The Metro Hotel & Café is a funky place. Situated in the eclectic and historic town of Petaluma, California, the hotel is small, self-service focused, and blends French antiques and culture with a quirky vibe travelers expect on an American road trip.
I recently visited the Metro for a quick, overnight stay. I had always wanted to stay at the Metro after learning about the unique style of the property and rooms, reasonable hotel rates (especially in California Wine Country) and location near downtown Petaluma.
Here’s my experience on a rainy night and morning at the Metro Hotel & Café.
The Metro Hotel & Café is located just south of historic downtown Petaluma. Petaluma is an old school agricultural city. It used to be one of the USA’s largest producers of milk and eggs and still celebrates its agriculture history annually with a Butter & Eggs Day Parade.
Today, Petaluma is known for its growing restaurant scene focused around farm-to-table and for serving as a respite for artists and creative types seeking affordable housing outside of San Francisco. It has a large “burner” community – people who attend the famous Burning Man festival every year – meaning that creativity and liberal views rule in Petaluma.
The downtown is a funky and cool area, full of historic Victorian homes, live music venues, good restaurants, bars, shops and great people watching. There is one wine tasting room just down the street from the hotel (Adobe Road) and the property is about 15-20 minutes from wineries.
The story of Metro Hotel & Café
It’s a quick story: the hotel is located in a building that is over 140 years old. Co-owner, Marie Saint-Clair saw the building for sale. Saint-Clair, who is French, and her husband, Arthur, were going to buy it and make it an office building, but decided to make it a hotel instead.
They began renovations in 2001 and since then, they have been providing reasonably priced, fun accommodations for travelers. Saint-Clair curates the eclectic look of the hotel, returning to France frequently to purchase antiques to decorate the property.
It was raining cats and dogs when I pulled up in front of the Metro. I parked out front and ran up to the entrance, leaving my luggage in the car until I figured out the lay of the land. A staff member was chatting to someone in the doorway, so they let me in and I was instantly in shock at large amount of antiques and funky artwork on display. Very cool stuff!
After getting my bearings, I followed signs to check in, which was located in a little office in the back, down a hallway. Two women, traveling together, were also waiting to check in. It was a little crowded, to say the least.
The employee checked us both in, briefly explained to the three of us about the self-service cafe (“Here’s how you make drip coffee.” “Here’s how you make crepes.””Here’s wine and beer if you want to buy it.”). He was brisk, and honestly, it seemed like we had disturbed his evening by just showing up.
While I waited for him to finish checking in the women (he was going to show us all to our rooms together), I checked out a large dining area, with a beautiful antique table, modern chairs, and really cool street signs.
The entire vibe, including the self-serve concept, reminded me of a “grown up” hostel. Make your own coffee and food and be quiet after 10 PM. The hotel is technically not staffed all the time. If you arrive when no one is there, you have to self-check in. I’m glad someone was there, as knowing my luck, something would go wrong with the “easy” self-check in.
The three of us were led outside, past two Airstream trailers (yes, they have two on property you can stay in!) and into another part of the building where our rooms were. I was on the first floor, the two women went upstairs.
My room was the first room on the right when we entered the building, 178. The entire property is secure with gate codes that you are provided upon check in. I felt completely safe during my entire stay.
The room was very cute. Touches of Saint-Clair’s style were throughout the room, including a vintage goose lamp on the bedside table. The bed was extremely comfortable. The pillows are very soft, so if you’re a fan of a more firm pillow, bring your own.
The room is small, perfectly sized for one or two people. A TV guide and a remote are provided for the television. The remote had the batteries taped in, meaning it worked intermittently if I wasn’t pushing the batteries into the remote.
A tall and skinny armoire includes two fans (which means it must get warm in the room in the summer!), a luggage rack, shoe holder, hangers and an iron.
The bathroom is spacious with old school touches. I love how they kept the honeycomb tiling on the floor and used vintage fixtures. The clawfoot tub is half sized, better for a shower than a relaxing bath.
