The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe begins a new chapter in its long history this month, reopening to the public after a change in ownership and a multimillion-dollar property-wide renovation that took more than a year. The community is finally getting a look inside the long-cherished local landmark, designed by the late architect Lilian J. Rice. “We consider ourselves the keepers of this storied property, always looking to honor the history and heritage of The Inn and the role it has always played in the Rancho Santa Fe community,” says Vikram Sood, The Inn’s managing director, who has had wide experience with luxury properties around the world. “We look forward to welcoming guests and the community back with bespoke experiences, world-class dining, elevated design, and warm and intuitive service.”
The property, which first opened nearly a century ago, was originally a guest house for prospective home buyers from the East Coast and Midwest who were looking to buy land in the new master-planned community of Rancho Santa Fe, heavily touted in promotional materials as “The Endless Miracle of California.” Rice’s official biographer Diane Y. Welch says it served as a sales center and “home away from home” for clients who would be taken by car to choose their homesites.
As the new village took shape along Paseo Delicias — Rice also designed the commercial block, row houses, a school, even a gas station — The Inn soon became the center of the community. Renamed La Morada, it attracted such Hollywood stars as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who had ranchos nearby, and later, Bing Crosby, who opened the Del Mar Racetrack in 1937.
So, it was only fitting that The Inn’s new owner, Chicago-based GEM Realty, and its culinary partner, Clique Hospitality, named Bing’s Bar in Crosby’s honor, and Lilian’s, the new restaurant, as a tribute to Rice. “We are thrilled to open the doors to Lilian’s and Bing’s Bar and share these exciting new concepts with the community,” says Andy Masi, Clique Hospitality founder. “The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe has been a hallmark of North County San Diego for nearly a century. At Lilian’s and Bing’s Bar, we will honor that legacy with inventive menus focused on locally sourced ingredients, world-class wine, beer and spirits, and nods to the property’s unique history.”
At the helm of Lilian’s is Chef Moira Hill, whose résumé includes George’s at the Cove, Juniper & Ivy, Trust, Campfire, and Nolita Hill. The restaurant’s menu offers sustainable meats, seafood, salads, pasta, and more. Standouts include Monterey Bay King Salmon, with lentil salad, artichoke puree, and fennel citrus slaw; a 16-ounce herb-crusted ribeye with garlic confit; and Butternut Agnolotti, with roasted eggplant, parmesan, and sage. Decadent, show-stopping desserts include Lilian’s Wonderland, a rich concoction of chocolate crumble “soil,” “mushroom” meringues, dark chocolate “twigs,” and “moss” made of pistachio cake.
Bing’s Bar specializes in light bites and inventive cocktails. Sip “Sir Barton” (named after Crosby’s horse) made with Old Forester bourbon, syrup, and bitters, or “Final Thoughts” with mezcal, allspice, pear, cinnamon, and lemon. Menu items include mini lobster rolls with truffle béarnaise, lemon, and chives, and Peking duck tostadas.
While the building’s bones and floorplan remain the same, the interior has a sophisticated new look designed by Steve Hermann, an award-winning interior designer and The Inn’s former owner. Hermann sold the property in July but stayed on to complete renovations. The Inn’s new team brought in Nina Chiappa, known for high-end residential and hospitality projects, to add the finishing touches.
Lilian’s restaurant is a glamorous space with dark green velvet banquettes, decorative treillage latticework, and Barovier sconces. The wood-paneled Bing’s Bar features exposed beams, an overhead liquor rack reminiscent of an old English pub, and a marble bar. The lounge has green velvet couches and chairs, and burl wood coffee tables.
The lobby is furnished with vintage pieces and reproductions from top international designers including the late Jean Royère of France, Czechoslovakia’s Jindrich Halabala, Finland’s Alvar Aalto, and Denmark’s Flemming Lassen, the modernist architect who designed “The Tired Man,” an iconic curved and cozy lounge chair with voluminous armrests.
The lobby also has restored wooden floors in a chevron pattern from an old Parisian château, Murano glass chandeliers and sconces, and a late 19th century Italian marble fireplace. A print based on Andy Warhol’s 1964 Flower series hangs above the mantle. There is also an abstract piece by Los Angeles-based artist Ammon Rost and landscape paintings from American impressionist Robert Ferguson, who lives in Escondido.
Even the coffee shop off the lobby, once The Huntsman bar, has a retro feel. Black-and-white marble floors in a checkerboard pattern were sourced from a 150-year-old French convent. The Inn’s guestrooms were refreshed with white paint, floral wallpaper, marble baths, and luxurious linens.
In recent weeks, The Inn has been abuzz with activity as management and staff tweak the décor, plant flowers and shrubs on the expansive grounds, train employees, and host “Lilian’s Playdates,” a chance for friends and family to sample the new menus and offer critiques. The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, at long last, is now ready for its close up, welcoming overnight guests and locals alike. 858.367.7656, theinnatrsf.com