AND IT IS LIKE STEPPING BACK INTO A GRANDER ERA, WITH FAST INTERNET
by Andrew Chalk
There’s a new old hotel in Mineral Wells, and you should stay there if you are out that way! It is the The Crazy Water Hotel in the heart of downtown. I checked it out at a media event last week and came away impressed.
The first thing that grabs you about the place is the cavernous lobby. They just don’t build hotels with this respect for space nowadays. It is larger than two basketball courts, replete with restored or original wood-paneled pillars and contemporary light fixtures to set the tone. Large windows down one of the long sides ensure that light from the south-facing aspect streams in.
Locals employed at check-in bring an idiosyncratic but honest approach to the art of concierge. Ask about local attractions here. My room was on the second floor, which was the only floor with rooms when the hotel reopened in 2021. Now, other guest rooms are on the third through fifth floors. Part of the fifth floor and the sixth are apartments, as is often the case with hotel properties nowadays, and they are already almost full according to hotel GM Cynthia Nelson. I did not get to see one, but a member of the management company told me that they are premium units, with rents almost comparable to Dallas.
The seventh (and top) floor is an event space any hotel would kill for. On the southeast corner is an outdoor terrace larger than a basketball court looking east and south with views of one the hills (or hillocks) that surround downtown (this one colloquially known as ‘snob hill’, on account of the high-end houses dotting its slopes) and the historical Baker Hotel, the tallest building in town, and currently undergoing a major restoration project by the same group that restored The Crazy Water Hotel.
Inside floor seven is an east-west connecting corridor with a bar and social area in the centre and at the west end a large event room that is ‘the place’ to hold wedding receptions in Mineral Wells. It has also proven popular with businesses and associations like the Rotary for meetings. Windows cover all four walls, making for both a light, airy space and great views.
My room was massive. Strictly, a suite with a kitchenette unit, as in an extended stay property. It had a fridge, freezer, microwave, and Keurig coffee maker. The coffee blend, unfortunately, was undrinkable and the creamer was that awful powder. Try Mini Moo please Crazy management. The lounge area and the bedroom both had TVs with a massive selection of channels (plus games). There was a ‘large enuf’ circular table for work that had two comfortable chairs. A rectangular couch set with room for four and a cocktail table. WiFi was magnificent and I could easily stream Sling movies. The king-size bed was as good as I have slept on and I zonked out within minutes of lying down, woken only by an early alarm to head back to Dallas (one hour twenty minutes + traffic) to deal with a penned-up dog. Had I coordinated better I could have brought my dog for a $50 fee. She would have appreciated the second floor view of an air conditioner.
Returning to common areas, the massive lobby leads round to an equally massive commercial area that used to be a hospital in the early twentieth century. It has been transformed into a central lobby surrounded by shops. There is a coffee bar, women’s and men’s outfitters, manicure/pedicure salon and a souvenir shop. The lobby structure resembles a proto-Portman style lobby with a balcony above the ground level with business offices leading off. I did not see the inside of any, but this would be a great central location in Marble Falls for startups and service companies like law and accountancy practices.
Two F&B options deserve special mention: Rickhouse Brewing occupies a leased space off the lobby and, judging only by their IPA, makes good beer. Service is friendly too. On asking for their IPA my barman suggested I try it first, which was a smart and customer-friendly move.
The other notable F&B option is the marquee restaurant Second Bar + Kitchen. The most remarkable thing about this is that the co-owner, David Bull, is a ‘Made Man’ in the coterie of chefdom. He put Bolla on the map in Dallas from 2008 through 2010, Execucheffed at The Driskill Hotel in Austin (which he even wrote a book about), appeared on Iron Chef, now he has Second Bar + Kitchen locations in Austin and Mineral Wells. The thing is, this isn’t one of those Wolfgang Puck type naming deals where the Uber driver has to show him how to get to his own restaurants when he comes to town. Bull has moved his family to Mineral Wells, out of Austin. He appears to be, as they say, “all in”. I expect great things, unless he plans to open Second Bar + Kitchen locations all over DFW.
The menu theme is New American With Healthiness (in line with Mineral Wells’ ‘Wellness Capital of Texas’ tagline). So there are nods to vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. As well as the usual assortment of cocktails there are mocktail equivalents. Our group was the first full house dinner service at the restaurant and the food was impressive, the pacing good, and the service willing. The premature timing of our visit explains, I was told by Bull, the absence of any Texas wines on the wine list.
One of the most compelling amenities is over a year away. The basement (currently a construction site) is being renovated into a massive spa. Director of Spa and Wellness, Rebecca Eivens, is already onsite directing planning and implementation with meticulous attention to detail. She ran spas at Four Seasons Hotels for 18 years, as well as at resorts in Reno and Charleston. She intends to bring spring water into the treatments. She says "Our intention is to pull from one of the first discovered mineral rich wells that lies on the north west corner of the Hotel. It has been sealed for some years now, but we have professionals coming out to drill down into it in the next couple of weeks after the big Crazy Water Festival. We will know more at that time about how we are able to utilize the mineral rich waters for our Spa soaks."
A group of 88 local investors financed the restoration through Texas’ first Public Benefit Corporation and reopening of the hotel. Local pride figured in that decision, some of them said. Bull told me he had moved his family to town because he loved the area. Cynthia Nelson relocated from Austin with her husband for the same reasons after they became empty nesters. Area pride exuded from the staff as well.
The Mineral Wells music scene (growing) is right outside. Looking at the growth westwards from Fort Worth, to Weatherford, Mineral Wells is the next domino to fall so the town could be the next cool place to live and visit. I enjoyed my stay at The Crazy Water Hotel and so would you.