This is what you might call seafood in the rough: You stand at the counter, shout your order, eat it, and leave. But paper plates and plastic cutlery aside, there's very little that's actually rough about Woodman's, which offers some of the smoothest fried seafood around. The breading isn't a disguise for a small and salty chunk of meat, as it is at lesser seafood shacks, but a crispy golden complement to the tender bivalves beneath. 121 Main St., Essex, MA woodmans.com/.
We’re so easily seduced by crusty, funky bánh mì sandwiches and fragrant bowls of pho that we often forget how great something far simplerthe Vietnamese summer roll, with its rice-paper skin and delicate, herbaceous fillingcan be. Allow this Super 88 kiosk to remind you with its stellar rendition, which comes with a cup of luscious peanut sauce (ask for the chili sauce, too). As for the bánh mì and pho? Well, they’re excellent here, too. 1095 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA 2215, .
This Kenmore Square institution made its name catering to a wide range of dinersSox fans, tourists, restaurant industry types, students, the list goes onand treating them all as if they were the most important people in the room. How do they do it? By taking notes on every diner who comes through the door. Yes, it’s a bit Big Brotheresque, but this kind of close attention ensures that you enjoy your steak frites and whiskey smashes just as much as you did the last time. 528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, easternstandardboston.com.
Why spend nights clicking through hundreds of Etsy shops when you have Fête? Serving as your local connection to the most talented designers, printers, and calligraphers across the country, the team of paper and etiquette experts here will help you choose everything from custom invitations to menus. You'll get the gold foil, embossing, and hand-lettering of your dreams coordinated through one friendly face, saving you the most precious resource of all during wedding planning: time. 345 D St., South Boston, MA 02127, shopfete.com.
Kristen Repa has seen (and made) a lot of wedding cakes: Before launching her own bakery more than a decade ago, she honed her sweet skills at local institutions like Konditor Meister and the Catered Affair, and even trained at the renowned Konditorei Gerstner, in Austria. Whether you want your cake to match your theme, your personality, or your gorgeous gown, Repa and her team of pastry chefs will turn out an exquisite confection that tastes as good as it looks (dulce de leche or lemonsummer berry, anyone?). 302 Providence Hwy., Westwood, MA 2090, dessertworks.net.
Technically, the Beach Plum Inn’s harborfront restaurant has been in business since the 1980s. But we’d argue that all the changes made here in 2013from the installation of chef Chris Fischer (who sources ingredients from his nearby Beetlebung Farm) to the revamped, dressed-down-but-still-smart interior (with butcher-paper place mats and crayons for grownup doodles)have rendered the Beach Plum an entirely new culinary animal, indeed. In sum? It’s a stylish spot that marries the Vineyard’s bounty with a decidedly cool aesthetic. 50 Beach Plum Ln., Menemsha, MA 2552, beachplumrestaurant.com.
You'll wish you had more occasions to wear girlie dresses after you visit this starry-eyed Beacon Hill boutique. The small space is filled to the brim with trendy threads and accessories, but the collection of flirty dresses, skirts, and petal-soft cotton Ts merits special attention. The selection is comfortably eclectic—think Trina Turk, Ella Moss, Tibi, Susana Monaco, Paper Denim & Cloth, Velvet, How & Wen, and Shoshanna, just for starters. You're bound to find yourself circling the racks, spying new must-haves with every pass. 49 Charles St., Boston, MA wishboston.wordpress.com/.
After teaching spinning at workout meccas like Equinox and Crunch, D'Andrea opened his own 5,000-square-foot fitness studio last year to cater to his considerable following. (He claims a 70 percent retention rate among his clients.) Free advice: "For weight training, dumbbells give far better results than machines. And forget weight belts. Last I heard, cavemen didn't wear weight belts, and they were in better shape than some of the people working out now." 55 Charles St., Needham, MA 2494, .
