The Hotel Zaza – Houston and Dallas
Last week I attended two events for Catwalk for the Cure, both held at the Hotel Zaza in Houston. It was so refreshing to be back there again! Then, while enjoying a plate of their famous grilled quail, it dawned on me that while I had referenced my experiences there this summer, I had never told you why I enjoyed it so much.
Let’s put aside the fact I now know the staff personally at both locations of the Zaza, but instead focus on how and why that came to be.
What seems like forever ago, my friend Jen took me to the hard hat event when the Houston location was under construction, but I wouldn’t set foot into the finished product until years after it’s opening.
After hearing the rave reviews, I referred a friend visiting Houston to the hotel and went to meet him for a drink one night. When I pulled up to the valet I felt like they were rolling out the welcome mat just for me. Entering the lobby I was instantly in love with the modern, eclectic decor, and when I found my friend had not yet arrived at Monarch, the manager bought me a drink and chatted with me until he arrived. I’m pleased to call Alex (the manager) a friend now as well.
Sure you could say he was just making small talk with a pretty girl, but I’ve since heard the same account from several other people. Alex wouldn’t be the only friendly member of their staff. With a simple hello, I befriended many others and now keep up with them on Facebook!
So obviously I was instantly enamored, so I wanted to know more about the space, the people, and everything they had to offer. Here’s what I found:
GREAT THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES
Both hotels have a more intimate feeling than your average Ritz or Four Seasons. Honestly, I have no idea if there are less rooms, but it feels like a smaller, more personable space than the aforementioned chains. So not only is the price point better, but so is the ambiance.
In terms of the hotel itself, Zaza Houston (built on the skeleton of the historic Warwick hotel) is a bigger location but maintains the boutique feel of the original in Dallas. The rooms boast a modern but comfortable decor with cozy beds and Molton Brown toiletries . From my experience, it seems the rooms in Dallas a little bigger and more plush. My favorite feature are the “Seven Wonders of the World” suites that are decorated in different themes like Rock Star, China, Space age, etc. And don’t even get me started on the rooftop “Black Label” suite with the amazing views you can enjoy from the gigantic bathtub on the balcony (God only knows what has gone on in there).
If you’re into the celeb scene, the Zaza is a good spot for sightings. Many times I stopped by stars like Kid Rock and Young Jeezy were residing in the suites.
FINE DINING I CAN AFFORD
Downstairs in the restaurants – Monarch in Houston and Dragonfly in Dallas – you’ll find a menu with a little taste of every cuisine. Both the Houston chef Aaron Neeley and Grant Morgan in Dallas update their menu seasonally. In fact, the dinner I attended last Thursday was a sampling of their new fall menu. People loved the steak, but we all agreed the scallops were some of the best we’ve ever tasted. Consistent favorites of mine are the grilled quail, deconstructed ahi roll, and their fish specials.
As with most restaurants right now, they usually offer a special promotion. Right now if you mention “Fall 09” you will get 15% off your meal. Mondays they have half off all bottles of wine, and Wednesdays the whole menu is discounted fifty percent. So you can see it was an easy sell to get me to come on multiple occasions. Rumor has it they are also starting “reverse happy hour.” Another winner in my book!
As for the dessert (I mention this because my request has fallen on deaf ears), don’t be deceived by the sound of the red velvet cupcakes. Even if you’re an amateur when it comes to sweets, you’ll be highly disappointed by the bite-sized blandness. I’m pretty sure the cupcakes are my only real complaint about the hotel actually…..
BE SWEET TO YOURSELF
But I’ll tell you something you can indulge in without guilt – the spa! I didn’t get a chance to go to the one in Dallas during my stay, but if the Houston one is any indication, I can recommend them both without hesitation. First of all, they have these pedicure chairs that tilt you backwards so you’re laying comfortably while the esthetician is meticulously primping your feet. Then if you decide to get actual treatments, they have a fully equipped locker room and a delightfully dark lounge with beds for you to await your service. The facial was acceptable and left my skin glowing, but the massage from Emin (who is often referred to as “AMEN”) is ridiculous. After an hour rub down I asked him how he was able to control the hot rocks over the contours of my back. His response, “what rocks?” What felt like warm stones were actually his strong, oh-so-smooth hands. Holy moly y’all. Holy moly.
I actually started spending time at the hotel because of the pool. Due to their summertime Urban Oasis, I enjoyed the peaceful patio during the week, and then throwing back a few Coronas with a fun crowd on the weekends. Ok, so the weekends would get a little rough in Houston, but Dallas was the trendy place to be seen. I wasn’t really into the whole wearing heels in my bikini, but my gladiators worked as well. Either way, at both hot spots, the people watching was unprecedented. (Because of the recession, most hotels were opening up their pool area to locals to drive business, Zaza was no different.)
