Hip Hotels & Cool Restaurants: A few unique and delightful venues from around the region
What makes a hotel “hip” or a restaurant “cool”?
They are often trend setting and stylish. Places that receive numerous accolades and awards. Hot spots that immediately draw the interest and attention of attendees. Sometimes they are places everyone wants to see and be seen.
But there’s more on the line for planners who are seeking to go beyond “impressing” their clients. The places can’t be all style and no function. It is equally important that it provide exceptional space, excellent amenities and top-notch service.
In short - the total package.
Sometimes a hip hotel can be found in an unexpected place. Maybe even in an unassuming structure.
Case in point: The Warehouse Hotel at The Nook in Manheim, PA.
Built inside a former warehouse that was transformed into the largest indoor sports complex in North America, The Warehouse Hotel looks exactly like a warehouse from the outside, but what’s on the inside makes it truly one-of-a-kind.
A recent guest described The Warehouse Hotel as follows, “Do not judge a book by its cover! Outside looks like a warehouse, but the inside looks like a five-star resort.”
According to Danielle Work, sales manager for The Warehouse Hotel at The Nook, many guests are blown away the first time they enter the hotel. “Exposed steel beams, ducting, pallet walls, light fixtures, and furniture all have an industrial feel. Many of these things were repurposed from old factories and items used during construction, like large spools of wire that are now used as tables in our on-site restaurant and atrium bar.”
With 700,000-square feet under one roof and several group areas, the possibilities are almost endless at Spooky Nook Sports. Between its Olympic Hall, Field House, and traditional meeting rooms, the property’s flexible spaces can accommodate groups of three all the way up to 10,000 people.
“Being attached to a sports complex means that team building opportunities for groups are never more than a few steps away,” observes Work. “Whether it’s a game of Trashcan Pong in our Arcade, trying out Sheet Volleyball on the Hardcourts, or even attempting to Build a Bridge on the Indoor Baseball Diamond, we have tons of customizable team building packages and activities that will challenge and bond groups.”
Part of what makes The Warehouse Hotel so hip is the variety of very unique meeting spaces that are available here and that allow the property and its staff to get creative and offer a range of themed food and beverage within these areas.
“If a group is doing a team building activity on our indoor baseball diamond, we can set up a snack table with all your favorite baseball snacks - from popcorn to soft pretzels and other various sweets,” explains Work. “We find that having flexible catering menus and spaces allow us to be more creative and add value to the overall event experience.”
Located between Hershey and Lancaster, The Warehouse Hotel also has the benefit of serving as a potential hub for exploring two very distinct destinations: the Amish countryside as well as the “Sweetest Place on Earth.” Both of these destinations offer conference attendees the opportunity to add some sightseeing or perhaps a family getaway before or after their event at The Nook.
Belonging to many hospitality associations, such as Meeting Professionals International, is one way The Warehouse Hotel gets direct feedback from planners about their likes, dislikes, and what is trending in the industry. An independent property, the hotel can take that feedback and use it to stay on top of what’s hip and current while at the same time offering the best possible experiences for guests.
Anchoring the 42-acre Bucks County attraction of Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA - home to charming shops, delightful boutiques and dining options - The Golden Plough Inn is a very unique venue that’s home to 67 guest rooms.
Take a stroll along the red brick walkways and pop in to any one of the 60-plus specialty shops found here, and also take special note as to what’s above the shops - several of the inn’s one-of-a-kind hotel suites! Half of the hotel rooms of the Golden Plough Inn are perched above the stores within Peddler’s Village - each with its own personality, amenities and story to tell. An added perk includes private parking reserved for guests by their individual rooms.
What’s more, there are new team building experiences available at Peddler’s Village for groups. Interactive culinary and experiential offerings while in the Village include: Free Will Brewing, where groups can reserve a private tasting room and enjoy hand crafted IPAs, sours and Farmhouse brews; or Hewn Spirits, which has a rustic, casual vibe and knowledgeable bartenders to guide team building activities.
The wine tasting rooms of the Chaddsford Winery or the olive oil, pasta and cheese haven that is Casa Casale can be utilized for private events or as part of culinary and spirit tasting tours. Team members look, swirl, sip, savor and bond over the experience. Happy Hours around Peddler’s Village also can be arranged by the property’s team of corporate concierges.
Varied dining and room options at cool restaurants like Earl’s, Buttonwood, Hart’s Tavern and Cock n’ Bull are available to groups for everything from small functions to larger events. When attendees are ready to shop and explore, they need only walk out of their guest rooms to discover the wide-ranging offerings of the boutique shops throughout Peddler’s Village. Adding even more to the overall experience is the world-class spa and salon services of David J. Witchell Salon and Spa, which recently opened on-site.
