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When Emma Koehler set out to take over her husband’s brewery during the prohibition era, the odds weren’t exactly in her favor. Many people outside of San Antonio have likely never heard of Emma Koehler, but today, the former brewhouse is now home to a hotel that both bears her name at Hotel Emma at Pearl but serves as a beacon for travelers and foodies.
“Hotels are no longer just for tourists, but a true gathering place for everyone,” CEO and General Manager at Hotel Emma at Pearl Bill Petrella told Fodor’s. “While the definition of luxury has changed, travelers are seeking new, fresh and authentic experiences and are interested in learning about the local culture and getting a feel for the cuisine, people and sense of place.”
Symbolic of how hotels around the country are having to reinvent themselves in the face of the ongoing pandemic, Hotel Emma, which is at the crux of the historic Pearl district along the riverbank of San Antonio, Texas, considers food to be paramount to the guest experience.
Now, perhaps more than ever, hotel restaurants have been attracting extraordinary talent and celebrity chefs eager to put their stamp on things. And while there’s no shortage of incredible hotel restaurants around the country, from dining by candlelight in the nave of a converted Gothic church turned destination hotel restaurant in New Orleans to an experiential tasting menu at Zero George in Charleston and an all-inclusive ranch in Wyoming, these 11 hotel restaurants are destinations well worth planning your culinary vacation around this year.
The Garden Room at Mayflower Inn & Spa
WHERE: Washington, Connecticut
Two hours outside of New York City, Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection is located in the bucolic hamlet of Washington, Connecticut, and has been a beacon for foodies ever since this chic country retreat launched their chef-in-residence program in 2020.
At present, the chef-in-residence is none other than two-Michelin starred-chef April Bloomfield of New York City’s Spotted Pig and The Breslin fame.
Bloomfield has created a special menu in the hotel’s main restaurant, The Garden Room that celebrates the “elegant rusticity” inspired in part by the surrounding gardens on the 58-acre property.
Among a few of the standout dishes on offer here are the Hamachi crudo with fermented chili and avocado and confit Jerusalem artichoke followed by the smoked and roasted heritage pork loin. For dessert, the chef has curated a menu of “pudding” based desserts like sticky toffee pudding and a burnt lemon and lime tart.
After dinner, guests are invited to head over to the hotel’s British pub-inspired resto-tavern called Tap Room to partake in the new Field and Farm Cocktail Class, led by the Mayflower’s expert bartenders.
Market Steer Steakhouse, Hotel St. Francis
WHERE: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Named for the town’s patron Saint Francis, while Market Steer is located on the ground floor of the hotel, the restaurant is independently owned by Chef Kathleen Crook and offers diners an intimate al fresco dining experience not to be missed.
Serving up a seasonally inspired mix of southern-style meets steakhouse classics from a drool-worthy bacon flight and branding onion rings to all the prime cuts and chops you could hope for.
New and noteworthy summer menu items right now include a few nods to chef Crook’s New Mexican roots and include a pan-roasted halibut that’s served over southern style black-eyed peas, habanero corn reduction, and fried okra or the Moroccan spaghetti and lamb meatballs served with piñon nuts, herbed yogurt, cherry and chilé gastrique for the win.
INSIDER TIPAbsolutely do not miss any of the homemade sauces which can be ordered a la carte, or the sauce flight for a little taste of everything. And please, for the love of pommes frites, pair them with the truffle fries.
Earth at Hidden Pond Resort
WHERE: Kennebunkport, Maine
Tucked away among birch and balsam trees in Kennebunkport, Maine, Earth at Hidden Pond Resort offers guests a fresh take on “farm-to-fork” dining in a fairy-tale setting to boot.
With two onsite organic gardens and a tasting menu that changes daily, Executive Chef Joe Schafer’s handmade pastas, house-made charcuterie, and wood-oven-fired entrees are among a few menu highlights, followed by homemade doughnuts with sassafras, sarsaparilla glaze, and fresh churned vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Ingredients here are sourced from one of two on-site organic gardens and are incorporated into each dish. For oenophiles, the wine program features selections from countries ranging from Argentina to Lebanon, and signature cocktails are concocted with freshly muddled fruits and fresh herbs plucked straight from the garden.