YOUR LUXE HOME
After college, Andy and I frequented the Beverly Hills Hotel so it became like our “home away from home.” Unfortunately I was never able to find a place I wanted to hang my hat in NYC. The Zaza welcomed me with open arms and it’s always nice to return for a visit. And I know they will do the same for you.
(**In total, Hotel Zaza generously comped a 4 night stay in Dallas as well as 3 spa treatments.)
The Only Places I Know In Dallas
I have to say, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Dallas. The city itself is beautiful! It boasts neighborhoods in close proximity to each other, streets lined with trees, restaurants filled with friendly (and beautiful) people, rich dining experiences, fun spots to hang out, a unique fashion sense, cultural offerings, and a means to relax . Truly, it was pretty close to a perfect urban existence.
My first week in Dallas I feel like I explored a lot of what the city had to offer in Highland Park and Uptown. Below, you’ll find a list of the places I went (or considered going to).
Coal Vines - a wine and pizza bar with a fresh, delicious menu. Transitions from low-key casual dinner to trendy hot spot around 8.
Dream Cafe- a favorite casual brunch spot for locals
Goff’s - locals’ favorite hamburger joint
Hibiscus - rustic but formal setting for a fabulous meal
Javier’s - classic tex mex for cool kids
Local - a sophisticated, clean, American offering that would make any foodie smile in a “quiet” contemporary setting
Nick and Sam’s - convenient location with a good crowd, but the food is terrible
Paradise Bakery & Cafe - think Panera but BETTER.
R+D Cafe - from the creators of Houston’s, this cafe is more casual with great sushi and interesting salads
Sprinkles - designer cupcakes from Beverly Hills that are worth every penny
Steel - ”I can never say no to Steele” – “It’s so Dallas” quotes from two local fans of the modern, pan-asian eateryVictor Tango’s- diner goes trendy for the pre-clubbing crowd. Chicken and waffles and hamburger tacos make for a fun, but fair dining experience. Stick to the sea bass skewers.
Joule Hotel- Starwood hotel that houses one of Dallas’ hottest clubs (PM) and a hip pool scene, just like the W actually
Ritz Carlton- walk into the stunning entry way and prepare for the “meat market” bar, or enjoy a cocktail on their large, well- lit terrace where you can show off your kicks and relax with friends
ZaZa Hotel- boutique hotel with a creative luxury concept and fun, young scene. A favorite for visiting celebs and locals.
Higland Park Village - beautiful outdoor mall that houses all of the major labels with a few boutiques and affordable chains
NorthPark Mall - Indoor mall with the “better” Neimans and Barney’s
Deno’s - locals swear this is the best shoe and leather repair place in the state
FortyFive Ten- creme de la creme boutique in Highland Park with a fantastic selection of designer pieces for men and women, plus a lovely home section. Don’t both to visit if you’re not looking to drop a few bills.
Scoop - the NYC boutique with a selection of trendy and semi-affordable casual-wear in Highland Park Village
Stanley Korshak - think Neimans meets Barneys on a smaller scale
Tootsies - one of my favorite stores in Texas. Upscale and always a pleasure to browse
Barcadia - Dive bar with over-sized, adult Jenga and vintage video games
Coal Vines - Like I said, it gets packed in there
The Meridian Room - although it looks a little shady, I had a blast chugging free beers and listening to a southern rock band perform outside. I hear the food is good too.
PM – exclusive club inside Joule Hotel with pretty people who think they are pretty and djs spinning an eclectic mix that will make you want to dance
Other Stuff To Do
The Arboretum – I didn’t go, but even the locals visit when looking for a fun activity
Equinox- obviously I went and loved it. The group fitness and yoga classes were actually pretty good. I twittered that if you’re single in Dallas, you should forget the drinks after work and hit the gym for a selection of good-looking, physically fit, healthy men.
The Old Katy Trail – a running, biking trail that runs through Highland Park
Weekend Pool Hopping – the pool scene at the hotels is where you’ll find the daytime party equipped with djs spinning remixes you’d expect to hear in St. Tropez. Think Tao Beach Vegas but a lot more mellow. Check out the Zaza, Joule (where the pool extends over the edge of the building), the Ritz, the Crescent, and if you don’t mind the drive, The Four Seasons.(Photo via Jeff Clow’s Flickr)