Review: The Barnes Hotel – Great Service & Great Location
By Kathy Chin Leong

BarnesMay23-1.jpgThree women are rocking out as they watch me sleep. I’m at The Barnes Hotel where a vibrant graphic mural above my bed reveals a trio of tattooed ladies who could care less if I snored. Once named the Villa Florence, the eight-story building is now The Barnes, located in the very heart of downtown San Francisco.

Built immediately as Hotel Manz after the great 1906 earthquake, today, it is rebranded and all the rooms have been refreshed and remodeled under the Hilton flag. The Barnes is drawing visitors far and wide, many of whom seem to be staying more than a couple of days. One guest I met in the elevator said he was lodging here for a week. Eavesdropping, I heard from a woman approaching the registration counter that she booked a reservation for four nights. 
The vibe is hip-meets-antique as the original ornate ceiling moldings and architecture remain. Designers have infused modern touches into these 300-plus rooms, open lobby, and public areas that are unabashedly bold and unpredictable. A giant B brands the entry wall in yellow and green faux flowers. 
The first level is long and bowling alley deep. A cocktail lounge and tiny restaurant reside in the foyer of the hotel. You’ll immediately notice the ceilings festooned with silver reflective chandeliers, which, upon closer inspection, are made of forks, spoons, severed pitchers and plates merged to form a sphere.
BarnesMay23-2.jpgOnce you saunter past those, you catwalk to the check-in counter. Bold colors make up The Barnes with a pin-cushion orange wall behind the registration desk resembling a giant headboard, black and white triangles on the adjacent walls, and a tiled geometric gray fireplace with teal accents. During our two night stay, the service was courteous and friendly. We received a warm, warm welcome from the staff.
Rooms are petite, but gracious. A deluxe king room (at 289 square feet) features a white linen king bed and a sitting area with a tripod bistro table in jet black, ghost chairs with clear Lucite seats. Fronting the flat screen LG TV is gray tufted chair and tan ottoman to elevate the poor feet after a day of urban trotting. Modern pendant lights gave us plenty of illumination.
Amenities in the room proved to be ultra useful. Things such as the mini-fridge held leftovers from several meals. The brew maker for tea and coffee hits the spot for parched guests in the morning and late afternoon. The bathroom featured a round white sink with cream/black graphic wallpaper and ebony walls.  Simple. 
Being just remodeled, not everything is perfect.  The towel bar fell down when I took off a towel, and so that was a little unnerving.  And while the bathroom was new, I noticed there is no ceiling fan, and also the hot water was lukewarm over the two days I stayed there.
BarnesMay23-3.jpgRooms offer plenty of storage. I took full advantage of the armoire with open shelving and drawers with a safe, bedside tables, and more storage on the media cabinet. While you don’t get a robe and slippers, the hotel offers you a great snooze on a comfortable bed, plenty of updated outlets to hook up all your electronics, free WI-FI, and high ceilings so you don’t feel boxed in. However, the ceiling fan was not in operation while I was there, and the heating unit not operational, either. Nonetheless, that was not an inconvenience since the weather was mild, and so the room was not stuffy or cold.  Sure, we could have asked the service folks to come and fix things, but nothing seemed bothersome to us since we did not stay in the hotel very long. Each day held adventures throughout San Francisco such as the Tunnel Tops area at the Presidio and Muir Woods across the Golden Gate Bridge.

A great surprise is the tiny hotel restaurant which has less than ten tables. The bar opens at 3 p.m., and it is quite quiet at this time of writing. The restaurant has a short menu, but dishes are fabulous.  My husband and I shared the steak and frites and also the salmon over a bed of pureed cauliflower. Every bite was on point – the rib eye steak with a melted butter over the top elicited smiles throughout the dinner.  And by dessert, we thoroughly polished off the chia seed pudding topped with fruit – all vegan.  There is a second dessert which is a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream drizzled with Ghirardelli chocolate sauce which we enjoyed as well.  The dinner was excellent, and I would return just for a repeat of the same meal.

With starting rates at about $200, the rooms are affordable for what is rated as a four-star hotel. Location is prime. When you want to people watch, I recommend sitting at the window table to observe the many colorful folks charging past. While you sip your coffee or bar drink, you can also witness the rolling cable cars as the conductors ding, ding, ding the signature bells. And note that there will be other urban sounds. The second night we stayed, in the middle of the night we heard a fellow shouting and eventually screaming in anguish even as we were five floors above. 
BarnesMay23-4.jpgThe hotel is two blocks from the theater district and steps from Union Square’s shopping area. Parking overnight starts at $38 and above at the various parking garages and lots within a block or two. Who are the guests?  We saw a pair of mothers checking in with their teenage daughters. Then there was the millennial tech worker who looked as if he was here on business.  Given its location and affordability and newness, consider The Barnes
When You Go:
The Barnes Hotel
225 Powell St.
San Francisco

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