Boutique appeal in the heart of Chinatown: A review of Hotel 50 Bowery, New York City
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Manhattan’s Chinatown neighbourhood has always felt equal parts foreign as it does home.
I can barely utter a phrase in Chinese, let alone read a single character. Yet there is a sense of comfort strolling along Chinatown’s culturally familiar streets. Here, I get a taste of what it’s like to return to my roots.
One of Chinatown’s most iconic streets is the Bowery, a mile-long thoroughfare identified by the frenzy of honking cars and peddling vendors. Locals know that it’s not Bowery St. or even Bowery Ave. It’s simply the Bowery — and it’s the oldest street in New York City.
A hotel located on a road so steeped in history had better embrace its origins. Thankfully, this one does.
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After a short staycation at the aptly-named Hotel 50 Bowery, I can say with certainty that this JdV by Hyatt (formerly known as Joie de Vivre) property not only is a well-executed boutique hotel, but it also pays a proper homage to its neighbourhood home.
With a unique, artistic vibe in a renowned part of town, Hotel 50 Bowery is one of the few New York City hotels that can please both out-of-towners and city staycationers with aplomb.
Here’s what it’s like to stay at Hotel 50 Bowery and experience its distinctive Chinatown location.
While it’s part of the Hyatt portfolio, Hotel 50 Bowery is definitely not your run-of-the-mill chain hotel.
It falls under the JdV by Hyatt brand, a collection of boutique hotels that reflect the vibrant neighbourhoods that they’re located in. But even though it’s got a unique name and identity, you can thankfully use your World of Hyatt points if you wish.
The 229-room property is a Category 5 hotel, meaning you can book a Standard King or Two Queen room using 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night, or pay a cash rate as I did and earn Hyatt points.
I booked a mid-level room, a King Bed Studio for $161 (£114) per night before taxes and fees. While all rooms, including Standard rooms, have floor-to-ceiling windows and city views, King Bed Studios have a slightly larger, 340-square-foot living space with a sleeper sofa — more than reasonable for New York City hotel (and apartment) standards.
A piece of advice: Before booking, take a look at cash rates to determine if it’s worth using points. Especially right now, you may often find cash rates to be the better bargain of the two, given the value of Hyatt points.
For my Wednesday night stay, the hotel charged $119 (£84) before taxes and fees for a base-level Standard King ($150; £106 with everything included). Therefore, redeeming 20,000 Hyatt points may not be a very worthwhile redemption since you’d only get a value of 0.5p per point (£106/20,000 points). TPG values World of Hyatt points at more than double that, making this the time to earn and not burn.
New York is an incredible melting pot of neighbourhoods, cultures and cuisines. Therefore, travelling within the city limits from one ethnic community to the next can feel as if you’ve been transported thousands of miles away, even if it really is only a street down the block.
That’s why I value staycations, especially in a city as large and diverse as New York. Venturing from my Midtown apartment to Chinatown isn’t just a change of scenery; it’s also a temporary immersion to a region of the world that’s currently all but inaccessible to most Americans.
The hotel is set directly across from the entrance of the Manhattan Bridge, near the intersection of the Bowery and Canal Street. In addition to Chinatown, the museums and nightlife of the Lower East Side are just a few blocks away in one direction, while in the other direction is the shopping mecca of Soho.
It’s a location that feels slightly off-the-beaten-path even though it’s still very accessible to top-notch NYC spots. And although Chinatown is a destination and attraction in its own right, the area is decidedly more local in feeling — and the hotel fully embraces this.
The lobby, as with the entire hotel, has an artsy and contemporary aesthetic. And while it projects a modern vibe, it also somehow feels warm and inviting at the same time.
Upon entering, the first thing I noticed was the whimsical array of fixtures on the ceiling, an ode to the commercial lighting district found on the Bowery.
A black circular ottoman flanks a large column and acts as the centrepiece of the lobby. Brick and exposed concrete give an industrial appearance, while dark wood and a burgundy sofa inject a dose of cosiness.
With my World of Hyatt Globalist status in hand — and a typically slower mid-week stay — I was hoping for an upgrade to a standard suite. Upgrades to space-available suites is one of my favourite perks of top-tier Hyatt status.
The friendly front desk associate thanked me for my loyalty and, to my delight, upgraded me to a Bowery Suite, the largest in the hotel. Unfortunately, the room wasn’t quite ready but I stashed my bag before going upstairs to explore the rest of the hotel.
Know that this hotel charges a $12 (plus tax) destination fee per night, which includes tea and coffee in the second-floor living space and access to the basement-level gym. While not outrageous, these sort of resort-fees-by-another-name still feel like nickel and diming for amenities that are typically included at other hotels.
Thankfully, Hyatt Globalists have this fee waived.
The walk from the lobby area to the elevators, as well as from the elevator to my suite, is through a dimly lit, dark-red corridor that yet again gives a nod to the neighbourhood.
After all, in Chinese culture, red is the colour of happiness, success and good luck. This theme continues into the suite itself with splashes of red throughout.
