The Hotel at Fifth Avenue

Opening Hours
Today: Open 24 hours
Sat:
Open 24 hours
Sun:
Open 24 hours
Mon:
Open 24 hours
Tues:
Open 24 hours
Wed:
Open 24 hours
Thurs:
Open 24 hours
Location
17 West 32nd Street
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Originally the Aberdeen Hotel when it was built in 1902, this grand Beaux-arts edifice continues to stand out as it sits in the middle of Korea Town. Perhaps its best claim to fame was that, back in the 1920s, it allowed women to book a room without a gentleman on their arm. The Hotel at Fifth Avenue, formerly known as La Quinta, also boasts its own rooftop bar, Vu.

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The Hotel at Fifth Avenue 1 Bars Hotels Rooftop Bars Chelsea Koreatown Tenderloin
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Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong 1 Korean Murray Hill

Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong

“We were just voted the best Asian barbecue restaurant in New York, ” said Philip, the general manager of Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. “We’re getting a lot of buzz these days, because Korean food is very trendy right now. ” And Baekjeong, founded by Korean wrestler and TV personality Kang Ho-dong, is the trendiest of all. It is a favorite hangout of actors and celebrities, and has received high praise from celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and David Chang. At Baekjeong (the Korean word for “butcher”), meat is king. But while Korean barbecue traditionally makes use of the second-best cuts of meat, marinating them for flavor, Philip emphasized that Baekjeong uses only the highest-quality meat. “We don’t even marinate it, ” he added. Between the quality of the meat and the reputation of executive chef Deuki Hong, a twenty-five year old prodigy who recently won the 2015 Young Guns Chef award, Baekjeong has become one of the hottest new restaurants in New York. The wait to be seated, Philip told me, is sometimes as long as an hour and a half. By all accounts, it is worth the wait. As customers munch on small starter dishes known as banchan, waiters prepare the meat - mainly beef and pork - on large metal grills set into each table. Another highlight at Baekjeong is dosirak, a traditional Korean children’s lunchbox filled with rice, kimchi, and a fried egg. In the seventies, Philip explained, Korean kids always shook up their metal lunch boxes before eating them, and at Baekjeong - which aims for a “1970s industrial Korea feel” - customers are encouraged to do the same. But Philip emphasized that guests who do not know much about Korean food should not be worried. The waiters, who all speak English and Korean, “make sure to cater to customers who don’t know what’s going on. ” For the most part, though, the Chinese tourists and Americans who make up most of Baekjeong’s clientele (“Koreans don’t like to wait in line, ”) do know what is going on. “No one just walks in off the street, ” Philip told me. “The kind of people who come here are in the know. ”

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Hyatt Herald Square

All my assumptions about the Hyatt Herald Square were dashed upon entering the lobby. I assumed that the Hyatt Herald Square, as part of such a well-known, far reaching hotel brand, would be a reasonably generic, glamorous hotel like one would find in any other major city. I could not have been more wrong. As soon as I stepped inside and saw the fascinating art pieces, chic espresso bar, and unique layout, I realized that this was something special. The concierge is hidden at the back of the lobby, rather than the front, which invited me to explore the lobby’s many treasures before speaking to the staff. A series of clocks on the wall, inspired by Salvador Dali and echoing the shape and color of gourds, displayed the time zones of all the major fashion capitals. Plug ports were located by every seat so that guests could easily rejuice phones or work on laptops. Winding my way to the back, I met Nina Jones, the director of sales and marketing. She explained that all the main Hyatt hotels try to draw inspiration in their décor from the surrounding area’s history and culture. For the Hyatt Herald Square, that means drawing on the publishing and fashion worlds. Nina pointed out that the front desk was made from layers of old newspaper, and the brightly colored books creating a rainbow on the back wall were influenced by media and fashion. Nina went on to say that “Herald Heart, ” the spiraling mobile at the entrance, is made up of 151 sentences, carved from wood, representing the past and present of Herald Square. Having spoken with executive chef Gunnar Steden at Up on 20, I knew that the cuisine at the Hyatt uses local ingredients as much as possible and that even the snack counter around the corner stocks mostly treats from the Tri-State area. As I sipped on a Double Standard Sour in a classy pink hue at the lobby bar, Nina wowed me with the fact that most of the surfaces in the lobby are made from repurposed water tower wood. I left the Hyatt that day feeling like I had received a lesson in the history and culture of New York, as well as having been given a dose of highly-honed hospitality.

