Overnighting at the New Motto NYC Chelsea Hotel

Images by Joe Thomas

While few things in New York City, from renting the right apartment (getting a job as an astronaut may be easier), to landing a table at Dorsia (see: American Psycho script), come easy, one endeavor that has recently become less of an ordeal is booking a stylish and affordable hotel room. Many factors are contributing to this, but a significant one is the fact that all the big hotel chains – think Hilton and Marriott – are spinning off boutique brands as fast as they can come up with a name, and they all need a presence in what is still America’s most touristed city.

Leisure and business travelers – the latter who are gingerly breaking out the T&E accounts again – have never had more of a selection at this level, and a few are genuine standouts (we quite like the Hotel Indigo LES). And while marketing departments can wax rhapsodic about sustainability initiatives and the latest farm to table rooftop bar, the proof is always in the individual experience; and as with romantic partners, one usually knows fairly quickly if it’s a proper match.

Having quite a few notches in our belt, as least when it comes to hotel stays, we have certainly developed a good sense of these things. And we’re happy to report that the new Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea, which just opened its doors in January, delivers on all fronts. A massive 42-story tower on a once nondescript block of west 24th street – we remember one of the city’s last go-go bars, Billy’s Topless, on the Sixth Avenue corner, which is now a bagel shop – Motto impresses from the start with a grand front entrance, showcasing the colorfully inviting lobby through a giant wall of glass. Like Billy’s, they are not trying to hide anything.  

We’ll get to the décor, restaurant, and amenities shortly, but our second wow moment happened upon entering the room and taking in the spectacular view of all of lower Manhattan (and parts of New Jersey, to be fair) from our 36th floor windows. The city’s wow factor has been providing diminishing returns for us over the years, but here we found ourselves once again impressed.

Hotel design is surely a precarious occupation – how to make something stylish, knowing that it’s going to be used and possibly even abused by hundreds of people a year. We’ve all encountered hotel room appliances and décor that just didn’t hold up a year into their life, but we were quite impressed by the brass and chrome hardware at the Motto. The gold shower head was indeed a luxurious touch, even if it took a few minutes for the hot water to make it up 36 floors.

Also of note in the hotel’s layout are the connecting rooms, some of which include bunk beds, and of which as many as three can be joined together – perfect for that touring cheerleader squad or seven-piece indie band. (Though seven-piece indie bands have been known to share one room, so…)

Motto interiors were actually courtesy of Stonehill Taylor, of NoMad and Ace Hotels notoriety. And their clever use of space – platform beds with storage areas underneath, hooks on the walls for hanging belongings – gives the otherwise smallish rooms a distinct sense of capaciousness.

Back at ground level we sidled up to the grand lobby bar for an aperitif. The design mirrors the overall chrome and gold look, a nod to its 24th street location, in that chromium is the 24th element, and, you know, the 24-karat stuff. Past the sunken conversation pit – a nice touch as it eliminates any question of where to hang out – we settled into dinner at Motto’s snazzy, good-looking on-site resto Bar Cicchetti, Bravo’s Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani’s take on sharable rustic Italian fare. And share we did, of a inventive romaine and truffle salad, flecked with gorgonzola and house pancetta, followed by a delightful lamb shank with lemon polenta. Pizzas (n’duja, melted leek), pastas (squid ink cavatelli, orcchiette w/ pistachio pesto) and creative fare like woodland mushrooms crostino and cioppino fish stew rounded out the very well done menu.

Exiting out on 24th street the following day, we got that familiar rush that comes from having just stayed in cool new hotel, expecting fully to return soon for a well-prepared grilled octopus or crispy duck salad at Cicchetti. Motto, certainly, will be a brand to watch.

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