Monday, May 27, 2013



We are off to the Smashburger in Del Mar for an early Mother's Day lunch—choosing the outside seating because it's another perfect 70 degree and sunny day in San Diego. This restaurant chain happens to be Anna and John's favorite “go to” for burgers. With so many burger choices, I decided to have my daughter, Anna, order her “pick your own toppings” specialty for me. Typical of Anna, it was smothered in healthy vegetables and very tasty.

After lunch, followed by coffee at the nearby Starbucks, we drove to North Park via Mission Hills and Hillcrest. As we passed the Lafayette Hotel, 2223 El Cajon Boulevard, Anna suggested we stop and take a look. She was curious about the Mississippi Room on the lower level, where part of the movie Top Gun was filmed. Parking was a bit of a problem, but thanks to my husband's patience we finally found a place on the street.
This grand Colonial-style hotel has four large white front pillars. Upon entering through the oversized white door and seeing the old comfortable velvet chairs and davenport in the lobby, you feel there is some history here. The hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

It opened in 1946, with the first registered guest being Bob Hope. The Lafayette Hotel was originally called Imig Manor for Larry Imig, the developer. Although there have been many changes and ownerships through the years, the charm persists. It's located on El Cajon Boulevard, the main east-west artery through the city before the freeways were built. It was also on the original and popular Los Angeles-Tijuana Racetrack route. It attracted a lot of attention from Hollywood and was known to be frequented by the likes of Ava Gardner and Lana Turner.
The lavish pool, surrounded by hotel suites, is the centerpiece. The pool was designed by five-time Olympic gold medal winner Johnny Weissmuller, the original Tarzan. It is still a popular Swim Club.
In 2011 a major $6M historical renovation included refurbishing the guest rooms and the original terraza floor. They also added the pink, gold and red parasols which hang from the lobby ceiling. One wall is covered with old photos of famous people that used to frequent the hotel. Connected to the lobby is an outside patio with large checker and chess boards on the concrete floor for guests to enjoy.
The Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar is owned separately and adjacent to the hotel. It is a vintage steakhouse in a room that was originally built in England in the 1600's. In 1926, the interior furnishings were purchased, dismantled, and moved to the US for the “ocean house” of actress, Marion Davies. Later, it was dismantled and moved to the Red Fox. It includes a spectacular hand-carved wooden bar.
I think it would be fun to return to the Lafayette hotel on a Friday evening when they offer live music on the veranda. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, the Mississippi Room on the lower level room was unavailable due to a private function. Typically it is available for viewing which gives us another good reason to return.



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