Hip, Homey and Handsome: The Hoxton, Williamsburg, in New York City
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To The Point
The Hoxton, Williamsburg, is a natural fit for Brooklyn, delivering stylish digs, pleasant service and all sorts of positive vibes. Pros: chill location, comfortable and homey rooms, an outstanding restaurant and easy transit to Manhattan. Oh, and pet friendly! Cons: no on-site fitness center, limited room layouts and not spacious enough for families.
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After spending a few days in the world’s tallest modular hotel, I returned to New York looking forward to a much shorter Lyft ride from LaGuardia Airport. Situated on the east side of the East River, The Hoxton, Williamsburg, feels like it’s a million miles from the frenetic pace of Manhattan. As I found during my four-day stay, it’s a feeling I could get used to.
When I stayed, the hotel only handled bookings directly through its website — while you could find it listed at third-party sites such as Hotels.com, you couldn’t actually use those engines to book rooms. However, a quick search revealed that the property now seems to be bookable through Hotels.com. Had I been able, I would’ve used the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card for 10x miles back via Hotels.com Venture, which has provided a breath of fresh air when it comes to staying at non-points-earning properties. (Offer ends Jan. 31, 2020)
The Hoxton, Williamsburg, priced out to $303.58 per night, all taxes and fees included, for a four-night stay in early October. That’s pricey for Brooklyn, but par for the course for this level of hotel in New York City. While the Citi Prestige card is currently in limbo and unavailable for new applications, existing cardholders can save a bundle on a similar stay thanks to its fourth-night-free benefit.
I don’t have a Prestige card myself yet, which would’ve made my fourth night free. Instead, I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which earned me 3,648 Ultimate Rewards points, worth about $73 according to TPG’s current valuations.
This particularly property is special: It’s the first Hoxton hotel in all of North America, and the first built by the company from the ground up. It joins a pair of locations in London, one in Amsterdam and another in Paris. Los Angeles, Chicago and Portland, Oregon, are coming up next.
As mentioned above, $300 per night was on the high-end for boroughs outside of Manhattan, but it’s worth mentioning that it didn’t get much trendier in the greater NYC area than Williamsburg. From the Maker’s Mark street murals to the too-cool-for-school pressed juiceries with reclaimed hardwood floors, you didn’t have to struggle to feel hip here.
While business travelers planning to spend their daylight hours in Manhattan may brush aside a hotel like this, I’d encourage you to take a second look. The Hoxton, Williamsburg, was just a few minute’s walk from the L train. Once on board, the very next step had you in Manhattan.
It was even closer to East River State Park, a quiet sanctuary with truly epic views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. If you had a bit more time on your hands, you could board one of several ferries that picked up from the nearby pier. On a crisp, autumn day, there was hardly a better way to spend a few bucks (and hours) in New York City. There was also something magical about being close to Manhattan but not in Manhattan. Your collar just felt a little looser, breathing was a bit easier, your heart rate settled down just a bit. This hotel was positioned such that you were surrounded by big-city amenities but not burdened by big-city craziness.
“Hmm, am I in the right place? No matter. I’m just going to explore this beautiful oasis in front of me and figure out the whole room-key thing later.”
That’s basically the conversation I had with myself after being dropped at the doorstep of 97 Wythe Ave. in Brooklyn. I was ushered down two sets of gorgeous, wide, wooden steps, with an open kitchen directly ahead, a bar area to the right, a magical outdoor dining spot to the rear and a come-on-over-and-plop-right-here-weary-traveler lobby to the left. Oh, and a small coffeeshop too.
I had to walk clear past that epic lobby area to finally spot a few iMacs with smiling faces behind them.
“Checking in?” I was asked.
Indeed, indeed. In my discussion with the folks behind the check-in counter, I learned that all Hoxton hotels were designed in the same manner.
“We don’t want the first thing you see to be computers and printers. We want it to feel like home when you arrive. It’s your home, and it’s important that we’re here in the background.”
You really only need to visit the check-in counter twice during your entire stay, and yet, at most hotels, you’re subjected to seeing it each time you come and go. Kind of a perpetual reminder that at some point, entirely too soon, you’ll actually have to pay for this incredible experience. I loved this attempt to eliminate that.
In any case, the staff had no issues finding my prepaid reservation, and they put me near the top of the hotel on the eighth floor. I paid for a room with a view of Brooklyn, $30 more per night than a room with a less-killer view and $30 less per night than a room with a view of Manhattan.
There were 175 rooms to choose from here, divided up by four room categories: Cosy, Cosy Brooklyn View, Cosy Manhattan View and Roomy.
I paid for and stayed in the Cosy Brooklyn View room, which actually felt quite spacious coming from a 150-square-foot capsule the week prior. It’s worth noting that none of these rooms were suitable for families. Even the Roomy room was designed for two people and a pet, at most.
Even the commute from the check-in desk to Room 806 was memorable. The hallway was adorned with achingly cool artwork, and the carpet strip sitting betwixt hardwood planks served as the perfect walkway to a quintessentially Brooklyn hotel room. It was what the San Francisco Proper Hotel longs to be: rustic, hip and quietly luxurious without being overwhelming.
