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Ayres Hotel's Image

Ayres Hotel's Image

Oyster's Photo

Oyster's Photo

Looks like someone got all dressed up for picture day!

On the left is the image of a Deluxe King room displayed on Ayres Hotel’s website. On the right is a picture we snapped during our stay. Can you spot the differences between these two photos?

While most of our Photo Fakeouts demonstrate how photographs can be deceptively doctored to conceal the unappealing or shot to exaggerrate the appealing, this is an example of how simply dressing up a room with a few props — extra pillows here, pretty flowers there — can make an already-luxurious room appear lavish and exquisite.

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We understand that selecting the “best” hotel in San Francisco really depends on what’s best for you based on the trip you’re taking. The “best” hotel for your foodie escape or girlfriend getaway may not meet your needs when you’re planning to, say, grab the kids for a family vacation. With this in mind, we’ve rounded up the top hotels from each of our individual “best” lists — the most distinguished properties in the city broken down by category — to give each of the hotels listed below our “best of the best” distinction.

Without further ado, we present to you Oyster’s picks for the very best hotels in San Francisco.

Best Luxury Hotel

The St. Regis Suite, St. Regis San Francisco

The St. Regis Suite, St. Regis San Francisco

Built in 2005, the St. Regis offers the best in modern luxury: Highly attentive, personalized service includes a 24-hour butler staff; the relaxation rooms at Remede Spa serve chocolate truffles and champagne; the hotel’s Ame restaurant is a notable destination in its own right; and the rooms and suites match the city’s best for space, superior technology, and amenities. Its artsy SoMa surroundings, modern glass building, and impressive contemporary art collection lack the historical grandeur of the Nob Hill grand dames, but in substance it stands shoulder to shoulder, or above, its hilltop competitors.

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The SinkPositive system, Good Hotel

The SinkPositive system, Good Hotel

File under “Things That Are Awesome”: We encountered this toilet-top sink during our stay at the quirky, eco-friendly Good Hotel in San Francisco and we’re digging the whole concept — you might even say we were so jazzed by the idea of it that our faces were a bit flushed (ha!) when we walked out of the bathroom.

Here’s the deal: When you flush a toilet outfitted with the SinkPositive system, a stream of clean water flows from the toilet-top sink faucet. It flows for one minute, allowing you to wash your hands without ever touching the tap. That greywater then flows off your hands and drains down into the toilet bowl to be used for the next flush.

SinkPositive system

SinkPositive system

The good news: you don’t have to expose yourself to germs by turning the faucet on and off before and after rinsing your hands. The better news: the limited stream of water reminds you to make the effort to wash your paws and dispenses only enough water needed to effectively clean both hands. The best news: the water is efficiently reused for the next toilet flush.

According to the sign (left), this little contraption can help each user save a gallon of potable water per day, and the leak detector on the device helps prevent additional water waste (not-so-fun fact: did you know U.S. toilet leaks alone account for over 12% of the nation’s water supply?)

Not a bad initiative for hoteliers to consider — nor a particularly expensive one: the SinkPositive system (shown here) runs $109.00 per fixture. Some hotels spend more than that on throw pillows. Just saying.

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San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco. Cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Haight-Ashbury, Coit Tower, Twin Peaks, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Ferry Building, Lombard Street, AT&T Park, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Full House, and…hotels! Lots of them! Reviewed on Oyster! Right here!

A team of Oyster reporters visited and photographed almost 50 of the city’s most notable hotels. We slept in the beds, we ate in the restaurants; we tested the service and scoped out the neighborhoods. As always, we’ve organized the hotels both by their location — Fisherman’s Wharf, Nob Hill, SoMa/Financial District, Union Square — and by their standout qualities (best for romance and most luxurious, for example).

Don’t forget to take a peek at our San Francisco travel guide and flip through destination photos, too!

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Mediterranean vegetables layered with buffalo mozzarella at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Mediterranean vegetables layered with buffalo mozzarella at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

It’s Monday. You’re getting hungry for Thanksgiving. Maybe the changing weather and the transition into the hectic holiday season has you hankerin’ for a foodie vacay. Or perhaps you just enjoy looking at pictures of food, regardless of whether or not the feasting season is upon us.

Slideshow

Slideshow

Whatever your excuse, we know you’re going to devour this slideshow of all the tasty treats we stuffed into our faces during our Las Vegas hotel reviewing process. From the simple stuff — like a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings — to this foamy shrimp concoction at Le Cirque, indulging in all this scrumptious goodness via your computer screen is totally calorie-free.

And we’re still marveling at how these little desserts came to be this color. Las Vegas magic, maybe.

