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And Now Our Readers Give the Real Scoop on S.F. Hotels : Lodging: Personal favorites vary widely in price but emphasize convenience, tradition and personal service.

November 20, 1994|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES TRAVEL WRITER; Reynolds travels anonymously at the newspaper's expense, accepting no special discounts or subsidized trips. To reach him, write Travel Insider, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

Five Sundays ago, in a cover story on San Francisco hotels, I offered up a pair of top 10 lists--my favorites for style and for value. Now comes the feedback.

"Guys, you blew it!!" opined Lucy Harrison on the back of a postcard from Santa Ana. On the expensive, stylish end of the spectrum, she likes the Stouffer Renaissance Stanford Court Hotel (905 California St.; tel. 415-989-3500; brochure rates for two people: $235 nightly and up) for its service and view, and for its in-house restaurant, Fournou's Ovens. (The Stanford Court didn't make my list.)

"How could you overlook the Savoy?" asked Judith A. Horan of Corona. She called the Savoy (580 Geary St.; tel. 415-441-2700; brochure rates: $119 and up) cozy, friendly and conveniently located near theaters and Union Square. She also suggests we ask for her favorite bellman, Benjamin, and heartily endorses its restaurant, La Brasserie.

"I was surprised that the Cartwright Hotel (524 Sutter St.; tel. 415-421-2865; brochure rates $139 and up) was not included on your list of the top 10 for value," wrote John Apostolou of Los Angeles, noting its prime location, low rates, cleanliness and antique furnishings.

"What about the Donatello?" (501 Post St.; tel. 415-441-7100; brochure rates $155 and up) asked K.H. Kent of Los Angeles. "Convenient location. Friendly service. Indoor parking. Good restaurant."

Muriel Blankfort of Los Angeles, meanwhile, suggested that my lists "made it appear to me that Nob Hill does not exist. To my mind--and I've stayed at them all over 30 years--the Huntington (1075 California St.; 415-474-5400; brochure rates $185 and up) is the most elegant in San Francisco (and where I always stay). And to omit the Fairmont (950 Mason St.; tel. 415-772-5000; brochure rates $189 and up) is to omit the grande dame . . . These hotels stand for something."

Actually, I didn't entirely omit the Nob Hill hotels; I noted that they remain venerated but that in that neighborhood I preferred the newer Ritz-Carlton. And I didn't entirely ignore the Fairmont; I said its lobby reminded me of an aged performer trying to look young by using more makeup.

I also suggested that the Sir Francis Drake Hotel seemed like a tired place, despite recent renovation. "Tired? Yes," began M.L. Schiavi of Norwalk in a sort of rebuttal. "But where else can you check out the line at Sears Restaurant (an aged and much-beloved breakfast joint across the street) or step out onto the roof to gaze south of Market?"

Karen Madden of Long Beach cast her vote with the Orchard Hotel (562 Sutter St.; tel. 415-433-4434; brochure rates $110 and up), lauding the lobby and advising that "the best rooms are at the rear of the hotel overlooking a green space ."

Jan Madill of Coronado endorsed the Harbor Court Hotel (165 Steuart St.; tel 415-882-1300; brochure rates $150 and up, to rise $5 in 1995), citing "great decor in small but excellently furnished rooms," and its Embarcadero location.

For the record, my top 10 for style (in alphabetical order) were: Campton Place, the Four Seasons Clift Hotel, The Inn at the Opera, The Inn at Union Square, The Majestic, the Mandarin Oriental, the Hotel Milano, Petit Auberge and the White Swan Inn (a tie), The Ritz-Carlton and The Sherman House. For value I chose (again, alphabetically): the Andrews Hotel, Hotel Bedford, The Carlton Hotel, Chancellor Hotel, The Fitzgerald and the Hotel Sheehan (a tie), the Golden Gate Hotel, the Hostel at Union Square, the Hotel Nikko, the San Remo Hotel and the Hotel Triton.

Among the hotels I mentioned, several people singled out for praise the Four Seasons Clift--which come January is expected to take on new management and be known simply as the Clift--but one couple called it the "worst place we ever stayed." And though I didn't mention it, a couple of correspondents complimented the Warwick Regis Hotel (490 Geary St.; tel. 415-928-7900; brochure rates $105 and up).

Linda A. Harris of Los Angeles, slightly stretching my request that replies be limited to 25 words, sent in a sort of bonus haiku in celebration of her favorite place. Her entire note:

"Soaking in the bathtub at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, sipping a good California red while gazing at the fog rolling in over the Golden Gate Bridge."

Regina L. Lujan of Torrance wrote to express pleasure at seeing the Golden Gate on my list, and offered her testimonial: "The reason we enjoyed it so much . . . is: I hate high-rise buildings, air-conditioning and sealed windows. On an exceptionally warm weekend the room we had overlooked the rear garden and was pleasantly cooled through the open windows."

Of them all, my favorite correspondent was Quinn Bouma, age 9, of Anaheim, who reported that he and his sister recently flew on their own to San Francisco (where their grandparents met them at the airport) and greatly enjoyed the Hotel Beresford Arms (701 Post St.; tel. 415-673-2600; brochure rates $89 and up). "What I liked about the hotel," wrote Quinn, "was that they had tea and rolls in the morning and cheese and crackers at noon." Quinn also liked the restaurant Allez-Allez and its "potato leak soup."

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