Almost 11 years after opening his Hotel Healdsburg in Sonoma County, Chef Charlie Palmer has made another foray into the world of San Francisco-area hotels, opening Mystic Hotel, a 79-room boutique retreat located in the city's busy Union Square neighborhood. Palmer—who made his name with new American cuisine at New York restaurant Aureole—bought the former Crescent Hotel, revamped it and added a new restaurant.
"I've always said it's a natural progression for us," Palmer says. "At the end of the day, it's about hospitality. Obviously I'm a chef and a big portion of what I do is always food-focused. But it's about providing an experience for people—whether it's a restaurant or a restaurant in a hotel."
Mystic Hotel's Burritt Tavern echoes the film noir-inspired vibe of the existing (and locally beloved) Burritt Room bar, which was kept largely intact. "The most important thing was not to screw up that bar," Palmer says. "I wanted to make sure the atmosphere stayed the way it was."
A relaxed restaurant with a speakeasy theme, Burritt Tavern serves the chef's signature progressive American fare, focusing on local favorites—like Dungeness crab and asparagus tart with avocado mousse. Palmer worked with Michael Harris Architecture to give the hotel's rooms a new, modern style, with monochromatic white textiles, bright accents and exposed brick walls. This summer, the suites will get a major facelift with upgraded beds and added lounge space.
Palmer says he isn't relying solely on his restaurateur reputation to book rooms—his goal is high-caliber hospitality, with personal attention and staff that are experts on San Francisco. Palmer plans to provide the same style of service at other Mystic Hotels in the future—including potential openings in San Francisco and Las Vegas.
The chef-turned-hotelier is also making changes at his existing projects—Hotel Healdsburg's plaza suites will be upgraded this summer with handcrafted quilts, plush sofas and six-foot soaking tubs. The hotel expanded its gym and is introducing a fleet of stylish Public M3 bikes that guests can reserve for free rides around town. And in Dallas, where The Joule hotel is undergoing a two-year renovation, Palmer is planning on re-branding his restaurant there (as a Texas beef-focused Charlie Palmer Steak), and introducing a new eatery. The casual City Hall will feature five specialty stations—including wood-fired pizzas and barbecue—and a craft tequila cocktail bar.