Pulling into the driveway of the Hotel del Coronado (more familiarly known simply as “The Del”), I was at first torn. As a swarm of tourists set upon the busy entrance to the legendary property, intermingling with a veritable army of valets darting hither and thither as the hotel’s trademark red turrets loomed above, my immediate reaction was that I had arrived at something more akin to the Magic Castle at Disney World than to the award-winning hotel frequented by presidents, starlets and royalty I had been predisposed to fall in love with. Oh, yes, I had done my research. I had heard about and seen The Del for years, but I had never found the right chance to visit. Still, sight unseen, I already knew that there was nothing quite ordinary about The Del. In fact, I had already categorized it as downright iconic.
For more than a century (120 years to be exact), The Del has been one of Southern California’s buzziest destinations. It has played host to 11 presidents—starting with Benjamin Harrison in 1891—entertained Hollywood’s biggest names—ranging from Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin to Brad Pitt and Madonna—rolled out the red carpet for royals like King Edward VIII (pre-abdication) and provided the backdrop for Tinseltown classics like Some Like It Hot, among others. So, understandably, with that kind of history, hopes for my stay at The Del were high to say the least. And, to be honest, at first blush, I wasn’t exactly sure those hopes were justified. That feeling of uncertainty, however, lasted all of a whopping 10 minutes.
Once past the fray in the lobby of the hotel and checked into my oceanfront room in the Victorian builiding, I glimpsed the magic of The Del. I quickly realized that my initial reaction had not really been that off at all. The Del is indeed like a Magic Castle, but unlike the one at Disney, it is the real deal—a place charmed by the ages and blessed to be surrounded by pure, awe-inspiring natural beauty. The spacious, comfortably appointed King Room had a full balcony that ran the expanse of the entire room, serving up a bird’s eye view of not only the extensive grounds that make up The Del but also of the magnificent sunsets that have become part and parcel of the Coronado experience.
Sitting on that balcony, lounging in the sun as the cool ocean breeze enveloped us, was intoxicating to be sure, but the call of the beach itself was too strong to resist. However, the urge wasn’t so strong that it prevented us from stopping off at the Eno Wine Bar to sample its international selection of cheeses and chocolates along with a few glasses of Puligny-Montrachet before sunset.
Eno is a real treat. Sophisticated but relaxed, the Eno Wine Bar makes the wine-tasting experience suitably casual for its seaside location. I dare say it’s practically Mediterranean in feel. The selection of wines, cheese and chocolates is quite considerable, and the servers are well-versed in the varying characteristics of the menu selections. Best of all, throughout the week, Eno Wine Bar offers a number of opportunities for the everyday oenophile to get better acquainted with wine and cheese that won’t break the bank. There’s “Tasting Tuesday,” where guests get to sample 10 wines for $12, “Say Cheese Wednesday,” where cheese flights are offered at half-price, “1/2 Off Thursday,” where bottles of wine are offered at half their normal price and “$5 Friday,” where you can enjoy a glass of wine for $5. Think of it as a more upscale happy hour. Now how bad can that be?
Sated with wine and cheese, we ambled down to the beach to get a closer look at the intricate sandcastles that had been built during the day and to take in the sunset before ending the night with dinner at The Del’s signature beachfront restaurant, 1500 Ocean. Perhaps the most formal of the property’s restaurants, 1500 Ocean delivers a rotating farm-to-table menu inspired by the sea. Halibut Fritters, Pacific Oysters and the Hiramaso Crudo Duo make great starters, while the Wild Striped Bass, Local Golden Grouper and the Braised Lamb Shank make for great mains.
During our meal, fireworks were shot off in the courtyard outside of the restaurant. It seems there was a mini-convention in-house on that evening, the organizers of which had ordered the sky above The Del lit up for the evening. No matter the reason or who was responsible for it, as we stood there, wine in hand, staring at the fireworks lighting up the starlit sky while the waves lapped up on the nearby shore, I was more convinced than ever that this was a magical place—The Del ... Coronado, that is.
Until next time, cheers!