Another regional venue that features both a hip hotel and a cool restaurant is Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell, PA - a meticulously restored American landmark property with a history that dates back over 200 years.
According to Karen Mandel, senior business development manager and brand ambassador for Normandy Farm, there’s an instinctive feeling or atmosphere that’s experienced by visitors to the farm. “We like to call it our guest’s ‘third place.’ It’s not their home, nor is it their office; it’s that very special place in between that creates a happy medium where the mind and body can relax, have fun, and get serious work done.”
Located “Behind the White Wall,” this unique building is illuminated with strings of white twinkle lights 365 days of the year. Not your average hotel, it is home to 113 newly renovated farm chic guest rooms, as well as 28 spacious suites that maintain the original farm’s charm and décor (many feature fireplaces, sitting rooms and refrigerators).
Guests also receive access to Normandy Farm’s sister property, Blue Bell Country Club, along with its Arnold Palmer signature golf course. Plus, there’s the on-site restaurant - the farmer’s daughter terrace restaurant and bar - which offers its own cool vibe within a refreshing setting. There’s even al fresco dining available, if desired.
Ensuring all meetings on-site will not only be well received, but also well executed, the property boasts an IACC-certified conference center and business center.
Additional amenities adding to its uniqueness and appeal include: an electric vehicle charging station; indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and fitness room; live entertainment; a summertime Craft & Que series; complimentary Wi-Fi; a contemporary art gallery in the conference center; and manicured gardens available for outdoor ceremonies and team building activities.
“Guests experience ‘old’ meets ‘new’ at every turn of Normandy Farm,” explains Mandel. “The ‘bones’ - or original farm structure, including exposed wood beams - are throughout the interior of the property and complemented by new contemporary décor.”
The property’s recently renovated hotel rooms include new furniture and upgrades in Internet connectivity to a 1Gb connection. Among the event spaces on-site are the Grand Ballroom (with a capacity of 350 guests, including a dance floor), Silo’s Ballroom (160 with dancing), and the Blue Bell Country Club Ballroom (200 with dancing). The Normandy Farm Conference Center features eight breakout rooms with capacities ranging from two up to 100 people per room. There also are three private dining rooms available within the farmer’s daughter restaurant.
Events held at Normandy Farm often include corporate retreats, charity galas, weddings, showers, proms, mitzvahs, sales meetings, happy hours, and public events (such as Craft & Que).
The farmer’s daughter restaurant is a cool place in which to enjoy a great guest experience. Here, “modern farm cooking” is featured on seasonal menus with locally sourced farm fresh ingredients plus sustainable meats and fish.
The restaurant offers international culinary talent that really brings a “wow” factor to the taste profile and presentation of its menu. The in-house bakery is led by Chef Sam Nahhas, who was named Pastry Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation. Breads, pastries, wedding cakes, flatbreads and more are all made from scratch on the premises.
The farmer’s daughter also boasts an award-winning Sunday Brunch Buffet - named Best Suburban Brunch by Philadelphia Magazine. In addition, its trend forward cocktail program includes: homemade mixers, infused spirits, wines from local Pennsylvania vineyards, plus a rotating selection of locally brewed beer.
While inside there is contemporary farm chic décor, the outdoor terrace at the restaurant definitely adds to its “cool” factor. Corporate clients appreciate the hotel and restaurant’s location, too, because it’s central to Philadelphia (and the international airport), King of Prussia and Bucks County.
At the epicenter of Montgomery County, Normandy Farm is within minutes of off-site attractions like Elmwood Park Zoo, King of Prussia Mall, downtown Ambler (with its restaurants and movie theater), and Blue Bell Country Club.
Among the ways Normandy Farm stays on top of current trends and keeps up with the needs of planners is through site tours for planners who offer feedback; by following the latest trends in food - as well as variety, presentation and special menus (gluten free, vegetarian) at the farmer’s daughter; via social media; by attending professional trade conferences and association meetings and events; and through partnerships with local vendors as a way to add a further connection to the local community.
There is a restaurant located in Philadelphia, PA that’s extremely cool, and not just because it serves some truly amazing gelato.
Gran Caffe L'Aquila is an Italian cultural immersion project run by partners Riccardo Longo, Michele Morelli and Stefano Biasini. Longo, a native-born Roman who grew up in both cultures, was on a 50-city culinary and wine tour when he met Morelli and Biasini while exploring L'Aquila in 2012. Morelli and Biasini were the original owners of the Landmark Bar/Caffe of the Year, Gran Caffe L'Aquila.
Considered one of the finest caffes in Italy, it was tragically destroyed in the devastating earthquake of April 6, 2009 along with most of the city. After the three of them cultivated a friendship, the idea was born to bring one of Italy's premier caffes to Philadelphia as a cultural immersion project. The entire restaurant was designed and built in Italy before being shipped overseas via cargo containers.
