by Barrett Seaman –
Tucked into the maze of restaurants, stores and condominiums that make up the Rivertowns Square complex off the Saw Mill River Parkway at Lawrence Street, the new Hilton Gardens Inn offers 143 bedrooms, a dining room and bar, meeting rooms and a small fitness center, including a pool. In short, it’s a real hotel.
Veteran patrons of Hilton Garden Inns as a brand will note the new bright and spacious lobby area. The first clue that this place is a cut above the typical traveling salesman’s utilitarian stopover, however, is the presence of a full-service restaurant. The dinner menu includes lots of bar foods, burgers and sandwiches as well as entrees like rib-eye steak, salmon and pastas. Prices are reasonable. There’s a full breakfast buffet in the mornings that is, at $17-a-person, not cheap, unless you’re a Hilton Honors Gold member, in which case it’s on the house.
The guest rooms are spacious, with amenities like a hair dryer and iron and 55-inch Samsung HDTVs fed by DirecTV. The top-of-the-line King Deluxe rooms have pullout sofa beds. If there’s a downside, it’s the immediate surroundings. Though the room windows are large, they face out either onto the rear parking lot to the east or the building housing the New York Sports Club to the west. On the plus side, there is plenty of parking. Many of the spaces, where the hotel’s main entrance is, have a roof overhead.
Guests wishing to dine out can choose among several eateries within easy walking distance: the City Perch is adjacent to the iPic Cinema where you can wine and dine on the restaurant’s menu while watching a first-run flick. But be prepared to pay: $15 or $25-a-ticket for the seat before you order the food. The restaurant and bar by themselves offer a fine experience, even without a movie. Across the street is Lombardo’s, a big, airy Italian restaurant with pizza and generous portions of pasta. On the southern end of the complex, there’s a Chipotle, a Chopt, where you can make your own salad, and the Buddha Asian Bistro.
During weekday nights, the guests are mostly corporate, and local companies like Northwell Health have discounted contracts with the hotel. The Hilton family of hotels, which range from the Waldorf Astoria to DoubleTree, Hampton and Homewood Suites, has its own national discount contracts with major corporations like General Electric, Siemens and Regeneron.
Christine Zipparo, the sales manager for the Dobbs Ferry Hilton Garden, continues to reach out to many local companies and organizations to offer partnerships that include discounts and Hilton Honors points. Local schools, like Masters, are encouraged to steer parents there over graduation weekend. Venues like Riverview, Westchester Manor and the Ardsley Country Club that host large events—weddings, bar mitzvahs, and reunions—get discounted rates for their out-of-town guests. For weddings, Hilton has designed a package that includes a web page of activities and 10,000 Honors points for those booking ten rooms or more.
On weekends, families come and stay, as do sports teams with away games against one of the area’s schools. On NFL playoff weekend, bartender Tiffany recalls the entire lobby area being packed—chicken wings and pizzas getting passed around in front of the big screen TVs while younger kids tossed footballs. A high school basketball team from Massachusetts was in town for a tournament. The House of Sports nearby hosts many such events that bring out-of-town guests.
While staffing seemed lean in number, everyone encountered was solicitous and professional. Before starting work, every employee must pass requisite courses at “Hilton University” including detailed responses to situations that might arise with guests. They treat them like they want their business.
“We don’t really have close, close competition,” said Dahiana Peralta, the hotel’s guest services manager: If Dobbs Ferry or Ardsley is your destination, HGI is the first listing that pops up on hotels.com. After that, there’s a Hampton Inn in Yonkers, slightly down-market (no restaurant or bar; only continental breakfast) or the more upscale DoubleTree in south Tarrytown, or any one of a string of hotels along Route 119. If your destination is Dobbs Ferry, this is a natural.