Arguably very publicly launched with The Ace’s debut in Manhattan in 2008 (their Portland and Seattle hotels had flown fairly under the radar previously), the “micro hotel” concept has evolved into a full on trend, with even the corporates—Marriott’s Moxy, Intercontinental’s Indigo—aggressively working the niche.
The concept was a good one: small, reasonably priced sleeping chambers, designed to get you to spend more time in the buzzy wuzzy bar/restaurant downstairs (or upstairs), making for perpetual social energy. And truthfully, nobody at Waldorf Astoria was much bothered about it.
But what if a typical upscale hotel goer on occasion opted for a micro hotel over the luxury property they usually book into, just because it was something different? It was with that mindset that we recently checked into the very new Pod Philly hotel. The brand already had four hotels in NYC (and the first, Pod 51, actually opened in 2007—so they were technically first), as well as one in DC, and followed the micro model pretty much spot on…but the Philly outpost seemed different from the first moment.
The location is notable, in Center City, just a couple of blocks from poshie Rittenhouse Square, rather than plonked down in the latest cool kid enclave. Considering the ultimate target demo is the millennialrati, it was an interesting choice. Normally when in this general hood, we would make an immediate beeline for the original La Colombe coffee shop around the corner (bragging rights—we discovered it long before it spread from Philadelphia to NYC and beyond); yet the Pod greets guests with the stylish, inviting El Café at the entrance, serving hipster approved Stumptown brews, along with breakfast tacos, and James Matty pastries. We couldn’t resist staying put.
The fairly open plan lobby was much to our liking, as we don’t much love cordoned off spaces in hotels—they tend to stifle the social energy. Rather, as we were given a super friendly, full service check-in (something luxury hotel goers demand, as opposed to everything just being a click on your mobile), we were able to survey the goings on in the restaurant and lounge areas, and felt a part of the…”action.” Especially appealing? We didn’t spot one cloying attempt at millennial “signifiers”—no randomly placed vintage turntables, no Instagram booths, no TV On The Radio tour posters.
Rooms are still called “Pods.” And there are the obligatory bunk rooms for touring bands and budget travelers. But our Queen Pod+ was spacious and remarkably well-appointed. So unless you absolutely must have yards of marble and hand-carved coffee tables, you could easily want for nothing here. There were attractive, dark wood floors, soothing black, white and turquoise color schemes, and generous windows offering rapturous views of the Center City below. Bathrooms were bright, and beautifully designed, with impressively efficient use of space. Eco points for no longer offering single use plastic toiletries bottles.
Just a couple of blocks away was the world class S. 18th Street restaurant scene, which promised everything from hip British pub (Dandelion, one of our faves) to trendy contemporary American (a. kitchen + bar) to wine and cheese bar (Tria) to vegan Latin (Bar Bombón). But the Pod’s own Condesa is literally the hottest scene in town, parlaying of-the-moment dining and a very happening crowd into a tough-to-get reservation situation.
It also serves some of the best new world Mexican cuisine anywhere—we loved the mushroom and hibiscus quesadilla, and the excellent carnitas tacos, paired with a couple of Cinco cocktails (Knob Creek rye, spiced agave liqueur, tamarind, pasilla, angostura bitters). Beforehand, hit the airy, year-round rooftop spot El Techo, where you can share a pitcher of Mezcal margaritas for just $30 at happy hour.
Conclusion? If you usually check in to the 5-stars for the formalities, this may not be your thing. But if its comfort, style good service, and excellent food and people watching you seek—and don’t mind giving up a few unimportant amenities to once in awhile save a couple hundred bucks a night—the Pod Philly is a perfect change of pace, to be sure.