I got to be one of the very first people to walk through its doors when they opened at 11 a.m. on Monday.
I have to say that, all things considered, this was worth the wait. A few things got moved around inside of the hotel. The Italian Garden lost its sky light (a shame, but understandable in the grand scheme of things).
The important thing is that the Book-Cadillac is back.
I've heard one person after another over the past several years say that there was absolutely no way in which it would ever re-open; that it was destined to meet the wrecking ball.
And now here it is.
The hotel rooms are top-notch; on par with, or better than, any others in the market. Spacious. Clean. Well-designed. Complete with every amenity that one could reasonably ask for.
The bar and restaurant still each a kink or two to work out. The wait staff seemed a bit overwhelmed, like there were far more customers there than thought they would have. They also had trouble processing a credit card transaction.
However, the bar and restaurant show a tremendous amount of potential. Their menus for both cocktails and meals are sophisticated without being intimidating. The staff seems like they have all of the pieces in place; it's just a matter of working through the inevitable kinks and first day jitters.
I highly recommend the grilled cheese panni at the Motor Bar, which is on the second floor of the Westin Book Cadillac. It's Gouda cheese and wild mushrooms, served on toasted Panni bread. Add a glass of wine and the general experience of being inside one of America's most famous hotels and you have the most amazing lunch one could ask for.
While I was having lunch with a couple of friends at the bar, I bumped into a couple of people that proved to be almost as memorable as the hotel itself. I shook hands with an attorney named Ron who had the honor of being the very first person to order a drink at the Book-Cadillac in decades. (I envy him for that.) I also met a grown man who was so overwhelmed that the Book-Cadillac was re-opened, he actually broke down and cried.
Of course, he recovered enough to eventually buy a beer for every person who came near the bar that afternoon and to share a few stories with anyone who wanted to listen.
The birth of the Westin Book Cadillac was in effect a wedding, a birthday and a baptism all rolled into one. There was a celebration of the hotel's rich history, the joy of a new beginning and the promise of great things to come.
John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press wrote a piece about the hotel that one can read here. I have 55 photos from that afternoon over on Flickr. However, there really is no substitute for simply walking through this place. I cannot recommend doing so strongly enough.
After lunch, of course, my friends all had to get back to their respective jobs because it was a weekday. I found myself simply walking the halls for awhile.
My Dad passed away back in July of 2004 after a long battle with pneumonia that was made worse by asbestosis. He loved historic buildings and loved talking about every job he ever worked on as a carpenter. As I walked the halls of the Westin Book Cadillac that afternoon, I couldn't help but think of the conversations that we would have if he were still with us.
When I finally left the Westin Book Cadillac and headed home, I couldn't help but feel that I was floating. I know that sounds hooky, but it's true.
Anyway, I hereby recommend that everyone leave their respective computers and go check out the reborn Westin Book Cadillac.
And, where ever you are Dad, this beer from the Motor Bar is for you.