Bed Check: Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, a place for Poor Richard and lucky me

Art fills the public areas of the Hotel Palomar in Philadelphia.
Art fills the public areas of the Hotel Palomar in Philadelphia. (David Phelps)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Hotel Palomar had me at the chartreuse Ben Franklin.

That would be the lime-colored pop art bust of the Founding Father that rested on a pedestal beside the check-in desk. (There was a pink one and a blue one, too.)

The last time I'd visited Philadelphia, I'd stayed at the no-frills Club Quarters. I wish I'd known then that just around the corner, for almost the same price, I could have stayed at the Palomar, a 230-room hotel that's the Kimpton chain's first foray into the City of Brotherly Love.

I felt at home in the Palomar right away. Maybe because the lobby is designed to look like a living room, with a tan velvet semicircular sofa with blue pillows next to the fireplace. Wine and snacks are served there in the evening, coffee and tea in the morning.

Along the way to my room, I admired the modern art collection (I guess the ceramic roller skates on a table near an elevator are part of it). The hotel is in the art deco Architects Building, so the developers clearly paid attention to design and decor. They also made the hotel eco-friendly, earning it LEED certification.

My room had a long hallway, creating the illusion of more space. And an illusion it was. Still, the room was much bigger than my Club Quarters room had been, and much more fabulous. There was an upholstered lavender headboard set off with ornamental leather straps. The Frette linens were white, but a black throw with neon green geometric shapes made the bed pop. The bathroom was simple, with white marble sink tops, but its lilac walls added zing. The bath products were L'Occitane. Classy. In the closet hung two bathrobes: one zebra print, one leopard. Not classy, but fun.

There were other amenities. You could fill out a card to have the hotel print out your airplane boarding pass. You could order a goldfish in a bowl if you were feeling lonely. And if you were traveling with a pet, that would be okay, because the hotel is pet-friendly.

For dinner, I decided to try Square 1682, the hotel restaurant. I took the elevator down to the second floor, where I was deposited in a long, dark hallway. It took me a while to spot the door leading to the restaurant's second-floor dining room. There was no host in sight, so I went downstairs, but I couldn't find a host there, either. The bartender told me to sit anywhere in the lounge, so I grabbed a cushioned seat with a small table.

I liked the dimly lit, intimate decor. And my salad of beets, endive and frisee with duck prosciutto, a poached egg, cranberry dressing and raisin nut bread was really flavorful, though I wasn't quite sure whether all those ingredients worked together.

The next morning, I hit the gym, which was small but had all the equipment needed for a decent workout, plus water and fruit.

Back in my room, I toyed with the idea of room service but then recalled that I had gotten the room through the Spring on Sale promotion, which included two free continental breakfasts. The voucher didn't apply to room service, however. And I realized that I hadn't actually received my voucher. When I went to the front desk to ask for it, the clerk was overly apologetic. I wish he'd been apologetic enough to let me apply it to room service (and to waive the exorbitant $37 overnight parking fee for my Beetle).

Nonetheless, I had a nice breakfast in the restaurant. The waiter brought me a gigantic cup of coffee, orange juice, a small blueberry muffin, a croissant and some fruit. He came back several times to ask whether I needed anything else.

I was just fine. Perhaps the only thing missing was another whimsical Ben Franklin bust.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company