Culture / Travel

Texas’ Coolest Hotel?

Oft-Dismissed City Suddenly Gets a Real Contender With New Trendsetter

BY // 01.26.16

As a San Antonio native, I’m thrilled the Alamo City is cooler than ever, thanks in part to the city’s most talked-about new establishment, Hotel Emma. During a recent visit, I peeked inside the hotel, located on the banks of the San Antonio River in the Pearl, a mixed-use district just north of downtown.

Housed in the 19th–century former Pearl Brewery, Hotel Emma packs history. It’s named for Emma Koehler, the wife of the brewery’s founder, Otto Koehler. (Emmi, as she was known, has quite the reputation. Not only did she kill a man, but she also ran the brewery as a rare female CEO when her husband died, in 1914.) Designed by New York-based design firm Roman and Williams (Highline Hotel, The Ace Hotel, Viceroy New York, Standard Highline, The Royalton), it’s a finely tuned fusion of historically rustic and modern aesthetics.

Larder, a grocery store housed in one of the former brewery’s fermenting cellars at the hotel, stocks everything from house-butchered meats to locally sourced bites, including Bakery Lorraine breads and pastries, Lick Honest ice cream, and HGD Foods jams, jellies, picked veggies, salsas and soups. Hotel Emma also his its own library, open to guests only, with 3,700 volumes from the collection of cultural historian Sherry Kafka Wagner. Two restaurants present a range of dining options: Supper, helmed by chef John Brand, is a farm-to-table bistro with a South Texas bent, while Sternewirth is the bar and clubroom, serving cocktails and small plates in a moody environment.

Not to be underestimated is Hotel Emma’s lobby, an opulent and industrious space where the old flywheel of a generator anchors the room, which features pattered concrete tile, vintage furniture, bespoke brass, bronze and glass-blown chandeliers, Sinker Cypress wood paneling, and partially exposed original brick walls.

Lavish amenities such as Frette linens, Electra bikes and a rooftop pool put a Hotel Emma staycation — perhaps in one of the 11 luxury suites — at the top of my to-do list.

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