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Lobby, the Grand Hyatt New York

Lobby, the Grand Hyatt New York

In the penultimate episode of Lifetime’s Project Runway last night, we learned that the final three designers — Carol Hannah, Althea, and Irina — have made the Gunn-ordered pilgrimage to New York City to prepare for the big season finale showing at New York Fashion Week in Bryant Park. While they’re in the Big Apple, the designers are staying at the fashionable, trendy, much-hyped, totally-cool…Grand Hyatt New York. Oh. Huh.

It’s not that we’re hating on chains, and we’re sure Lifetime struck some sort of deal with the brand. Plus, the rooms at the Grand Hyatt are clean, fairly large are up-to-date, with bathrooms spacious enough for Carol Hannah to throw up (due to an illness) in relative comfort . But the 1,311-room property caters primarily to families, business travelers, and major conventions — not so much to the up-and-coming fashion designer.

For the Heidi-addicted fashionista aching to show her own line at Bryant Park (or at least live out a fantasy that involves a Project Runway-style New York experience), there are plenty of other Big Apple hotels that we’d suggest for hip young designers — and for the PR finale.

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Banh Mi at Ma Peche

Banh Mi at Ma Peche

This afternoon, we followed a trail of drool left by the NYC foodie blogger population all the way into the Chambers Hotel lobby mezzanine, where the very first lunch at Ma Peche was being served. Ma Peche, for those unfamiliar, is the newest restaurant from Momofuku Inc. opening sometime this winter in the Chambers. For now, a select few dishes are being offered on the Mezzanine menu in the Chambers lobby for those too eager to wait to sink their teeth into a fatty banh mi.

For the $10 Momo lunch special going on right now, you get a canned soda and your choice of a three terrine banh mi, a chicken banh mi, rice noodles with pork, or a squid salad. We noshed on the three terrine banh mi with daikon and cilantro, full of flavor, though a bit oily – and we treated ourselves to a giant peanut butter cookie from Momofuku Milk bar.

Pros:

  • Excellent location, close to Midtown attractions like MoMA, Fifth Avenue shopping, Central Park, and many other Midtown hotels
  • Fantastic food, as expected from foodie idol David Chang
  • Virtually glitch-free service, despite the opening day lunch rush

Cons:

  • The main dining room is not yet open, and eating on the mezzanine is uncomfortable (and a bit messy); we sat hunched over a coffee table.
  • Expensive: $10 for a small sandwich and a canned soda; $16 for a hamburger.
  • Packed with bloggers (like us) playing with their smartphones.

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The front of a postcard from Luxe Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive

The front of a postcard from Luxe Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive

One of our reporters returned home from Los Angeles with the above postcard, which he’d swiped from his room at the Luxe Hotel Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive.

Yes, it’s edgy. Yes, it’s supposed to make you wonder whether homegirl is about to jump.

But she’s probably not. For one thing, she’s got great shoes on — and we can assure you that her experience at the hotel would not have caused her to go leaping off a roof into traffic. The Luxe’s stellar location, cheap happy hour, fabulously plush bedding, and generous freebies (Wi-Fi, daily pass to a nearby gym) had us smiling. Not doing…this.

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We’ve already told you which hotels are best for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC this year — but let us not forget about the very best part of the holiday: stuffing yourself until you’re so bloated that you may be mistaken for one of those parade balloons yourself.

But don’t bother making a massive Thanksgiving Day feast on your own. Any New Yorker knows that NYC kitchens barely have enough counter space to prepare a sandwich, let alone a giant bird and a half-dozen sides. And as for New York visitors, well…unless your hotel room is equipped with a kitchen (hey, some are), you’ve got no choice but to dine out.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional turkey ‘n trimmings meal or more of a non-traditional twist on the holiday goodness, we’ve rounded up the best hotel restaurants for dining out on Thanksgiving in NYC.

Adour Alain Ducasse, The St. Regis New York

Adour Alain Ducasse, The St. Regis New York

Adour Alain Ducasse, St. Regis New York
Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse’s pricey new signature restaurant at the St. Regis, opened in 2008, is offering a four-course Thanksgiving menu for $95 per person that includes a foie gras ravioli and Golden Heritage roasted turkey. An a la carte menu is also available.

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Rent the Runway (Photo: # Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

Rent the Runway (Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

We’re always big supporters of entrepreneurs with killer new business ideas, so we can’t help but take a moment to gush about the savvy ladies of Rent the Runway.

RTR, which just wrapped up its testing phase yesterday, is a Netflix-style business that allows women to rent big-name designer dresses (typically sporting price tags that run about as high as the last super-luxury vacation you could afford to take) for four nights at a time — at the totally wallet-friendly price of $50 to $200. You order the dress, rock the dress, and send it back in a prepaid envelope. Pretty cool, and a solid way to ensure you have enough money to spend on a swanky hotel where you can show off that dress (they’ll ship to your hotel, too!)

For more info on Rent the Runway and its founders, check out this New York Times profile or RentTheRunway.com. Or go straight to the site and sign up here.

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