It's easy to imagine Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op casing the joint from the hotel's noirish, dimly lighted Library Bar. There was no sleuthing the night I was here. Instead of the detective, locals practicing their French packed the small space. The noirish vibe continued in the slightly spooky hallway leading to my room, which was small but surprisingly cheerful with butterscotch-colored walls and vibrant ceramic lamps and shades. Nice touches: The tiny elevator is wallpapered with pages from an old San Francisco social register, and don't forget to pet Max, the lobby pug, on your way out to nearby Union Square. 562 Sutter St.; (415) 433-4434, http://www.thehotelrex.com. Doubles from $189.
Joie de Vivre
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