By Terry Trucco
At a glance: The Iroquois New York, a small, historic, 114-room hotel on the outskirts of Times Square, is everything Times Square isn’t. It’s quiet, unassuming and glitz-free. In other words, it’s ideal of you like being near Broadway theaters or in the thick of things without constant reminders of how flashy, noisy and touristy Times Square is.
The hotel’s modest dimensions, upstairs and downstairs, are also at odds with Times Square’s larger-than-life personality. But with stylish guest rooms and a freshly refurbished lobby outfitted with ample seating (for a small hotel), the Iroquois is a soothing place to come home to, even if only for a night.
With new wood paneling and crips lines, the lobby is more generic than we’d like (we miss the signature grandfather clock), but way more contemporary than before. It boasts two appealing showpieces — a pocket-size library outfitted with a sofa, twin leather club chairs and a modest assortment of reading material, and Lantern’s Keep, a pioneering speakeasy set to reopen soon following refurbishment (it served terrific craft cocktails in its previous iteration).
Upstairs, guest rooms are nicely appointed, as is the smart little fitness room. A one-time budget hotel that welcomed residential guests — actor James Dean lived here before he hit it big in Hollywood — the Iroquois received a radical redo in 1997 that elevated it, and its prices, from budget to plush. This latest public space redo was much needed and should bump up the luxury quotient another notch or two. We look forward to the grand finale — the unveiling of a new restaurant in the space adjoining the lobby.
Rooms: Not large but attractive; rooms were refurbished top to toe in 2018, and boast Frette bed linens and Anichini towels. Think traditional in the best sense — comfortable and well appointed with framed fashion photos shot in Manhattan. Beds, mostly kings, are surmounted by dark, rolled leather headboards. Contemporary dark wood Venetian blinds add a moody noir feel.
Bathrooms, clad in black and white marble, have large showers fronted by clear glass doors. Suites are spacious enough to hold a small business meeting.
Amenities: WiFi, shoe shine, Le Belge chocolates at bedtime, ice tea or cider upon arrival and morning coffee from a big silver urn in the lobby – all comp. The gym, carved from two former guest rooms, includes a pocket-size sauna and a bathroom with a shower so you can clean up before catching the plane.
Food and drink: Triomphe, the hotel’s romantic but pricey Nouvelle French restaurant has closed. But the area is jam-packed with places to eat including DB Bistro Moderne at the City Club Hotel next door as well as the restaurants at the Royalton, Sofitel and Algonquin on the same block. There’s also an agreeably priced Red Flame diner, a Greek classic, that’s steps away.
As mentioned earlier, Lantern’s Keep, the hotel speakeasy bar, is set to reopen soon. On of Midtown’s first speakeasies, it was known for adventurous craft cocktails and a cozy vibe. If the lantern next to the hotel’s front door is lighted, the bar is open. Good luck scoring a seat.
Surroundings: We love this block. Almost high-rise free, it contains six stylish hotels, clubs galore (Harvard, Penn, Mariners) and appealing architecture straight out of a black-and-white movie or a Wee Gee photograph. Times Square and the Theater District, Grand Central Station, Bryant Park and the New York Public library are nearby. Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue shopping and Macy’s are only slightly further afield. Subways are several blocks away; bus stops are steps away.
Back story: The Algonquin had Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle, but the Iroquois had cool, ie: James Dean, who lived here from 1951 to ‘52, before the Frette sheets – and Rebel without a Cause. In less palmy days, the hotel restaurant was the memorabilia-filled James Dean bar.
Following the 1997 renovation, the photos, playbills and autographs landed in the James Dean Suite (room 803), now just a memory following this latest refurbishment. If you’re a fan, console yourself at www.jamesdeangallery.com.
Keep in mind: Closet space is minimal. Back rooms sometimes hear the hum of the generator next door at the Sofitel.