Campo at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm
WHERE: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Surrounded by herb gardens, fruit trees, and lavender fields, Campo at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm features a field-to-fork menu that showcases a seasonal menu indigenous to the southwest.
Located just outside of Albuquerque along the Rio Grande River Valley in New Mexico, this ethereal 25-acre property offers a menu that is not only rooted in seasonal organic ingredients plucked from the farm as well as provisions sourced from local farmers and ranchers.
Menu items not to be missed here are Campo’s handmade pastas, which are a true labor of love, along with a pre-or post-dinner cocktail that includes lavender simple syrup sourced straight from their own backyard.
The ethos at Campo, which means field in Spanish, reflects the property’s dedication to organic farming both on the Los Poblanos farm fields and within the local foodshed.
For diners looking for something extra special, there’s a chef’s tasting and sommelier-guided wine pairing dinner that is available and can be requested in advance.
WHERE: Barnard, Vermont
Cell reception may be limited here, but nestled on 300-acres of forest and farmland in Southern Vermont, Twin Farms is an all-inclusive destination worth sacrificing some screen-time for.
While it’s easy to be swept away by the bucolic landscapes and charming design details found in every nook and cranny of this remote adults-only retreat, food is very much at the forefront of the experience.
Included in the nightly rate, dining here is only available to guests of the hotel and there’s certainly no shortage of options and activities to choose from, including the chance to dine on a private mountain-top via a converted ski chalet called Lift Shack. A brand-new offering at the resort, the former ski chalet has been completely transformed into a unique design-forward dining room with a drop-down table held up by ski poles and one of the best views in town.
For something a little more down to earth, from a ‘progressive farm lunch’ experience that includes a private culinary walk around the property to a New England style picnic and BBQ complete with lobster and tomahawk steaks to your own to a private wine cellar and chefs table, there’s a little something for everyone here to enjoy.
The Elysian Bar
WHERE: New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a food lover’s paradise and set in the former rectory of what is now Hotel Peter & Paul, The Elysian Bar is one of the most unique dining experiences you’re likely to find in the Crescent City.
Located in the Marigny district which is known for its eclectic mix of boozy bistros, bars, and jazz clubs that line nearby Frenchman Street, the hotel and restaurant were transformed in 2018 into a sanctuary for those who are looking to have a religious dining experience (minus the actual religion, of course).
Elysian’s Chef Jonathan Klaskala leads the kitchen here and serves up seasonal Southern-style cuisine with a European influence. Among a few of the standout dishes that are not to be missed is Elysian’s locally sourced whole gulf shrimp which come roasted in the shell and are served in Calabrian chili butter and topped with bottarga breadcrumbs.
Dishes here are paired with a domestic wine list and a menu of apertivos and classic cocktails that are best served alongside the nightly musical performances as part of the restaurant’s masterfully curated music program.
Zero Restaurant + Bar at Zero George Hotel
WHERE: Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston’s food scene needs no introduction, but for something truly extraordinary, Zero Restaurant + Bar at Zero George Street hotel offers an inventive tasting menu unlike anything you’ll find in the Holy City.
Once you make your way through the courtyard you’ll have the option to sit on the garden patio, formal dining room, or upstairs terrace, each of which offers its own unique ambiance. (Pro tip: table 65 on the patio is considered to be the best table in town).
Chef Vinson Petrillo’s tasting menu focuses on hyper-seasonal fare that not only changes daily but includes herbs and vegetables straight from the restaurant’s garden all of which are served up as edible pieces of art.
While diners don’t have to be guests of the hotel to enjoy the cuisine at Zero Restaurant, a stay at this exquisite 16-key boutique is a great way to experience historic Charleston and all that it has to offer. And set just across from Zero George hotel’s lush and tranquil courtyards, the newly opened Residences at Zero George feature five luxuriously appointed suites that include sitting areas and kitchens outfitted by Le Creuset.
