The classic Warwick in the heart of Rittenhouse Square gets a sleek redesign and a new name.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
In the fall of 2013, Radisson Blu finished its $20 million redesign of Philadelphia’s historic hotel The Warwick in the Rittenhouse Square district, rechristening it into the hip, modern Radisson Blu Warwick — the first location of the brand on the East Coast and its third in the United States. The renovation includes completely revamped guest rooms, a new Business Class floor with a private lounge, and a contemporary lobby that stays true to the heritage and style of the classic hotel, which opened in 1926.
A friend and I recently spent a weekend at the property and explored the surrounding neighborhood. Getting there from Washington is easy via Amtrak. The hotel is less than a $10 cab ride from 30th Street Station. (Traveling via Amtrak also avoids the hotel’s $40 per night parking fee.)
The Radisson Blu Warwick offers 301 rooms, including 250 king, 47 double/double and four suites. All are decorated in a contemporary style and come with a Nespresso coffee maker, free Wi-fi, flat-screen television and refrigerator, as well as other amenities depending on the room category.
We stayed in a double/double room on one of the two Business Class floors, accessible via the elevator with our room key. Business Class rooms also provide access to the private lounge, featuring a well-appointed, complimentary daily breakfast that includes coffee, tea and an espresso/cappuccino maker, pastries, fruit, cereals and one hot entrée per day (we loved the quiche.) We also found the lounge to be a welcome spot to hit happy hour in the late afternoon, when staff sets out hot appetizers, cheese and crackers, along with wine, beer and a self-serve bar (Make my own Beefeater and tonic? Yes, please.) Business Class guests are also offered amenities like early check-in, upgraded bathroom products and turn-down service.
But don’t spend all your time in the room. That aforementioned redesigned lobby with its modern-yet-comfy-seating, high ceilings, fireplaces and contemporary art (just try walking over the rug or past the walls without reading them) is a cozy, relaxing spot to wait for friends, check email, sip coffee or work on your laptop. Its new design is miles above its former tired self, according to locals.
Tavern 17, the hotel’s contemporary take on a classic concept, offers 12 rotating beers on tap as well as 15 by the bottle, 24 wines available by the glass or bottle, a selection of sweeter cocktails, and a full bar. Adjacent to the hotel, upscale steakhouse chain The Prime Rib serves a wider selection of higher-end wines and classic sips, including martinis and Manhattans.
The Prime Rib (with locations in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia), offers a variety of cuts of meat (and seafood) served a la carte with classic sides like creamed spinach and au gratin potatoes. Tavern 17 is more casual, offering breakfast, weekend brunch and dinner. Try the latter’s Caesar salad with Old Bay croutons, followed by the pan-seared scallops with roasted tomato salad, basil crème and mushroom risotto. Dinner at Tavern 17 is served until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. It tends to get pretty loud later in the evening with the occasional DJ or live music. Keep that in mind when making a dinner reservation.
Though the hotel doesn’t have a spa onsite, the concierge can book you an in-room treatment via Relax & Rejuvenate, a local mobile spa providing services in hotel and meeting rooms and at events. Though there was a scheduling snafu with my first appointment, it was quickly re-booked. I tried the signature service, the custom massage ($135/50 minutes, $190/80 minutes). The technician brought her own equipment, music and spa products, and escaped to the bathroom while I disrobed and got situated on the table.
While it was nice not to have to leave my room, my roommate had to. And there is something to be said for the soft music and heavenly aromas of a day spa (versus the crumpled sheets and luggage strewn about my room). Despite that, it’s a convenient service, especially for busy business travelers. Other available treatments include the “Aroma Journey Massage” ($145/$200), “Mother-to-Be Harmony Massage” ($145/$200) and the “Revitalizing Hot Stone Massage” ($140/$210).
(For those who prefer a little more activity, the hotel’s 2,000-sq.-ft. fitness center has weights, cardio equipment, iPod hookups, mini LCD monitors, water and fresh apples. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
The Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is full of great bars, restaurants and shops within walking distance of the hotel. Here are some can’t-miss spots:
Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co.
