The Virtuoso Life editorial team recently visited San Antonio for a few days of planning meetings. While we did get out and explore the city – including an evening cruise along the Riverwalk and a photo stop at the Alamo – our base was Hotel Emma at Pearl, a complex that used to house the Pearl Brewing Company. Today, it’s a thriving mix of shops, restaurants, and apartments.
Pearl is also home to the latest outpost of the Culinary Institute of America. A big plus for student chefs: the farmers market on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when South Texas vendors sell produce, meats, cheeses, and more.
It’s a boon for locals, too: On any given day, you’ll see locals enjoying activities and a year-round slate of events, like yoga on the complex’s central lawn.
Named for Emma Koehler, who ran the Pearl Brewing Company after her husband died, and designed by Roman & Williams, Hotel Emma takes sustainability seriously. The owners implemented water and energy-saving solutions, installed solar panels, planted hundreds of trees, and repurposed a large percentage of recycled materials during the rebuilding process.
Here are six more things we loved about our stay:
I loved The Library, and not just because the first thing I did on arrival was to belly up to its bar cart and order the house Babia margarita, served in the Emma’s hand-etched blue glasses. The bi-level space just off the lobby is floor-to-ceiling books with handsome leather club chairs and oriental rugs. It’s a good spot to curl up with a book and a cup of coffee (also served here every morning, complimentary, along with bananas foster muffins and tiny yogurt parfaits) or to find a corner with a friend for a cozy afternoon cocktail chat. And the 3,700-volume collection is not just books for looks: Local author, historian, and urban planner Sherry Kafka Wagner donated the lot of them and arranged them all according to her vision.
– Marika Cain, managing editor, Virtuoso Life
Casual café ambiance.
I’m a grab-and-go breakfast kind of person at home, and while lingering over a long breakfast or brunch is an occasional treat, I generally like to keep it simple on the road as well, which is why I loved Larder, the hotel’s cute market, coffee shop, and all-day casual café. Coffee comes from local roasters Merit, and while you’re waiting for your bagel, egg croissant, or avocado toast, you can browse the shelves for a few souvenirs to bring home. The shop stocks a great collection of wines, cheeses, pastas, and snacks from local producers. (And for even more gifts, don’t miss Curio around the corner.)
– Amy Cassell, associate editor
The Sternewirth Bar.
My perfect evening at Hotel Emma? Order the Three Emmas cocktail (and read about the scandalous history of the three Emmas), preferably sitting in a silo at the Sternewirth Bar. These silos were old beer tanks from the brewery, and now provide the perfect vantage point to people watch.
– Melanie Fowler, design director
My favorite discoveries at Hotel Emma are best described as industrial junk: wheels from the former bottle-labeling and -filling machines fashioned into chandeliers, the brewery’s red ammonia compressor standing as sculpture in the lobby, Sternewirth’s silos and spiral metal staircase to nowhere. And not that it’s industrial, but the bar top hewn from a pecan log dug up onsite is pretty great too.
– Justin Paul, senior editor
All the details.
From brass Waterworks bathroom fixtures and seersucker robes to a custom Hotel Emma and Wildsam Field Guide to the city on my nightstand, the details at made my stay extra memorable. My martini even had a pearl cocktail pick as a nod to the hotel’s storied history.
– Korena Sinnett, associate art director
The Emma Koehler Suite.
The hotel’s pinnacle suite feels like an apartment vacation rental. With the option to connect to two other guest rooms, it’s ideal for families – but the space also works for smaller business gatherings. Our editorial team spread out at the eight-person dining table for all-day meetings, taking an occasional break to bang out rudimentary tunes on the grand piano. A double-height ceiling and a wall full of windows flood the first floor with Texas sunshine, and French doors open to a huge 700-square foot terrace with a fireplace. Upstairs, the private bedroom has a wrought-iron king bed, vintage-style textiles, and an Insta-worthy tiled master bathroom with twin pedestal sinks and a clawfoot soaking tub that might tempt you to wrap yourself in the locally designed guayabera-style robe and never leave.
– Elaine Srnka, vice president, content
All photos by Korena Bolding Sinnett.