San Francisco never ceases to surprise and delight, even as it simultaneously morphs in ways we don’t always love (e.g., tech bro invasion). A very winning combination in the department of restaurants and hotels is the new Kimpton Alton, which houses Francis Ang’s extraordinary Abacá restaurant.
Kimpton may well be the most relevant mid-range hotel brand of the 21st century — always design-forward but never awkwardly trendy, small with personalized service, and really tapped into what travelers want right now. That includes elements that aren’t cookie-cutter, as in the Victrola record players in guest rooms at this property. I was able to properly introduce my seven-year-old daughter to Janis Joplin on vinyl by checking out Joplin’s Greatest Hits from the front desk. This is just one example of the property’s cool amenities.
It seems odd at first that the hotel is located in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood — not exactly top of the list for seasoned travelers — but it’s also North Beach-adjacent, and the conversion of a 1970s former Holiday Inn motor lodge-type place gives the Alton a vintage feel, which plays right into the hotel’s aesthetics. Add to that a compelling Philippine restaurant (not to mention a coffee bar and panaderia in the lobby), and it’s easy to say yes.
The design was spearheaded by Kimpton’s Global Senior Vice President of Design Ave Bradley, in partnership with interior designer Kara Mann and Arcsine Architects. Hues of harbor blue and celery green evoke the proximity to the bay, and the dim lighting, vintage rugs, and wide-ranging art collection solidify the laidback California vibe.
King beds have midnight-blue velvet headboards, and bathrooms have big walk-in showers — some even have deep soaking tubs.
Downstairs, Abacá is chef Francis Ang’s homage to the food of his childhood with creative spins on Philippine-California cooking and an on-point wine and cocktail list. It’s hard to get a table, so reserve well ahead. Our favorites were many — must-haves include the organic Hodo Soy yuba with adobo glaze, the squah okoy fritter with kabocha squash, black garlic, and pinakurat vinegar, and the squid relleno with chorizo, melon, and calamansi aioli, all quite addictive.
Cocktails are another big point of interest. Both the Local Word — Hendrick’s gin, green chartreuse, absinthe, pineapple, calamansi, bitters — and the Galleon Trade — Espolon Blanco Tequila, absinthe, guyabano, chili, citrus — go with the saturated flavors of the nuanced menu.
In addition to the hosted evening wine hour, which Kimpton fans already know and love, there’s free Wifi for IHG Rewards guests and a pet-friendly welcome. There’s a handy bodega in the lobby that functions sort of like an honor bar with quick snacks and drinks when you’re on your way in or out.
The Alton also has a dedicated Tesla charger and a Universal Electric Vehicle charger, two Peloton Bikes in the hotel’s fitness center, accessible 24 hours a day, and scooters for free loan at the front desk. We took a spin around the waterfront then up the hill to North Beach for some shopping, then caught a cable car back to the wharf.
This is a terrific property for folks traveling with kids, as well as those seeking a chill vibe, terrific food and a bit of tasteful vintage flair.