Our review of the AC Hotel Vancouver Waterfront and lounge—fabulous additions to the growing waterfront in Vancouver, Washington.
The Vancouver Waterfront scene has expanded with its first hotel, the AC Hotel Vancouver Waterfront, a modern hotel by Marriott boasting a European design, spectacular river views, and 150 well-appointed guest rooms. This property, with its full-sized kitchen, affords Executive Chef Tanner Poncik-Genk the equipment to provide distinctive AC culinary offerings and allows him the freedom to create his chef-inspired, Mediterranean-flare dishes. The AC Kitchen and AC Lounge serve delicious tapas-style plates and tasty drinks. The hotel boasts 11,500 square feet of flexible meeting space for events, and guests have complimentary access to the hotel’s 1500-square-foot fitness center outfitted with an assortment of exercise equipment, including a Peloton bike.
The First Waterfront Hotel
The AC Hotel Vancouver Waterfront officially opened its doors on June 15, 2022. My husband Steve and I decided to celebrate our 32nd anniversary at the hotel on its first open weekend—Friday, June 17. We entered the spacious minimalist lobby featuring clean lines, beautiful art, a business center, check-in counters, and the AC marketplace filled with assorted sundries, local products, beer, and wine.
All AC hotels feature lovely brand-styled art selected to pay tribute to the local surroundings. This hotel’s art speaks to a nautical theme and the Columbia River. A large, white 3-D piece hangs behind the check-in counter. The art depicts the gorgeous shimmering glass-like effects on the surface of the gently flowing river. The hallway between the lobby and the bank of elevators showcases four blue and white pieces, each resembling a different mountain range in the area.
A Room with a View
Steve and I checked into the hotel and boarded the elevator ascending to our fifth-floor corner suite, complete with a sitting area and balcony. Rooms at the hotel feature an elegant design, complimentary high-speed internet access, full bathroom suites, hairdryers, and air conditioning.
Comfortable beds with plush pillows and adjustable reading lamps make the rooms perfect for vacationers and business travelers. Rooms have a single king-sized or two queen-sized beds, and many rooms deliver a river view.
Our corner suite provided optimal views of the I-5 Interstate Bridge, the Columbia River, and the handsomely landscaped promenade. Two sides of the suite comprised floor-to-ceiling windows, and from our room’s sitting area, we had a delightful view of the boardwalk’s centerpiece, the extraordinary Grant Street Pier. The pier extends 90 feet out into the river and mimics the rigging and mast of old sailing ships that once traversed the mighty Columbia River.
A Few Sips in the Lounge
After dressing for a celebratory evening together, Steve and I proceeded to the lounge for dinner and cocktails. The AC Lounge stocks a full bar. We decided to try a couple of the hotel’s signature cocktails—the bright pink Empress Queen made with Empress gin and blackberries, and the Smokey Manhattan made with rye.
Both cocktails were well prepared and delectable. I tested the bartender and asked for my favorite, a Tuaca Lemon Drop. After explaining its ingredients to Anna, our server, she soon delivered an excellently prepared beverage.
The Executive Chef at AC Hotel Vancouver Waterfront
Executive Chef Poncik-Genk, or “Chef Tanner” as he prefers, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 2006. Chef Tanner now leads the helm at one of the largest restaurants in the AC Hotel family. His 24 years of restaurant experience will be put to good use as he feeds up to 160 guests three times a day in the restaurant’s lounge, bar, and covered patio and prepares food for all the hotel’s catered events.
The chef’s Mediterranean-inspired dishes, created from locally sourced ingredients, include scrumptious plates of grilled salmon with romesco sauce served on top of soft creamy polenta and decadent burgers on focaccia bread. Another yummy dish is the Sacchetti a la vodka—pasta-shaped little purses filled with ricotta and cheese tossed in a vodka sauce and topped with pecorino and crispy pancetta.
I met with Chef Tanner during our stay, and he shared his thoughts regarding the new lounge. He said, “The AC Lounge, with its thoughtfully curated design details and outdoor waterfront seating, offers diners the perfect place to unwind in the evening. Whether you’re looking for well-crafted cocktails and shareable Spanish-style tapas or a multicourse dinner featuring fresh Pacific Northwest favorites, we’ll make sure your experience is memorable.”
A Local Source
The chef sources his pasta, spices, and some sauces from Classic Foods, located across the river in Portland, Oregon. Since Chef Tanner spoke so highly of Classic Foods, I scheduled an interview with the owner.
