Hotel Modera, Portland.
Downtown Portland’s newest boutique hotel is a welcome reincarnation of the grimy Days Inn that used to occupy this block. A major renovation, while leaving the mid-century building structurally intact, gave it a head-to-toe makeover: windows now open, the lobby is stylish and spacious, and parking is hidden away underground to make room for a large courtyard. The decor throughout is minimalist and contemporary, with earth-tones, walnut wood, and local artwork to warm it up. Comfortable beds come with oversized faux-fur throws. The appealing courtyard (still facing some street construction at this writing) has a wooden walkway, a “living wall” of native Oregonian vegetation, fire pits, and moveable seating. An Italian restaurant, which will offer room service and catering, as well as a bar area, are due to open on the ground floor in March 2009. Guests are given passes to a neighboring branch of 24 Hour Fitness. Pros: convenient location for downtown pursuits and public transit; free Wi-Fi; spacious courtyard. Cons: uninspired continental breakfast until restaurant opens; a/c system not silent; no bathtubs in suites. 515 SW Clay St., Portland, 97201. 503/484-1084. www.hotelmodera.com. 168 rooms, 6 suites. In room: safe, refrigerator, Wi-Fi. In hotel: business center, laundry service, concierge, public Internet, public Wi-Fi, parking (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, DC, D, MC, V. Rooms start at $209.
Convivio, New York City.
Formerly L’Impero, this renamed but still trendy restaurant has a bold new menu under the helm of chef Michael White. The orange and white room has 110 seats, all filled with locals and tourists who come for the chic ambiance, polished service and even better food. Tasty sfizi, or nibbles—such as baby eggplant with basil, vinegar, and chili—foreshadow well-prepared basics such as buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes, and grilled lamb chops with white beans and escarole. Eclectic and flavorsome offerings like grilled quail skewers and suckling pig are also available. The spot has several outdoor tables for alfresco dining and a spacious bar area to drink from the all-Italian beer list, or from the 550-bottle wine list with many Sicilian selections. 45 Tudor City Pl., Midtown East. 212/599-5045. www.convivionyc.com. Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $22.
BLT Burger, Las Vegas.
Just inside the front entrance of The Mirage, in the same place where Siegfried & Roy’s white tigers once roamed, diners are now on display at BLT Burger, which serves up the traditional burger, fries, and a shake–but with some tasty twists. For a sugar rush, start with a Twinkie Boy milkshake made with vanilla ice cream, caramel syrup, and real Twinkies. Or, spike that shake by swapping the Twinkies for bourbon (Maker’s Mark, no less). Tired of Angus beef? Bite into a Kobe beef burger, or choose one made from lamb, turkey, or salmon. The sides include offerings such as sweet potato fries and fried pickles. 3400 Las Vegas Blvd., South (inside the Mirage Hotel & Casino). 702/792-7888. www.bltburger.com. AE, D, MC, V. Median entrée price: $22.
Hippies and health nuts rejoice at the opening of this casual, raw food counter near Jean Mance Park. Crudessence promises that all dishes are organic, vegetarian, and raw. Some of the best include tamales, curry roles, spring rolls and zucchini lasagna. Graze on hard-to-find goji berries or try a glass of “V9”, made from tomatoes and cayenne. There isn’t much seating inside, but you can loiter at the recycled wooden bar and sip smoothies made of sesame or almond milk. If the weather is nice, take a chair on the sidewalk and watch circus practice in the park. 105 rue Rachel Ouest, Plateau Mont-Royal. 514/510-9299. No credit cards. Median entrée price: $6 CAD.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Florence.
Seven years of restoration have turned this fifteenth-century palazzo in Florence’s center into a luxury hotel unlike anything else in town. No other hotel can boast of an 11-acre garden dotted with centuries-old trees, a pool, and state-of-the-art spa. A sweeping 16th century courtyard with original frescoes leads to an elegant bar where Florentines enjoy apéritifs. No two guest rooms are alike, and many have original 17th century frescoes; some face the garden, others quiet interior courtyards. Decorated in either yellow or green, they have large marbled bathrooms with deep tubs and showers. Staying here offers the unique pleasure of a resort accommodation in a city teeming with Botticellis. Pros: stellar staff; world-class restaurant, pool, and garden. Cons: breakfast not included; no Wi-Fi.Borgo Pinti 99, Santa Croce, 50121.055/26261(ph.). 055/2625-500 (fax). www.fourseasons.com/florence. 117 rooms. In-room: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Ethernet. In-hotel: 2 restaurants, room service, 2 bars, pool, gym, spa, bicycles (fee), elevators, laundry service, concierge, public Internet, airport shuttle (fee), parking (fee). AE, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at €500.
Hotel Murano, Washington.
Named for the Italian island where some of the world’s best glass is created, this big hotel with an intimate ambience centers around exhibits by world-famous glass artists. Bold colors and sleek metals infuse public spaces with style and energy, and each floor exhibits a different glass artist’s pieces. Rooms are done in black and white with fiery accents; each has high thread-count linens, iPod docks, and a flat-screen TV. The stark, chrome-and-glass restaurant sits spectacularly above glass creations in the hotel atrium. Pros: boutique feel; luxury amenities; top-flight service. Cons: no pool; lots of breakables. 1320 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 98402. 253/238â€“8000 or 888/862â€“3255 (ph.). 253/591-4105 (fax). www.hotelmuranotacoma.com. 319 rooms, 10 suites. In-room: Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, bar, spa. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at: $224.
Contributors: Joanna Cantor, Jay Jones, Joanne Latimer, Patricia Rucidlo, Holly Smith, Shivani Vora