Hotel dining gets a bad rap. On the one hand you’ve got smaller joints with warmed over American fare, so-so service, and maybe a fish plate that costs eighteen dollars and tastes vaguely of turpentine. On the other hand you’ve got luxury hotels touting well-known executive chefs who would sooner serve cheese with seafood than accept the fact that nine dollars for a bowl of minestrone is more than a bit outrageous.
And don’t even get me started on breakfast.
There seems to be this middle ground lacking, one where the hotel restaurant serves food that is delicious, does it with a smile, and at a price that won’t have the guests searching off premises. Believe it or not, the middle ground does exist. More and more, in fact, moderate/consumer level hotels are realizing that the modern traveler is taking value of features into account, features like business centers, gyms, and of course, the restaurant.
Go to a travel forum like TripAdvisor and search guest reviews of any hotel, and you can guarantee that if it has a restaurant, the reviews are talking about it (and they’re probably saying a lot of mean things). Search long enough to find a hotel with a good restaurant and you’ll notice something else. Not only do they talk about it, they talk about it a lot. People are ready for good hotel restaurants, and they’re willing to tell their friends about them.
Here we’ll discuss some hotel restaurants that are breaking out of those molds mentioned at the top. Not only are they doing it different, they’re doing it better. The next time you travel through one of these towns, be sure to let your stomach weigh in on your lodging decision. For more information on each hotel and its restaurant, click on the name.
Embassy Suites Denver Airport Hotel Diazza Restaurant
Diazza Restaurant is what every hotel restaurant should, and most likely wants, to be. It plays the menu close to the classics that you would expect from an average hotel all-American eatery, but it does it better every step of the way. Instead of a hamburger, you can have a heaping buffalo burger topped with smoky pancetta, instead of a chewy Choice steak, they serve dry aged USDA Prime beef steaks, and this commitment continues throughout the menu with fresh caught fish and meats and vegetables from only local Colorado suppliers.
Diazza also spices up each meal with nice visual flourish. Located in the hotel atrium, the dining floor is center by a five-story false mining tipple under which the bar is located. Wide enough for big families yet elegant enough for romantic couples, Diazza is proof that you don’t have to be wildly original; you just have to be good.
Doubletree Denver / Aurora Colorado Hotel Fitzgerald’s Restaurant
Wholesome flavors and a classical ambience will remind you at first of regular hotel restaurants, but once you taste the food you’ll know it’s not the same. Chefs at Fitzgerald’s Restaurant & Pub go beyond the norm with their dedication to fresh and local ingredients served simply and appropriately for the chic, airy space. Seafood dishes, especially the fish entrees featuring only local catch, are the specialty of the house, which makes for an unexpected treat a mile above sea level in the middle of Colorado.
A welcome change against the idea that hotel restaurants have to be expensive to be good.
Embassy Suites Deerfield Illinois Hotel Gino’s East
Chicago is a food-lovers paradise brimming with world-famous staples like deep dish pizza, Chicago-style hotdogs, and Italian beef. This means that if a hotel is going to keep the guests on-site for dinner, they have to be more than delicious, they have to be smart. That’s where Gino’s East comes in.
Along with Uno Pizzeria, Gino’s is the most popular brand of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and this Deerfield hotel in Chicago’s north shore has one right on-site. Gino’s is in large part why Chicago’s deep dish is a thing of legend. Thick, buttery dough, an entire layer of sausage, cheese, herbs, additional toppings, and finally a sharp red sauce made with only vine-ripened tomatoes tops off the pie.
For serving up a genuine taste of Chicago without having to leave the hotel, Gino’s East is hotel dining done right.
Crowne Plaza Houston Hotel West Park Restaurant & Grill
Award-winning Executive Chef Frederick Brown has led the Park Restaurant & Grill to success by keeping it regional, tasty, and surprising. Unlike many hotel restaurants that could have featured the same menu back in 1982, Park Restaurant is always moving. A setting that simply oozes contemporary elegance sets the stage for zesty southwest-inspired dishes that are big on flavor but avoid the heaviness of traditional Tex-Mex.
If you stay for a weekend you’ll be in luck as two special presentations will be headed your way. On Friday nights, a fresh seafood buffet will take three of four passes minimum just to get a bite of everything. Then, before you head out Sunday morning, stop by a chic champagne brunch serving upscale twists on all your breakfast favorites.
Hilton Garden Inn Chicago Hotel / Magnificent Mile Weber Grill
This Chicago hotel doesn’t have the classic cuisine, so instead they’ve gone with a trusted name (and a helping of personality). Weber Grill, named for the successful line of home grilling apparatuses, serves a robust menu of sizzling favorites, but the best of the house is, of course, the grilled food. Perfectly-charred steaks, poultry cooked just to doneness, never dry, and even seafood comes off with the distinctive flavor that only a true Weber Grill can provide.
And they are true Weber Grills. The restaurant features an open kitchen, so you can look in anytime to see the clean, friendly cooks working on grills that you could own at your house. They don’t have the fancy paint job, but don’t let that bother you. This is summer grilling in Chicago everyday of the year. That’s hard to beat.
Embassy Suites Cincinnati Hotel / RiverCenter The Embassy Grill
Despite being the brand restaurant, meaning the default restaurant in every Embassy Suites property unless the hotel takes it upon itself to offer an individual choice, The Embassy Grill at the suites in Cincinnati stands out from the crowd. Named the “Best Room with a View” by Cincinnati Magazine, the Embassy Grill will impress you from first glance. Deep auburn woods and red glowing candles provide an attractive, intimate space, but the real star is the breathtaking view of the Cincinnati skyline across the Ohio River from the stunning north wall of bay windows.
The food is hardly standard either. The signature dish, a traditional Cajun gumbo, will slap your senses around the moment the plate hits the table, and it plays just as well across your tongue. Thanks to a constantly changing dessert menu, the experience is always fresh.
Hilton Glendale California Hotel Porter’s Steak House
Here’s a tip for spotting a great hotel restaurant: if you see as many locals as you do guests, chances are good it’s doing something right. Expectations are always higher in Los Angeles, and the Hilton Glendale has met them and more with Porter’s Steak House. Like Diazza Restaurant over in Denver, the crown jewel at Porter’s is the dry aged USDA Prime beef. In fact, Porter’s goes even further with a seasonal selection of American Kobe beef, the highest quality to which it can aspire.
Porter’s completes the excellent meal with a high-service atmosphere that’s never stuffy and a bustling wine cellar to match any boutique restaurant in Los Angeles. Take note that Porter’s is the hotel’s upscale offering so you can expect to pay a little more. A more casual restaurant is also on-site.
Of course this is just a small sample. As travelers become more and more savvy, along with the help of sites like TripAdvisor, hotels are starting to take their restaurants to task. The result is better food and value for the customer, and these are just a few of the hotel dining experiences that are leading the way. Don’t travel hungry any longer. Eat up!