Review: Hotel Lilien Will Be Your New Favorite Upstate Getaway
This historic and reimagined Catskills property is an ideal weekend escape
If you need to get out of town this fall or winter to decompress, you don’t necessarily need to go somewhere warm. Instead, follow the two-hour path to Tannersville, NY, and get cozy at the just-opened Hotel Lilien, an 18-room boutique hotel and bar located on a 19th-century estate.
Don’t get too caught up in that age, though. While the hotel has taken over the Washington Irving Inn space, it’s been completely renovated by the San Francisco design group Field Theory. The basic frame and a lot of beautiful woodwork remain, but overall this is an updated and refined property that can serve as a cozy home base after a day outside at Hunter Mountain, or even as an evening stopover for drinks and food (along with sightseeing and shopping in the nearby towns).
The rooms? Charming, comfy and rustic. Admittedly, they don’t have TVs, but there’s decent wifi and hey, you’re here to get away from the city’s noise — hence the hotel’s mere 18 rooms and early closing hours for the popular downstairs bar.
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Instead of screen time, explore the town, which is within walking distance. Or you can go skiing and snowboarding at Hunter, check out the array of local breweries, or take a nature walk. And then spend your nights mingling with a mix of locals and visitors at the hotel’s ground-floor watering hole, which features an excellent jukebox, an adjacent wood-paneled library, plenty of couches and a few pool tables. If you’re staying, end the night by retiring to the outdoor fire pit for s’mores.
This out-of-the-way Catskills property somehow caught the attention of The Lost Boys Hospitality Group, whose members primarily hail from California but got their start in Panama in 2004. Some of the nicest people we’ve ever met, the Lost Boys owners are used to creating buzzy properties in warmer-weather climes.
So what brought them upstate? We asked them to guide us through the property and suggest a weekend itinerary.
InsideHook: How did you discover this particular property?
David Harmatz (co-owner): We’d had our eyes on the area for a long time; we were envisioning a dimly lit, speakeasy-style cocktail bar where one could sit by the fire and sip a whiskey with old or new friends and head back to their room instead of out into the night after last call. When we found out the former Washington Irving Inn was for sale, we fell for the 100-year-old woodwork and stained glass windows and had to make it ours. The potential was palpable, and the location — minutes from downtown Tannersville, the region’s best skiing at Hunter Mountain and one of the most beautiful hikes at Kaaterskill Falls — was perfect.
Given that a lot of your previous properties were in warm weather climates, what inspired you to head up north?
DH: While Lost Boys Hospitality got its start in Panama, we were largely drawn to the historical nature of the Catskills’ hospitality industry; its convenience (between partners based in Brooklyn and Toronto); and road-tripping opportunity, since the onset of the pandemic, tourists have been more keen on driving than flying, and the Catskills provide the ultimate city escape by car.
There’s still a lot of work being done on the property; can you give a rough roadmap of when the adjoining restaurant and additional cottages will be ready?
DH: Our third floor will officially open on December 1 along with our private-access, dog-friendly suite. Our next-door sister restaurant, Nat’s Mountain House, is being opened by NYC restaurateur Natalie Freihon in spring 2023.
Even during your soft launch, you had a crowd coming in just to hang out at the bar on Fridays and Saturdays. Who were these people?
Jason Marcus (co-owner): We get a mix of small and large groups, like bachelorette parties, and plenty of couples who come to hang at the bar or around our wood-burning stove. The lounge caters to locals, weekenders and travelers, particularly for our Saturday night DJ Sir Shorty music series.
If you were to recommend a place to eat, shop and visit nearby, what would you suggest?
JM: There’s so much to do in and around Tannersville. We love Shandaken Bake for treats, Fellow Mountain Cafe for coffee, Mama’s Boy Burgers for a casual lunch, and Sundry, Bear & Fox Provisions and Tannersville Antiques for shopping. While nearby Hunter Mountain is an obvious draw, Kaaterskill Falls is not to be missed. We have guests start at the Haines Falls Mountain Top Historical Society, where an old railroad track has been converted into a beautiful trail that leads directly to the falls. We also love the Mountain Top Arboretum, which is particularly photogenic just before sunset. And we’re big fans of West Kill Brewing for when you’re ready to take a load off.
How would you describe the food and beverage program?
Daniel Smetana (co-owner): We consider ourselves a cocktail bar with food rather than a restaurant with cocktails. While our local chef (Jeffery Grover) can master anything from a mean fried chicken sandwich to his own version of the trending butter board, the majority of our dishes don’t require a fork and knife by design, so you can casually cozy up in any corner of any couch to enjoy without the formality of a set table. We lean heavily on locally-sourced ingredients, from the cheeses on our charcuterie plate to the local milk we serve alongside warm cookies.
And on the drink front, we regularly update our signature cocktail menu, offer a modest selection of affordable wines and serve a solid lineup of locally brewed beer.
So, is the property haunted?
JM: While there are many mysterious places in the Catskills, ours is not one of them. It’s been a warm and wonderful home to many families for many years.
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