A wonderful hotel experience

A quick stay at Hotel Drisco in San Francisco

Last week I found myself speaking in San Francisco at SmashingConf.

Based on a recurring recommendation, I ended up staying relatively nearby at a small neighborhood hotel called Hotel Drisco. I’d never stayed there before, and I’d never visited the Pacific Heights neighborhood before either. What a lovely area.

When I walked in the place felt historic and cozy. Wood paneled walls, classic human scale lobby, some comfortable creaks in the floor, and a wonderfully polite but never in your face staff. They understood the art of service.

I checked in. They happened to have a suite available with nicer views, so I paid a little extra and took it.

I get to the room. First thing I notice is that the windows are cracked open a bit. It’s a lovely warm spring day — I’m sure it was intentional. A gentle cross-breeze whispering welcome. It’s the kind of thing I’d do at home if the weather was nice outside.

There are some booklets on the table. I pop one open and turn to this page:

6 bottles of complimentary water. Now… When you’re a paying few hundred bucks for a room you might expect free water, but as anyone who’s stayed in a hotel lately knows, there’s plenty of bottled water around but it usually wears a $5 or $7 price tag. So a hotel that doesn’t play games and try to nickel and dime you on water feels like a very special place indeed. And not just a bottle or two, but six, and they’re placed conveniently in a few different areas so one is always near by. Thoughtful.

And here’s the fruit place they promised:

I finished it.

I paid roughly the same room rate at a Marriott recently, and there wasn’t any fruit unless I wanted to order the $15 fruit plate from room service. And they were also happy to sell me bottled water at $5/pop, too:

For my convenience, the Marriott provides a bottle of water in my room, but they make it clear on the next line that it’s really there for their profit.

The room at the Drisco was nice and traditional, what you’d expect in a classic, neighborhood, boutique hotel. It was at peace being itself. Clean, solid traditional furniture. The kind of real furniture that handles age well, not the kind of imitation candy coated looks-good-the-the-first-year-but-then-starts-to-peel-and-crack stuff you find in a lot of hotels these days. The bed was comfortable and the sheets and towels were plentiful and quality. Everything I could want, nothing overboard, but also nothing contrived or precious. Just a perfectly comfortable and comforting hotel room.

I ordered a sandwich for lunch the next day and the room service prices were perfectly reasonable. $6 or so for a sandwich, if I recall. Totally fair. Never once did I feel gouged at Hotel Drisco. Very different feeling that I’m used to staying at larger hotels — or even many smaller boutique hotels.

I had a good night’s sleep. The next morning it was time to go. How do most hotels say goodbye? With a bill slipped under your door.

The Drisco didn’t slip a bill. Instead they left a little bag on the door handle.

We know you’re leaving, so here’s a few things that might help. A TSA-approved bag, a microfiber cloth to clean glasses or electronics, and some mints. Probably cost the hotel a buck or two max. Absolutely worth it.

Now, ultimately these are small things, but they didn’t feel small to me. A fresh breeze, some complimentary bottled water, an apple, pear, some grapes, a banana and a kiwi, and a little bag of extras on the way out. Surely less than $7 overall to the hotel. Of course it had nothing to do with the value of these things, it had all to do with the thought. Such a contrast from the typical hotel experience.

I was left with this impression: The Drisco was on my side. And when you’re a tired traveler, having a hotel feel like it’s there for you, rather than you feel like you’re doing it a favor by staying there, is a really welcome feeling. I recommend this place whole-heartedly.