The increase in popularity of boutique hotels and customized hotel dining experiences is good news for hotels in Texas looking to elevate their in-house dining experiences. Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, which represents more than 300 hotels and resorts globally, says the trend is about in-house production of unique, individualized and memorable experiences for guests. “This could be a small consumable item that is property- or event-specific, something a guest can take away with them and which can later transport them back for a few moments to re-experience the event,” Schugt says.
Central Standard; South Congress Hotel
The South Congress Hotel (SCH) encourages guests and corporate eventgoers to take their SCH experience home with them. From a $950 handmade Otoko Chef Knife from Austin-based Weige Knives, which sells in the lobby gift shop, to macarons by executive pastry chef Amanda Rockman, served in a pink coupe glass and hand-delivered to the guest’s room, the hotel works hard to create a distinct feel. The hotel, which was named to Travel & Leisure’s “It List 2016” and Condé Nast Traveler’s “2016 Hot List,” has received recognition from many national and international publications.
The private dining room at the hotel’s restaurant, Central Standard, can accommodate parties of up to 30 people, and can feature one of Central Standard’s custom chef’s menus, says Anders Osterberg, Central Standard’s general manager.
The private dining room offers views of bustling South Congress Avenue, and while the menus change seasonally, menu favorites include the 8-ounce filet and the grilled pork chop.
“Central Standard is centrally located along Austin’s iconic South Congress Avenue,” Osterberg says. “Guests have the ability to select their experience with custom menus by executive chef Casey Wilcox and executive pastry chef Amanda Rockman.”
Second Bar + Kitchen; Archer Hotel
Archer Hotel Austin opened in Domain NORTHSIDE, a 600,000-square-foot dining and retail complex, in August 2016. The eightstory hotel combines the creative and eclectic with a Hill Country and limestone vibe. The acclaimed Second Bar + Kitchen, headed by chef David Bull, is the perfect venue for groups and offers options for group dining, including the Terrace Suite, an outdoor terrace overlooking Domain NORTHSIDE or a takeover of the main dining room.
According to Pedro Perez, general manager, the rustic-luxe Terrace Suite with glass sliding walls that open to the outdoor Terrace, is a private dining room for seated dinners of up to 24 guests.
The SBK Terrace is a lovely alfresco space with a private bar, fire pit and the “buzzy” ambiance of Domain NORTHSIDE’s central lawn. This 2,500-square-foot space can accommodate cocktail receptions of up to 150 guests. Restaurant buyouts can accommodate 120 guests for a seated dinner.
“With acclaimed chef David Bull at the helm, groups can choose favorites from the ever-popular Second Bar + Kitchen menu or custom menus created by chef Bull and his culinary team,” Perez says. “We believe that cuisine is at the heart of every great gathering, and that it should complement the occasion. We have hosted a number of incredible dinners with menu items such as hamachi crudo, espresso rubbed rib eye, and even a southern charm menu including very traditional boiled peanuts.”
Perez adds that Archer Hotel provides Texas-chic style and the intimacy of a boutique hotel with value-adds that elevate any event. From an arrival gift of bottled Fiji water and Wyeth Pâtisserie’s hand-made salted caramels, to complimentary Wi-Fi and a nightly turndown service featuring a rotation of house-made and locally curated treats, there are many thoughtful touches that leave guests feeling like a VIP.
“Gone are the days of ‘catering’ menus. Chef Bull and his good friend Archer love to host, and insist on personalizing every detail,” Perez says.
Goodall’s Kitchen; Hotel Ella
This historic boutique hotel, located in downtown Austin and within walking distance to the University of Texas campus, is housed in the historic Goodall Wooten House, one of Austin’s original landmark estates.
With room for 300 guests, Hotel Ella is the only boutique hotel in downtown Austin with an event space, according to Shelby Shankin, event sales manager at Hotel Ella. “Unlike most, our 3,593-square-foot ballroom is a neutral canvas, ready to be transformed to suit your event, with large spaces and breakout rooms alike,” she says. Catering for events is provided exclusively by in-house restaurant Goodall’s Kitchen.
In addition, Goodall’s Kitchen is available for large parties as well as buy-outs. Groups can also host a semiprivate or private event in Hotel Ella’s Parlor Bar.
Goodall’s menu is seasonal, with favorites that include a Chicken Salad Tartine for lunch groups and the Tavern Steak or Half Chicken for dinner. Starter specialties range from warm marinated olives to crab fritters and redfish ceviche.
Jensen adds that for beverages, “the Goodall’s Blunderbuss and Old Fashioned are definitely some of the top favorite specialty cocktails. Our Veranda Tea is also quite popular.”
Radio Milano; Hotel Sorella
Located in the heart of Houston’s CITYCENTRE, the Hotel Sorella is just a few miles from the Energy Corridor and the Westchase District and sits in an area of high end retail, commercial buildings and luxury homes. The hotel restaurant, Radio Milano, is on the second floor and offers a semiprivate area that accommodates up to 50 guests depending on setup.
As far as an entertaining evening you have a one-stop shop in Hotel Sorella, beginning with the best priced Happy Hour in Houston with passionately executed craft speakeasy-style drinks, followed by chef-driven and seasonally inspired Italian cuisine and ending with a five-piece band and nightcaps in the Monnalisa bar,” says Maria Gonzalez, express social catering manager.
According to Gonzalez, menu highlights include the house-made burrata (a cream injected mozzarella and goat cheese) with fresh pesto (nutfree to accommodate allergies), cherry tomatoes and arugula with seasoned and grilled bread; the bucatini fra diavolo, a seafood-pasta medley akin to a cioppino with hand-made bucatini pasta; mussels; shrimp; clams and an outstanding 12-ounce rib eye sourced locally from 44 Farms, with crispy shallots, bone marrow sauce and fresh asparagus.
For cocktail enthusiasts, the Milano Bar on the ground floor is a Prohibition-era craft whiskey bar with an extensive selection of exclusive scotch, whiskey and agave spirits.
A favorite craft cocktail is Hold the Door, a sage-infused scotch cocktail in martini glass with vermouth, Cynar (which is an artichoke-based liqueur), Drambuie, and orange and rhubarb bitters. The final touch is a torched orange to sear the orange peel as it enters the glass.