This week on the Hot List, we’ll let you in on the latest (and only) place to find Spanish tapas in Baltimore’s Little Italy, and in Atlanta, where you can find the best bowl of grits. We’ll give you a hint, it ain’t for the dogs. Also, upscale pub grub in Chicago, a classic steakhouse in Philadelphia, and two new stylish stays in Paris and Washington, D.C.
The Liaison Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
The Manhattan-based Affinia Hotel group is the latest urban hotel chain to stake its claim on Washington. The Liaison marries modern style with customized service elements, such as a pillow menu and long list of personalized amenities that can be requested prior to check-in. The lobby gives off a private nightclub vibe and showcases a series of specially commissioned six-foot monochromatic portraits of world leaders like Martin Luther King, Margaret Thatcher and Gandhi. The space also houses the hotel’s popular lounge, which buzzes into the early hours of the morning with political players and night owls alike. Pros: fantastic rooftop pool and deck; in-house Art and Soul restaurant is a choice dining destination; sidewalk patio for people watching and summer cocktails. Cons: some street noise at night; no great room views; expensive parking. 415 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Capitol Hill, 20001. 202/638–1616 or 866/233–4642. www.affinia.com. 343 rooms. In-room: safe, Internet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, pool, gym, laundry service, Wi-Fi, parking (fee), pets allowed, no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at $179.
You can count the number of non-Italian restaurants in Little Italy with one hand, and now there’s one more place to add. This intimate Spanish restaurant gives people good reason to branch out in this seemingly exclusive Italian neighborhood. The walls are done in deep red and yellow tones, and the south side of the building is a windowed atrium facing the sidewalk. With 25 small plates featured on the menu, diners can try a little bit of everything. The seafood soup, which is creamy but not too heavy, along with the flat iron steak stuffed with olives and smoked bacon are two standouts. 413 S. High St., Little Italy. 410/223–3020. www.tapabarrestaurant.com. AE, D, MC, V. Closed Mon. No lunch. Median entrée price: $18.
You might not think Atlanta’s best bowl of grits would be served in this stately space, frequented by mostly businesspeople nibbling on seared foie gras and perfectly peppery tuna beneath sky-high ceilings and arty black-and-white photos of dogwoods. But it’s true; Dogwood’s small boat of maize-based porridge, best topped with braised mushrooms or poached lobster, achieves the perfect mix of decadent and down-home. The same can be said for most of Dogwood’s menu and the restaurant itself. The open, seemingly calm kitchen is where traditional dishes like fried okra and cheese soufflé are updated. In-the-know daters come here to meet up; the gently dim lighting and low noise are perfect for getting-to-know you conversations. 565 Peachtree St., Midtown. 404/835–1410. www.dogwoodrestaurant.com. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. Median entrée price: $22.
The Publican, Chicago.
Don’t call this beer-focused hotspot a gastropub. Chef Paul Kahan (of Blackbird fame) prefers “beer hall.” Certainly the long communal tables, in which beer connoisseurs sample from a selection hovering around 100 brews, imparts the bustling space with the air of an Oktoberfest celebration. (Wine is also available.) Yet Chef de Cuisine Brian Huston’s seafood- and pork-focused menu gives a decided nod to pub fare. Diners share shucked oysters and just-fried pork rinds before tucking into grilled, smoky country ribs, fried perch, and potée (braised pork belly, tenderloin, and sausage). Arrive early, as seating is first-come, first-serve except for Sundays, when reservations are accepted for Huston’s four-course, prix-fix menu. 837 W. Fulton Market, Near West Side. 312/733–9555. AE, MC, V. No lunch. Median entrée price: $18.
Butcher & Singer, Philadelphia.
Restaurateur Stephen Starr’s latest venture, Butcher & Singer, is housed in an old wood-paneled and marbled brokerage (from which it borrows its name). Here the dishes are traditional rather than fancy (surf-and-turf rather than Kobe beef), portions are hefty (even the chocolate fudge cake is huge), and the sides classic (stuffed hash browns, and gravy mushrooms and onions). A pair of showstopper chandeliers, a New Yorker-style mural depicting tony pooches clad in pencil skirts and smoking robes, and leather banquettes skew closely to the restaurant’s avowed 1940s supper club aesthetic. 1500 Walnut Street, Rittenhouse Square. 215/732–4444. www.butcherandsinger.com. AE, MC, V. No lunch Sat. & Sun. Median entrée price: $34.
Hôtel Mama Shelter, Paris.
The heir to the Club Med empire has decided to do for the hotel industry what jeans did for fashion: democratize style. Opened in fall 2008 in the up-and-coming 20th district close to Père Lachaise cemetery, this spanking new hotel is immense by Paris standards, with a fun and funky interior designed by Philippe Starck. Rooms have kitchenettes with microwaves, Khiel’s toiletries and wireless Internet via flat-screen TVs; many have huge balconies. The spacious restaurant-bar-lounge is open to the public, and guests can rent electric scooters and cars. The popular Fleche d’Or nightclub is across the street and Roissy-CDG airport is just a quick drive away. Pros: trendy design; easy access to airport; good value. Cons: located on the edge of Paris; club across the street can be noisy. 109 rue de Bagnolet, Saint Blaise, 75020. 01–43–48–48–48. www.mamashelter.com.172 rooms. In-room: kitchen, safe, DVD, Internet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, bar, Internet terminal, laundry service, parking (fee), some pets allowed. AE, MC, V. Rooms start at: €99
Contributors: JoAnn Greco, Beth Kanter, Kate Leahy, Sam Sessa, Heather Stimmler-Hall, Christine Van Dusen