Will The Ace Hotel Raise the Bar for the Old Town Dining Scene?

Finally, there's hope that Phoenicians will stop bitching and moaning and comparing the Valley to New York or Portland or Palm Springs, places that are invariably superior because they boast an Ace Hotel. (I'm rolling my eyeballs at our collective insecurity, but I won't lie: The Ace is effing cool, alright -- read the recent New York Times Style Section feature on its founder.)

Now, locals will have their own budget boutique hipster haven to call their own, if its new owner, The Sydell Group (which owns The Ace Hotel in NYC, and The Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs) turns the former Hotel Theodore into The Ace Hotel Scottsdale. (Hotel Theodore is that place in Old Town, on the north end of the Civic Plaza, that used to be The Mondrian, and before that, The James.) Just look at how excited our sister blog is at the prospect of an Ace-ified Hotel Theodore.

What might we expect to fill the void of now-doomed Cielo restaurant? Well, in Portland's Ace has a great tavern called Clyde Common, where the comforting American fare is casual but geared to food geeks, and the cocktail list was so interesting that I stole a copy as a souvenir when I visited last summer. 

Meanwhile, the new-ish Ace Hotel in New York City is home to The Breslin, an edgy, nose-to-tail gastropub from the owners of Michelin-starred eatery The Spotted Pig, as well as a seafood spot called The John Dory, No. 7 Sub Shop, and an outpost of Portland coffee cool, Stumptown Roasters. It's the must-visit hangout in Manhattan these days.

Although we don't know for sure that Hotel Theodore will become The Ace, I predict that it will, based on the young, stylish demographic that property's been attracting for years. I haven't visited since Theodore took over, but I recall a mob scene when The Mondrian's Asia de Cuba opened, and The James's in-house Italian restaurant, Fiamma, still brings fond memories. 

Now, what I'm really wondering is how much (what I assume will be) The Ace will raise the bar for Old Town's dining scene. Will the hotel's new owners be able to pull off a flat-out hit, making it a magnet not only for out-of-town visitors, but locals who just want to eat, drink, and soak in the vibe? 

If so, it's going to push other Old Town restaurants and hotels to really bring the heat. But it will definitely be an energizing presence. Really, this can only be a good thing for the area. The W and The Hotel Valley Ho have already established themselves in the vicinity of Old Town, but are they completely essential to local residents? This might force them to reach out more to residents and not just cater to hotel guests. 

And who's to say that any of this really has to do with outsiders coming in and bestowing hipness upon our sun-soaked city? The talent is already here, and so are the ideas. 

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig