Although relatively unknown on the East Coast, mention McMenamins to a Portland or Seattle resident and they will likely rattle off their favorite hotel or pub owned by the creative group which breathes life into historical buildings and gives them an artistic, dreamlike quality. Their latest lodging endeavor is the Crystal Hotel, which opened in May 2011 in downtown Portland. Located off Burnside Drive (the main street in Portland) across from the Crystal Ballroom performance venue, the music-themed hotel offers an overall excellent value to visitors – with rates starting at just $85 per night.
Room decor at the Crystal Hotel — Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan
Once a men-only bathhouse in the 70s, the Crystal Hotel is now a tribute to legendary bands and musicians, and each of the 51 rooms are named after rock and roll artists. Song lyrics from all generations and psychedelic paintings adorn the dimly-lit hallway walls, while nonaligned chandeliers add to the abstract ambiance of the hotel. Guests also have VIP access to tickets for sold out shows at the Crystal Ballroom, a concert hall that has featured live performances for more than 90 years.
Part hotel, part European-style inn, there are no televisions in the rooms (which are on the small side) and bathrooms are down the hall. The idea of “shared bathrooms” conjures up an image of college dormitories, but don’t let the concept deter you: the baths are well-kept and feature the same unique décor as the hallways and guest rooms.
The Zeus Café serves up brunch daily, with items like spinach, mushroom and tomato Benedicts and pear pistachio pizza, while the dinner menu includes options like pan-roasted Ruby Trout with fingerling potatoes and applewood-smoked pork chops.
Al's Den below the Crystal Hotel — Photo courtesy of Crystal Hotel
On select evenings, Al’s Den, the speakeasy pub in the basement of the hotel, hosts the Ed Forman comedy show and musical acts. Lanterns and glowing lights give it the feel of a hooka lounge, while the bartenders whip up specialty cocktails and pour pints from McMenamin’s own brewery. Also hidden below street level is a sprawling, salt-water soak tub (kept at 100 degrees) surrounded by bamboo walls – perfect for a quiet night in.