Cynical James Joyce said that Irish art was "the cracked looking glass of a servant." Obviously, he never took the Green Line to Brookline for a pint of Guinness and a bowl of Matt Murphy's unique oxtail soup, a divine example of Irish artistry. Spicy beef broth, inch-thick carrot wedges spinach, onions, and Idaho potatoes make it a soup that truly eats like a meal. 14 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA mattmurphyspub.com.
This family-owned ice cream parlor is a flashback to the '50s, but what better era to find a real New England ice cream frappe? Here they've perfected the art, with three straw-bending scoops of ice cream blended in a tall frosty frappe glass (five scoops for the extra-thick variety). Your choice of nine flavors, including mocha, black raspberry, mint, and cherry, or mixed with strawberries, banana, or pineapple. 743 Washington St., Newtonville, MA .
Heralded as one of the 50 "most exciting" restaurants in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, this is the place where power brokers meet to wheel and deal over seared Arctic char, foie gras, and truffle-scented shrimp. Chef Michael Schlow and general manager Esti Benson have mastered the art of cuisine and flawless service—key factors when you're doing lunch under pressure. Oversized tables accommodate documents, and are far enough apart to ensure the utmost discretion. 8 High St., Boston, MA radiusrestaurant.com/.
Culture and film buffs thank the celluloid gods for this place to see all the idiosyncratic flicks that get reviewed in The New Yorker and The New York Times. Still the sole straddler of the art house/multiplex genres, it offers a great selection on nine screens and in many languages. Great snacks too: real biscotti and cappuccino, and birdbath-size containers of high-quality popcorn. All this and gumfree floors. One Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA .
Thanks to this easygoing contemporary-art curator, the Gardner has maintained one of the most vibrant artist-in-residence programs in the U.S. No doubt Cavalchini's close relationship with director Anne Hawley has also helped shape the museum's new Renzo Piano-designed digs, which will give the city one very hip theater-in-the-round. 280 The Fenway, Boston, MA 2115, gardnermuseum.org.
You'll thank the Lord that the owners of the Belfry saw the light and created this cozy, romantic inn and bistro in what used to be a Catholic church. Stained-glass windows, roaring fireplaces, and live piano music serve as perfect complements to chef George Willette's artfully presented cuisine, including baby spinach salad wrapped in prosciutto, and roasted rack of lamb over blue cheese—and—shallot gratin. We'd gladly worship here nightly. 8 Jarves St., Sandwich, MA belfryinn.com/.
There are furniture stores, and then there's this exquisite Essex shop, where every last piece is quirky, unusual, and utterly compelling. From colorful vintage prints to a stunningly original art deco aluminum bedroom set, Andrew Spindler's eclectic inventory says as much about the owner's depth of knowledge as it does about his unerring eye for beauty. 163 Main St., Essex, MA 1929, spindlerantiques.com.
Husband-and-wife team Andy and Jackie King have built their business around the art of crafting thick, crusty loaves brimming with ingredients like olives, walnuts, and apricot fennel and baked fresh each morning while most of us are still drooling on our pillow. Naturally, they try to source ingredients from nearby farms, meaning their sweeter offerings change with the seasons—you wouldn't trust anything in March featuring strawberries, would you? 48 Central St., Salem, MA 1970, ajkingbakery.com.
Since it reopened with The Lion King last year, the restored Opera House hasn't drawn the most inspiring of productions. But it does look great. The 2,600-seat theater is a jewel from the dying days of vaudeville, and it gleams with the sort of Beaux Arts gilt that ought to shame more-modern buildings: chandeliers, murals, even period-style urinals. Now if we could only get some shows to match . . . 539 Washington St., Boston, MA bostonoperahouseonline.com/.
Who needs waitresses in jackboots or martinis with funny names? You came here to play pool, not tipple and gawk at the scenery. Johnny's feels like a downbeat 1940s pool hall updated with a punk-rock vibe that cuts through the attitude dripping from those billiards palaces downtown. Funky conceptual art hangs above a dozen or so tables—enough so there's rarely a wait, but not so many that you feel like you're racking 'em up in a warehouse. One Kendall Sq., Cambridge, MA flattopjohnnys.com/.
No need to consult with a wardrobe stylist when prepping for a classy date night at the Franklin. Just come as you are, slide into a black leather booth, and let the low lighting, art-covered walls, and excellent wine list loosen you up. From there, the food—spicy marinated cucumbers, cornmeal-crusted catfish, and smoky spareribs—will put anyone in the mood. 278 Shawmut Ave., Boston, MA franklincafe.com.
In the David Mamet-directed show Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants at the Market Theater, Ricky Jay had his titular assistants—a pack of cards—slicing melons and appearing in unexpected places. Spinning a monologue about magic made even more mystical by his mellifluous voice, the card-carrying clairvoyant could keep us entertained without lifting a finger.
You're buzzed in the front door like it's a speakeasy, quickly greeted hello, and then given merciful room to roam. From Petrol-leather zip boots by Carol Christian Poell to handcrafted Italian cap-toe sneakers, Alan Bilzerian has your inner foot fetishist in mind when he curates his selection of stylish hoof art. 34 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116, alanbilzerian.com.
West Roxbury isn't known as a culinary haven, but Himalayan Bistro transports diners from the suburban western edge of Boston to the eastern reaches of India and Nepal. Enveloped in the warm scents of coriander, turmeric, and curry wafting from the kitchen, they tuck into smoky tandoori chicken, creamy tikka masala, and regional dishes like craªpes stuffed with potatoes and lamb against the backdrop of colorful Hindu art. 1735 Centre St., West Roxbury, MA 02132, himalayanbistro.net.
When it comes to haircuts, men tend to be creatures of routine. Nobody knows this better than Shag’s stylists. As such, they’ve mastered the art of negotiation and will subtly downplay the standard “#3 on the sides, fade in the back” in favor of a contemporary style that looks sharp and is easy to manage. Just remember: This isn’t the corner barbershop—call ahead for an appointment. 840 Summer St., Boston, MA 02127, shagboston.com.