Texas Monthly travel writer Jordan Breal doesn't hand out "best" awards willy-nilly. For starters, to qualify for her Best of Texas Hotels Awards list, posted on the magazine's website Thursday, the place has to be either new or newly renovated.
Honored hotels also have to have something special going for them—a standout detail or service—as well as gathering spots, both peaceful and lively, for locals and travelers to meet up. Site location is important, as is history and character.
This year, two Austin hotels made her (unranked) list, alongside enfuego places such as San Antonio's Hotel Emma and renovated legends including the Gage in Marathon.
Hotel Van Zandt, which we profiled in February, received high marks for being a "post-slacker utopia in the middle of it all" where a traveler can roll with the new while respecting our rich history (namesake Republic of Texas diplomat Isaac Van Zandt) and music culture (the former's descendent Townes). The cozy public areas, Geraldine's bar, and guest-room turntables and boot jacks all got nods, as well.
South Congress Hotel is less reverent to history than the Van Zandt, but it's respectful, welcoming, and unobtrusive, in Breal's view. At three stories, with understated modern (quasi-Soviet, Breal notes), and downtown sightlines, it's populated with both guests and locals on laptops—the latter an excellent sign, she observes.
South Congress Hotel also got nods for its the free in-room Drafthouse movies, its gift shop, its pool, its public spaces, and its "intoxicating custom scent."
• The Best Texas Hotel Awards [Texas Monthly]
• Hotel Van Zandt Brings Beauty Befitting Its Namesake's Legacy to Rainey [Curbed Austin]
• Hippest Hotel on SoCo Yet? [Curbed Austin]
• Hotel Van Zandt website
• South Congress Hotel website