St. Regis New York
Built in 1904, and still gleaming from its 2005 renovation, this Beaux-Arts beauty is a well-polished monument to old New York. The lobby is a model of old-school opulence, with a trompe l'oeil ceiling, Corinthian-capped pilasters, and a king's ransom in marble and gold trim. In the dark-wood-paneled Cognac Room, the ghosts of brandy-sipping patricians linger beneath the antique paintings; and the mahogany King Cole Bar (birthplace of the Bloody Mary) looks better than ever now that decades of tobacco residue have been scrubbed from its famous mural. The 256 redone rooms all have canopy beds, paisley carpets, and silk wall coverings—and each floor comes with its own tuxedoed 24-hour butler. Alain Ducasse's newest restaurant, Adour, opened on-site to great fanfare in January.
Tip: From its gilded everything to its original "$1 million staircase" (16 floors of pure Italian marble), the St. Regis wears its price tag on its sleeve; if you're after a high-pedigree hotel with more modesty, look across the street to the Peninsula.
Room to Book: Astor Suites are charming and (somewhat) affordable; not all standard rooms have separate showers and toilets, so you may want to request one that does.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.