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San Francisco itineraries

One day if I go to heaven, I'll look around and say, "It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco."
– Herb Caen

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Checking In/Checking Out

A True Epiphany for the Silicon Valley Hotel Scene

by Christina Ohly

The exterior of The Epiphany hotel at dusk.
The Epiphany at dusk. Photo courtesy of The Epiphany.

You can now visit your kids at Stanford or your friend at Google in style. With the opening of The Epiphany, the Silicon Valley hotel scene is no longer a wasteland. Contributing editor Christina Ohly takes a look around.

CHECKING IN

Overview

PALO ALTO, California – You're lucky if you actually get to check into a hotel in Silicon Valley, as it is one of the most underserved hotel markets in America. With the explosion of tech, the draw of Stanford University, and lovely weather year-round, the southern end of the San Francisco Peninsula is a huge draw for business people and tourists alike, many of whom have to travel south toward San Jose to score a good night's sleep.

No longer. The Epiphany, the new addition to the hotel scene, is perfectly placed in downtown Palo Alto just steps from incubators, investment banks, yoga studios, and the most excellent chopped salads ever.

At just a year old, The Epiphany is the luxury boutique hotel for the tech crowd. Located in the heart of Palo Alto just off University Avenue with its bustling restaurants and VC chatter, The Epiphany is a design-led, sleek spot with no airs whatsoever. The parent company, smart Joie de Vivre hotel group, has struck a series of partnerships with emerging tech companies — Jawbone and New York-based Master & Dynamic audio among them — to introduce guests to the latest in Fitbit and headphone technology. Rooms have sleek furnishings with natural wood finishes, flat screen TVs, and lovely terraces overlooking downtown.

Claim to Fame

The hotel is just over a year old and is already drawing an innovative, SURFACE-magazine-loving design crowd. There are lots of unique touches — kitted out minibars and fridges, activity trackers and sleep measurement devices — and an enthusiastic staff that are truly eager to please.

The Exterior of The Epiphany

Quite the tech-savvy looker. Photo courtesy of The Epiphany.

Lure+Pick at The Epiphany

The bar at Lure + Till. Photo by Aubrie Pick.

Food from Lure+Pick at The Epiphany

Colorful plates from Lure + Till. Photo by Aubrie Pick.

What's on Site

The WiFi is excellent (natch) as is all of the technology (from TVs to bathroom lighting). The rooms and suites on the 7th and 8th floors have outstanding views (room 802 is a winner) and there is a focus throughout on natural light. The hotel restaurant, Lure + Till, is an excellent, standalone draw. Vivre gym across the street offers a full-service program, including classes, for those in search of a comprehensive workout. A Project Edison chandelier — a kinetic light sculpture created with tech company IDEO — pulses and retracts in response to various data streams and makes sitting in the lobby a complete joy. And it should probably go without say that if you're in town for meetings, the hotel has great facilities if it's your turn to host the team.

The Food

Lure + Till is a winner — for the after-work drinks crowd as well as for business lunches and for more refined dinners. Chef Patrick Kelly creates everything from approachable California staples like Cobb salad and roasted chicken wraps with harissa to elegant mains like Sonoma duck breast and grilled seafood a la plancha. All locally sourced and foraged, of course. The bar is a huge draw as well, not only for the craft cocktails, but also for the outdoor seating and vibrant, ideas-filled scene. Breakfast is similarly well executed, with a focus on fresh, somewhat healthy favorites, including homemade granola and excellent spinach and mushroom omelets.

In the Room

The custom Smeg mini bars deserve a standalone review, but let's just say you won't leave The Epiphany hungry. In addition to standard chocolates, artisanal potato chips, and Project Juice drinks, The Epiphany's versions are tailored to the guest, with offerings of market greens, seared albacore tuna tarts with olive tapenade, and housemate pickles.

This Place Is Perfect For

The business traveler, the coder, the venture capitalist, and anyone in touch with their inner geek. In addition to being well located for meetings with bankers and developers, the hotel is also in striking distance of Stanford.

But Not So Perfect For

Anyone in search of a bucolic, country experience, a swimming pool, or a spa. The Epiphany is a lovely, urban vibe.

Room with a View

I stayed in room 802 and found the experience sublime. A sprawling terrace with tables, chairs, and sunbrellas made working outside heavenly. That lovely California light streamed throughout my high-ceilinged sitting area and made 802 feel more like an apartment than a cramped hotel room.

Bedroom at The Epiphany

Rooms are spacious and serene. Photo courtesy of The Epiphany.

Bedroom at The Epiphany

Bedroom with meeting space. Photo by Aubrie Pick.

Mini Fridge at The Epiphany

Custom Smeg mini bar. Photo courtesy of The Epiphany.


CHECKING OUT

Neighborhood Vibe

You'll be one block from University Avenue, which has everything from the basics (CVS, Starbucks) to great, relatively inexpensive cafes. Local Union is a new lunch spot that serves enormous salads and sandwiches in a rustic, airy setting. Hanahaus is the new coffee communal workspace for networking and absorbing the incredible energy in the Valley. Other foodie highlights include Tamarine for excellent Vietnamese dishes, Evvia for mezzes and chicken souvlaki, and Oren's Hummus Shop for delicious pitas stuffed with chicken, tahini, and a secret sauce. Be sure to arrive early — lines start forming at Oren's at 11:30 a.m. The new kid on the block is Sushirrito, a maki roll meets burrito concept where the Satori (a kampachi yellowtail, cucumber, pickled red onion, sweet corn, red tobiko, avocado, and wasabi mayo combo) has people waiting for 30 minutes or more. Those excellent chopped salads, by the way, are at Pluto's.

What to Do Nearby

Don't miss the relatively new Anderson Collection at Stanford University where modern and contemporary artworks by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Louise Nevelson are displayed in spare, soothing spaces. Continue on to the Cantor Arts Center before visiting the iconic Hoover Tower at the center of campus. An easy hike to the Stanford Dish at the edge of town leads to excellent views of the Valley, the Bay, and its bridges in the distance.

Good to Know

Book as far ahead as you can, and take into account Stanford football games, parents' visiting days, and major tech conferences. With just 86 rooms, The Epiphany books up well in advance.

BOOK IT

Rates start at $269. Click here for reservations

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Fathom's Guide to San Francisco

Christina, a Fathom contributing editor, writes about travel, food, fashion, and design for the Financial Times' How to Spend It, Town & Country, and Conde Nast Traveler. She travels the world to teach her kids (and herself) about the world around them.

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