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The Hotel Del: Still Elegant, Flirty, Fun

By Chris Erskine

CORONADO, California — I like April in Paris and autumn in New York, and all those evocative old Vernon Duke phrases.
“Summer on Coronado” would be the California equivalent, especially at the Hotel Del, that magic kingdom on the sand. Room rates start at 18 million bucks (not including taxes and resort fees, of course).
Worth it? Totally. The sun glints off this alluring old castle like ice cream on your chin. Indeed, it probably has that most California quality of all: a fetching profile. Plus star power.
Were the Hotel Del Coronado in need of a writer in residence, I would raise my hand. I would lead guests through the funniest phrases in American literature, while touring its many swanky bars.
By the time I was done, guests would all know one limerick, one dirty joke, one Dorothy Parker witticism that they could casually toss off at weddings, as you would your shirt on a warm evening.
As you know, there is always lots of talk about fashion, facials, manicures, brows. But no one much discusses the allure of a classic little quip, casually thrown.
Anyway, tons of star power here at The Del, lots of history. Four U.S. presidents have snored into its pillows, and it was a sunny exterior in “Some Like It Hot.”
The Del is big in the way Texas is big … almost too large to comprehend. Creaky and elegant and nautical, it looks like it might capsize in a storm.
Think of the flings, the ghosts, the love affairs, the hickeys. By gawd, think of the comebacks, the quips.
By the way, another romantic phrase that I like? “Table for two.” It’d be a fine tag for a food column in the New Yorker, or a Richard Gere movie with Winona Ryder… if she’s still rom-com material. Probably not. But seriously, who is? Not me. Not Gere. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe Margot Robbie.
Suzanne too, were she so inclined. She looks like a silver tea set and waltzes into a restaurant aboard an ocean breeze. “Table for two,” I tell the hostess. They almost always seat us toward the bow.
“I measure time by how a body sways,” wrote Roethke, and this entire island — the visitors, the hotels — waltzes around like little sailboats.
Meanwhile, we crash a Verizon event at The Del, where they are honoring their top performers for the year. Way to go! It’s a big party, very lavish, hints of Gatsby, hints of shrimp, though the band was kinda lame.
I’m of two minds when it comes to our enormous telecom industry. On the one hand I hate it, and on the other I hate it too. Just remember what AT&T did to Time-Warner. Case closed.
But don’t provoke me, I’m on vacation.
True story. On the way in, we cross the Coronado Bridge, then take a left, and another left. Then my son Smartacus calls, reporting that his cellphone isn’t working. What is the PIN number for our account, he asks, as if I might remember off the top of my head. While I am trying to sort through that, Suzanne and I find ourselves back on the bridge heading to the mainland.
“Table for two,” I keep yelling out the window. “Table for two!”
It is an easy detour, 30 minutes max. I have to wonder: Has this ever happened to other visitors over the centuries, where they get off the bridge, their kid calls, and they suddenly find themselves back on the bridge, thereby doubling the joy of their long, glorious arrival?
I’d hope yes.
Finally, since this is a sort of faux travel piece — like all the faux travel pieces I’ve written through the years — one of the dumps we stop at is McP’s, purportedly a Navy Seal hangout.
McP’s is what you might lovingly call “a dive,” meaning it was built with Christmas tree twine and the lumber from old tree forts. Rather than nails, it is held together by sticky beer and flirty suggestions. In a warm rain, it might well dissolve.
Can’t recommend it enough.
And be sure to drop in at The Henry, a fine restaurant/bar with a perch for people-mocking. Try the braised short rib, with a side of Jameson’s as your vegetable. What I really like in a restaurant is what I really like in life: insane portions.
Honestly, we waddled home, two tourists on the lam … swooning over the old showplaces along Loma Avenue, then back through The Del, where the Verizon types were still discoing, unharnessed by time or protocol or stupid societal norms for human behavior.
Lord knows what happened later that night. But at The Del, almost anything.

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