Best of Boston 2009: Service
776 Boylston St., Boston, 617-535-8888, mandarinoriental.com
We resisted loving the Spa at the Mandarin. One, it’s a chain. Two, it’s in a hotel. But our opposition began to waver as soon as we hit the locker rooms, presented here as immaculate, fully stocked, beautifully designed “guest lounges.” Then there were the one-of-a-kind amenities—a crystal steam room that evokes Space Mountain (in a good way), a Vichy shower with color therapy—and a full menu of excellent pedis, massages, and body treatments. Factor in a staff so exquisitely attentive we almost forgot we were not, in fact, itinerant European royals, and, needless to say, we surrendered.
RUNNER-UP:: Bella Santé
LAST YEAR: Bella Santé
91 Newbury St., Boston, 617-787-5575
Antonio Rivas and his merry band of seamsters have earned a cult following for their skill in reattaching the original hem to jeans. But come on: Who’s not doing original hem these days? A great tailor can, and should, also make a garment look better. Tests of the competition, including 2008 winner Le Couturier, yielded mostly adequate results ($40 later, a vintage party dress was appropriately shortened, yet still suggested second-trimester pregnancy). Only Rivas and company, given a fur-trimmed ’60s-era coat that was two sizes too big and six inches too long, came through like champs, producing a glorious brand-new garment for around 50 bucks.
RUNNER-UP: Le Couturier
LAST YEAR: Le Couturier
250 Everett St., Boston, 617-787-5575, commonwealthlimo.com
In a sea of huge black Lincoln Town Cars with plush leather seats, faultless service puts Commonwealth over the top: the driver looking you straight in the eye as he introduces himself; only chatting with you to the extent that you chat back; and always being certain of which route to take, though quick to oblige if you offer up a preference.
RUNNER-UP: Boston Coach
LAST YEAR: N/A
Sarra, 840 Summer St., Boston, 617-269-8999, sarraboston.com
As she works, makeup artist Genatossio imparts lessons on all aspects of creating the perfect face. But to her, the eyebrows are unquestionably Beauty 101. During 30-minute shaping sessions, she talks through her “true brow” approach as she tweezes, with the ultimate goal of empowering clients to do their own touch-ups.
RUNNER-UP: Mondi Hodgdon (I Soci)
LAST YEAR: Cindy Jensen (Studio 9)
Salon Marc Harris, 125 Broad St., Boston, 617-443-8633, salonmarcharris.com
Our poor pores are no strangers to painful excavations, or to being smothered in flowery-smelling goo. That’s why they haven’t quit thanking us since we introduced them to Anne-Cécile Curot, spa director at Marc Harris’s new Financial District location. A Bella Santé alum, this cheery Frenchwoman delivers what we once thought impossible: After an hour on her table, our complexion was the softest, clearest, and most line-free it’s been since before puberty (and spring chickens, we are not). Better yet, her ultralight touch and gentle organic products from Rhonda Allison left us feeling blissed out, not roughed up.
RUNNER-UP: Brad Duncan
LAST YEAR: Brad Duncan
769 Tremont St.,Boston, 617-292-8944, twigboston.com
Unless they’re dead (or dyed), we welcome almost any flowers that come our way—which is why it takes an outstanding florist to go beyond pretty, and deliver pretty damn amazing. Winston earns points for reliably gorgeous arrangements, but just as with designer clothing, if we can tell where it came from we’re already bored. Ilex is the go-to for exotic numbers, yet its over-the-top approach can feel, well, too over-the-top. By contrast, Twig composes innovative, cleanly artistic bouquets, all fresh enough to last a week. A DIY option accommodates buyers on a carnation budget, while a home decorating service will thrill those who dream of a bed of roses.
LAST YEAR: Ilex
131 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-578-8918, equinoxfitness.com
Too busy, too tired, too pale, too preoccupied hunting down errant sneakers…there are ample excuses to skip the gym. The trainers at Equinox don’t want to hear it. They’re toned, tough, and, when not in one-on-one sessions, inclined to roam the 40,000-square-foot gym handing out sweat towels and stretching tips. While the classes are choice and the equipment upscale (oh, hello, Kinesis machine!), a welcoming vibe is what gives Equinox a leg up on the more intimidating Sports Club/LA. Plus, the chain’s new Financial District location doubles the convenience, further cutting down on the excuses.
RUNNERS-UP: Sports Club/LA, Boston Sports Club
LAST YEAR: Equinox
Louis Boston, 234 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-266-4485, salonmariorusso.com
The past year has brought a lot of new life, and drama, to the local salon scene. There was Bradley & Diegel and Patrice Vinci and Kent Newton, to name a few startups, as well as the launch of Mizu, which pulled off both the largest staff poaching and most bumping opening party in recent memory. Thing is, we don’t want to feel like guinea pigs as a new salon works out its kinks. And the puppy-mill approach (rows and rows of stylists) favored at some more established spots isn’t our bag, either. So we go with the tried and true and still terrific: Mario Russo’s salon inside Louis, where the staff is intuitive, services are always up to snuff, and we never get lost in the shuffle.
