When our best friend and bride-to-be decided that she wanted to have her bachelorette weekend getaway in San Antonio, we instantly knew there was only one place to stay – Hotel Emma. Having grown up in San Antonio, we are constantly amazed at how much it continues to grow and evolve. Every time we’re back in town there’s an awesome new restaurant to try or a new area of the city to explore and Hotel Emma was one of the top places on our must-stay list!
The Pearl Neighborhood, where the Hotel Emma is located, is an example of one of these neat newly revitalized areas. The Pearl area boasts fifteen restaurants and cafes, a fabulous Farmers Market twice a week, and cute boutiques and retailers all nestled next to the San Antonio River. The Culinary Institute of America, where Emily attended culinary school, is also located in the Pearl area. With so much to do at Hotel Emma and right outside its doors, we spent a majority of our weekend stay in the Pearl area without ever having to venture elsewhere.
The building that houses Hotel Emma was originally the Pearl Brewery’s Brewhouse, which was built in 1894 by Chicago architect August Maritzen. After the Pearl Brewery closed in 2001, Silver Ventures bought the property in 2002 and undertook the extensive renovation project that resulted in the beautiful space the Pearl is today. Roman and Williams is the amazing design firm behind the spectacular Hotel Emma.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a cheery receptionist who welcomed us and provided us with information on the hotel and the area. The beauty of Hotel Emma is awe-inspiring. It is clear that no detail was left to chance in the glorious renovation of the space.
Before we ventured off to settle into our rooms, we were offered delicious hand-made craft margaritas. Yes please! The La Babia Margarita is one of the hotel’s specialties and is simply crafted with tequila, naranja, and lime.
The ice box in each guestroom also contains all of the ingredients needed to concoct one of the delicious margaritas yourself!
The guestrooms were beautifully appointed and carefully curated just like the rest of the hotel. The phrase “South Texas luxury” perfectly captures the accomodations, with the indulgent Frette linens featured in the rooms as well as regional finds like seersucker ‘guayabera’ robes custom-made by Dos Carolinas, which we practically lived in while relaxing in our room.
We usually don’t rave about bathrooms, but the guest baths at the Hotel Emma are immaculate! The beautiful white, blue and brass finishes were absolutely stunning. We were very pleased with the Malin+Goetz toiletries provided.
The main lobby and lounge area of the hotel was no exception to the impeccable design and furnishings found throughout Hotel Emma. One could easily spend an idle afternoon with a good book here or in the hotel’s library, which houses a 3,700-volume collection acquired from Sherry Kafka Wagner, a San Antonio icon.
In the mornings, there is a delightful complimentary coffee bar set up in the lobby area. The coffee was simple perfection and the bananas fosters muffin was one of the best we’ve ever had.
We enjoyed a little down time at the hotel’s rooftop pool between bachelorette festivities and exploring the Pearl Neighborhood. The pool was extremely relaxing and we could’ve easily spent the entire day lounging poolside and soaking up the rays. There are plenty of cozy lounge chairs for laying-out, as well as several cabanas offering more privacy.
The waitstaff was very attentive and brought us refreshing, moist scented towels to cool off with. While we enjoyed iced green tea, the poolside food and drink menu was quite enticing. There were several cocktails and light lunch options that we will be sure to try next time.
The nightly turn-down service was another great example of the attention-to-detail and thoughtfulness that is apparent in every aspect of both the service and design at the hotel. Each night we were presented with delectable macaroons from Bakery Lorraine and a chilled carafe of water as part of the turn-down service.
Sternewirth, Hotel Emma’s bar and clubroom, is quite possibly one of the best bars we’ve been to – especially in San Antonio. The cavernous 25-foot ceilings are impressive and give the space a larger-than-life vibe, yet the intimate groupings of plush sofas create a relaxed and social atmosphere.
The bar menu contains a variety of refined classic cocktails, as well as a pleasing wine and craft beer selection. We were also delighted by the bar’s hearty small plates, perfect for sharing. We enjoyed the Smoked Dates with Blue Cheese and Bacon and the Venison Meatballs with Poppyseed and Mushroom Gravy.
Additionally, the hotel is very selective about restricting access to Sternewirth to hotel guests only, which is actually quite nice and lends an air of exclusivity to the establishment. This is the type of bar you’d expect to find in one of the major cities like New York or Chicago, but the fact that it’s hidden in San Antonio perhaps enhances its appeal.
Meandering through the hotel is a pleasure in and of itself. We loved exploring the hotel and just taking in all of the architectural details. Natural light is incorporated into the building’s design very well with the indoor-outdoor distinction wonderfully blurred by the large windows and delightful use of plants and water features inside.
At Hotel Emma, just as much thought and attention-to-detail is put into the culinary offerings as it is to every other aspect of your stay. Supper, the hotel’s main restaurant, is no exception! We dined at Supper on our first night and were blown away by the attentive service and delicious dishes.
Our group was seated at a great table with a prime view of the kitchen and all of the corresponding action. One of our favorite starters was the Salt and Vinegar Brussels Sprouts. Out of the entrees, the Grilled Beef ‘Santa Maria’ with Tomato, Parsely, and Garlic Chimichurri and Duck Fat Potatoes was the highlight!
While staying at the hotel, you must be sure to pop into Larder as well. Larder is located on the first floor of the hotel in what used to be the old fermenting cellars of the Pearl Brewery. There you can find fine groceries, freshly made items to eat-in or take-out, wine, beer, house-butchered meats, baked goods, and much more. This little culinary haven is the perfect place to pick up a few goodies to enjoy in your room during your stay.
You can purchase many of the precious items that make the Hotel Emma so unique in Curio, the hotel’s carefully curated shop. We absolutely loved the blue glasses found throughout the hotel (pictured below), in addition to the candles that perfectly expressed the style and mood of the hotel as a scent. Kevin Elkins, who created the custom fragrances specifically for Hotel Emma, stated that he “wanted the fragrances to evoke history…concrete, velvet, steel books, old wood. The fragrance had to be an extension of the place.”
While staying at the Hotel Emma, we enjoyed venturing out and exploring the Pearl Neighborhood as well. We took a stroll along the revitalized portion of the San Antonio River Walk that runs alongside the hotel. This is definitely a more low-key, relaxed portion of the River Walk, which perfectly suits Hotel Emma and Pearl Neighborhood’s refined, but laid-back vibe.
We cannot recommend Hotel Emma more highly for those of you planning a getaway to San Antonio anytime soon! It is truly a one of a kind experience and place to stay, as well as one of San Antonio’s most coveted treasures.
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Emily & Barbara