Wednesday, Jul 25 2012 06:15 PM

Padre among best in West

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Padre Hotel, 18th and H Streets.

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BY JENNIFER SELF Californian lifestyles editor jself@bakersfield.com

The Padre Hotel has become the recipient in recent weeks of the best kind of publicity: positive and free.

Two glossy national magazines that cater to the well-heeled traveler -- Sunset and Travel + Leisure -- have recommended that readers make tracks to the downtown Bakersfield landmark, both for its inventive California cuisine and the kitschy yet refined decor of the circa-1928 tower.

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"Every time we get press, it just blows us away," said Brett Miller, co-owner of the hotel. "We continue to put out a great product and when we're recognized for it, especially when it's unsolicited, we like it even more."

Sunset included the Padre on its list of the 17 most unique hotels in the West, placing it in some prestigious -- and interesting -- company. Other accommodations selected for recognition: a tree house in Washington, a cave in New Mexico, a fire lookout in Oregon and a compound of cottages in West Hollywood where film legend Charlie Chaplin once lived.

The entry on the Padre reads:

"Downtown is on the upswing, thanks partly to the swank Padre Hotel. Its cowboy motif gives a nod to the city's ag and oil history, with giant murals of farm animals on the ceiling in the Farmacy Cafe and wallpaper featuring oil derricks and mustaches. There's also a bar and grill, formal dining room, Vegas-style nightclub, and rooftop deck. Stay overnight, or just pull off I-5 for a bite."

The Padre, out of commission for years while undergoing changes in ownership and a multimillion-dollar renovation, is the sole entry from the Central Valley. That doesn't surprise Miller, a Visalia native, who reopened Version 2.0 of the Padre in March 2009.

"We built something that maybe only we could see at that point in time. We fell in love with the Padre building and fell in love with Bakersfield."

And the praise just keeps rolling in: Travel + Leisure included the hotel in a centerfold spread in its current issue under the headline "Driving California's Heartland." The piece includes a map of can't-miss restaurants and wineries, starting in Sacramento with the Magpie Cafe and winding south to several destinations, including Houa Khong Restaurant in Merced and Grandmarie's Chicken Pie Shop in Fresno. The trail ends in Bakersfield with the Padre and Noriega hotels. (The Basque mainstay, reputed to be the oldest restaurant in the city, was singled out for its "hearty oxtail stew, tender marinated beef tongue, and sharp blue cheese.")

And if you think a guy who co-owns a major hotel would be too blasé to get excited about such praise, think again.

"Whenever I'm depressed and need a pick-me-up, I reread our reviews on TripAdvisor," said Miller, who noted the hotel has enjoyed an occupancy rate of 80 percent to 85 percent in recent months.

Meanwhile, Miller announced a couple of improvements and enhancements he hopes will be completed by the fall. The sidewalk outside the H Street facade of the hotel is undergoing construction, funded by the city, to improve its valet parking service as well as address drainage issues. And plans to add outdoor seating at two locations -- along 18 Street and on H -- are moving forward, he said.

"We want to continue to refine the product. We've learned that Bakersfield is a destination for the valley and whether you're traveling through Bakersfield or living in Bakersfield, you want to have a fun place to go and more than a place to sleep in. We know if we continue to make people happy, we'll continue to grow our business."

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