Before he sold it to Starbucks in the 1990s, George Howell’s local-born Coffee Connection chain helped pioneer the gourmet-coffee movement. Two decades later, the java guru’s eponymous flagship in Boston remains a bar-setter for its robust selection of espressos and pour-overs using full-flavored, single-origin brews—from chocolatey Costa Rican beans to jammy-tasting Yemen selections—that Howell now roasts in Acton. Oh, and Frappuccino fans? Allow us to direct you to a seasonally available creamy, sweet frozen drink–aptly named the Original. 505 Washington St., Boston, MA georgehowellcoffee.com/the-godfrey-hotel.
Flipping through the crates of records at this pint-size shop, which opened this spring, is like catching a glimpse inside a music pro’s personal collection. Opened by George "7L" Andrinopoulos, Jeremy Sullivan, and Peter Fiumara, three local legends with decades of music-making, DJing, and producing between them, it’s equal parts fan clubhouse, music school, and vinyl boutique. New and used records spanning all genres are organized in a bright, fresh space that makes it easy to catch sight of an old favorite without the usual dusty digging. Bow Market, One Bow Market Way, Somerville, MA 02143, vinylindex.com.
Frenchie food is all the rage again, folks, so here's a primer for restaurateurs mulling a Gallic dalliance. Start with a cellar full of undersung Rhônes and Burgundies, plus Bordeaux with a little age. You'll want sophisticated riffs on Parisian pastry-craft—a raspberry-rose tart with lemony sablés Bretons should do. Kind service. A comfy dining room. Oh, yeah...and gently modernized masterpieces like duck confit with brilliant-bright swooshes of rhubarb purée. Come to think of it, that sounds exactly like the Franco-magic you'll find at Chris Coombs's Deuxave. 371 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02118, deuxave.com.
With its harbor vistas and wide sidewalks, Front Street always had the potential to be a South Shore destination—all it needed was a little pep. This year, we're finally seeing that potential fulfilled, with brand-new hot spots (Galley Kitchen & Bar, Lucky Finn Café); neighborhood stalwarts (T.K. O'Malley's, Mill Wharf); and high-end restaurants (Oro, Riva) all playing nicely along the charming half-mile strip. Day-trippers and locals alike enjoy movies at the Mill Wharf Cinemas, ice cream at Nona's, and browsing at sweet shops like the Welch Company and the Roman Table. The best part? It's right on the water. MA
Your wedding caterer should be, above all else, a perfectionist. You don't want boring and bone-dry chicken any more than you want poorly timed service or cheesy table settings. The Catered Affair owner Holly Safford is just that—a perfectionist who runs her tight ship with equal parts creativity, fabulous taste, efficiency, and soul. What's more, she's been doing it for decades, and her seamless organization and calming demeanor has kept many a girl from turning into Bridezilla. Take that, Martha Stewart. Accord Park, Hingham, MA thecateredaffair.com/.
Newbury Comics is to Nick Hornby as music megastores are to Carson Daly. The trucker hat—wearing kids who staff this eclectic pop culture emporium truly know their stuff, and they're quick to help shoppers navigate the impressive selection of CDs crammed between the movies and kitschy collectibles that crowd the aisles. With new releases often priced at $10 or less, ample shelf space set aside for local artists, and sought-after acts frequently dropping in for appearances, browsing for albums here almost beats downloading them for free on your home computer—and, as an added bonus, doesn't create the same risk of being sued for copyright infringement. 332 Newbury St., Boston, MA newburycomics.com.
E6 owner Elena Frankel has earned her place in beauty heaven by giving Boston a much-needed injection of both high-style cosmetics and low-pressure shopping. Her sunny, well-organized boutique is home to every hot, hard-to-find bottle, tube, and compact a product junkie could ever need, from gorgeous Tarte glosses and Shu Uemura eyelash curlers to Poole eye shadows and the just-revamped Molton Brown line—all minus the attitude-saddled staff of many other makeup counters. 167 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
When this national cosmetics outlet opened its branch in Burlington, we rushed to see what the fuss was about. The verdict: For pure, unadulterated immersion into the beauty world, Sephora can't be beat. There are imported perfumes (nearly the entire Versace collection!), lotions and potions (Stila body glimmer!), and trendy makeup lines (Lorac lip gloss!). There are also all of our favorites, from Chanel to Shu Uemura to Nars. The best part: Everything can be sampled before purchasing. Of course, a knowledgeable and approachable sales staff is on hand to supply product advice and makeup application assistance. 75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, MA sephora.com/.
