In this issue: Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco…
Lavish in San Diego
Ivy. A lively and luxurious choice for the travel elite in San Diego. The high-style lobby has a masculine feel with Zebrawood millwork and tall columns wrapped in braided leather. Upon arrival, a butler escorts guests directly to their rooms, where a personalized snack awaits, along with a glass-enclosed bath, flat-screen TV, walnut floors and cabinetry, and modern and classic furnishings. After mixing a drink in the room’s fully stocked bar, guests can dine at the Quarter Kitchen restaurant (photo, above), sampling a menu of fresh coastal cuisine. Ivy features a 24-seat bar that surrounds a showcase kitchen and there’s a rare indoor smoking section that opens to the sky. Stop off for a nightcap at the rooftop bar or check out the exclusive Envy nightclub down below. 650 F Street. www.ivyhotel.com. 159 rooms, 17 suites. In-room: ethernet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, bar, pool, laundry service, concierge, public Internet, public Wi-Fi, parking (fee), some pets allowed, no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. $425 — $550.
Britain’s Best in New York City
Allen & Delancey. Opening your own restaurant in a culinary hot bed like New York City sounds daunting, but not for Neil Ferguson. The original chef de cuisine at Gordon Ramsay’s The London NYC, Ferguson now brings his own brand of British flair to the Lower East Side. The space is perfect for chilly nights, with its welcoming low light, wide-plank floors, and books strewn about. The comforting menu, a nod to the neighborhood’s cultural past, is an epicure’s salve. Ribbons of prosciutto are paired with truffled fingerling potatoes and leek vinaigrette. A dish like cabbage, beef and onion flaunts its own artistic twists — a ball of cabbage stuffed with beef and a delicate onion stuffed with cabbage. 115 Allen Street. 212/253-5400. AE, D, MC, V. No lunch. Price of entrée: $24.
Chicago Crowd Pleaser
Shikago. With its ever-changing menu, Shikago lets foodies sample the work of one of Chicago’s top chefs, Kevin Shikami, without skipping a car payment for the privilege. With its simple design, chunky wooden tables and soft ambient-techno music, the restaurant draws a mixed crowd; power suits by day, and hip up-and-comers by night. The Vietnamese spring rolls — a crispy blend of papaya and Korean-style short ribs — and the grazed rack of lamb are excellent. The frozen peanut mousse and flourless chocolate cake with black-currant sorbet is a must for dessert. Enter on Adams Street or you might miss it. 190 S. LaSalle Street, The Loop. 312/781-7300. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Closed Sun. No Lunch Sat. Price of entrée: $26.
In Vegas, Bet on Rao’s
Rao’s. While its 10-table New York counterpart is notorious for a jam-packed reservation list, this 200-seat outpost at Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace offers greater availability. Hearty portions of family-style, rustic Southern Italian cuisine are featured on the menu, including traditional dishes of baked clams and meatballs as well as the signature dish, penne a la vodka with prosciutto. The red walls are crammed with framed celebrity photos — many of them digital replicas of originals back east. On warm nights, diners can end their meal with friendly games of bocce on the in-house court that overlooks the famed Caesars pool. 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. 877/346-4642. AE, D, DC, MC, V. No Lunch. Price of an entrée: $24.
In San Francisco, Wine and Dine Italian-Style
SPQR. Located in San Francisco’s swank Pacific Heights neighborhood, this 45-seat rustic osteria serves Southern Italian cuisine straight from Italy’s Campania region. Derived from the Latin phrase Senatus Populusque Romanus (“The Senate and the Roman People”), SPQR sticks to its roots and features classic Roman fare. Antipasti plays a starring role on the simple menu, with diners choosing from three categories: cold, hot, and fried. Pastas like bavette with calamari and cannelloni of oxtail, plus heartier, mostly meat entrées even out the mix. The extensive list of wines by the glass will help expand your Italian wine smarts. 1911 Fillmore Street. 415/771-7779. No reservations. AE, MC, VC. No lunch Sat. and Sun. Price of an entrée: $18.
A Taste of California in Miami
Table 8. With the opening of hot spot Table 8, in the Vincci South Beach Hotel, celebrity chef Govind Armstrong has given us all a good reason to visit Miami’s touristy Ocean Drive. The California-cuisine menu includes tasty dishes such as the prosciutto-wrapped grouper with roasted asparagus, melted tomatoes and olives, and the succulent grilled Kobe-style beef with heirloom tomato, wild arugula, red onion and Parmesan. For a more bona fide Florida experience, sit outside in the covered dining area — it’s teeming with comfy banquettes, perfect for enjoying the light bar menu of tasty bites. (The fried olives stuffed with chorizo and grilled-cheese sandwiches with pulled short rib are excellent.) 1458 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. 305/695-4114. www.table8southbeach.com. AE, MC, VC. Price of an entrée: $29.
Contributors: Alia Akkam, Suzy Buckley, Tanja Kern, Jo Napolitano, Charyn Pfeuffer, Matt Villano
Photo credit: Quarter Kitchen courtesy of Ivy Hotel