Downtown San Diego's grand dame, built in 1910 by the son of Ulysses S. Grant, has been rescued from near dilapidation many times over the centuries. The most recent fix came in 2006, when the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, a thriving local community, purchased the property and invested $56 million in renovations. The Grant is now as glorious as ever, with its grand sweeping lobby, glistening glass chandeliers, filigreed iron railings, and velvet couches. Though the rooms have lovely historic accents, including 9-foot ceilings and all sorts of curlicue moldings and accents, many are cramped and have tiny bathrooms. But the larger suites, featuring elegant salons and large baths, are lovely and spacious enough to serve as dressing rooms for the bridal parties celebrating in the many ballrooms. The hotel's historic Grant Grill has long been one of downtown's most elegant dining spaces--so stuffy that women weren't allowed to dine there until a gutsy group of businesswomen refused to leave in 1969. A redesign updated the grill's dark leather and wood men's club feel with high-backed chairs covered in light beige upholstery replacing most booths and window shutters adding light--but the rooms still glows with the light from crystal chandeliers at night. The old-fashioned mock turtle soup is still on the menu, but curried coconut broth, fennel, violet mustard, and other gourmet touches appeal to more adventuresome palates. The Art Deco cocktail lounge's mixologist takes signature cocktails to delicious, seasonal levels--try the Smashing Pumpkin in winter.
- Frommer's Staff