Top 5 Dining Destinations

Foodie alert! How many times have you gone on vacation and hated the food? It was uninspiring, bland, boring and horribly overpriced.

If having a quality dining experience is a priority, then you'll want to check out these Top 5 dining destinations.

In all five of these cities, you'll not only enjoy the creations of award-winning celebrity chefs, but you'll also get the inside track and learn about some unique favorites that the locals love.

New York City is the undisputed motherland of fine dining. There are more award-winning restaurants in Manhattan than in any city in the country. The competition in the fine dining arena is fierce and the clientele is often fickle. To entice savvy customers in this world-class food mecca, you need a brilliant chef, a magnificent menu and a stunning atmosphere.

You'll find all three of these elements at Gilt, inside the New York Palace Hotel. Executive chef Christopher Lee is known for his phenomenal Tuna Wellington and if the scenery looks familiar it's because the hotel and the restaurant are often seen on the hit show "Gossip Girl."

Another dining hot spot that continues to make the grade is Thomas Keller's Per Se, where you can feast on the always changing nine-course tasting menu.

For another exquisite fine dining experience try Gordon Ramsay at The London NYC where you can also have traditional high tea service from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For a meal that won't make your piggy bank squeal, head to the lower east side to the hip and trendy Thor, inside the Hotel on Rivington. Chef Jesi Solomon has added a delicious goat cheese fondue ($14) and a succulent spiced rack of lamb dish ($26) to his new menu.

Mercat a la Planxa Restaurant, Chicago, Courtesy: Mercat a la Planxa

If you're more of a meat-and-potatoes person, or if the idea of an original deep-dish pizza makes you drool, head to the heartland where Chicago doesn't disappoint. While this is traditionally a dining destination known for delivering great steaks, Chicago is flexing its culinary muscle offering some new, interesting choices.

Top on the list of unique eats is Mercat a la Planxa, where you'll feel like you've traveled to Barcelona even though you're right on Michigan Avenue. Select the chef's choice and chef Jose Garces will put together a special tapas meal for you. Also, don't miss the pine nut flatbread with pancetta, marinated anchovies and goat cheese.

If you're still craving steak, head to the upscale Charlie Trotter's, or to funky outdoor grilling restaurant Weber Grill. For a dessert you'll never forget, follow the locals to the Riverside Deli where you can get served Twinkies, Dingdongs and Little Debbies on a silver platter.

Mooo Restaurant, Boston, Courtesy: Mooo Restaurant

The only city on the list where a tea party is part of its history, Boston is the land of fresh seafood prepared New England style. Some popular favorites to try include Great Bay Restaurant where the menu changes daily, Anthony's Pier 4 and Legal Seafoods. Head to the waterfront to hang out with the neighborhood folks at the Boston Sail Loft where you can find some of the best lobster specials in the city.

Once you've had your fill of lobster, clam chowder and steamers, try sinking your teeth into something meatier at one of the hottest new steakhouses in the city called Mooo. The Kobe beef dumpling is a signature dish and if you have a group that's ready to drink some vino, ask to sit in the wine cellar.

If your sweet tooth is acting up don't miss the Langham Hotel's famous chocolate bar that's set up on Saturdays with deserts from the past and present. Try the whoopie pies before heading over to the chocolate fountain and sipping on a signature chocolate bar cocktail.

Sona Restaurant, Los Angeles, Courtesy: Sona Restaurant

In the City of Angels, there's one word that sums up the cuisine: global. This is where you can feast on almost any kind of ethnic food and do some quality people watching at the same time. Follow the celebs and head to the hip Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel where the chopped salad is a popular favorite. At the Hotel Bel-Air you'll find chef Douglas Dodd whipping up award-winning cuisine at The Restaurant, one of the most romantic venues in the city. For some seasonal sensation specials, try Sona's Provencal pumpkin soup before ordering the monkfish wrapped in prosciutto with mustard greens and manila clams.

If you want to feel like royalty, head to a restaurant called Whist at the Viceroy in Santa Monica. Named after the British card game, Whist is consistently ranked as a top hotel restaurant. The dish to try is the South Dakota bison strip loin, where the recipe includes dates, huckleberry, wild mushrooms and tamarind.

One of the country's finest chefs, Michael Mina has just opened the Restaurant XIV on Sunset Boulevard. Designed to give the feel of a European chateau, XIV features Mina's signature modern American cuisine with menu highlights including Mina's caviar parfait and the salt & pepper big fin squid.

Joel Robuchon Restaurant in MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Courtesy: MGM Grand Hotel

When it comes to dining choices, no other city in the country has undergone such a dramatic transformation. Sin City was the land of cheap buffets and 99-cent shrimp cocktails, but in the last decade some of the top celebrity chefs in the world have moved onto the Strip, elevating the Las Vegas dining scene to new heights.

Famous Frenchman Joel Robuchon, the "chef of the century," chose Las Vegas as the place to open his first restaurant in the United States. The Joel Robuchon restaurant is inside the MGM Grand hotel and already has earned the prestigious Mobil Five Star and AAA Five Diamond Awards. A signature dish to try is the fresh scallop cooked in its shell with a lemon and seaweed butter.

Other sure bet celebrity chef dining experiences include Charlie Palmer's Aureole at Mandalay Bay, Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian and Nobuyuki Matsuhisa's Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel.

For more on these Top 5 dining destinations, visit Karen Schaler's Travel Therapy Web site at