January 27, 2011

Millbrae: Best Western El Rancho Inn; hotel review + restaurant review

1100 El Camino Real, (800) 826-5500, (650) 588-8500. 306 rooms. Pool; hot tub; fitness center. Pets ok. Continental breakfast; restaurant.

Featuring a California mission-style architecture, the spacious 2-story Best Western El Rancho Inn is spread out over 9 acres. It has been operated by the same family since it opened in 1949. Rooms are attractively updated, with iPod connectors and flat-screen TVs, but they still retain some cool original bathroom tilework.

Park-and-fly car storage and an airport shuttle are available, as is a popular package that let’s you stay one night and leave your car for two weeks while you fly away. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you can come back to the hotel and use the facilities at no charge; and if the flight is delayed until the following day, they’ll give you a room at no charge if one is available.

Vintage stars Lauren Bacall and Lou Costello stayed here, and Richard Nixon stayed here in corner room #325 when he was V.P. In 1989, this was the only airport hotel that remained undamaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake and is where FEMA based its operations.

The subterranean bar in the Terrace Cafe was once known as The Mermaid Room because it has a big window that looks right into the pool where “mermaids” once performed underwater. Old-time guests include William Randolph Hearst and Bing Crosby, and the bar was the filming site for a scene in the 1982 movie, “The Right Stuff.”

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