RUNNERS-UP: Bradley & Diegel, Kent Newton Salon
LAST YEAR: Salon Mario Russo
A lack of hassle is one major thing to look for in a cleaning service; the other, sparkling results. The Maids are the sole local pros in the tidying-up business who nail both every time. Armed with a serious stash of cleaning products, the uniformed crews deploy from their sunny yellow vehicles with a speed-oriented, no-fooling-around plan that leaves every corner of the target home immaculate. And unlike some experiences we’ve had with other, larger services, the Maids have yet to mix up our keys with another client’s, or let our indoor cat outside.
RUNNER-UP: Crystal Clean
LAST YEAR: The Maids
The Loft, 207 Newbury St., Boston, 617-536-5638, theloftsalonanddayspa.com
Perched in an uncomfortable chair, your hands bound (inevitably, an itch) while a stranger picks at your cuticles, you can’t help but wonder: Is a speedy, painless, and long-lasting manicure out of the question? Not when you’re sitting across from the Loft’s Chiaradia, who narrowly bested Jeanne Lee (formerly of Salon Trio, she almost had us with that add-on reflexology treatment). Chiaradia’s polish work was flawless and superquick, and didn’t chip for nearly a week. Hate small talk? You’ll appreciate the option to catch up on your E! podcast of Speidi and Glambert gossip as she overhauls your nails in silence.
RUNNER-UP: Jeanne Lee (Jeanne Lee Salon)
LAST YEAR: Danuta Rak (Bella Santé)
Moore Massage, 575 Boylston St., Boston, 617-424-4000, mooremassage.com
It was hard to find a bad massage—if indeed there is such a thing—in this year’s bunch. Natalie at Unique Verve put us quite pleasantly to sleep. Samantha at the Mandarin Oriental soothed our muscles (if, at $200-plus, not so much our fiscal conscience). In the end, though, this previous Best Of champ prevailed—despite attempting to defer credit to his mentor, Keith Stiles, who joined Moore Massage this year. Stiles might have been, in Moore’s words, “the man who taught me everything,” but in this case, student knows best. Moore’s consistently thorough handiwork reversed our laptop shoulder and boosted our energy for days. We’re convinced he even cured us of cellulite. You heard us.
RUNNERS-UP: Keith Stiles (Moore Massage), Natalie Maibenko (Unique Verve)
LAST YEAR: Sarah McMahon (Back Bay Massage)
Miniluxe, 296 Newbury St., Boston, 857-362-7444, and other locations, miniluxe.com
Meet the sweet-as-pie Shirazi and you might assume she’s merely another perfectly nice toe polisher. How wrong you’d be: This woman whips feet into the best shape of their lives. She goes to town on calluses and doesn’t shy away from any blister, bump, or hangnail (all while showing a commendable hygiene obsessiveness). Plus, her polish applications last for weeks and can even stand up to the beach. Hey, we always knew we had pretty feet underneath it all.
RUNNER-UP: Jeanne Lee (Jeanne Lee Salon)
LAST YEAR: Rose Pagliarulo (the Loft)
A wag-worthy alternative to the city’s many well-intentioned but hospital-like kennels, the Urban K9 is based in a Roslindale home that owners Karen Donoghue and Erika Forssberg are happy to share with their four-legged clients. After being dropped off (or fetched by the duo’s “pet taxi” service), Fido is let out on his own schedule, taken to the park for group romps, and tucked into his very own doggy bed at night. For owners who prefer not to board, the Urban K9 will make dog-sitting (or cat-, bird-, fish-, or hamster-sitting) house calls, too.
RUNNERS-UP: Toureen Pet Resort & Spa, the Continental Shoppe
LAST YEAR: N/A
260 Elm St., Somerville, 617-776-8580
While longtime sole man Arthur Savas might not, as one pal jokes affectionately, “win any personality contests,” he is undoubtedly a shoe’s best friend: re-heeling, re-soling, and otherwise patching up even the saddest specimens. But could he handle the spanking-new Pradas with the torn fabric-covered heel? Savas protested we were expecting too much…yet a week later the job was done, the work irreproachable.
RUNNERS-UP: Waban Shoe Repair, Jazz Shoe Repair
LAST YEAR: N/A
84 Braintree St., Allston, 617-782-5500, boston-cab.com
Metro Cab doesn’t coast on the status quo: It was taking credit cards before the city mandated it, and recently began letting customers schedule rides online and pay via cell phone. All that wouldn’t matter, of course, if Metro weren’t also speedy. It has the largest fleet in the area—including vans for people with special physical needs and hybrids for those with special ethical ones—and uses a computerized system to dispatch the cab closest to your location (rather than trying to cajole a driver by two-way radio).
RUNNER-UP: Boston Cab
LAST YEAR: N/A
Exhale, 28 Arlington St., 617-532-7000, exhalespa.com
When testing this category, one might expect things to get a little uncomfortable. But unsanitary? Thanks, but no thanks! (In truth, some of the most pain-free waxes we’ve ever had were disqualified because of sketchy hygiene—as in, double-dipping wax from a communal pot.) Luckily, just when we were contemplating letting our bikini line go rogue, we met Exhale pro Garczynski. In addition to the fact that she creates a fresh container of wax for each customer, she’s quick and thorough, and any ingrown hair’s worst enemy.
RUNNERS-UP: Mary Frangie (Grettacole), Arwen (Salon at 10 Newbury)
LAST YEAR: Katherine Silva (Beaucage)