Recently, the hotel and restaurant launched a new partnership with Krug Champagne that includes a year–round calendar of events with the iconic champagne house from a monthly wine seminar and guest sommelier dinner series.
Cheyenne Club at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch
WHERE: Saratoga, Wyoming
Set on 30,000-acres of a working cattle ranch in southern Wyoming, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch offers an immersive culinary experience that is nothing short of phenomenal.
At the heart of this all-inclusive retreat, Cheyenne Club offers chef-driven tasting menus with standout dishes that include Ranch-raised Wagyu beef and produce from the on-site greenhouse as well as more than 500-varietals of wine in the on-site Wine Cellar.
Opened in 2019, some of the most unique offerings at Brush Creek this summer are the herd of goats and baby goat experiences for guests at The Farm.
There’s also an on-site Medicine Bow Creamery and Brush Creek Distillery. Whatever you do, don’t miss the charred bourbon ice cream which uses both Distillery bourbon and goat milk which are both highlights on the dessert menu.
The Restaurant at The Inn at Little Washington
WHERE: Washington, Virginia
Home to what has long been considered one of America’s best hotel restaurants, The Restaurant at The Inn at Little Washington continues to live up to its accolades as a three-Michelin starred AAA 5-Diamond country house retreat, with a lofty price tag to match.
Helmed by critically acclaimed chef and Washington, D.C., local Patrick O’Connell, The Restaurant’s tasting menu offers diners a memorable culinary journey of classical French meets American cuisine.
From the foie gras confit and prosciutto-wrapped veal tenderloin, each dish is as sumptuous as the very dining room in which you’ll experience them.
For those who’re looking to indulge in dinner and show, you can now book The Kitchen Table which is available seven nights a week and can accommodate up to six guests at a time.
Oenophiles will love to get a sneak peek inside the wine cellar which is comprised of more than 14,000 bottles from Bordeaux and Burgundy to California and Virginia.
Hotel Emma at Pearl
WHERE: San Antonio, Texas
Set in a former 19th-century brewhouse on the riverbanks of San Antonio, today Hotel Emma at Pearl has been reborn into a charming 146-room hotel with a culinary concierge at the ready.
The hotel, which is at the nexus of Pearl’s burgeoning culinary district that’s home to more than 23 independently owned restaurants, is also directly next door to the Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) third campus, and the hotel is now offering guests a robust calendar of culinary-driven events perfect for food lovers.
With three on-site restaurants including an American eatery and local hotspot, Supper, Hotel Emma has also hired a full-time Culinary Concierge who will not only call guests in advance of their arrival to map out their culinary itinerary, but will also provide guests with intimate access to local chef-led dinners either in your own private suite or the best under the radar pop-up dinners in town.
Octagon, Montage Palmetto Bluff
WHERE: Bluffton, South Carolina
Nestled between Savannah and Hilton Head Island in the South Carolina low-country, Montage Palmetto Bluff is the resort of choice for both locals and foodies alike.
Lately, Palmetto Bluff’s Executive chef Nathan Beriau has taken a liking to vegetarian and vegan-forward dishes that showcase the seasonality of South Carolina ingredients, so while the menu aims to strike a balance and does offer non-vegetarian items, menu favorites tend to gravitate towards those preferences.
With an array of dining outlets to choose from on property, the real star of the show at Palmetto is Octagon, which just launched a brand-new dining experience called The Chef’s Journey.
Only offered once a month, the intimate dining experience is limited to 10 people at a time and leans into new foods that aim to both delight and surprise diners while offering something completely unexpected. The dinner theme, along with the number of courses, and a link to RSVP are all released on the resort’s Instagram stories one week prior to the dinner, and details of the menu itself remain a mystery until guests begin the journey with the chefs.
The property also offers a nightly s’mores cart where guests can DIY their desserts and hang by fire-pits, as well as a Bourbon Wagon that offers a full bar of bourbons and tastings to choose from. Soon the hotel will be launching a wood-fired pizza truck and a moped-style dessert cart that will serve their signature Melt ice cream on the go.