When planning a trip to New York City, there is always the big three — an airline ticket, ground transfers from the airport and a hotel room that won't break the bank. Filling in what to see and do is the easy part. I was en route to the New York Times Travel Show, where a world of travel advice awaited. For the big three and the NYT show, I opened my phone and opened three apps: United Airlines, GroundLink and a third for a hotel called YOTEL that boasts a reputation for an energetic attitude. YOTEL is leading the wave of hipster hotels with an IKEA vibe.
When I was in New York one year ago, I spotted YOTEL from the backseat of a taxi. It was hard to miss, as purple floodlights covered the exterior of the first four floors. At 42nd Street and 10th Avenue, it is located in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Hell's Kitchen. On foot, I walked to Times Square in less than 10 minutes; ditto to the pier on the Hudson River, where Circle Line Cruises set sail during the day. Give or take 30 minutes to 30 Rock and less than that to Grand Central. The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where the NYT show was located, was a few blocks away.
Because of the app, my phone reminded me to check in and invited me to do so. Upon arrival and inside the street floor, check-in is via flat screen similar to the check-in kiosks at the airport. This kiosk also distributes room keys and a security pass. Show the pass to the two guards near the elevator and other team members on Floor FOUR, where key-pass-only elevators whisk guests to designated floors. Mine? Nineteenth floor. The view from Room 1935 was straight down 42nd Street toward the river. Day and night views through a ceiling to floor window were equally spectacular.
The pod-like rooms often are called "cabins" and are efficient with just enough room to be cozy but not cramped. The bath was fully loaded with hair dryer, lighted mirror, liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner. I understand the rooms were designed by a team of engineers/designers who design first-class sections on aircraft. Although not privy to many of those, I could recognize the touches. The queen-size bed looked similar to a recliner until I pressed a huge button to have it straighten out — similar to lie-flat first class seats. The bed was comfy with an organic mattress, and the sheets were percale and smooth. There were a lot of towels and a glass-enclosed monsoon shower. a flat screen TV anchored a techno wall. The amenities were terrific -- a place for everything, fast and free WiFi, even a wall safe for my iPad. The view from the room and from one of the city's largest outdoor patio bars (on the fourth floor) lured me from my room.
Checking it out
It was Restaurant Week in the city, and the hotel's chef-restaurant, the Green Fig, was participating. During Restaurant Week, chefs wax a bit exotic, and diners have a choice of three courses for a flat fee. Green Fig is known for a Mediterranean Fusion menu. I chose roasted mushroom soup, an Israeli couscous risotto with roasted fennel, pastis and parmigiana reggiano followed by a dessert of Creme Catalana made of vanilla beans with citrus zest — similar to brulee — with a cab-sav and a tall glass of New York tap water. It was a wonderful meal with lovely service. The restaurant also offers a theater menu. For those lucky enough to have tickets, a before-show dinner is possible.
In the morning, in addition to Green Fig, find specialty coffees and fresh-baked goods on FOUR; the dining area high tops double for catching up on messages. Maybe pick up a snack or two, such as mini-jars of jelly beans. The entire north area of the floor overlooks the terrace, which sadly was closed for the winter. In the afternoon, there are custom cocktails, sharing plates on the 10th Avenue side.
Even the entryway has a fascination. Each time I walked through, I stopped to watch YOBOT, the hotel's friendly robot, busy storing luggage. YOBOT is easily two stories high; it stores luggage for those arriving too early for their rooms or holds luggage after checking out, if it is too early to leave for the airport. It is $2 per bag and well worth it.
In my three-night stay, I managed to sleep very well, dine exceptionally well and get work done. There is never enough time to play in New York, but I did manage to squeeze in a few hours on the Circle Line's Landmark Cruise, which I arranged via app. I never tire of seeing Lady Liberty or hearing a tour guide read the words that are engraved on the base.