W Union Square has been our downtown hotel of choice; great location, pretty good recognition of status in my experience – we’ve stayed there Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks, and feel like we were about 50/50 for suite upgrades. Our last NYC stay was at the Essex House for a number of reasons primarily about proximity to a clinic where a family member is getting physical therapy, but this time our friend’s birthday lunch was at il Buco. So we wanted to stay downtown within walking distance to lunch, and then move uptown to the Essex House.
My Amex Platinum has a $200 credit for a hotel booked through their travel portal, and it’s EOY so I needed to spend it – and we booked the 11 Howard, a Marriott Design property, for about $450 before credit (which includes a $100 credit for F&B; as a Titanium Elite, I expect breakfast usually, but that’s fine).
A very long Uber ride in from JFK (street closures for the NYC Marathon) dropped us off out front. No obvious branding.
Chic, minimalist décor; very downtown, two well-dressed men at desk for check in felt both casual and sophisticated. It’s pretty clear that this isn’t a hotel that caters to families when the front desk told us that the lounge/bar becomes club late at night and that entrance for guests not guaranteed. Dude, I’m old, I just want to lie in bed after 11am. I had zero thought of going to a club. They made sure I knew that this wasn’t a Marriott property, but a partnered property. They also told me Elite benefits didn’t apply through the AmEx booking, but they claimed I’d get stay credits.
I’m not sure why people complain about the neighborhood; you’re close to Chinatown, Little Italy, Nolita and Soho. Definitely walking distance to East Village. I suppose if you’re not used to walking cities, you might be sad that it’s not literally across the street from Frenchette or Balthazar but really, for downtown this was great. (You might have a hard time going for a run, though; stay in Chelsea, near the Henry Hudson bike path for that.)
There was no chance of an upgrade to a larger room – they said they were sold out (marathon?) and they only had two rooms with two beds. When I travel with family, I optimize for space and breakfast. But this was one night.
The walk to the room was through dimly but precisely lit hallways. A lot of ambience – my wife appreciated the approach to the door.
We arrived the week before the hotel kitchen was due to open, so they were using Butler, a delivery service for the hotel. It is a separate charge, but a call to AmEx cardmember service line confirmed that because it’s a formal program through the hotel, it will be covered as part of the $100 credit.
Alas, breakfast was way under $100 for three. Their online menu said they serve La Colombe coffee, but there was no field to enter beverages; their customer service said to just note it in the special comments section.
This room was small. Fine for one; cozy for two. For three of us, tolerable for a night, and if we were going to be out for most of the day. The bathroom sink counter was roomy enough for toiletries but really space enough for one person getting ready. The closet had no floor space, but we had packed so that we didn’t need to get to our luggage for the first night. We left our luggage against the wall near the door; we could not have stored them in the closet.
Bed and sheets were very comfortable though (linens were higher thread count than the Essex House), though the doubles were a tight squeeze for two relatively thin humans. Sleeping in a king size bed has spoiled me.
The main issue was that the TV wasn’t working – none of the PPV or streaming services were accessible. I would have asked the front desk for help, but it was late. We let them know on the way out. More concerning was that there was a limit of 3 devices max on the hotel WiFi; even when I turned off WiFi on my phone, I couldn’t use my iPad to get online. This feels disqualifying and I suspect I could have fixed this by calling the front desk, but again, one night.
The blinds were nice and heavy – but we had a hard time getting them to stay tightly shut and light peeked through in the morning, waking us earlier than we wanted. But the windows and blinds kept the room quiet.
We wandered to the lounge, which was a chill, cool library-like space. There was coffee in the morning. Thank god, because turns out Butler does not deliver coffee to 11 Howard.
We had planned to send an Uber to pick up our bags and drive them to the Essex House, but we came back to get them later since Central Park South was blocked to traffic for the marathon. While properly tagged, our bags were mixed in with another group – a little concerning if I had to trust them to load the 8 pieces of assorted luggage into a car without us to supervise.
We left that morning to wander all the way to the Highline, and location-wise, it was fantastic. Previous night’s dinner at Aunt Jakes could just have easily been a 2am trip to Wo Hop.
I don’t expect that Titanium or Ambassador status recognition will get you much here, but you’re staying for the neighborhood, not the room – which is a cool and downtown mood, more boutique than the W.