Jake Greenberg, the owner of Classic Foods, discussed their process. “We make all our fresh pasta by hand in small batches on equipment purchased directly from Italian manufacturers using no pasteurization or preservatives. All our long goods are cut from laminated sheets and then cut into noodles mimicking the pasta your nonna made on the kitchen table. Artisan quality and hand-made by artisans, the noodles are cut and hung to dry and then hand packed. This process creates the best sauce-absorbing capabilities, much better than bronze-die cut, extruded pasta.”
He also explained that their short cuts, such as rotini, are extruded using bronze dies rather than Teflon-lined ones used by the big manufacturers.
“This method creates a rough surface that absorbs sauces well,” says Greenberg. “We buy durum semolina direct from the mill by the truckload, and our stuffed ravioli and tortellini are made with whole milk ricotta and premium cheese grated to order in-house.”
Hence, it was now time to try the food.
A Series of Delicious Bites
Steve and I ordered a few plates to share. We began with the cheesy arancini—onion and cheese fried risotto balls set upon harissa yogurt, cilantro pesto, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. They were crunchy yet creamy. I tried the spicy mushroom ragout—a creamy risotto topped with a slightly spicy tomato sauce that incorporated foraged wild mushrooms, sweet golden raisins, and salty olives. It was wonderful!
Steve had the 48-day dry-aged New York strip with apple bacon risotto and charred broccolini. Chef adds salt and pepper to this incredible piece of meat to present something spectacular. The AC Lounge sources its steaks from Fulton, a Sysco local meat cutter and supplier. Chef Tanner collaborates with Chef Ryan, Fulton’s meat specialist, to select individual steaks to be placed in their facility and dry-aged until ready. To finish, we shared the chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce for dessert.
The Night Lights
Content, we headed back to our suite. The sun had set, and the city lights shone brightly into the room. We closed half of the sheer blinds to let in a romantic glow and closed the remaining windows with the electric black-out blinds. We spent a good hour enjoying the local lights before lowering the remaining blinds and turning in for the night.
A European-Style Breakfast
The AC brand started in Spain, and each hotel supplies a European-style breakfast for an extra charge. Marriott purchased the AC brand in 2007, and the breakfast has remained a constant tradition. Items include meats, cheeses, pastries, espresso, coffee, juices, and freshly baked croissants made from French-imported croissant dough.
Chef Tanner is creating a unique community in Vancouver by sourcing locally. He acquires the freshest ingredients and helps support various businesses; in essence, he is building a better, stronger community. In addition to Classic Foods, Chef Tanner works with Bonnie Brasure, the owner of Bleu Door Bakery, to supply his morning pastries. I spoke with Bonnie and asked her how she felt about providing the pastries.
“I have worked with Tanner for many years and have always had a great working relationship with him,” explains Brasure. “When he reached out about pastries for the new hotel, I was excited to work with him again. We have an excellent selection of mini pastries and have expanded our offerings for Tanner. We are also developing new ideas to showcase at the hotel.”
Each morning, staff from the kitchen meticulously shaves paper-thin slices of prosciutto with the beautiful red Berkel hand slicer that sits front and center on the breakfast station. Made-to-order avocado toast and scrambled egg toast are also available as part of the all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast.
The Morning Meal at AC Hotel Vancouver Waterfront
Steve and I began with vanilla lattes prepared by our friendly server. We circled the buffet and made our initial choices, sharing many items so that we could taste as much as possible. We savored the coconut chia with mango and mint, an assortment of meats and cheeses, a few mini pastries, and one of the freshly baked warm and flakey croissants.
My favorite pastry was the strawberry rhubarb scone, and Steve loved the mini almond croissant sprinkled with powdered sugar. I tried the avocado toast with Marcona almonds and dill; it was delicious. Steve had the scrambled egg toast with rich garlic aioli.
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A Place to Stay on the Vancouver WA Waterfront
The AC Hotel Vancouver Waterfront and the lounge are fabulous additions to the growing waterfront. Visitors and locals can now stay overnight. They can enjoy the variety of restaurants, wineries, and brew pubs in the area or walk the promenade. Food and drinks at the lounge are open to hotel guests and the public. This flexibility creates a fantastic place for people to vacation or the local community to gather. Book a room and stay for a few days to enjoy dinner, drinks, and breakfast on America’s Vancouver waterfront. Check out Wander for more to do when you visit the Pacific Northwest.