One of Philly’s top craft cocktail bars, the Franklin opened a few years ago and is still mixing incredible sips. The drinks menu is divided into classic and classically inspired cocktails (“Required Reading”), lighter-style libations (“Easy Going”), punches and communal cocktails (“The Flowing Bowl”), potent potables (“Rebellious Spirits”) and really potent potables (“I Asked Her for Water, She Brought Me Gasoline”). The “White Rabbit” has been around since the bar opened and with good reason. The laundry list of ingredients includes Zacapa 23 Year Rum, Barbancourt 8 Year Rum and Smith and Cross Rum, Bols Genever, Orchard Pear Liqueur, Pedro Ximenez Sherry, spiced demerara syrup, cream, cardamom tincture and Fee’s Bitters, served over cracked ice. These mix up into far more than the sum of their parts. I get tired just thinking of grabbing all those bottles and measuring all those amounts, but I’ll gladly sip it every day. The clean and fresh “Great Glass Elevator” is my kind of martini riff with Beefeater Gin, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Gran Classico and celery and Peychaud’s bitters.
Start with one of bartender Chauncey Scates’ 26 well-crafted, creative cocktails at this modern American restaurant adjacent to the Hotel Palomar. “Mama’s Squeeze Box” ($14) is tangy and aromatic with Tanqueray Gin, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, lime, coconut sugar and Moroccan bitters. “Inti’s Return” ($14) is an exotic-garden-in-a-glass with Pisco Porton, lemon, Amargo Chuncho Peruvian Bitters and a blueberry basil shrub. Nosh on truffle popcorn ($4) while perusing the dinner menu. As a starter, dip the accompanying toasted pita triangles into the steaming, kicky hot sauce shrimp ($12) with stewed tomatoes, garbanzo beans and charred onion. The accoutrements alone are enough to warrant ordering the Atlantic cod baked in parchment ($24), which comes with infused leeks, pickled almonds and lobster butter. Don’t skip the requisite charred Brussels sprouts ($9), which give the ubiquitous vegetable its due with the addition of pickled mustard seeds and pine nuts. Save room for the chai-spiced crème brûlée with honey-thyme blueberries ($9), a refreshing take on the dessert menu staple.
Stephen Starr’s Philly ode to the authentic French bistro is packed any time of day or night, so reserve well in advance. It’s great anytime, but especially for brunch when you can get a well-made croque madame ($13.50), moules frites ($17.50) or a niçoise salad ($18.50). Skip the usual bloody mary for something un peu plus français, like “Le Bijou” ($12), with Tanqueray Gin, green Chartreuse, lime and mint, or a “Mimosa Lorraine” ($9) with Crème de Griotte (a French sour cherry cream liqueur), Crème de Pêche and orange juice, topped with sparkling wine. A Belgium Hoegaarden ($7) goes best with those mussels, though.
Just a block from the hotel, Philadelphia’s sole foray into the fried chicken and doughnut craze offers crazy good donuts, especially right out of the fryer. The sweet menu is divided into “Hot Fresh” ($1.25 each, $6/6, $11/12) or “Fancy” ($2/each, $20/dozen). The best of the bunch is the signature vanilla lavender, with a whiff of the French herb that is not too sweet. Fancy flavors blackberry-anise and milk chocolate-sea salt are great bets, too. Each order of chicken includes Japanese cucumber pickles and a honey donut which can be ordered with a dry seasoning (coconut curry, za’atar or buttermilk ranch), wet glaze (chili-garlic or honey ginger) or just naked. You can also choose a half ($9) or whole ($17) chicken or wings ($9/6 or $17/12). If you take donuts for the ride home, ask for a box or have them double-bagged. They are delicious but greasy.
Rates at the Radisson Blu Warwick start at $249. For more information and reservations, visit radissonbluphiladelphia.com.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.