With only three Bowery Suites in total, it indeed took some good fortune to snag the upgrade. Of note, the Bowery Suite is the largest in the entire hotel and is available for complimentary, space-available upgrades and the use of suite upgrade certificates for Globalists.
Upon entering my suite, the first thing I noticed was the bold, Chinese-influenced artwork. The pieces blended the modern with the traditional and were painted by local artists such as Lowell Boyers and Sophia Livel.
In fact, art is a huge component of the hotel’s ethos. From the mini, in-room art gallery to the second-floor Museum of Chinese in America exhibit (more on that in a moment), Hotel 50 Bowery incorporates local art almost everywhere you look. Combined with the backdrop of Manhattan, it almost felt like temporarily living in a bit of real-life artwork.
The suite had a distinct separation between the living room and bedroom. On one side, the grey-hued living room offered plenty of seating, including a sleeper sofa and two maroon-coloured love seats (again, with the red) that gave the space a hint of colour.
I ran my hands against all the different textures, from the reclaimed wood coffee table to the bumpy concrete walls to the smooth black-and-white subway tiles. All of these contrasting surfaces and colours somehow blended together in harmony.
Over in the bedroom, my attention was immediately drawn to the two additional pieces of art hung atop the king-sized bed. Meanwhile, a long, black desk with bright-red drawer accents bordered the floor-to-ceiling windows. Views were stunning from every direction with unobstructed views looking north towards Midtown Manhattan.
The full bathroom featured Jonathan Adler amenities (no bulk toiletries here) and a rainfall showerhead. The half bathroom (the hotel calls it a powder room) even had a Bluetooth-enabled speaker system in its mirror.
Waiting in the armoire were plush bathrobes that had a red dragon emblazoned on the back. Even the privacy sign had the Chinese characters for do not disturb (“Mo cho” in Cantonese).
I smiled at all of these small quirks and appreciated the attention to detail.
Food and beverage
We’re in Chinatown, one of the best neighbourhoods for food in the city. So even though the lacks a full-service restaurant (the lobby-level Rice & Gold closed several years ago), dining options galore await just steps away.
The hotel also makes up for its lack of a real dining venue in several ways. First, it has a trendy rooftop bar called The Crown featuring both indoor and outdoor seating with sweeping Manhattan views, elevated cocktails (read: pricey) and small bites.
In addition, Hotel 50 Bowery partners with a local diner for American breakfast options delivered directly to the lobby. Alternatively, you can have dim sum and other Chinese dishes delivered from Jing Fong, a Manhattan Chinatown institution — and one of my personal favourites.
At check-in, the hotel provides a curated local guide to favourite neighbourhood eateries, bars and attractions. On that list is Chinatown’s oldest tea parlour, Nom Wah, just a few minutes’ walk from 50 Bowery. Also around the block is the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, a family-owned staple since 1978.
I went to Nom Wah for a hearty lunch and reminisced about my family’s weekend dim sum outings while growing up in the suburbs of New York.
And, once again, I was reminded just how integrated the hotel was with the area.
The Hotel 50 Bowery has a distinctive feature that is rarely seen at hotels — an exhibit dedicated to, you guessed it, its neighbourhood.
On the second floor, a gallery curated by the Museum of Chinese in America provides background on the unique history of 50 Bowery and surrounding Chinatown streets. In its past life, the location of the hotel was a tavern, a gambling den and a vaudeville theatre from the 1700s through the early 1900s.
These days, I found the hotel — opened in 2017 — to be one of the best if you’re looking to get work done. Here’s why.
Next to the exhibit, the second-floor living room features a variety of comfortable seating with fresh coffee and tea provided throughout the day. The space resembles a cafe-within-a-hotel concept, and it opens up to a 5,000-square-foot outdoor terrace that is also Wi-Fi-equipped.
Even if you don’t stay the night, work-from-hotel programmes have flourished in recent months, and Hotel 50 Bowery participates in Hyatt’s programme. If you need a break from work, feel free to get your sweat on at the 24-hour gym, featuring two Peloton bikes, a TPG favourite amenity.
Hotel 50 Bowery is also pet-friendly, with no extra charge to bring your furry companion.
I was impressed with Hotel 50 Bowery; not only because it’s a great boutique hotel, but also that it spotlights Chinatown rather than ignoring or erasing it. In a community so rich in history and cuisine — but also hurting from recent anti-Asian sentiment — this is more important than ever before.
Even though I live in NYC and have visited this neighbourhood countless times, I authentically connected with Hotel 50 Bowery in a way that I’ve rarely done at other hotels.
My own background is a blend of East meets West. The same can be said of this hotel, even from the moment you step foot in the elevator. From the obvious design and art, to easier to miss touches such as both the 13th and 14th floors missing since they’re unlucky in their respective Eastern and Western cultures, this hotel blends several worlds seamlessly.
Hotel 50 Bowery is upscale yet accessible, and if you want to stay local, but feel like you’re (almost) going international, this is the place to spend your time in New York.
All photos by author, unless otherwise indicated.
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