Named after the ancient Greek heroes who searched with their leader, Jason, for the legendary Golden Fleece, the 252-room Argonaut Hotel is a nautical-style Noble House Hotels & Resorts property on San Francisco’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf.
Its maritime links are clearly reflected in its decor.
A broad, spacious lobby fronting the reception desk – an open fireplace with soft crimson armchairs lending it a cozy, warm ambience – is amply decorated with sea symbols including two floor-to-ceiling white sails, varnished wooden ship wheels adorning the wall, a line of deck chairs and a pair of size-able paintings depicting old full-mast ships at sea.
Even ceiling lights are meant to reflect the maritime theme, designed as vintage armillary spheres, an early navigational instrument. Pattern on the blue and gold carpeted floor is of fish, including the filleted variety.
Rooms and corridors extend the maritime theme. Carpeting and doors are the color of the sea with the image of a ship’s anchor embroidered on the former. Our room, 250, with views across one of the wharf’s many piers to the Pacific Ocean, featured a large wall mirror designed as a porthole and white wooden blinds. To my companion’s delight, a stuffed cuddly stuffed toy seal lay on the bed as a welcome gift.
Located in the historic Haslett Warehouse, the Argonaut occupies a landmark 1907 building of exposed red-brick walls and Douglas fir beams constructed as a warehouse for the California Fruit Canners Association, packers of the famous Del Monte brand products. The cast iron studs and tie plates used to bolt brick walls to beams can still be seen throughout the hotel.
Opened 15 years ago, the hotel features the street-side Blue Mermaid restaurant. Best to reserve a table by the window to watch joggers, walkers, cyclists and people on electric scooters pass along Fisherman’s Wharf. Don’t forget to enjoy one of the house cocktails. Fancy something spicy to tickle the tongue? Try ‘Mission District’ a combo of jalapeno-infused Don Julio blanco, pineapple puree and lime. Something more soothing? Opt for ‘The Roots,’ a blend of Grey Goose vodka, carrot juice, ginger and lemon.
After finishing our drinks and hungry after a six-hour drive from Fort Bragg in northern California and an early evening walk, I eyed a solid main, juicy New York steak, and combined it with my favorite seafood dish, a plateful of crispy fried calamari. My companion, being much more experimental, chose as her starter the restaurant’s signature corn and crab chowder, which came thick and creamy in an edible bowl of the city’s iconic sourdough bread.
Breakfasts offer as much diversity as dinners, from the simple continental to healthy options such as avocado on wheat toast. You might want to follow in the footsteps of a literary great and order Eggs Hemingway, served with smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce. Or simply spoil yourself with decadence – pancakes piled high with fresh berries and maple syrup.
To ease off unwanted calories, a second-floor, 1,000 square feet, 24-hour fitness center offers equipment such as Precor treadmills and Cybex machines, plus yoga mats and balance balls.
Besides charm and history, convenience is a key ingredient of the Argonaut’s success. It’s a short stroll to many popular sites including Ghirardelli Square shopping center, Pier 39 and North Beach. It’s also easy to hop on a cable car over the hill to Union Square, ride a streetcar along the Embarcadero or board a ferry to Alcatraz and Angel islands.
To help guests understand the checkered history of San Francisco, the hotel organizes with U.S. National Parks, whose visitor center is located next door, free one-hour walking tours on Saturdays and Sundays comprising ’The Cannery,’ where women sliced and diced fruits and vegetables from the farms; Fish Alley, now home to a modern fleet and several historic Monterey boats; Hyde Street Pier, a collection of museum ships and small craft; and Aquatic Park National Historic Landmark District.