Our preferred airline for traveling to LA? Virgin America, for its superlative food. Using the same touch-screen computer they use to select and watch movies, passengers can order food and drinks, whenever they want them. Options in the main cabin range from a "Mediterranean tapas tray" with hummus and fresh vegetables to Cuban sandwiches, washed down with wines like California's Wente chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon. (First-class offerings are fancier; think country-style terrine and roasted lamb.) Just swipe your credit card (most items cost about $10), and minutes later a flight attendant will appear with the order. Since the company's launch in 2007, it has aimed to provide seasonal, high-quality meals that reflect its customers' requests, in whatever form they appear—in 2009, San Francisco craft brewer Shaun O'Sullivan suggested, in a tweet while on a Virgin flight, that his "Brew Free or Die" India pale ale be added to the menu; a few months later, it was.
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
465 South La Cienega Boulevard (310/247-0400; www.slshotels.com) Rates: $369–$419 double.
We love everything about this two-year-old luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, including its whimsical Philippe Starck–designed interior. The nearly 300 rooms are plush and comfortable, but the real draw is Spanish chef José Andrés's cutting-edge restaurant, The Bazaar (see Serious Fun), where both the classic tapas and the gastromolecular innovations are excellent.
The Standard, Downtown LA
550 South Flower Street (213/892-8080; www.standardhotels.com) Rates: rooms start at $285 (double).
Conveniently located in the heart of the city's Downtown, the ultra-hip Standard offers great value and a prime perch for people watching. The rooftop bar (pictured above), with its panoramic views of LA, is a happening place for a cocktail, and the hotel's restaurant, which serves everything from pancakes to Provençal-style lamb loin, is open 24 hours a day.
Andaz West Hollywood
8401 West Sunset Boulevard (323/656-1234; www.westhollywood.andaz.com) Rates: rooms start at $245 (double).
This recently renovated hotel on the Sunset Strip offers sleek, minimalist rooms within walking distance of the neighborhood's many restaurants and shops. RH, its elegant and inviting restaurant, serves southwestern French dishes made with farm-to-table ingredients.
Viceroy Santa Monica
1819 Ocean Avenue (310/260-7500; www.viceroysantamonica.com) Rates: $340–$415 (double).
British style meets coastal California at this Santa Monica hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Each of the property's 162 smartly decorated rooms is slightly different, and the hotel's restaurant, Whist, helmed by chef Tony DiSalvo, turns out modern Mediterranean dishes to enjoy at a poolside table.
Shutters on the Beach
One Pico Boulevard (310/458-0030; www.shuttersonthebeach.com) Rates: rooms start at $445 (double).
Located just steps away from the Santa Monica beach, this sumptuous hotel boasts ocean views, an impressive collection of works by such artists as Roy Lichtenstein and William Wegman, and an award-winning spa. Its restaurant, One Pico, has a notable wine program to go with its seasonal California menu, while its Coast eatery serves casual beachside meals, and the Lobby Lounge offers drinks by the fire.