Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Themed after literary and artistic salons of the 1920s and '30s, Hotel Rex feels in many ways like a bookstore/hotel mash-up. Its lobby is lined with shelves of antique books, retro reading desks, and armchairs fit for an afternoon of poring over the classics; hallways are inscribed with California- and travel-related literary quotes; and the small business center has antique typewriters. In every way true to the affordable and quirky Joie de Vivre boutique brand, it has mostly hands-off, though friendly, service and not much in the way of extras.
If all the historic literary references seem a bit much, not to worry: Rooms are surprisingly modern. Wall-mounted, 36-inch flat-panel TVs and iPod dock alarm clock/radios are impressively up-to-date, and pillow-top beds are plush and comfortable. It's too bad the rooms are small, and those that face the tiny courtyard are dark and feel even more cramped.
Luckily, there's a great lobby bar and restaurant downstairs with a free nightly wine hour. The reasonably priced Library Bar serves Californian fare for breakfast and dinner in a tiny, charming dining room. With the look of a reading room, the bar feels like it's in a different era, and appropriately enough offers a signature menu of "Writers Vice" cocktails.
Though the price and location make the Hotel Rex a decent value, if it's less of a themey scene and larger rooms that you want, the nearby boutique Donatello offers a similar location and amenities, with larger suite-style rooms at better prices.
Two blocks from the commercial hub of Union Square
Hotel Rex sits two blocks northwest of Union Square, which is famous for its couture shops but not much else. Home to enormous outposts of Niketown, Saks, Tiffany, Macy's, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus, among others, Union Square is to San Francisco what 5th Avenue is to New York and Rodeo Drive is to L.A. Locals don't hang out here, but the square is great for people-watching, nonetheless, and it occasionally plays host to small festivals and demonstrations. Still, if conspicuous consumption isn't a priority, you might prefer a neighborhood closer to the city's biggest attractions, like Nob Hill or Fisherman's Wharf.
This 94-room Union Square boutique, themed after 1920s and '30s literary salons, is a bit quirky, with fairly hands-off service and few amenities. But the tiny quarters are nicely furnished with up-to-date amenities, there's a daily wine hour in the reading-room-style lobby bar, and an on-site bistro offers up well-priced Californian fare.