High on arts, low on nightlife, Western Mass. was never known for its cocktail scene. At least, not until Zinc arrived. Every night, Berkshire sophisticates and tourists mingle beneath a dented tin ceiling at the polished zinc bar for after-(insert-cultural-activity-here) drinks, choosing from among 10 martinis, 10 signature cocktails, and 14 wines by the glass. 56 Church St., Lenox, MA 2140, bistrozinc.com.
This Brookline landmark sure knows how to draw 'em in. While other art houses are content dishing out classics, these guys go right for the guts, with events like Annie Sprinkle's Herstory of Porn: Rell to Real, Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation Festival, the New England Film & Video Festival, and even a summer jazz series. They've got a new lease under negotiation, a new spirit, and a fresh pot of coffee brewing for late-night shows. 299 Harvard St., Brookline, MA .
Unlike the various do-everything McSpas around town, Bella Sante succeeds with a focused approach: extremely well-trained aestheticians; European-made products; a clean, comfortable space; and a changing slate of seasonal treatments. The friendly, unobtrusive staff excels in the art of paying attention, and will have you blissfully self-absorbed (what meetings? what kids?) in no time. 38 Newbury St., Boston, MA bellasante.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 2118, franklincafe.com.
Even minimalists find joy in this boutique that flouts the typical dusty, cluttered antique shop. Gallagher-Christopher's selection includes 19th-century English dressers, early-20th-century lighting, and art deco chairs, along with the store's own new Hermes-esque orange lacquer boxes that, if not yet technically antiques, certainly deserve heirloom status. 84 Chestnut St., Boston, MA 2108, .
For those who prefer to spend most of their days in the kitchen, Yale is nothing less than the source of all life on earth. For the rest of us, it's simply a fabulous resource where state-of-the-art electric walls flank Sub-Zero wine fridges. From contemporary to American rustic to stainless steel, it's all functional, cutting edge, and stylish enough to make just about anyone stay in the kitchen. 296 Freeport St., Dorchester, MA yaleappliance.com/.
Discerning boozehounds have long since perfected the art of snaking into this legitimately industrial hideaway, but Backbar’s drink artistry also extends to its deceptively potent non-alcoholic offerings. The unexpected-in-one-glass flavors are what pack a punch. An "avocado piña colada" is at once hot and cold, with familiar coconut milk and pineapple spiked with throat-warming curry and unctuous avocado. A fennel-saffron " absinthe lemonade without any absinthe" is a brighter, more brilliant spin on Death in the Afternoonwithout, you know, the impending death. 7 Sanborn Ct., Somerville, MA 2143, backbarunion.com.
What makes a great chef? Great food, of course, such as Mida’s bowls of lovingly crafted carbonara, soft bricks of super-buttery, garlicky focaccia, and other Italian comforts. More than that, though, Williams has mastered every little detail in the holistic art of hospitality: Setting the scene with soothing (and flattering!) soft lighting, he shares unforced charm with guests at Mida’s original South End enoteca and a new, twice-sized sibling in Newton, which adds New Haven–style pizza — a preview of Williams’s soon-to-launch pie project, Apizza — to this Renaissance man’s repertoire. 782 Tremont St., South End, MA 02118, midarestaurant.com.
When the pandemic sidelined her pastry gig at the Back Bay’s iconic Uni, Betty Petrova didn’t sit on her couch eating bonbons; instead, she took to the kitchen to start making them. Handpainted with colorful, glossy brushstrokes of cocoa butter, the bite-size works of art quickly caught the eye of fans — so much so that now she’s focused full time on crafting delicate Valrhona chocolate shells generously filled with exquisite, inventive flavors like honey elderflower, rose pistachio, and rosemary caramel, many using ingredients plucked from local gardens. petrovachocolates.com.
This Hanover workout center is less a gym and more a lifestyle dojo. Named for Japan’s "Twelve Lakes" and cofounded by jujitsu world champ Daniel Gracie, Juniko takes a fitness-academy approach to wellness, offering adult- and child-level formats to suburbanites investing in their whole family’s health. Held in a sleek studio, the classes—including Brazilian jujitsu and aerial yoga—feel more like performance art than exercise. But you’ll still want to reward yourself with a visit to the on-site juice bar for kale smoothies, avocado toast, and take-home cleanses. 1376 Washington St., Hanover, MA 02339, juniko.com.
An eyewear shop needs two things to be successful: an ample selection of designer brands and a sales staff that’s willing to tell it to you straight. In the case of the fine folks at Lunette Optic, that meant stopping one tester from splurging on a pair of Chanel frames that made him look like an art-school dropout. Instead, they pointed the way toward face-flattering specs from a diverse lineup that includes hard-to-find international labels such as Anne et Valentin, from France, and Eyevan, from Japan. Perfect vision, indeed. Multiple locations. 121 High St., Boston, MA 02110, lunetteoptic.com.
Take a stroll underneath the I-93 overpass between the South End and Southie, and you’ll discover the city’s most exhilarating art exhibit. Sprawled over 8 acres, the once-desolate zone now features 18 murals, nine of which were added last summer. Highlighting local artists such as Silvia López Chavez, national ones like Def Jam’s founding creative director Cey Adams, and international ones including Spain’s Muro, the concrete, metal, and asphalt burst with color and forward-thinking vision 90 Traveler St., Boston, MA 02118, undergroundinkblock.com.
Shopping at NETA’s Brookline outpost is as far from buying pot off your cousin’s dog walker in a 7-Eleven parking lot as you can get. The vast selection of buds, pre-rolled joints, vape pens, and gummies is housed behind wood-trimmed glass cases in a historical bank complete with a well-styled mini lounge to wait in. And unlike in dubious parking-lot rendezvous, you can be sure that whatever you buy, the product will be top-tier, thanks to NETA’s state-of-the-art indoor cultivation center in Franklin. 160 Washington St., Brookline, MA netacare.org.
You can catch an Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu flick at any multiplex nowadays, but you won't see Boston Underground Film Festival highlights or a repertory series of World War II movies—or, for that matter, a weeklong Muppets marathon—anywhere else but the Brattle. The Harvard Square institution has been screening foreign, art house, and classic films for over 50 years, but it's much more than a sleepy civic treasure: It's holy ground for Boston's cineastes, budding film auteurs, and anyone who just likes to watch Casablanca on the big screen. 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA brattlefilm.org.
Once in a blue moon, you get a Blue Bunny. Cofounded by children's author-illustrator Peter H. Reynolds (The Dot, The North Star) five years ago, the magical little bookshop has grown into an area hub of reading and imagination. In scarcely more than 1,000 square feet it offers classic kids' books, young-adult novels (some for grownups, too), and lots of low-tech, high-fun games. But more than that, it provides a genuine springboard for creativity. There's always an art or writing workshop planned, and this spring the store launched a magazine created by and for youngsters called The Hutch—underscoring how rare this Bunny truly is. 577 High St., Dedham, MA 2026, .