By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 23, 2010; F02
On the Jersey Shore's Long Beach Island, there's a theme to the lodgings, obvious in name if not in decor: Sea Spray Motel, Spray Beach Inn, Sea Horse Motel, Ocean Breeze Inn, Mariner Motel, Coral Seas Oceanfront Motel, Drifting Sands Oceanfront Motel, Islander Motel, Haven Beach Motel and, for those with parrots on their shoulders, the Jolly Roger Motel. One property, however, stands out from this sea-salt-encrusted crowd: Daddy O, a swanky hotel with sand-in-the-city appeal.
"We have a New York mentality, and this is more like a New York-style boutique hotel," said New Yorker Amy Goldman, who recently visited with a friend to celebrate her birthday. "We'd love to come back here with 22 couples, if we knew 22 couples, and take over the place. Have a big party. Sammy Davis Jr. Ring-a-ding-ding."
The 22-room property opened in 2006 in the vacated shell of a sagging hotel dating from the 1940s. The owners of Daddy O, whose portfolio includes restaurants in Philly and Jersey and a hotel in Miami, wanted to add about 20 years to the decor and atmosphere, creating a time capsule of Rat Pack by Design. Assuming, of course, that Ol' Blue Eyes slept on faux fur pillows and Dean Martin dined on filet mignon while wrapped in a red suede booth.
To be honest, the name stumped me at first. I assumed that it was a reference to surfer slang. But then it should've been called Duuude. Or maybe it was beatnik, Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti , snappity-snap-snap to the iambic pentameter. Yet the consistent hum in the restaurant, the bar and the lobby was less spoken word than Manhattan club elevator music. Finally, I stopped trying to squeeze the hotel into a genre and accepted its consummate hipness.
"We're taking old and meeting it with new," said general manager Peter Palladino. "It's a cool retro place modeled after the W."
In the hallway, for example, the wallpaper sparkles like one of the Supremes' stage costumes, or last night's cloudless evening sky. In my room, an artist's palette of desert shades, I sank into the bed's crisp white sheets, a minklike throw at my feet, furry pillows cushioning my head. At the edge of my vision, I saw a bottle of red wine and two stemmed glasses suspended near the night table, a cocktail party within arm's reach. The only nod to the ocean were two framed photographs of surfers. To get into a full beach frame of mind, I had to trick my ear into thinking that the drone of traffic beneath my window was really the surge of the tide.
Outside the hotel, of course, you can peer down the street and see the sand dune that marks the entry to the beach. And on the third-floor sun deck (or moon deck, if you visit after dark), I glimpsed cutouts of the ocean over the low rooftops. The hotel also supplies guests with complimentary beach chairs, towels and tags (otherwise, you have to pay), as well as outdoor showers and changing rooms.
When the suntanning hour is over, the guests clean up -- trade flip-flops for heels, T-shirts for button-downs. "People tend to get dressed up. It's not like you're at Joe Pop's Shore Bar, with shorts and tank tops," said bartender Tony Liquori, referring to a local watering hole. "Everyone here drinks martinis."
In the busy summer months, Daddy O holds happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., tempting with $3 beer and house wine and $5 specialty cocktails, including the O cocktail (fruit juices and rum). Over Memorial Day weekend, the hotel hopes to open a tiki bar in its open-air lounge out back, and in mid-June plans to unveil expanded bar and dining space to accommodate revelers who are often packed in three deep. "It gets stale having the same thing for too long," said assistant manager Craig Weiler, aware of how quickly a "now" spot can become a "then."
Considering the competition, I highly doubted that a boutique hotel steps from the beach with Sinatra panache and cheap cocktails would lose its au courantness. "They're not," agreed Nancy Fisher of the birthday party of two, "the Sea Horse Motel."