At the end of a seven-hour drive from Austin you enter the high desert of West Texas. There, between the Davis Mountains to the north and Big Bend National Park to the south, are just a handful of tiny towns, remote cattle ranches and roving pronghorn antelope. And Marfa, a small, sleepy place with an outsize international reputation. Much of its sophistication can be traced to Donald Judd, an artist whose monumental minimalist installations at the Chinati Foundation drew the art world to Marfa in the 1980s.
In the past, I have stopped in Marfa to visit its galleries en route to Cibolo Creek Ranch, 40 miles to the southwest. Recently, however, I was intrigued to hear about the opening of Hotel Saint George in the town itself. The property sits on the site of a former Hotel Saint George, which was built in 1886. Some of the materials for the new lobby were repurposed, but overall the building is a decidedly modern take on the original. The lobby décor is austere, with a long monolithic iron wall and matching reception desk as its centerpiece. The space is flanked by a bar, a restaurant and the Marfa Book Company, so the atmosphere is often lively. On arrival, we had to carry our own luggage. Later, however, we found the concierge to be very helpful.
The hotel is popular and tends to be booked up far in advance. On our first night we stayed in a Deluxe King room. This was not very large, but it was neatly organized. Amenities included a desk with multiple outlets and an illy espresso machine. The bath provided a walk-in shower, robes and Aesop products. For our second night we upgraded to the corner Highland Suite, which was considerably more spacious. Overall, however, the design felt less coherent. We were also disappointed to find that the bath was exactly the same as in the smaller room and didn’t include a tub. Strangely, the living area came with two televisions. The décor was similar in both categories, with high-quality furniture by Alvar Aalto and a hit-or-miss assortment of modern and psychedelic paintings.
Our dinner at LaVenture, the main hotel restaurant, was satisfying but not outstanding. Chef Allison Jenkins offers a contemporary American menu with European influences. My main course of crispy chicken with gnocchi and seasonal vegetables wasn’t especially crispy, but it was nicely seasoned. Next door to LaVenture is the more casual Bar Saint George, which offers standard fare such as burgers, plus a good selection of tequilas, sotols and mezcals. The property has no spa, but guests do have access to the Saint George Swim Club, a large pool enclosed in the redbrick courtyard next door. Hotel Saint George is certainly comfortable, but, alas, it ultimately falls below the standard expected by Hideaway Report readers.
The comfortable beds and stylish pool.
Questionable design choices give the modern aesthetic a lack of character.
The St. George Bar is open at all hours, which makes it a reliable standby on the Marfa food scene.