The blue containers over the sink are shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion. A voyeuristic dwarf makes sure that the bathroom remains in working order.
One complaint about the bathroom – whenever you go to the bathroom, the light switch turns on both the light and the fan. This can be really annoying – especially for someone like me, a light sleeper. It would wake me up if I was traveling with a friend and they got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night (bring earplugs).
Overall, the room was cute, with quirky touches, vintage prints, and colors that reminded me of Van Gogh’s bedroom. However, the wooden floor made for cold nights and mornings – I’m glad I brought my slippers and flannel pajamas! The bed was very cozy, and I slept OK. It rained really hard that night, which caused for drips from the gutters (again, bring earplugs!).
There aren’t any amenities on the property, aside from the café (see below) and outdoor seating areas. There are board games in the café for guests to enjoy.
One of the fun things to see are the old Airstream trailers that guests can rent. I did not see the insides, but, I’ve heard great things about them.
Food and drink
It’s slim picking for on-site food and drink at the Metro.
However, next door is Quinua, a Peruvian restaurant. The bright, modern restaurant is considered one of the most authentic Peruvian restaurants in Northern California. I walked over for dinner and had a rather forgettable glass of Albarino and a tasty order of Arroz Chaufa (Peruvian-style fried rice), with house made hot sauce. Overall, my experience was just OK. If I was to stay back at the Metro, I’d head downtown to check out another restaurant.
Now, back to the Metro…
Like the name of the property incurs, there is a café, which appears to be only open to guests at this time. I think it might expand to be open to the public in the future.
After loading my car with my luggage, I headed into the main building to check out and visit the café. Check out involved me simply dropping my key into a little box in the lobby.
It was rather busy. Guests were clamored around the bar making coffee. I was only able to snap one photograph, before I got a scowl by a woman reading and drinking coffee.
Suffice to say, I did not stay long. I don’t drink drip coffee, I could not see the tea offerings because four guests were standing in front of the coffee and tea, chatting and acting like they did not see me, even after I said “excuse me.” (Anyone who knows me, knows I have no problem being a loud mouth!)
The only employee I saw was a woman who kept coming and going from the kitchen, practically hiding behind the coffee drip system. Guests were able to make their own crepes, but I didn’t see anyone doing that (again, people were in my way).
I had read about delicious pastries available, complimentary, in the morning. All I saw was this sad plate of mystery bread. No thanks, sad bread.
Instead, I left and drove about 10 minutes to the new Acre Coffee just north of downtown Petaluma. Acre is super modern in design and, dare I say it, a hipster coffee shop. The new Hope Sandoval album echoed throughout the building and low and behold, it was here where I had the best latté of my life (no joke) and a delicious chocolate croissant. Just typing this makes me want to drive 20 minutes out of town to go to Acre.
The Metro Hotel & Café is a perfect choice if you’re seeking low-maintenance, reasonably priced accommodations in Petaluma or within minutes of Sonoma County Wine Country.
The decor is adorable, fun and full of surprises. My room was very comfortable. The location is also great – walking distance from downtown Petaluma and a decent restaurant next door for lunch or dinner.
While I enjoyed my room stay, the café left me unimpressed and the lack of staffing made me feel like I was staying in a hostel versus a hotel. Call me high-maintenance. 😉
Overall, the price point is perfect for couples or small families, especially for a boutique, independently owned hotel in the Bay Area. If you’re traveling on the road, it’s also a good pit stop along Highway 101.
The property is ADA accessible. It is family friendly. No pets allowed.
For a second opinion, check out Trip Well Gal’s review of the Metro Hotel & Café. She stayed there in 2015 with her family.
The Metro Hotel & Café is located at 508 Petaluma Blvd S. in Petaluma, California, 94952. (707) 773-4900. Rates start at $119 a night.
Have you visited Petaluma? Share your experience below!