El Rey Inn
What began as a humble 12-room motor court in 1936 (back when Route 66 ran past it) has grown into a decidedly offbeat five-acre compound comprising 86 rooms in every imaginable configuration and style. Funky but immaculate rooms are set around the property in small clusters, shrouded by cottonwood trees and fragrant gardens and with access to both a heated pool (open spring to fall) and two cloistered, sunken hot tubs (open year-round). The fanciest units have kitchens, kiva-style fireplaces, and Mexican Talavera-tile bathrooms, but the décor can vary considerably among rooms—while some are outfitted in heirloom chic (Victorian marble-top nightstands, deep leather armchairs, antique brass headboards), others feature garage-sale schlock (mismatched seventies-era floor lamps, mounted cow skulls, animal-petroglyph-print curtains).
Tip: Book a room toward the back of the property to avoid the aural and visual traffic along tatty Cerrillos Road.
Room to Book: Room 50 is a spacious end unit just off a Spanish Colonial courtyard, with a private patio overlooking the pool, plus a wood-burning fireplace and a kitchenette.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.