Philadelphia | Hotel Palomar | Square 1682

Hotel Palomar is a classic contemporary hotel—very similar to every supposedly “boutique” hotel we’ve become accustomed to. (A real boutique hotel is the Inn at Irving, a Victorian Brownstone with 12 rooms and a tea salon in NYC). Except the Palomar is pet friendly, setting it apart from the W and Thompsons of this world (although the décor is almost identical). Being allowed to bring your pup on vacation with you is a huge selling point.

The suites are nice and the service is typical, although at $449 a night it does seem that they nickel and dime you a bit on the a la carte options. When I pay a premium at a hotel and forget to bring a razor or toothbrush, I expect that to be included in the aforementioned fee.

The real reason to come to Hotel Palomar is Square 1682. One meal at Square 1682 and you’ll realize any apprehension about eating at a hotel restaurant is unfounded. It’s not cheap, but good food rarely is.

Knowledgeable staff is an overused term in the industry, and it should be reserved for places like this. Of course I remember ordering my meal, but I still appreciate a server who knows where the food is going, exactly what it is I’m being served (blackened cod on heavenly polenta with leek confit and caramelized fennel), and a waiter whose wine pairing is impeccable. A good sommelier is underrated and hard to find.

I insist that anybody who eats here order a five course menu, entirely possible due to the tapas size portions they offer—in addition to sharing plates and entrees. Each forkful of the Serrano ham (cured, bite size happiness) or lobster bisque (almost taken off the menu due to the reinvention of the broth) had me warming up to this idea of a modern deconstructed meal.

The entrées were incredibly decent—but those tailored small bites at the start of the meal stole the show.

Perhaps it’s because our standards of ‘the hotel restaurant’ are so incredibly low, but Square 1682 is more than the sub standard food the typical Four Seasons of this world coast on. Skip the overrated Le Bec Fin. Square 1652 is Philadelphia’s hidden gem.