There is a first time for everything they say, and this was my first time to downtown San Diego. I had been to La Jolla before, a very short drive north, but I had never stepped foot into the downtown area. I have no good reason why, other than I spend the bulk of my time on the east coast, and as I am sure many first time visitors to this city say, I will definitely be back sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately though, before any of those good experiences could start, I received a warm welcome from Southern California traffic. A sea of brake lights snaked on for miles ahead of me, having a complete lack of disregard that I hadn’t had a good meal since breakfast. For about an hour longer than I should have, I sat here pondering the things that people ponder when they have no other choice but to ponder. That may be the beginning of a poem, but I’m not ready for a career change yet.
When I finally broke free, it was an easy drive into downtown and to our hotel for the night, Hotel Palomar. One of the few actual brands that Kimpton has built for itself, there are several of these hotels around the country and we have stayed in them before. While each retains a boutique feel reminiscent of their location, you know that you are probably going to receive the best of the best Kimpton has to offer when you stay at a Hotel Palomar versus one of their independent hotels.
Valet service was prompt as usual and one of the highlights of staying here are the doors into both the restaurant and the hotel lobby. I won’t spoil the surprise, and I purposefully didn’t include a picture, so let’s just say they are a little bigger than you might expect. Once inside you head straight back to the check-in area which, to be quite honest, feels a little small. Two counters are angled in a V shape that leaves less room to stand in then you are accustomed to at a standard hotel. Not an issue for us, but we could see this becoming a problem during the peak arrival hours for the hotel.
We were greeted by friendly staff and one who let my daughter choose a small toy as a gift. She is 11 years old and many of the toys were for much younger kids, but that didn’t matter. He was upfront about this, even pointed out his favorite toy and for us it was the thought that counts. It was busy that night so we didn’t have a chance to secure an upgrade for our Inner Circle status, but that’s perfectly fine with us. We were headed down to dinner anyways and only intended on sleeping in the room this time.
Our luggage had been left in the car until later but we did want to make sure the room was ok before we ate dinner. It was surprisingly larger than we expected, especially since they claimed to not have an upgrade available. Certainly not a suite, but the entrance hallway was long and the bathroom was huge with a walk-in shower and plenty of space. The bedroom area had an angled view of the city, two queen beds, a desk and flat panel television. There was a closet to one side and the mini bar items on a smaller shelf.
Down to the eat we went though, at Saltbox, the Kimpton managed restaurant attached directly to the hotel. Little did I know that this would only be the first night of two that we would spend dining in Saltbox as my wife, Kandi, would fall in love with the Short Rib Poutine. Needless to say, we recommend you give it a try. My entree was the Double Cut Pork Chop which was delicious but left me wanting more. It wasn’t a small plate, it just didn’t have all the extra greens and sides that normally make me full at a Kimpton restaurant. For my local beer I enjoyed the Mother Earth Honcho Hefe and for dessert I had the Strawberry Rhubarb Galette.
Normally we offer up a few more details but there really isn’t much else to the story. We arrived fairly late and really only had time for an excellent dinner and a few hours to relax in the room before retiring for the evening. We had plans to explore Balboa Park the next day and we wanted to get an early start. I did receive a welcome amenity for being an Inner Circle member that consisted of a few local beers that I saved for later. For those who don’t know, San Diego really loves their craft brewing and the choices are almost endless.
Overall we were satisfied with our stay at the Hotel Palomar. Like any major city, our only real complaint might be the cost of valet parking. Coming in at $42 dollars a night, it was on par with Washington DC but not quite as expensive at New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Will we need valet when we all have self-driving cars? A loaded question for another day. Until then we will plan a return visit here one day, not just for the amazing city of San Diego, but for the food and service at another great Kimpton hotel.
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