The king bed was a real treat. While I wish it had a basic sheet in addition to the fluffy comforter, I countered this by chilling the room to around 68 degrees each evening. Beyond that, it was stupendously comfortable, and the five massive pillows were an utter joy.
The vintage-style phone concealed its high-tech nature; Hoxton allowed you to make calls to practically anywhere in the world for an hour a day at no additional charge.
While the room was indeed cozy, space was well-used. The flat-screen TV is mounted nearly flush with the wall, and the work desk folded down. Hoxton’s guide to the neighborhood proved to be the most useful, well-designed hotel guide I’ve seen to date.
A pair of coffee mugs was hidden alongside several teas and coffees. Both were superbly enjoyable and refreshed daily for no additional fee. Behind the desk sat an open wardrobe and a small refrigerator. Each day, two fresh waters and a carton of whole milk appeared (it’s a Hoxton staple). Two chilled glasses waited in the fridge.
The Hoxton got the little things right, too: plenty of mirrors for getting ready, thick and aromatic bath towels, an iron and ironing board with a simple phone call to reception, copious and accessible power outlets and dimmable room lighting that actually worked.
Also included was a unique twist on breakfast. Each evening you were encouraged to check two boxes on a small paper bag for the number of people at time of morning you wanted breakfast, then hang it outside your door. Magically, that same bag was loaded with fresh orange juice, bananas and overnight oats.
There was a hint of steampunk in the bathroom and a wonderfully tall rainfall shower head.
Thankfully, bar soap was included, as were liquid shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. The two knocks on the shower? There was no nook to put anything — your razor, shaving cream and rubber ducky had to sit on the floor — and I found it impossible to prevent water from creeping out onto the bathroom floor.
Then there was the view. I peered over Brooklyn during my stay, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The floor-to-ceiling window approach is commendable, and the grandiose view made the room feel larger than it actually was. One window could even be opened about 6 inches to let fresh air in.
Can a hotel room be designed to make its inhabitant somehow feel cooler, hipper, more confident as they leave to take on the city? Yes, and I found it right here.
Food and Beverage
There were three restaurants at the hotel, in addition to the coffeeshop in the lobby and the snacks for sale behind the check-in desk.
Klein’s was the real-deal eatery, serving up American classics from day till night. I swung by one evening for dinner and enjoyed a scrumptious swordfish entree ($28) alongside steamed broccoli ($8). Both were prepared to perfection, and every last morsel was enjoyed.
I couldn’t leave without capping off the evening. Not with a cocktail, mind you, but with the cheesecake sundae ($13). Yes, a cheesecake sundae! It was rattling around in my skull from the moment I noticed it on the menu, and it was every bit the dessert that dreams are made of. The waiter actually chuckled when I ordered it, as if to confirm that I was about to have the time of my life. He wasn’t wrong.
The Backyard, described as “a chill outdoor terrace,” was where guests or passersby could enjoy grab-and-go food and sit-your-fanny-right-here cocktails. Atop the hotel was the crown jewel, Summerly. The rooftop bar offered excellent views of both Manhattan and Brooklyn, serving mostly drinks with a bit of grub.
Prices across the board felt a bit high, but there was definitely a premium to be paid for the views and the vibe. Each member of the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and despite having only been open for around a month when I arrived, everything seemed to operate like a well-oiled machine.
The Hoxton did an excellent job of integrating itself into local events, and there was no shortage of them during my stay.
It also created an incredible communal space in the lobby that you could work all day at without feeling cramped or judged. The free Wi-Fi offered a consistent 10 Mbps up and down across all of my devices, plenty for FaceTime calls and Netflix streaming.
There was no fitness center or pool. The hotel partnered with a nearby gym to offer guests day passes for $15. That was a hefty fee, but one of the only fees I encountered here. The hotel did keep a few bicycles on hand, free to check out.
The included bagged breakfast was quite satisfactory for me, and I didn’t miss the usual overpriced hotel minibar.
Another unique Hoxton feature was that if you wished to check out late, you could pay $10 per hour to extend it from noon up to 3pm.
Pets were welcome. Each room was allowed one dog, up to 40 pounds, for a $25 nightly surcharge. In fact, The Hoxton had one of the more cleverly designed pet welcome pages. I’ll just leave this here for your perusal and enjoyment.
I phoned up no fewer than three friends back home while staying at The Hoxton, and excitedly told them that they simply had to check this place out. I later learned that outrageously cheap introductory fares were being offered for the recently opened Portland location, which of course I forwarded along to those same folks.
There’s a lot right with this hotel, from the lobby to the restaurant mix to the impeccable attention to detail in room design. It almost feels like Brooklyn evolved around it, rather than the other way around. There’s a fine line between building a hotel that respects its home ‘hood and one that screams “trying too hard,” and this place tiptoes that line with aplomb.
Personnel were cheery and knowledgable about the area, the food was memorable in all the right ways, and my dreams were sweet. Even as a business traveler, I found myself thinking that I’d love to return. Being just one L train stop away from Manhattan meant that commuting wasn’t a chore, and I thoroughly enjoyed Williamsburg as a neighborhood.
Beyond the lack of a fitness center, it’s hard to knock this property. It sort of feels like what Kimpton probably felt like before it became big enough to be an acquisition target, and that’s an a-OK place to be.
All images by the author.
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