Sleek, urban, and obsessed with cherry red, the Keating Hotel was designed by Pininfarina, the Italian car design company behind Maserati and Ferrari. The Romanesque Revival building dates to 1890 and still boasts original features like brick walls and carved wood banisters, but the luxury boutique hotel itself is spare, ultra-contemporary, and very Italian. The decor throughout pays homage to the high-end sports car, from the top-to-bottom red lobby to the painted concrete floors and stainless bathroom fixtures in the guestrooms. The Keating doesn’t have a restaurant or bar -- or a fitness center for that matter -- but it’s in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, which is home to more than 100 restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, along with boutiques and gyms. If you’re staying here, it’s for the design-centric digs, not the amenities.
Don’t let The Keating take you for a ride on parking, which costs $49 per night. There are nearby garages that are much cheaper.
Picture the poshest auto shop you can imagine and it might look something like the Keating’s guest rooms, which feature painted concrete floors, stainless steel fixtures, and under-bed drawers that could be from a work cart. The hotel’s standard “Stanza” rooms are on the small and ho-hum side, but they feature upscale touches like Bluetooth-ready Bang & Olufsen sound systems, Lavazza espresso machines, and Frette linens. The entry-level Stanza rooms feature interior atrium views, while the deluxe Stanzas have Gaslamp views. If you’re going to stay at the Keating, you should spring for one of the hotel’s unique suites, which up the ante with striking features like sculptural red furniture or a one-of-a-kind Alpha Morphosis Jacuzzi by Pininfarina. The hotel’s chic Victory Suite was designed by none other than Michelin celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who handpicked the decor for the loft-like urban space with city skyline views.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Bring earplugs. The hotel’s tall single-pane windows are no match for the boisterous Gaslamp Quarter, especially on weekends when the bars get out.
In the bathrooms, the Keating’s contemporary style feels cold, with stainless steel sink counters, stark lighting, and toiletries in test tubes, though high-end Dornbracht fixtures are a luxe touch. With semi-opaque glass enclosures, the walk-in showers are not for the modest.
The hotel’s eye-catching lobby is meant to resemble an exclusive auto showroom, with polished red floors and walls and stainless steel check-in counters and wainscoting-like wall panels. Vintage black-and-white photos of the building complement black and chrome chairs.
Guests can arrange for in-room massage services. The hotel’s Fresca Spa Suite features a private outdoor atrium with a whirlpool and steam shower, if you’re looking for a serene experience.
Much of San Diego is best explored by car, but staying in the Gaslamp Quarter makes public transit a viable option, depending on your itinerary. The Convention Center Trolley Station is a 10-minute walk from the hotel; the trolley’s Green Line services the Gaslamp Quarter, the Santa Fe Depot (home to Amtrak and the Coaster, which services coastal communities to the north), Little Italy, Old Town, and the world-class Fashion Valley shopping center. Interstate 5 (known to locals as “The 5”), a major north-south freeway, is about a mile from the hotel; I-5 connects to other highways that cover the sprawling region. Park Boulevard, a few blocks away (take Seventh Avenue north, then east on A Street), heads north through scenic Balboa Park to the happening Hillcrest neighborhood.
Step outside the hotel and you have endless options for dining, from the casual to the classy, plus a lot of chains. Brian’s 24 (2-minute walk), “the restaurant that never sleeps,” serves 24/7 breakfast, along with lunch, dinner, and booze. The surprisingly classy spot features a copper-clad open kitchen, beveled glass windows, a crystal chandelier, and a mahogany bar with an interesting backstory. The handsome wood counter and backboard once belonged to Joan Crawford and have graced many bars since; you can still see the gouges from when Crawford danced on the bar in stilettos. The flagship location of Searsucker (3-minute walk), now a small chain from local celebrity chef and “Top Chef” alum Brian Malarkey, features brick walls, eclectic decor, New American cuisine, and a lively scene.
At the nearby Andaz Hotel, the Rooftop by STK has a clubby vibe at night, with music and big weekend crowds, as well as weekend pool parties with DJs. There’s also a happy hour from 5 to 8pm every day except Saturday. Prohibition (5-minute walk) is a speakeasy-style bar that makes you work for it: Look for the door to Eddie O’Hare’s Law Office and the bar will flip a light switch to let you in. It’s a unique spot to enjoy cocktails and the occasional live jazz performance.
WHY WE LIKE IT
There’s nothing quite like The Keating in San Diego -- or maybe anywhere. The minimalist boutique hotel pays homage to sexy, high-end Italian cars with interiors that call to mind a cherry-red Ferrari. Though amenities are lacking, Italophiles and the contemporary design-obsessed will appreciate the Keating’s thoroughly unique style.