Arthur & Pat's, in the words of one sage local, "doesn't cater to the fancy-pants crowd." And indeed, the restaurant's worn exterior, wooden signs, and random rock soundtrack are unabashedly down-home. But if those details create a misperception of slapdash management, it's immediately cleared up by the glorious grub. We're talking fluffy pancakes with piles of berries; eggs Benedict with real crab; crispy, greaseless fried clams; bottomless cups of strong, hot coffee. After your meal, you may feel tempted to undo your belt—and given the easygoing air, it'd almost be acceptable to do so. 239 Ocean St., Marshfield, MA 2050, .
With heavy hitters like Lenovo, Apple, and Sony to call upon, the sole Bay State outpost of Ohio-based Micro Center stocks the best personal computers on the market, along with a bevy of cameras, scanners, monitors, and other peripherals. But what really gets local tech-heads powered up is the vast BYOPC (Build Your Own PC) section, replete with all the components needed to pimp that desktop—or build one from scratch. Free in-store clinics on such topics as VoIP and network security further cater to IT acolytes who aspire to true geekdom. 730 Memorial Dr., Cambridge, MA 2139, microcenter.com.
The increasingly popular sit-down service is good, too (especially for Saturday and Sunday brunch), but it's the takeout that sets this Newton Highlands institution apart. The friendly staff will wrap up anything to go, from a cup of coffee to a multicourse gourmet dinner for as many guests as you can gather. Big orders like those require one day's notice, but Baker's Best makes it easy with a quiet catering office and a convenient check-off menu. There are also freezers full of ready-to-cook meal components in the main store, from hors d'oeuvres to entrées. And that food—it really is the best. 27 Lincoln St., Newton Highlands, MA bakersbestcatering.com/.
Gazillion-thread-count sheets aside, a hotel is really only as good as its bar. And chichi steakhouse KO Prime has admirably elevated the one at downtown's Nine Zero Hotel over the past year. Adjacent to the restaurant's sweeping dining room, the loungelike space caters to an in-town audience as well as trysters and overnight guests with a smart by-the-glass wine list and wowza cocktails such as the green tea-calamansi gimlet (chilled with liquid nitrogen!). For travelers with work to attend to, the combination of wireless Internet and tush-pleasing seating banishes the memory of sterile hotel business centers. 90 Tremont St., Boston, MA 2108, .
Warning: This is not the type of corner café you can turn into a makeshift office. Instead, the dual-use space, shared with Downtown Crossing’s Graffito SP, caters to serious coffee fiends. Presiding over the Modbar espresso machine are former Coffee Trike barista San Bellino and his team, who dole out the best cortados around using nuanced beans from partner Patrick Barter’s central Massachusetts roastery. That attention to detail also extends to the eats, with cheddar-chive-bacon biscuits and molasses scones prepared daily by Townsman pastry wiz Meghan Thompson. 108 Lincoln St., Boston, MA 02111, gracenotecoffee.com.
For more than a decade, we’ve watched Kristyn Kerkorian climb the ladder of local event planning, following along as she went from helming catering sales at the Colonnade Hotel to throwing parties for the Red Sox to launching her own wedding-planning firm in 2017. But it’s not just the BU alum’s prestigious pedigree — or the fact that she successfully executed eight COVID-era celebrations — that stands out to us. We’re equally taken by her calming, down-to-earth demeanor (a godsend for anxious brides and grooms) and undeniable gift for design, evident in each meticulous tablescape, escort-card display, and floral arrangement she helps envision. kkerkorianevents.com.
On the strength of its individual exhibits alone—notably the vast Goya retrospective and Shinique Smith's exuberant showcase—the Museum of Fine Arts is a formidable contender for best museum. But when you consider the institution's past year as a whole, it's a hands-down winner. Diverse offerings revealed a commitment to pushing boundaries. Performance art was regularly integrated into the museum's hallowed gallery spaces; it maintained a consistently edgy and eclectic film program; and then, as a capper, it launched its first-ever mobile app as artwork. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, mfa.org.