be made exactly two days in advance via email -- no exceptions.
Guests and locals alike hang out in the cozy, dimly lit lobby bar that serves creative cocktails and boasts a well-selected wine list.
The bar in the lobby is classy (one of the bartenders was sporting a dapper three-piece suit when I was there), low-key, and intimate. Unlike at the bar at Cooper Square, you don't have to scream in order to be heard by the waitstaff. Hotel guests get first dibs on seating. Cocktails run about $14 a pop.
With 135 flawlessly appointed rooms, a super-hip bar tucked away in the nostalgic, velvet-filled lobby, 24-hour room service, free Wi-Fi, and free bike rentals, the Bowery Hotel redefines class in a gentrified downtown neighborhood where punk rock and squalor once ruled.
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