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Hot List: Prague, California Wine Country, Barbados, Minneapolis, London, Mexico

100808--HotelMinn--MT.jpgHotel Minneapolis, Minneapolis.

The bones of the Hotel Minneapolis give away its rich history as a turn-of-the-century bank: stately marble pillars and original bank vaults compete with plush red leather furniture, ambient music, and modern light fixtures. Families can find affordable luxury here, while business travelers will appreciate the daily happy hour specials in the hotel restaurant. Rooms are outfitted with modern amenities such as flat screen televisions. The hotel is within walking distance of many downtown hotspots and offers convenient skyway access to keep out the rain and cold. Pros: skyway accessible; conveniently located to public transportation. Cons: a few extra steps to the downtown scene; not a boutique hotel. 215 4th Street South, Minneapolis, 55401. 612-340-2000 (ph.). 612-215-5400 (fax). 222 rooms, 18 suites. In room: safe, refrigerator (some), ethernet, Wi-Fi. In hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, gym, laundry service, public Internet, parking (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at $199.

Casa Andina, Prague.

Both the Czech Republic and Peru share a deep and abiding love for the humble potato, so the Peruvian Casa Andina seems like a natural fit in Prague’s dining scene. At this clubby spot where music videos play on the television, upbeat staff serve the apex of tuber-worship: a mashed potato with deep-fried spiced pork. It looks like a baked potato, but it’s far, far more delicious (and caloric). There are also quality ceviches—a Peruvian specialty—made with shrimp and sole, and a skewered beef heart in red pepper sauce. The cocktail list is extensive, but drinkers venturing beyond the traditional pisco sour will find tipple with racy titles. Dusní 15, 110. 224-815-996. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: 260 Kc.

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Restaurant Eloise, California Wine Country.

Roasted bone marrow, crispy sweetbreads, and head-cheese charcuterie highlight the menu at this fledgling bistro, where husband-and-wife chefs Eric Korsh and Ginerva Iverson specialize in ingredients that other culinary geniuses might overlook. The eclectic menu also boasts more traditional dishes, such as milk-poached halibut, roast guinea hen, and pan-fried sand dabs. Most herbs and spices come from the backyard garden (ask for a tour), while many of the vegetables are sourced from area farms. Desserts, including a decadent rum-soaked brioche, are all made in-house. A short-but-punchy wine list features wine from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, as well as selections from the Rhône and Loire. The best bet: aperitifs, including a handful of locally infused liqueurs. 2295 Gravenstein Highway S., Sebastopol, Sonoma. 707-823-6300. Closed Sun. No lunch. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: $22.

Spago, Barbados.

On an island where seafood reigns supreme, one probably wouldn’t expect to find heavenly Italian cuisine. At Spago (not to be confused with the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck), the usual pastas are reliably delicious, but it’s the thin and perfectly crisped pizzas that dazzle. Heat-seekers savor the kick of spicy salami, chili peppers, mozzarella and tomatoes atop the Diavolo pie, while luxe palates prefer the Aragosta, with lobster, mozzarella and tomato. The Italy-centric wine list is above par by Caribbean standards, but a cold Banks beer is the beverage of choice. The casual eatery fills up early with families and remains packed throughout the evening with budget-minded locals, young couples, and tourists. Temperatures in the dining room can get toasty, so snag an outdoor table on the veranda and soak up some of Holetown’s lively people-watching. Second St., Holetown, St. James, West Coast. 246-432-7394. MC, V. No lunch. Median entrée price: $20.

Giaconda Dining Room, London.

A real find on Denmark Street’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’ (think Bowie, Marley, and the Clash), the Australian-run two-room dining room may only seat 35, but the menu is inspired and the prices are cheap. Chef Paul Merrony sends out starters—pumpkin risotto, crispy pigs’ trotters—and a full range of main entrées for a reasonable cost. Try the fishcakes, salmon and fennel, or hearty dishes like poached veal, Italian pork sausage stew, or ham hock hash with a fried egg on top. Popular puddings such as apricot compote with walnuts and whipped cream come in at a tasty £5. 9 Denmark St., Soho. 020-7240-3334. Reservations essential. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: £11.00.

Le Rêve Hotel & Spa, Mexico.

Those seeking privacy and serenity will appreciate the low-key yet luxe vibe at this new beachfront boutique property. Whether you visit for a honeymoon or a girlfriends getaway, expect polished service and thoughtful touches, such as daily-replenished homemade soaps. Stylish rooms were built without significantly disturbing trees and other natural surroundings. For the ultimate indulgence, book a beach bungalow and enjoy a private patio and infinity plunge pool. In all rooms, posh bedding ensures sweet dreams. If you must tear yourself away from the tranquility of the property, the nightlife of Playa del Carmen is just a 10-minute car ride away. Pros: adult-only facility; gorgeous pool area; outstanding restaurant/cuisine. Cons: condo complex being built nearby at time of writing; no airport shuttle. Playa Xcalacoco Fraccion 2A, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico. 98-4109-5660. 25 rooms. In-room: safe, no TV. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, pool, gym, spa, beachfront, no elevator, laundry service, parking (no fee), no kids under 16, no-smoking rooms. MC, V. Rooms start at $209 USD.

Contributors: Alexander Basek, Jennifer D’Anastasio, Emma Fox, Matt Villano, Alex Wijeratna

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Hotel Minneapolis

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