No two ways about it: Tim's is a dive. Not a dressed-down yuppie hot spot marketing itself as "casual" and "unpretentious," but an honest-to-goodness greasy spoon. But where else would you find the low-priced burgers in the city? Tim's are so enormous—a full pound of beef for four bucks—they make your jaw ache. They're the kind of burgers that, with each bite, send pink juice running down your arms. The kind where your napkin is in tatters after five minutes. And Tim's is the kind of place where when you ask for medium-rare, it comes medium rare. 329 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA .
Most bakeries aim for French authenticity, but few this side of the Atlantic succeed as completely as Café Vanille. Choosing between the flaky, airy, and flawlessly textured chocolate croissants and blissful fresh-fruit custard tarts is an exercise in futility: Just take one of each. The setting, an almost impossibly charming little Charles Street storefront, also sports a sunny brick patio, the ideal perch for tucking into a decadent mocha crème-filled pâté à choux while watching all of Beacon Hill stroll past. Now you know what Proust was fussing about. 70 Charles St., Boston, MA frenchmemories.com/.
This splendid island is part of the Massachusetts State Park System and its only residents are two knowledgeable park rangers. In addition to spectacular views of the inner and outer harbor, the Civil War-era Fort Warren on the island is full of charming and frightening history, told in great detail on guided tours. You can also lie on the grass, picnic on the rocks, or play frisbee on the beach if you want recreation rather than education. Summer ferry service runs hourly on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Maps and tourist information: MDC Reservations and Historic Sites, 98 Taylor Street, Dorchester, 727-5290. Bay State Cruise Company, 67 Long Wharf, Boston, MA .
Bostonians, you may have heard, eat more ice cream per capita than anyone else in America. That makes us a tough bunch to wow—which is exactly what Christina's does with its 40 rotating offerings, many created with ingredients from its spice shop next door. The malted vanilla is made with Madagascar beans, the tart kaffir lime with the freshest leaves, the carrot cake with…well, you get the gist. Above all, Christina's keeps the flavors sharp and bright, even in kid-friendly ice creams like cookie dough and peanut butter chip. 1255 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA christinasicecream.com.
Turning out memorable meals in private homes—which often means tight quarters and picky palates—is a task that could sap any chef's muse. No surprise the catering arm of the vaunted L'Espalier/Sel de la Terre group is more than up to the challenge. Planning a small fete, we laid out the hurdles: seafood allergies, vegan diets, decorating don'ts. Au Soleil fired back with scads of ideas, including using petits fours as favors and dressing the table with bouquets of our favorite blooms. From intimate dinners to 600-person galas, this event-maker handles every gathering with aplomb. 148 Hampden St., Boston, MA 2119, ausoleilcatering.com/.
Tony Maws isn't one of those chefs who tries to make it look easy. In his new Central Square digs, the open kitchen takes center stage, providing an unobstructed view of exactly how that (Vermont organic) lamb three ways and (Maine dayboat) halibut get onto the plate. Maws even spells out his principles on the Craigie website, including 'First we find the ingredients, then we create the menu'—which means that every day he's sourcing what's local, in season, and, for the most part, organic. By degrees, Maws takes it further than anyone else in town, and his work is your reward. 853 Main St., Cambridge, MA 2139, craigieonmain.com.
Talk about knowing your audience. With its giant bucket of crayons on the hostess stand and army of highchairs standing at the ready, this seafood favorite not only welcomes tots with open arms—there's even a balloon sculptor and free sundaes on Sunday evenings—but it also serves the grownups in tow some very respectable chow (think ceviche and wood-grilled lobster). The latter accommodation, in fact, nudged the Summer Shack ahead of perennial pick Full Moon, which, while wonderful for its party vibe and fully stocked play area, keeps the food on the so-simple-you-could've-made-it-at-home side. 149 Alewife Brook Pkwy., Cambridge, MA 2140, summershackrestaurant.com.