Review: Austin Hotels Thompson and Tommie Are a Compelling Duo for Downtown Stays
The properties sport a couple Mashama Bailey restaurants and a scenic terrace bar
Millions of people flock to Austin each year for major events like SXSW, Austin City Limits and Formula 1 races, and the city has become a popular vacation destination for its cuisine, nightlife and fun-loving sensibilities. But while Austin was welcoming travelers, hotels were playing catch-up. A spate of recent openings is helping to ease the demand, including sibling properties Thompson Austin and tommie Austin, which debuted earlier this year in a shared downtown building. In addition to providing a comfortable place to spend the night, the duo enlisted a nationally acclaimed chef and bar group for good measure.
Thompson and tommie are part of the Hyatt portfolio, but they have personalities all their own. Thompson hotels blend into the fabric of each city they inhabit, so you can expect something different in Austin than you’ll find at the recently opened outposts in Dallas and San Antonio, as well as veteran locations in Chicago, Nashville and Mexico. And tommie is the new kid. It’s just the second iteration of the brand after tommie Hollywood, which opened last December, and the two tommies are expected to be the only such properties in the country for the foreseeable future.
During a recent trip to Austin, I stayed at Thompson and tommie and, in the name of thorough research, visited every bar and restaurant on site. Here’s what you need to know.
Pull up to the front, and you’re faced with two doors. On your left: the entrance into the Thompson Austin lobby. There you’ll find a handsome spread of low-slung furniture and a massive fireplace, plus the reception desk. Take the door on the right, and you’re in an all-day coffee shop that doubles as tommie’s lobby and check-in spot. The coffee program is led by a local outfit, Greater Goods Coffee Co., and the bar also serves beer and wine. Southwestern art decorates the space, and there’s plenty of room to hang out at the coffee bar, communal table or the couches situated around a glass-enclosed fireplace. The two entrances are connected, so you can easily hop between them as needed.
There’s no staid lobby bar here. Instead, the ground floor houses two self-contained concepts, The Diner Bar and The Grey Market, offshoots of the acclaimed restaurant, The Grey, in Savannah.
Inside the Rooms
The elevator bank in the back leads to both sets of rooms, which are clearly marked. A black carpet leads to the Thompson, while a red carpet takes you to tommie. Thompson Austin features 212 guestrooms, with kings and double-queens averaging around 400 square feet and the largest suites topping 800 square feet. If you’re traveling solo or with a partner, the standard king room has plenty of space to move around, and there’s a desk if you need to get some work done. Of course, if you’re staying for a while or spending someone else’s money, a suite can’t hurt. Those feature separate living areas and a lot of elbow room. All bathrooms are equipped with rainfall showers and D.S. & Durga bath products.
The 193 rooms at tommie are smaller, with configurations ranging from 200 to 310 square feet. Each has a king bed and a few thoughtful design features, like a multi-function surface that contains a sink, a workspace and a rotating mirror. The hotel is ideal for solo travelers, but couples will do fine during shorter stays — the rooms are similar in size, and often larger, than what you’ll find in New York and other major cities. It’s less expensive than Thompson, and the property is geared toward travelers who plan to spend their trip exploring the city, not hanging out in the room.
One unique result of side-by-side hotels is the ability for travelers at different price points to share the same building. Whether it’s executives and support staff in town for a conference, festival bands and their crews, a wedding block or a bachelor party, higher rollers can stay at Thompson while more budget-conscious travelers can post up at tommie.
Dining and Drinking
Austin has lots of local culinary talent, but Thompson and tommie brought in some outside ringers to create their food and beverage concepts. Mashama Bailey, who you might recognize from her star turn on Chef’s Table, hails from The Grey in Savannah, for which she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast. She and co-founder Johno Morisano created Diner Bar and The Grey Market here, enlisting longtime Austin chef Kristine Kittrell to run the kitchen.
Diner Bar is a casual spot that channels the original’s port-city Southern cuisine, but utilizes ingredients from local ranchers and farmers. Standout menu items include pan-seared trout with brown butter and braised leeks, country pasta with egg yolk, Parmigiano Reggiano and house-cured pork belly, a roasted half chicken and a whole grilled fish. The bar is pouring a mixture of signature and classic cocktails and serving bar snacks like oysters, marinated olives and baked chicken wings.
The Grey Market is an all-day hangout with retro lunch counter vibes. Pull up a seat for breakfast or lunch, or browse the shelves for a selection of grab-and-go items like sandwiches, salads and cold drinks. The menu includes breakfast favorites like a bacon-egg-and-cheese on a kaiser roll and hearty dishes like fish and grits, a double cheeseburger and a fried oyster sandwich. If you’re around on Sunday, try the Sunday Fried Chicken, seasoned with house-made blackening spice and served with bread and pickles.
Up on the fourth floor is Wax Myrtle’s, a sprawling space with indoor and outdoor bars, a dining room, a plant-laced terrace and a pool. It was created by Chicago’s Land and Sea Dept., the hospitality group responsible for a handful of that city’s heavy hitters, including Longman & Eagle and multiple concepts inside the Chicago Athletic Association. The daytime menu is light and shareable, with salads, spreads and tacos that are easy to eat beside the pool. The evening sees a new menu that features snacks, shared plates and entrees and includes charred octopus skewers, heritage pork chops and a “big ol’ beef rib.” Wines and local beers are served alongside creative cocktails, like the frozen Dazey with tequila, mezcal, sherry and lime and the Moon-Tower with gin, vermouth, honey and lemon oil.
Wax Myrtle’s indoor bar and dining room are fine places to hangout, but the terrace is the real star here. It’s situated in the heart of downtown, with views of neighboring buildings and the busy streets below. Grab a cocktail and a couch for sunset, then stick around — the views only improve as the sky gets darker.
Thompson and tommie are welcome additions to Austin, and between the two properties, they contain everything a business traveler, festival-goer or vacationer requires: namely, a comfortable place to rest your head that’s not like every other hotel in town, plus a bevy of eating and drinking options on site. There’s even a wellness center with a gym, yoga studio and golf simulator, in case you need to de-stress. The downtown location means you’re close to plenty more bars, restaurants and things to do, but with much of Austin’s charms located outside of downtown, you’re also just a quick rideshare away from exploring all the city has to offer.
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