Today, Gran Caffe L’Aquila boasts two levels of Italian passion: its first floor is an authentic Italian bar that features award-winning cappuccino and espresso roasted on premises by Michele Morelli, gelato made by Italy’s gelato champion, Stefano Biasini, including gastronomic gelato, as well as Italian cocktails and daily aperitivo, wines from all 20 regions of Italy selected by Riccardo Longo, plus over 200 distinct Italian wines featuring 35 available by the glass, Assaggi (Italian tapas) that includes salumi, formaggi, homemade pasta, crudo, fire grill, seafood and more, along with homemade Italian pastries.
On its second floor is a restaurant featuring rotating Italian menus from 52 Italian cities based on Riccardo Longo’s continuous travels throughout Italy along with his research of the food and wine of each; an authentic Italian wine bar; an Italian cultural school with language, culture, gastronomic classes, and wine tastings; as well as banquet and meeting spaces.
Among the many awards and accolades Gran Caffe L'Aquila has won over the past couple of years are: Best of Philly - Best Italian Restaurant; Best of Philly - Best Gelato; Philadelphia Area Concierge Association Best Restaurant; Wine Spectator Award of Excellence; Italy America Business Council International Project of the Year; Philadelphia Style Best Of Style; 3 Coffee Beans, Gambero Rosso (highest rating for Italian coffee); official coffee of the G8 summit in Italy; Italian Gelato Champion; and International Press World Champion.
Gran Caffe L’Aquila’s entire restaurant and bar space was designed and built in Italy, so it looks and feels as to guests as if they are inside a modern Italian space. Its first level is a high energy Italian bar which hosts very popular corporate or family “Aperitivo” events, meaning “happy hour” in Italian. An offshoot of this is “Apericena,” which is a 2- to 3-hour happy hour where a full dinner is served.
“Companies love this because it’s much more effective for networking and meeting other people as compared to traditional sit-down dinners,” explains Gran Caffe L’Aquila partner, Riccardo Longo.
The upstairs restaurant features Italian tapas style dinners, wine dinners based on any region in Italy, as well as the very popular Gastronomic Gelato wine tastings.
“We offer Assaggi, which is Italian tapas, providing guests with a wider variety of items to try during the course of the night,” explains Longo. “We also can make menus with or without wine based on the 52 Italian cities we feature each year. For our happy hour, our Italian cocktail theme is very popular because it is unique in Philadelphia - and also very authentic.”
In addition, he notes, people love that the restaurant is in the heart of the city, as there are plenty of parking options and much to do nearby both before and after dinner functions.
Based on the goals of the group, Gran Caffe L’Aquila is able to customize an event to provide an authentic Italian experience for them. “From interactive wine tastings to Italian happy hours and Apericenas, chef tastings, to formal dinners,” explains Longo, “we thrive on creating an event with a ‘wow factor’ for our guests.”
Just opened, the hip, new Cambria Hotel Philadelphia is located on the Avenue of the Arts and across from the Kimmel Center and Academy of Music and in the heart of the arts and culture of the city. One of the hotel’s top selling point is its Rooftop Restaurant, Attico, which boasts approximately 4,000-square feet of outdoor space and will seat around 140. Diners or bar patrons can soak up the views while enjoying Mediterranean and Contemporary American Cuisine.
A 100 percent smoke-free hotel, Cambria Hotel Philadelphia’s guests have exclusive access to Custom Fit™, a state-of-the-art fitness center with exercise machines and free weights. The Social Circle restaurant and bar features inspired dining on-site, while Philadelphia’s thriving restaurant scene provides even more choices nearby - including several spots that offer gourmet one-of-a-kind dishes incorporating locally-sourced ingredients.
For those seeking a stylish location before dinner or a night on the town, the hotel’s cocktail bar servers are ready to mix, shake and stir up a wide range of drinks. What’s more, the fully equipped boardroom and meeting rooms can host events of all sizes with over 1,700-square feet of flexible function space that can accommodate welcome receptions, theater presentations, awards banquets, training workshops and even large-scale business conferences. Meetings are supported by state-of-the-art technology and conference equipment, as well as Wi-Fi service in all guest rooms and common areas throughout the hotel.
Each of these hip hotels and cool restaurants brings its own unique “wow” factor to the events that they host, but also with very unique offerings. Providing planners and their groups with a setting that not only will win over attendees because of a strong aesthetic appeal, but also for equally impressive - and often superb - functionality is one way to achieve “hip” or “cool” status.
Staying ahead of the curve when it comes to style and substance, hotels and restaurants like these are at the forefront of the industry in elevating meetings and events to a whole new level.