What can you say about a hotel that has been consistently in business for the last 200 years? The Cosmopolitan’s history goes back to a man named Juan Lorenzo Bandini, one of San Diego’s pioneers who settled there in the 1800s. He designed and constructed his grand residence, the largest in Old Town, between 1827 and 1829. The single-story home was built around False Bay, later named Mission Bay circa 1944. It was designed with Spanish Colonial architectural featuring thick adobe walls, muslin ceilings, pane-glass windows, and a brick-lined patio, all part of the Spanish Colonial charm. The family lived there until 1859. Only wanting the best for his wife and 2 daughters, he made sure that they all had the most comfortable surroundings. Seven rooms, an entrance hall, an enclosed courtyard, a corral, and several sheds and barns were all part of the package.
When Juan Bandini died, Emily and Albert Seeley, took over the building to create a place where travelers could have comfort, style and entertainment at the same time. With that in mind, The Cosmopolitan Hotel opened in 1869. The architectural theme was Greek Revival, also adding a second level to the adobe structure. Some of the amenities of The Hotel were a bar, sitting and billiards room, a barbershop, and a local post office. But the hotel’s main attraction was its grand balcony that wrapped around the second story, where guests to San Diego could enjoy seeing the crowd and activities in the town square below.
In 1888 Seeley sold The Cosmopolitan and in 1900 the building became a canning facility for an olive factory. In 1928 Cave J. Couts Jr. took over the property. A grandson of Bandini, Couts, he turned the broken-down building into a hotel and restaurant with added amenities such as wired electricity, gas, and a new style of decor.
During the 1950s the hotel and restaurant became an upscale tourist motel owned by James H. and Nora Cardwell. Then in 1968, the property was sold to the state of California, the same year the original buildings in Old Town San Diego evolved into Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Because it’s a state park the owners had to keep in compliance with very strict rules, in keeping this hotel authentic. No televisions are in the room because they didn’t have televisions in the 1800s. But there is air-conditioning, which was not part of this time period which was stipulated to for the comfort of the guests. All of the furnishings had to be approved by the state parks and planning commission, and once again they had to keep in line with what was the true original fabrics, window treatments, and furnishings of that time period.
In 1976 they made the hotel surrounding area into state park. Later in 2010, everything was renovated at a cost of 3 million dollars. All eleven rooms got a makeover.
The night I was there for dinner they had a great band called Zzymzzy quartet who played pre prohibition, Hawaiian and 20s music. What a great treat to hear this style of music in 2014. They played one of my favorites, “When The Saints Go Marching In.” The band consisted of a stand up bass, a clarinet and a sideways Hawaiian Guitar.
Here’s what I tried:
Church Bell Cosmo with Hangar 1 Mandarin Vodka, Triple Sec, lime and cranberry splash. It was very thirst quenching, nice and light.
Stagecoach Smash with Gentleman Jack Bourbon, honey, ginger beer, muddled seasonal fruit and champagne splash. If you like Bourbon you will love this drink.
Mad as Hops Mojito with fresh meddled mint and lime, shaken with sweet rum, house-made simple syrup and soda. For the Mojitos lover this one will blow your hair back.
Rustico Bruschetta with herb goat cheese, chimichurri brochettas and rustic bread. Loaded with nice cheese and basil flavor, it was a nice way to begin your meal.
Braised Pork Cheeks with breaded pork cheeks, caramelized onions, merlot reduction, and crispy onions. Kind of misleading from what the menu says because these little wonders are hiding inside of a puffed pastry, but are terrific!!!
Ahi Lettuce Cups, garlic, ginger, julienne vegetables, cilantro and baby iceberg. I would skip this one save room for the entrees.
Parmesan-Crusted Shrimp Scampi with wild mushroom ravioli, capers, tomato, and white wine butter sauce. The star of this show is the mushroom ravioli. It’s a very fragrant mushroom with butter flavors.
Espresso-Braised Short Ribs with pan-friend garlic Brussels sprouts, herbed marble potatoes and natural au jus. Very tender beef with an unusual take on a braising ingredient.
Homemade Gnocchi, pan-seared scallops, fresh-made gnocchi, cherry tomatoes, asparagus spears, and chimichurri sauce. I always love any kind of scallop dish, this one did not disapoint.
Herb-Crusted Pork Chop, tender pork chop, confit baby red potatoes, sautéed spinach, edamame succotash, roasted corn and tarragon cream sauce. This is their signature dish, and it is terrific.
Salads, Soups & Burgers:
Cosmo Caesar on Grilled Naan Bread, chicken or shrimp and great Caesar dressing. This is a very filling salad with the bread underneath all of the lettuce.
Baby Iceberg Wedge with smoked bacon, baby tomato, Point Reyes blue cheese, tobacco onion, and blue cheese vinaigrette. The presentation is very grand, with great blue cheese flavor.
Lightly Battered Chinese Long Beans: sprinkled with sea salt. You can still taste the sweetness of the beans with its nice salty flavor.
Kung Pao Calamari with sweet chili sauce, peanuts, and Asian slaw. Calamari in a very sticky sweet sauce makes this calamari like candy.
Fried Chicken and Churros with Crispy herb breading, cinnamon pastry, jalapeno and bacon-infused maple syrup, and tempura string beans. The Fried Chicken and Churros is by far my favorite take on a chicken and waffle type dish. The Churros have sugar and cinnamon and are crunchy and light. The fried chicken only enhances the sweetness in the sauce. This dish is a leader in all of these new chicken and waffle type menu items.
Pan-Seared Chipotle Salmon, Chipotle-cumin rub, preserved cherry potato hash, Southwestern jicama salsa. The salmon was delicious and the accompaniments were sweet and sassy.
Angus Pot Pie, Slow-cooked Angus beef, root vegetables, flaky pastry crust. If you are looking for something comforting, like something your Mother cooked back home, then this is the dish is you.
Chardonnay, Sawbuck, Mendocino. A great accompaniment with my delicious lunch.
Some say this place is haunted. When I spoke to Ryan Ross he said that some of the employees have gotten so scared by what they see, they quit their jobs right away! Some of what people have seen; objects moving in plain site, rooms having hot and cold spots for no reason. Shoes left in rooms have their laces tied or untied. The biggest sightings were in rooms 45 and 11. Sightings of a full body of Isadora Bandini in her youth at the top of their stairs at night time.
My server at Lunch was Greg, who kept us very entertained, and said he has never had a sighting himself, but 6 months ago there was a lot of activity in a 24 hour span. One of the maids had left a bottle of water in one of the rooms, and then heard a big crash and the water bottle was outside of the room on the patio. A lot of people say that they hear cat noises and scratching sounds on the doors at night. I myself had my own interesting phenomenon.
I went to sleep in the little room, which to me is the little girls room, and in the middle of the night I had a blunt force trauma to my thigh, which was more shocking then painful. The reflex of this action made my foot jump up and hit the bottom of the bed post. I was half asleep when it happened but knew full well that I was being visited. I had been waiting for a paranormal activity so I was not scared. The lighting in the room changed as the night progressed. At some point it was pitch black but way before sunrise it got very light. I told some family members this story and they asked me if I was scared. I answered no since I’m used to this. Somehow I always get picked.
They play blue grass music by the restaurant patio, which is very loud and by the second day there I wanted to shoot the speaker, but that’s just me.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun adventure into a world gone by, this is the place for you. Bring a good book, or your tablet with Netflix, settle in and enjoy Old Town San Diego at The Cosmopolitan Hotel!
2660 Calhoun St.
San Diego, CA 92110
Phone: (619) 297-1874