Happy New Year 2024! December totally snowballed (pun intended) so I’m a *little* late but I still have got to tell you all about this “affordable luxury” boutique hotel I stayed at! There are as many hotel options in New York City as lights on the Rockefeller Center tree. So how do you choose? Well. I love to be immersed in the area where I have activities planned, and this December weekend NYC trip was all about Broadway shows and getting inspired by the Holiday decor on iconic 5th Avenue! Some late-night searching for NYC Theatre District hotels and ho-ho-ho! I fell for CIVILIAN.
An Architectural Ode to Broadway
After a slightly delayed but otherwise uncomplicated flight to LaGuardia, four of us and our luggage crammed into one Toyota Camry Uber and headed into the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Our destination: the Theatre District and one of its rising architectural stars: CIVILIAN hotel.
It’s a bustling NYC Friday night on W 48th. The unseasonably warm–balmy for New York–December weather has people out and about and although the street seems kind of dimly lit, the hustle paired with the smells of pizza and tacos makes me feel pretty safe.
Our Uber Camry comes to a halt and this time it’s not just traffic and we must have arrived because Omar is already out and unloading our luggage onto the busy sidewalk. I’m feeling some panic because it looks like we’re getting dropped at a sort of speakeasy club situation. Red ropes, long line of beautiful young people. . .large imposing man at the door. Who’s looking pissed that we’ve just spilled out and created chaos on his orderly turf.
But then I look up and sure enough–there’s the simple thin illuminated lettering proclaiming CIVILIAN in all caps with throwback-style marquee lighting!
I march ahead of my little flock and yank the door open that’s not being guarded like I own the place, ushering my friends and hubby inside.
Inside what, exactly. . .? my inner voice is annoyingly doubtful. It feels like we’ve snuck into an off-limits theatre alley. Exposed reclaimed brick soars to meet a starry ceiling of optic-illusion marquee lights over my head. I follow the lights in wonder, registering the sounds of lively music, as my eyes travel the length of the ceiling and down the far wall. Then I realize there’s a podium with a charming young man smiling and greeting us.
We have arrived! What an entrance. Unexpected and the Broadway theme is already firmly in place. What other wonders does this boutique hold? Plenty, as we were to find out over the course of our 3-night stay.
Prologue to a Review
- Built in 2020, CIVILIAN’s owner Jason Pomeranc and designer David Rockwell
- 27-story, with 203 rooms, ranging from “Cozy” 130 sq ft to “Spacious” 300 sq ft
- There are three fantastic venues within CIVILIAN: subway-meets-supper-club Rosevale Kitchen, jazzy brick-clad lounge Rosevale Cocktail, and “living room in the sky” Starchild. All three are managed by Vegas group Carver Road Hospitality.
Act I: Beautiful Spaces Serving up Scrumptious Food & Drinks
Carver Road’s Director of Culinary Development Jeannie Glass create food menus that are just as thought-provoking as the interior design that surrounds you. There’s probably not a bad thing to be had here -we loved everything we tried!
House made focaccia and country breads arrive on a board with local butter, tomato basil whipped ricotta, and hot honey dips. Tuna tartare is kicked up a notch with Tabasco mayo. Thin crispy cacio e pepe zucchini strips with pecorino, black pepper and lemon are so addictive we got them twice!
Roasted kabocha and delicata squash drizzled with hot honey, ricotta salata, chickory is a vegetarian’s dream appetizer–or entrée.
Also great as an entrée: manilla clams, steamed with vermentino and nduja, served with a sprinkle of vibrant green parsley and yummy buttery garlic toast. Hubby Mark loved the atlantic cod served up with wild mushroom and cipollini onion in a creamy pale green herb butter so much he ordered it twice too!
What to pair with this incredible American-with-global-twists fare? A perfectly balanced cocktail from the mind of Francesco Lafranconi, naturally. I couldn’t get enough of the “spicy encounter” with El Tequileno Blanco, Tanteo jalapeno tequila, Ancho Reyes Verde, passionfruit, lime, agave, mezcal float, and a Tajin salt rim. That sounds like a lot but it comes down to. . .tastes like a jalapeño-spiced passionfruit margarita.
Between the Broadway shows and the late-night dining, we missed the live jazz upstairs at Rosevale Cocktail room but the cool cat vibes are still purring through this dimly lit enclave. Make sure you get up close to the glass wall displaying theater models!
And be sure to tiptoe behind the spiral staircase for at least a peek at the Blue Room! To the left is an open-glass ceiling with city views. To the right are arched glass cases showing off a kaleidoscope of Broadway treasures.
After being wowed by my beloved Moulin Rouge movie re-birthed as an incredible Broadway hit, I had to try out La Sinfoniá de Roxanne: Ketel One vodka, Empirical Spirits Symphony 6, Lillet Rose, Burlesque bitters. Hits like a Vesper martini: it’s all booze in that pretty cocktail glass–but in a light, lightly floral, sort of way. A perfect sipper to enjoy in this vibey space.