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The Gregory Hotel 1 Hotels Tenderloin Koreatown Garment District Midtown West

The Gregory Hotel

After visiting the newly opened Renwick, Olivia, Tom and I walked west to its sister hotel, the Gregory. Originally built in 1903 and known as “The Gregorian, ” its purpose was to house spillover guests from the Waldorf Astoria. It was designed to be reminiscent of Upper West Side homes, with rooms that were double the height of normal hotels. In the mid-twentieth century, the Gregorian closed and the building passed through the hands of different hospitality groups. In 2015, however, the Gregory opened with the goal of recreating the hotel’s former glory. Susan Richardson, the Director of Marketing at the time, was pleased to give us a tour of the newly renovated hotel and to share some of the history, while also pointing out the various amenities and features. The overall design of the hotel is inspired by elements of the fashion world, as it is located in the garment district. Susan also mentioned that the Gregory is the only hotel that is a member of the Save the Garment Center movement and that they have recently formed a partnership with Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Susan explained that the hotel was designed with the goal of feeling "homey. " The lobby was built to have the comfort of a living room, complete with the bar, called “The Liquor Cabinet. ” The whimsical idea behind the name is that guests can “raid the Liquor Cabinet” during happy hour. While chatting, the bartender made one of their signature drinks, the Ginger Bootlegger, made with Bootlegger vodka, Cointreau, and ginger beer. The cozy, home-away-from-home atmosphere is enhanced by the concierge desk, where guests are encouraged to sit down in an armchair as they check-in and to feel the warmth of the fireplace during the colder months of the year. Similar to the Renwick, the Gregory focuses on trying to manufacture many of the features of the hotel in New York City. The lobby’s wood floors were not only made in Manhattan, but cut right here in the building. The shelves, which held fashion books, sewing machines, and other relics of the design world, were also cut in the lobby. Adding to their strong link to its history, we observed the pictures of the original hotel on the wall, along with an old menu and various artworks from the early twentieth century. Before heading into the elevator, we stopped into Brendan’s, the lively Irish pub connected to the hotel. The restaurant used to be the Gregorian’s Palm Court. “They are a great neighbor, ” Susan said. Upstairs, we stepped inside an impressive guest room. It was remarkable how different the Gregory and the Renwick are, but with the same careful attention to detail and emphasis on guest comfort. Where the Renwick has eclectic images and outside-the-box design, the Gregory has clean lines and simple patterns. As Susan so aptly described it, “The Renwick is the artist and the Gregory is the tailor. ” There are hints of the fashion world everywhere, including Do Not Disturb signs made of ties and framed clothing patterns on the walls. Like the Renwick, each of the beds are custom made for the hotel. Although both hotels are designed for the transient traveler, Susan feels that the Gregory appeals to a slightly younger crowd - one that wants a warm, communal place to work and network. With that in mind, guests are encouraged to come down to the lobby for coffee in the morning and mingle with one another. The tech industry has started drifting into the neighborhood and Susan feels that members of the tech world appreciate the chance to meet people and work in the living room environment of the lobby. “We are creating a culture of offering guests an experience, ” she said, smiling.

