When friends visit Manhattan, I wage an internal battle over where to take them. Because I keep a running list of "where to go next", I usually deal with the entertaining dilemma by emailing them excerpts from that list. In other words, "you choose". And truthfully, it's better than letting them pick a place unassisted - the last time I did that, I ended up at Dave & Busters. Last week it was the Bowery Hotel that was taken from my list. We'd dined at Kelly & Ping, had drinks at the Merc Bar until my friends were ready to go back to the hotel (pulling me away from sneaking glances at the very hot guy sitting at the table next to us) for a nightcap.
One of my friends, a Brit, said at dinner that night that he didn't like New York because it's just a 'wannabe London' (glad he cleared that up for us). He also commented on a place we went the last time they were in the city (on my suggestion) - a lowdown rock bar called Motor City. He told me that it was 'fake', not a real dive bar. As if the owners of Motor City were at a Lower East Side business development council meeting and said "Hey, we have a great idea for a theme bar! We'll call it Motor City and plaster band stickers all over the walls, play Motorhead really loud and model our bathroom after the one at CBGB's - you know, with a mirror that's blacked out, unflattering green lighting overhead and no toilet paper. Tourists will love it!"
The Brit loved the Bowery Hotel. It's the opposite of Motor City. Eye candy for the Lower East Side where visitors can feel like they're being edgy and experiencing "New York subculture". But the hotel has nothing to do with the neighborhood other than the address. Well, the old neighborhood at least. In some opinions, that's a good thing. For others, the verdict is still out. That said, it's a sexy place. The lobby and main lounge areas are filled with textural elements like mahogany walls, oriental rugs and tapestries in rich jewel tones and velvet lounge chairs. Lighting is low and warm. If the hotel were a person, it would be Marianne Faithfull; if it were music, it would be a Catherine Wheel song. The guest rooms stray from the feel of the lobby a bit, with hard-edged furniture and stark white walls in both bath and bedroom, giving the room a cold feel on first take. It takes a while (or a few glasses of wine) for the atmosphere to warm. Once you settle in, it's the purposeful details you'll start to notice. And my friend Amee says the minibar rocks.