A Spanish Hotspot in Seattle
Txori. A casual, yet classy alternative to Belltown’s big ticket restaurants, Txori (pronounced chōr-ē) multi-tasks as a spirited after-work scene, a low-key first date destination and a spot for late-night snacking. Styled after the socially-conducive pintxo (pronounced pin-chô) bars of San Sebastian, Spain, the restaurant features a 22-item menu divided into frios (cold) small bites, calientes (hot) small bites and raciónes, or small plates that are perfect for sharing. Savory items include latxa sheep cheese, veal and pork meatballs and Spanish cured chorizo with shaved chocolate. The wine list is in-depth and inspired. Sit at the bar and watch the chefs in the open-air kitchen deftly turn out plate after plate of bite-sized perfection. 2207 2nd Ave., Belltown. 206/204-9771. No reservations. Median entrée price: $15.
Clever Cuisine in San Francisco
Orson. Elizabeth Falkner’s latest venture is a showcase for “edgy California cuisine,” and the restaurant’s décor and SoMa location equally push the envelope. This former historic warehouse has a clubby vibe with upbeat music, two levels for dining, and dramatic lighting, all anchored by a 30-person horseshoe marble bar. The menu features eclectic choices, such as an egg with a tempura-nori exterior; a pizza that comes with chocolate and sea salt; and a Spanish-influenced black cod that is simply delicious. The extensive dessert list (save room) is clever, integrating ingredients like candy cap mushrooms or Pop Rocks. Don’t miss the duck fat fries on the bar menu. 508 4th St., SoMa. 415/777-1508 (ph.). Closed Sun. Median entrée price: $24.
In L.A., a Sunset Strip
BLT Steak. BLT Steak is the latest venture from French chef Laurent Tourondel. Located in the Sunset Strip building that formerly housed the legendary industry hangout Le Dôme, the restaurant’s space is now more casual and sparingly decorated, suggesting a bustling bistro despite its hip vibe and lack of intimacy. Enjoy samplings from the raw bar, the delicious crab cakes or kampachi sashimi spiked with yuzu and kumquats, before feasting on the main attraction, the Certified Angus Beef. Pass on the hanger steak (too chewy) and the domestic Wagyu, which lacks the consistency of the Japanese product. Instead, enjoy the bone-in rib-eye or filet with a béarnaise sauce worthy of a real French bistro; finish with a killer peanut butter-chocolate mousse. www.bltrestaurants.com. 8270 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 310/360-1950. Reservations essential. No lunch. Median entrée price: $40.
In Chicago, Back in Black
The Blackstone. A 6-year renovation project has restored this once faded building to its original splendor. The lobby, with its gold-trimmed walls and ultra-modern flower arrangements, is an unusual mix of old and new. The guest rooms are simple and elegant with striking bold colors; a stunning combination of gold, red, black and white, and the ballroom–with its ornate carvings–is other-worldly. The service is exceptional; visitors are warmly greeted within seconds. Ask about the hotel’s storied past; both presidents and mob bosses have stayed here. Pros: The new owners spared no expense in this beautifully redone space. Cons: The décor can be a bit too ornate. www.marriott.com. 636 S. Michigan Ave., South Loop, 60605. 312/447-0955. 320 rooms, 12 suites. â€‰In-room: safe, refrigerator, Ethernet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 1 restaurant, room service, 2 bars, gym, laundry service, concierge, executive floor, public Internet, public Wi-Fi, parking (fee), some pets allowed.â€‰Rooms start at $299.
Scottsdale’s Pizza Place
Humble Pie. It may be called Humble Pie, but this new spot can comfortably boast some of the best pizza in town. A masterful blend of soft, chewy and crispy crust creates the perfect vehicle for fresh ingredients like basil, buffalo mozzarella, and crimini and shitake mushrooms. Appetizers like creamy mustard green beans with hazelnuts, veggie chopped salad, and crispy fries make for an even more deliciously memorable experience–one that can be had until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Wash it all down with wine or your favorite potables from a full bar. Expect crowds during lunchtime on weekdays and on weekend nights. www.humblepieusa.com. 6149 North Scottsdale Rd., Hilton Village, Central Scottsdale. 480/556-9900. Median entrée price: $11.
New York City’s Stylish Stay
The Greenwich Hotel. This impossibly stylish eight-level hotel in the heart of Tribeca comes courtesy of actor-director Robert DeNiro and hotel developers Ira Drukier and Richard Born–the names behind the chic Mercer and Chambers properties. In a refreshing departure from cookie cutter accommodations, the hotel’s 88-rooms are uniquely decorated and incorporate touches such as handmade Tibetan rugs, Moroccan tiles, Italian terracotta floors, wood beamed ceilings and Carrera marble in the baths. A common “drawing room” off the main lobby has a wood burning fireplace and is an ideal spot to enjoy a drink or curl up with a good book. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff go out of their way to provide you with the optimal hotel stay. Ago Ristorante, an Italian spot that already has popular outposts in South Beach and Los Angeles, is attached to the hotel and provides all of its room service. The Asian style Shibui Spa and fitness center is set to open in summer 2008. Pros: free soft drinks and snacks from the room mini-bar; personalized pillow selection; custom-designed McBride Beauty toiletries in rooms. Cons: neighborhood is quiet at night; limited dining options (only Ago Ristorante). www.thegreenwichhotel.com. 377 Greenwich St., Tribeca, 10013. 212/941-8900. 88 rooms. In-room: DVD, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 1 restaurant, room service, gym, spa, concierge, public Wi-Fi, no-smoking rooms. Rooms start at $620.
Contributors: Emma Fox, Marcia Gagliardi, Roger Grody, JoBeth Jamison, Jo Napolitano, Shivani Vora