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Up on 20

Where the Hyatt Herald Square has taken inspiration from the publishing and fashion worlds, its bar, called “Up on 20, ” seems to take its inspiration from the sky and cityscape. With clean metallics, greys, and glass, the rooftop bar mirrors its surroundings and emphasizes the sleek beauty of Manhattan. I learned a lot from speaking with Gunnar Steden, the executive chef, and Jordan Cook, the food and beverage manager. Jordan explained that both the food and the décor tried to seem as natural and organic as possible. He spoke about the flowers and plants that would soon be brought up to the bar and about the food that was all locally sourced and made in house. Gunnar explained that most of his ingredients come from no farther than Long Island and Brooklyn, and even the hotel snacks and the morning coffee come from within a very small radius. Gunnar has a significant amount of experience working as a chef for Hyatt, as he has spent time in the empire's German, Australian, and DC hotels. He proudly spoke about the balance in cuisine that he has created, thanks in part to his worldliness. Despite his emphasis on local ingredients, he also caters to more mainstream and international tastes. He used drinks as an example: Whereas he has beer brewed just across the East River on Long Island, he also carries Blue Moon and Shocktop, and he has brought in Kolsch from his native Germany to satisfy European taste buds. Gunnar and Jordan both expressed pride in the menu, and were quick to say that if something does not work, or if available ingredients change, they will change the menu overnight. This is especially helpful in a hotel as new as the Hyatt Herald Square, which had opened only six months before our visit in the spring of 2015. The rooftop bar itself had only just had its soft-opening the day before we arrived. As we wandered to a smaller terrace at the back of the roof with a view of the Freedom Tower, Gunnar explained to me that Up on 20 is not supposed to be a night club or a hot spot. Then he used one of our favorite phrases: “We want to be a neighborhood gem – we want to be small place where you can go and enjoy a beer. " Jordan added, "Our emphasis is on customer experience, not the bottom line. ”

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Cloud Social 1 Bars Rooftop Bars Chelsea Tenderloin Koreatown

Cloud Social

“You can’t really get much closer than that, ” Tom, our photographer said, when we were surprised by the enormous view of the Empire State building looming over us. We were on the roof of the Nyma hotel on one of the first warm days in the spring of 2015. Fun, bright orange outdoor seats, the same color as the cozy heat lamps, greeted us next to zebra striped tables topped with little grassy ornaments. Unlike many of the more luxurious rooftop bars, Cloud Social felt more like a good friend’s well-decorated garden patio, unintimidating and intimate. This is exactly how Frank and Maya, the couple who own the bar along with VU at the top of La Quinta, want guests to feel. Frank told us “We don’t want to be pretentious – you don’t need to pay at the door, and there is no dress code. You can come in your shorts! ”Rooftop bars are Frank’s passion. He started working with hotels when he opened a small bar on the second floor of the Hotel at Times Square. He explained, “Hotels like the way I operate. ” He recognizes that when he rents space from a hotel, he must respect the guests. For example, it is essential that his staff be considerate to those on the top floor and control the noise level. Frank was sure to mention, however, that most of his patrons do not come from the hotel, but rather from the surrounding neighborhood. “We attract many young professionals, partly because we keep our prices reasonable. ”Maya is responsible for the décor. “Certain colors are soothing to the eye, ” she said, when we mentioned how much we enjoyed the orange. She continued to explain that she wanted to create a zen feeling with her design. Both Maya and Frank are proud of the fact that the bar is open year-round, and that people take advantage of it. “Even when it’s cold, many people will come outside, take pictures, have a smoke, and then go back, ” they told us. The bartenders made us a couple of Cloud Social’s most popular cocktails: A paloma (Mexico’s best loved drink), made with raw sugar around the edges and “On the Roof, ” which immediately transported me to the Caribbean with its flavors of Malibu and peach schnapps. Both drinks furthered the feeling of being at a friend’s classy pool party, and were delivered by very attentive, friendly staff. Frank explained that he puts a lot of emphasis on service. He believes it has been one of the main reasons why he has been successful. “A drink is a drink: you won’t remember a bad drink, ” he said, “but you will always remember bad service. ”