There's something retro about the Hotel Normandie, and we're not just talking about its interiors. This is the type of hotel we thought had disappeared for good: reasonably priced, friendly, comfortable without being luxurious, and doing what it does really, really well.
One of the things that makes Hotel Normandie work so well is its location. One block back from Wiltshire Boulevard in the Koreatown neighbourhood, it has a metro station around the corner, as well as easy access to the fleets of buses travelling along Wiltshire. Easy connections to Hollywood, Downtown LA and even Santa Monica encourage you to get out and explore this sprawling city.
The low-slung Hotel Normandie was born during the 1920s, and a $5 million restoration several years ago rediscovered many of its original Jazz Age features. The most striking space is the lobby, with its wood-beamed ceilings, tiled floors, leather couches, oversized fireplace and even a pretty little fountain. Unlike some hotel lobbies, however, this space feels welcoming and intimate; you would feel quite happy curling up on one of the couches with a good book.
The vintage vibe continues in the rooms, which are simply furnished; a wise move, given their compact size. We love the fact that every room has an empty fridge; fill it with your choice of beverages picked up from one of the nearby convenience stores. Another nice touch is the fact that many of the original bathroom features – tubs, tiles and all – have been retained, adding to the old-school feel.
The retro vibe even extends to the food. The hotel's "in-house" restaurant – actually an independent operation – is the venerable Cassell's Hamburgers, established in 1948. Hotel guests can enjoy a free continental breakfast in this '50s-style diner, but for a real Cassell's experience, pop in for lunch or dinner. The old-school burgers are made in-house from scratch – they even grind the meat themselves – and are a cut above the competition.
A different dinner experience on offer at Le Comptoir, but for this one you will need to book well in advance. Le Comptoir has just 10 seats, and is open just four nights a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) so its two sessions a night, at 6pm and 8.30pm, sell out fast. Chef Gary Menes, ex-French Laundry, dishes up sophisticated seven-course menus structured around vegetables. Food fans won't want to miss dinner at this unusual and intriguing restaurant.
The Koreatown neighbourhood restaurant has plenty of options if you are big on Korean food or karaoke, but not much beyond that. Fortunately, nearby neighbourhoods such as Hollywood and Downtown LA are easily accessed by bus or metro, significantly expanding your entertainment options. One of LA's best museums, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is nearby, while a few stops on the metro will bring you to Downtown's cultural heavyweights, the Broad Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Downtown is also a great hub for food lovers (top of your list should be Broken Spanish, Bestia and Grand Central Markets), as is Beverly Hills: a quick bus ride or Uber trip will take you to revered outlets such as Bouchon or Curtis Stone's superb Maude.
The central location, with a metro station just around the corner, makes it easy to get around this sprawling city.
If you are looking for little luxuries such as terry towelling robes, you have come to the wrong place.
If you are looking for a centrally located hotel that won't break the bank, the Hotel Normandie is hard to beat.
605 S Normandie Ave. Rates from $159 a room, see hotelnormandiela.com.
Ute Junker travelled courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board and Hotel Normandie.