Just days after celebrating its 77th year of existence, the historic Lafayette Hotel & Club officially embarks on its next chapter on Wednesday, July 12 when it reemerges in North Park after a 31-million-dollar transformation overseen by its new caretakers, local hospitality group CH Projects (Born & Raised, Youngblood).
The landmark property spans two and a half acres on El Cajon Boulevard, where it was opened by developer Larry Imig as Imig Manor in July 1946, when Bob Hope was reportedly its first guest. Renamed the Lafayette in the 50s, it became a popular getaway for Hollywood luminaries like Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, and Frank Sinatra.
Calling it a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, CH Projects founder Arsalun Tafazoli sees the group’s renovation of the hotel more as a preservation to help ensure its longevity and standing in San Diego. It was also a chance to apply their overall hospitality experience on a very large scale rather than just consulting on the food and beverage side; every corner of the property has gotten the CH treatment, from its 139 guest rooms and suites tricked out with the ultimate minibar curated by tiki legend Paul McGee to an ambient soundtrack created by music producer and La Jolla resident Swizz Beats.
While it’ll undoubtedly be a destination for visitors, out-of-towners might be more inclined to post up at resorts closer to the beaches or major city attractions. Tafazoli tells Eater that he sees the hotel as an ideal staycation spot, a place for San Diegans to escape to in their own backyards. The LaFayette’s iconic pool, a longtime hangout for area residents, will be accessible to both hotel guests as well locals on a reservation basis.
Designed with the Brooklyn-based Post Company, its eight new bars and restaurants will be rolled out in two stages. In collaboration with CH’s director of culinary operations Perfecte Rocher, chef Ted Smith (Lion’s Share, Born & Raised) is heading up the 24-hour Beginners Diner, fashioned in chrome and neon like a 1940s vintage diner car with a menu that pairs boozy milkshakes with elevated diner fare ranging from wagyu sirloin steak and eggs to biscuits and gravy with housemade sausage as well as Jewish deli classics like matzo ball soup and pickled herring.
On the site of the relocated Red Fox Room is Quixote, an Oaxacan restaurant and bar whose dark and moody interior, set with dripping candles and stained glass windows, was built with pieces of decommissioned Catholic church from Mexico. Hailing from Puebla, Mexico, chef Jose Cepeda cooked at LA’s modern Mexican restaurant, Mirame as well as the Tao Group in San Diego. His mother lived in Oaxaca, and his menu for Quixote features twists on her traditional recipes: plates include antojitos like tlayudas with cheese soubise and sauerkraut, tetelas filled with duck carnitas, and crispy lamb belly with mole. Beverage director Alicia Perry makes homemade horchata and other culinary ingredients for a cocktail lineup that features agave spirits as well as other Mexican distillates like sotol and Oaxacan rum.
Across the way, the Gutter might become an industry-favorite hub, says CH’s Anthony Schmidt. Stocked with pool tables, shuffleboard, and a two-lane bowling alley, the bar will showcase deep-cut classic drinks and be the most equipped to provide a dealer’s choice custom cocktail experience.
Beyond the reception lounge and cafe serving coffee and pastries is the Lobby Bar, which sits under a sparkling glass atrium. Its cocktail list is all about faithful New Orleans-style throwbacks, from Sazeracs to Vieux Carres and milk punch.
And with its tropical garden meets coastal Italian vibes, Schmidt says the Pool Bar menu mixes J & Tony’s with False Idol: think spritzes and amaros alongside Painkillers.
The rest of the venues should be ready by October, Tafazoli says. They include an elaborate spa and wellness center along with a fine dining restaurant called Le Horse Continental Room that will pay homage to the legacy of Escoffier, the legendary French chef known as the father of modern haute cuisine, and Lulu’s Jungle Room & the Mississippi Room, which will see a former event space turned into a jazz supper club and live music venue with the Casbah’s Tim Mays consulting. And finally, the Chef’s Table will be an intimate spot hosting guest chefs for tasting menu pop-ups and where the hospitality group’s chefs can also innovate.
The Lafayette Hotel & Club, 2223 El Cajon Blvd, North Park.