A Restaurant With a Hotel
Don and I had a few reasons to book Weber's Hotel for our recent visit. A night in a luxurious guest room, wasn't really one of them.
Serving Food Since 1937
Herman Weber started selling burgers and beer, at an Ann Arbor gas station in 1937.
Herman died a few years ago, but his son and grandsons operate the well loved restaurant and hotel, today.
This is how Weber's looked when Don and I pulled off Jackson Road, this past July. The building looked totally different, than how I remembered it.
We parked and walked towards the entrance. I recognized the funny-shaped "W", that always reminded me of a devil's pitchfork.
The entrance was sleek and welcoming, with stone, wood, brick and flowers. There was a small crowd, relaxing on the side patio. We rolled our bags through the front doors and suddenly laughed at ourselves. We had come through the restaurant's entrance and our suitcases looked a little out of place.
We drove around to the other side, where we found the entrance to the hotel. I had no memory of it, since my family only came to Weber's to eat, back in the seventies.
The hotel didn't exactly look 50 years old. It was built in 1969, to replace an older hotel owned by the Webers. Renovations and additions over the years, changed the look. But the funny W was still there!
It was July 3, the day we checked in. The busy staff was friendly. We chatted a bit about Victor, the Elk... who is given a red nose and renamed Rudolph, every December.
Mid Century Modern?
I glanced around the hotel's interior. I have no idea how the decor looked when it was built, 50 years ago. The fairly recent renovation, looked clean and fresh.
The Mid Century Modern furniture and fixtures, fit the hotel's history pretty well. But the MCM style is becoming so common these days, it hardly feels retro, anymore.
The elevators were kind of fun. There might be a story with those... but we were in a bit of a rush.
Room in the Older Section
We found our room at the end of the hall, near some diamond pane windows. I snapped a photo later, at night. I remember how those colorful diamonds glowed at night... back in 1975, when I was at Weber's last.
4th Floor Room
We dashed into our room to quickly change clothes for dinner. As I said, our overnight had more to do with our dining adventure. I didn't have time to grumble about our lack of view. (All we could see was a roof) I didn't even care that there was a bathroom towel sitting on the sill, soaking up moisture from the a.c. unit. Oh well.
I did like the modern touches here and there. The space age lamps and artwork... the large desk, decent TV and heavenly soft bed, were all good.
I loved the smooth modern, rattan chair in the corner. I cared less for the bathroom, which had not been updated. Some rooms in the hotel, did have spiffier bathrooms. But I didn't really care.
Off to Dinner!
In minutes we were dressed and on our way. We found the hall that connected to the restaurant... and there it was! This was what our Weber's stay was really about. I was geared up, to revisit my past!
The swanky dining room had changed from the days when my family visited years ago. But the space with the vaulted ceiling, still had a festive feel. It was packed, when we entered. Not so much, when I took this photo, long after our meal.
Don and I were hungry, but this wasn't really about the food. We were excited about our very special dinner dates that night. Lorie and her mom, Judy were already seated at a lovely table, with white linens, surrounded by a lively July 4th holiday, weekend crowd! A piano player entertained nearby and waiters rushed back and forth.
A stranger actually took this photo after we finished dinner. We were unable to get our waiter, to stop for more than a second to snap a photo of our table. But I couldn't let the evening end without a picture, to remember our fun gathering.
We sipped cocktails and feasted on delicious breads. Our meals arrived on classic plates. Maple Leaf Farms Duck, Amish Chicken... All good! We talked for 3 hours, without a pause.
We pondered the past, remembering when Lorie and I met in high school, 45 years ago. We fretted over the state of our country. We eagerly discussed a new jazz club. We moped over a few downtown. And we laughed over old prom memories... Our table felt like a comfy island. We hardly took notice of all the noise and activity that surrounded us.
We really needed no extra entertainment at our table. But at one point, I just had to pull out my old Ford Motor Cookbook, featuring Weber's Supper Club, in 1963. I showed the watercolor image and dessert recipe, to Lorie and Judy. We all laughed and then I made the mistake of trying to include the busy waiter, in our book amusement.
"Do you by any chance still serve Almond Rum Cream Pie?" I asked. Our waiter was busy, but I refused to take a hint. He really did not want to look at my cookbook, but I sort of insisted. I knew better. I am very aware that my cookbook totally delights some and bores others. He had to remind me he was busy.
Luckily the failed cookbook attempt could not dampen our spirits. It just made us laugh harder. We celebrated the silliness by ordering another decadent dessert. Weber's has been serving the special ice cream treat with toasted coconut, hot fudge and whipped cream, since the '60's.
I made a quick trip to wash my sticky hands in the restroom... and to inquire at the hostess station. "Is Mr. Weber here tonight?" Rats. The man I'd observed was not the owner. Herman Weber's son probably would have loved peeking at the old cookbook and sharing memories. Or maybe not.
Quiet and Cozy
By the time we had finished up, most of the diners were gone. Lorie pointed out some of the cozier dining areas where she and her mom meet for their weekly dinners. I've been wanting to join them here for years... and we finally did! We said our good byes and it all just felt so satisfying. What a perfect place to have our special reunion!
Wandering and Wondering
Before heading to our room, Don and I wandered back through some of the other dining areas and I wondered about all the celebrations and conversations that have taken place, since 1961. How many business deals? How many wedding proposals?
I remembered a couple special meals my family had enjoyed at Weber's, when I was a teen. When I spotted the round table in the corner, I remembered a dinner, where my father introduced his future wife. I can't say that was my best memory.
Now I have a " happy reunion" to add to my collection of Weber's memories.
Don and I took our time, heading back to our room.
We had a good old time looking at the photos on the Wall of Fame! So many curious guests have come to Weber's. Colonel Sanders, Leonard Bernstein, Louis Armstrong... Jimmy Durante.
Another Wall Surprise
I was pretty giddy, when I found a framed watercolor image on another wall. It was almost identical to the illustration in my cookbook. That was some good entertainment before heading to our room.
In the morning, we took our $15. food voucher to the dining room for breakfast. We had been given that voucher as a little perk, to make up for the fact the pool was closed for renovation.
I was impressed that the dining tables had linens, even in the morning. But, we decided to go for a faster breakfast, at the restaurant's bar.
We ordered cappuccinos and breakfast pastries and had the best time chatting with our young server, Megan.
Megan was chatty and upbeat and she passed the cookbook test with flying colors. She was delighted to flip through the pages AND she posed for me! Thanks Megan!
Before checking out, Don and I took one last look around. We wandered down a retro-modern staircase near the restaurant and climbed up a spiral staircase, in the pool area.
They were renovating the indoor pool space and I had to grin at the thought of how wildly modern, this atrium must have seemed in 1969. Back in the day, the pool view rooms, with their glass doors and spiral staircases, must have been extra exciting for the winter guests!
As we headed off, I tried to decide what was notable about our stay. For me it was all about connections.
So glad we had a happy and notable night at Weber's!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!