Olivar, a cozy Spanish restaurant housed in the historic Loveless Building across from Harvard Exit Theater, offers hot and cold small plates, entrée-sized dishes, and desserts. Addictively delicious daily specials—such as albondigas de cordero, or three zaftig lamb meatballs studded with flecks of parsley, garlic, onion and sea salt—are scrawled on a chalkboard. Lick your fingers and then wash it all down with some not-too-sweet sangria. The cozy room is decorated with murals depicting Alexander Pushkin, the fairy tale author, poet, and founder of Russian literature. Be warned when eating here: the dining room can get quite loud, and parking in Capitol Hill can be tricky. 806 E. Roy St., Capitol Hill. 206/322-0409. AE, MC, V. Closed Mon. No lunch. Median entrée price: $20.
SUSHISAMBA, Las Vegas.
If you’re not a lover of sushi, don’t despair – there’s much more here than just raw fish. The eclectic menu is the result of the owner’s regular visits to São Paulo and Lima, both of which have large Japanese communities. The fusion of cuisines is surprisingly delicious. Guests are encouraged to try a variety of smaller dishes, such as sea bass with miso sauce and Peruvian corn, or seared Kobe beef with ponzu gelée, Japanese mushrooms, and tofu crema. If the many choices prove too daunting, order the omakase, an ever-changing seven-course meal fusing the various cuisines, chosen by the chef. The decor (heavy on orange, red, and black), the video walls, and the hip music cater to a younger crowd. The Palazzo Resort & Casino, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd., S. 702/607-0700. www.sushisamba.com. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: $22.
The Empire Hotel, New York City.
This historic Upper West Side spot, which officially reopened in June 2008 after an extensive redesign, offers a dizzying number of amenities. When you first enter the hotel, you’ll be drawn to the sophisticated, bi-level lobby with floor-to-ceiling silk drapes, high-back banquettes with animal print accents, and the dimly-lit bar. That’s before you soak up the sun and enjoy the breathtaking views from the rooftop pool and lounge area underneath the hotel’s iconic red neon sign. Guest rooms, which are small (in keeping with their original construction), provide a comfortable and chic escape from the bustle of the city. A soothing palette of varying shades of brown are complemented with animal-print chairs, dark wood accents, and luxurious amenities such as flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, and frette linens. Pros: prime location, situated next to Lincoln Center and just blocks from Central Park; beautiful rooftop pool and bar; complimentary issues of TimeOut New York magazine; fresh apples left at your bedside at turndown. Cons: elevators are beautifully redecorated but still feel old and rickety; although nicely designed, bathrooms are tiny; pool is quite small. 212/265-7400. www.empirehotelnyc.com. 44 West 63rd St., Upper West Side, 10023. 50 suites, 370 rooms. In room: safe, refrigerator, Wi-Fi. In hotel: 2 bars, pool, room service, laundry service, concierge, public Wi-Fi. AE, MC, V. Rooms start at: $438.
Gansevoort South, Miami.
Move over, Shore Club: There’s a hip, new, New York-transplanted, adult-playground hotel in town. Located just north of most South Beach nightlife, the Gansevoort South is the well-heeled, party-seeking set’s place to stay this season. The 334 rooms are designed with a modern aesthetic, awash in chunky furniture and sexy black and white photographs, with splashes of bright magenta and yellow throughout. Spend the day mingling with fellow guests at the 110-foot rooftop swimming pool with a “plunge” bar, or lounging at the sprawling 50,000 square foot pool deck and dining oasis. Get your hair cut, colored, and styled at the on-site Cutler Redken salon, then dine at the bustling Philippe Chow restaurant (reserve a table in advance!). Retire to your plush feather bed with 400-thread-count Egyption cotton linens. Although not open at press time, the hotel is slated to open Big Drop and Inca boutiques, a David Barton Gym and Spa, and STK restaurant by fall 2008. Pros: spacious rooms (averaging 700 square feet); located directly on the beach; hip, on-site restaurants. Cons: pulsating music in the elevator, 24 hours a day; certain rooms allow for direct views into their neighbors’ quarters. 2377 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 33139. 305/604-1000 (ph.). 305/604-6886 (fax). www.gansevoortsouth.com. 334 rooms. In-room: safe, refrigerator, Wi-Fi, kitchen (some), Internet. In-hotel: 2 restaurants; room service; bar; gym; spa; laundry service; public Wi-Fi; parking (fee); pool; business center; no smoking rooms; beachfront; watersports. AE, MC, V, D. Rooms start $595.
Cavallo Point, Northern California.
Set in the Golden Gate National Park, this luxury hotel and resort’s location is truly one-of-a-kind. A former Army post, it features turn-of-the-century buildings converted into well-appointed yet eco-friendly rooms. Both historic and contemporary guest rooms are scattered around the property, most overlooking a massive lawn with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. The staff is accommodating and helpful. Murray Circle, the notable on-site restaurant with a Michelin-starred chef, serves top-notch California ingredients and features an impressive wine cellar. The neighboring casual bar offers food and drink on a large porch. Pros: numerous activities: a cooking school, yoga classes, and nature walks; spa with a tea bar; art gallery. Cons: landscaping feels incomplete, some staff act a bit informal. 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, Sausalito, CA 94965. 415/339-4700 (ph). 415/339-4792 (fax). www.cavallopoint.com. 68 historic and 74 contemporary guest rooms. In-room: a/c (some), safe, refrigerator, TV, Ethernet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: two restaurants, room service, bar, pool, gym, spa, water sports, no elevator, laundry service, concierge, parking (fee), some pets allowed (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at $275.
The Chelsea, Atlantic City.
This boutique hotel has a convincingly swank vibe that could double as a set location for the TV hit Mad Men. The lobby’s electric-purple couches and white-resin mushroom sculptures establish the pampered-hipster vibe. These slick details continue both in the rooms, where the wing chairs are upholstered in cougar-print, and at the fifth-floor 15,000-square-foot poolside Terrace Lounge, where only hotel guests are allowed to hang out on a sea of black-and-white convertible cushions. The entire fifth floor, with its indoor/outdoor lounges and billiards room, is lively day and night. An army of Chelsea workers in crisp white shorts and shirts generally trip over themselves to attend to guests’ every need. Pros: no clanging slots or smoky gaming floors; at the beach, Chelsea staff is quick to set up personal chairs, an umbrella, a table and trash can, and to hand over fluffy beach towels. Cons: spa, saltwater pool, and Teplitzky’s, the mid-century modern diner/coffee-shop by restaurateur Stephen Starr are not yet open; at this writing, room service and pool- and beach-side food service are not yet available. 111 South Chelsea Ave., Atlantic City, 08401. 1-800-548-3030. www.thechelsea-ac.com. 330 rooms. In-room: refrigerator, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 1 restaurant, 2 bars; pool; beachfront; concierge; valet parking (fee). AE, D, MC, V. Rooms start at $225.
Contributors: Suzy Buckley, Emma Fox, Marcia Gagliardi, Carolyn Galgano, Jay Jones, Caroline Tiger