Best Hotel (2001)
Back in the 1930s, well-to-do Chicago brothers Preston and Tom Wells fell in love with Fort Lauderdale -- and with Champ Carr, the likable fishing guide and raconteur who took them out on their annual winter excursions into the briny deep. In 1936 the pair decided to build a small but exclusive resort hotel on the banks of the New River and install Carr as manager; they even named it the Champ Carr Hotel. When Carr retired in 1947, the lodging was renamed the Riverside Hotel. Other than that, it hasn't changed much from the original three-story hotel and six-story tower. It's still an unpretentious, European-style inn with the original Lapa Lapa tile floors and coral rock keystone fireplaces designed by society architect Francis Abreu. The 105 traditional rooms and suites, which range in price from $149 out of season to $269 in season, still boast their original Jacobean-style oak furniture, and although the clientele has changed from wealthy dowagers to hard-charging business types, the rhythm and serenity of the hotel hasn't. Food offerings include two well-regarded restaurants, both Ron Morrison creations: the moderately priced Indigo, with its Southeast Asian fusion cuisine, and the expensive Grill Room, a steak-and-seafood house modeled after a British colonial pub in some far-flung outpost. A word of warning: the hotel is in the process of adding 112 rooms and 4 executive suites in an adjacent 13-story tower by 2002. As at any of the world's newly renovated grand old hotels, you'll want to consider asking for accommodations in the old wing.