Hotel History - A peek behind the brick walls of Hotel Mac in Point Richmond
by Matt Larson
They say that a restaurant has to stay in business for about 2 years or so until one can really judge if it’s a successful establishment or not. Hotel Mac in Point Richmond has been in business since 1911, and it’s still a West County staple more than 100 years later.
Many of Pixar’s earliest business meetings were conducted here at Hotel Mac, as Richmond is the birthplace of that revolutionary company. Over the years guests like Hunter S. Thompson and the Hell’s Angels have frequented the establishment, and they were even acclaimed by restaurant critic Duncan Hines as being: One of the exceptional dining establishments in the country.
“Back in the ‘80s we were one of the top 10 restaurants in the Bay Area,” said Chef and General Manager Jaime Molina. “This little town used to be like a pit stop on the way to Oakland—now there’s a freeway where there used to be a boulevard—but the only restaurant in this town was us, back in the early years.”
Hotel Mac was first known as the Colonial Hotel when it was initially constructed, at the cost of only $25,000, by a young Irish immigrant named Kate Riordan; and in the early 1900s most of its clientele was comprised of Standard Oil employees. It was renamed to Hotel Mac in the 1930s after it was purchased by M.V. McAfee, a former manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, and who was at the time managing the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley.
As its name suggests, Hotel Mac does also serve as a hotel, in addition to a restaurant, and banquet hall. “We’re known for great prime rib, our service, and a well-stocked bar,” Jaime said. “We have a very continental menu—from rack of lamb to fish tacos; pastas; my version of Hotel Mac paella which has appeared in local newspapers; and again, we’ve been known for our prime rib since the day we opened.”
Hotel Mac has been through a lot, and was actually mostly destroyed from a fire in 1971. A few loyal fans of the famed establishment actually formed a corporation to reopen the three-story Hotel Mac as a fine dining restaurant, and they went through great lengths to restore it as closely to its original state as possible.
“The interior, the wood and everything, got replicated from pictures of the old structure,” Molina explained. Even the stained-glass windows in the main dining room that were destroyed were recreated by the grandson of the original artist, who happened to have the original patterns and plans stored in his garage.
When Hotel Mac burnt down, only three brick walls remained of the wreckage. Molina said, “It was rebuilt between 1976-78 from just those three brick walls.” So while the establishment was restored to look as close to the original as possible, those iconic brick walls have been there since the beginning.
As it was founded by a female immigrant, Hotel Mac’s ownership has come full circle as it is now owned by yet another female immigrant, Lara Choe, from South Korea. She’s been recognized by Independence Journal and is also who you can thank for bringing live music and a piano bar into Point Richmond.
“We have live piano player every night of the week,” Jaime exclaimed. At this writing you can also find a piano/trumpet duo on Saturdays, and a guitar and vocal duo every other Sunday. You can also find specials going on at the restaurant every night of the week, with deals like half-priced bottles of wine, “fish and swish” wine pairings, martini specials, and classic prime rib on Sunday!
Call them at (510) 233-0576 ext. 0577, visit them at 50 Washington Ave., Point Richmond, or head to hotelmacrestaurant.com. The biggest change to Hotel Mac’s menu since the beginning are mostly dietetic food items. They’re not necessarily known for their vegan and vegetarian food options, but Molina attests: “We still manage to cover all our bases as far as having something for everyone.”