For the best views, hit the roof! It kills me to say this, but we MISSED our opportunity to visit Starchild. The red rope with line of beautiful people? They were heading here. I didn’t feel up for that kind of party scene after flying in late and dining even later on Friday night. Saturday when I asked Sekou at the front desk about it and he reported we’d have to get a wristband from the guy out front. . .well. About that. I just feel as a hotel guest we should get some sort of priority visitation!!
And oops I didn’t realize til too late Starchild is closed Sunday-Monday. I’m more of an after-work ’til sunset cocktails and chill kind of gal anyways. So on my list for next visit is to make sure and carve this timeframe out for Starchild.
Act II: Even though it’s relatively new on the scene of NYC Theatre District hotels, CIVILIAN has so much SOUL.
How, you may ask? Well. It’s all those details! The artwork on the walls isn’t just some generic crap. Rockwell actually forms a coalition of Broadway designers and the American Theatre Wing in order to acquire and display photographs, props, sketches, models, and costume pieces from past and current Broadway shows around the hotel! The Olio Collection, to paraphrase Rockwell in his and Pomeranc’s interview with Forbes, gives some permanence to what is otherwise theater ephemera. His passion for the theatre district and for authenticity in design is so inspiring. I loved his interview with Hospitality Design.
“Over 350 pieces of art—including sketches, models, photos, and costume pieces—can be found throughout our halls and spaces, representing 100 years of Broadway history.”From the CIVILIAN website
I think the concept of this collection as a revolving one is also exciting. You can come back in a few months or a year and you might see new set minis or different show relics! I’ve actually started rotating some of the art around my own home. Often it’s seasonal but sometimes I just decide one day I want to look at something else on my bedroom wall when I wake up! I’ve found it’s a great way to showcase and appreciate the things we have.
Act III: More Interior Design inspo from this unique boutique version of NYC Theatre District hotels
Get Creative in your hallways.
Ok, so people aren’t hanging around waiting for the elevator at your house, but there’s a good chance they’re gonna wander down a hallway for the bathroom, right? Make your hallways worthy of a pause point! CIVILIAN does it right with “unplanned” behind-the curtain Broadway moments captured in black and white images sourced through the American Theatre Wing.
Oh. And wallpaper. Wallpaper that goes beyond “oh, that’s cool” to “oh, there’s a Broadway theatre tie-in here too!” In an elevator: Paul Tazewell’s Tony Award-winning costume designs for the musical Hamilton. In the halls: a few different versions of abstracted details from patterns by costume designer Isabel Toledo (Rockwell and team worked with her husband, Ruben, on this project). Also featured: incredible patterns from William Ivey Long. GREAT NEWS: you can BUY peel-and-stick wallpaper in all the patterns HERE. Even better news? Your purchase supports the American Theatre Wing!
Make Every Square Inch Count.
Yes, the rooms are most certainly on the small side. But you know what? No detail was left to chance. All the finishes are the epitome of Sophisticated x Playful. Brushed brass, penny tile, luxe natural lava stone sink counters, plush velvet, original art, hand-stenciling on the ceilings. Multiple lighting sources and all looking like something I’d love in my house. Luggage storage under the bed! (Also the room safe!) A few more hooks would be useful but overall it feels like you’re a Broadway star in your dressing room and who doesn’t want to feel like that when they’re getting ready to hit the Big Apple stage?!
Ensure everyone gets a good night’s sleep
Obviously your own bed is the top priority, but if you’ve got a dedicated “guest room” bed do your people a solid and luxe it out! CIVILIAN has Serta Plush Luxe mattresses, quality hypoallergenic linens, and punches up the personality with Jim Thompson accent pillows. We slept so well in our Cozy Queen, and loved waking up to those city views!
This gem among the other bigger NYC Theatre District hotels keeps private spaces snug so guests will be encouraged to hang in the public spots
No. . .there’s no coffee machine in your room. Guess what. You’ve got to venture down to Rosevale Kitchen, maybe (gasp) exchange a greeting with others on the elevator. There’s no mini fridge either. Great news: the food at Rosevale Kitchen is all DELICIOUS and drinks there or up the spiral stairs to the Cocktail Room are way better than anything you could mix up with a mini bar. Stretch out on a couch and get comfy.
Act IV: More to love: The People
From our experience, the staff at CIVILIAN are just as friendly and knowledgable about their hotel as many a homeowner when it comes to the building and decor quirks! This stellar group is exactly who you want running your NYC Theatre District hotels.
I got so much information from Concierge Sekou I’m kicking myself for not recording our conversations! Mark and I had a blast hanging out at the bar with Mixologist Edson–who pointed out the 41 Broadway theater sketches on the lights around the room AND knows where else to explore in the area. I wish I’d more time to hang out with Emily, Michigan native now head bartender on the second floor Rosevale Cocktail Room. Her passion for CIVILIAN fairly radiated off her! My fave fun fact we learned from Emily: the red curtain hanging above those spiral stairs is from the Phantom of the Opera!
If not for the necessity of SEO, this post would be titled “Broadway Nerd, But Make It Classy” which is how she describes the design of CIVILIAN.
Because truly–it hits directly on the mark.