It's been two years since chef Tim Cushman's refined sushi operation made a stealth entrance onto the scene, gradually picking up buzz until being 'discovered' by gobsmacked foodies whose praise launched it to the national stage. Now, even as O Ya's new-kid glow has faded (and despite its stunning price point), the wait list remains impressively long. And we'll tell you why: Visit after visit, the hypnotic beauty of the food, seemingly simple but layered with clear flavors (white soy and yuzu glazing a sweet scallop, Thai basil and Szechwan pepper on sweet-salty eel), never fails to catch jaded palates off-guard—and has even been known to make some diners blush with delight. 9 East St., Boston, MA 2111, oyarestaurantboston.com.
Recently expanded. Roger Orman is extremely helpful, regardless of how much you have to spend. 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA .
Boston streets are hell on heels. Case in point: the heel of a favorite Stephane Kelian pump, chewed by cobblestones. But Ares came to the rescue. After its ministrations, we couldn't even tell which heel had been broken. 84 Charles St., Boston, MA .
If you haven't had a Speed Dog (with these special sauces), you don't know from hot dogs. Ezra "Speed" Anderson is one of the Hub's greatest culinary treasures. Somewhere in the Newmarket parking lot, corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Newmarket Square, Boston, MA .
You've got to taste them, preferably with the special sauces, to believe them. Exra "Spee " Anderson is one of the Hub's great culinary treasures. Somewhere in the corner of the Newmarket parking lot, corner of Massachsuetts Avenue and Newmarket Square, Boston, MA .
Pop art that didn't pop.
Stopping by this tiny garden-level shop feels like visiting your friendly but gruff grandfather's house: Cobbler Mike Damirshian won't hide his disappointment in your shoes' subpar appearance, but he will assure you that they can, in fact, be saved. And each and every time, he's true to his word—heels that have been worn to metal posts are miraculously rebuilt, holey soles are replaced, and scuffs are polished away. You'll walk out with kicks that look (almost) brand new. 84 Charles St., Boston, MA 02114, .
For lovers of serious french wines, Brookline Liquor Mart is one of the best stores in the country. True, if you are looking for widely available wines, you may find cheaper places elsewhere. But because the store is owned by Classic Wines Imports, it boasts an absolutely extraordinary selection of French wines— many at bargain prices. Brookline's strong suit— older, mature Burgundies— are not just incredibly well priced for their age and provenance; they are also almost impossible to find elsewhere. A friendly, well-informed staff will hlp you find the real treasures. 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA .
We're fond of smaller wine shops—Back Bay's excellent Bauer Wine & Spirits, say, and Somerville's Wine and Cheese Cask (where you can pick up some good bread and cheese), or even the novice-friendly Cellars stores. But warehouse-sized Brookline Liquor Mart dwarfs the competition, and not merely because of the enormity of its wine selection. There are extras such as frequent tastings, a decent Web site, and the rare-wine room, where you can fantasize about dropping two grand on a bottle of Château Lafite. And if the place itself looks a little intimidating, just wait a few moments. One of the wine experts (there is at least one on duty at all times) will amble by and prove every bit as friendly and helpful as the salespeople at the smaller stores. 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA blmwine.com/.
Have you ever broken your parking light while trying to squeeze into that enviable spot on Newbury Street? For less than half of what you'd pay at most dealerships, these guys will provide (or order) most any spare part. 290 River St., Cambridge, MA .
Not since Beacon Hill was a colonial settlement has Charles Street produced a shop so obsessed with top-quality workmanship. The scents of oil and leather waft from behind this small counter, overseen by a conscientious, kind, and fast-working staff that can stitch a hole, mend a heel, or reform a toe faster than you can say Paul Revere. 84 Charles St., Boston, MA .
The real meat of a truly great steakhouse is just that: its meat. And while the opulent Oak Room may look too delicate to deliver on such a carnivorous front, this year it left the competition begging for scraps. Witness the splendidly marbled bone-in rib-eye, juicy to its sweet core. And the pliant slab of aged New York strip under a voluptuous horseradish sauce. Sides and seafood, too, are much more than standard: thick spears of tender asparagus, chilled artichokes with thick and fresh lobster tail, and sharp-flavored calamari salad. Service is thoughtful, informed, and perfectly timed, and the epic wine list is packed with impressive (mostly French and American) choices. Why haven't we mentioned the room's flat-out stunning décor by now? Because with credentials like this, it shouldn't matter. Saying the Oak Room isn't a real steakhouse is as silly as saying a beautiful woman can't be smart. Fairmont Copley Plaza, 138 St. James Ave., Boston, MA .
A place needs more than good sangria and jamn to qualify as a genuine tapas joint: It must also be a lively gathering spot, not one that's empty by 11 p.m. Toro has one of the most reliably bustling late-night scenes in the cityimpromptu dance parties have been known to break out around the barand a calendar peppered with fun events, like last spring's Calotada (Spring Onion Festival) and an annual party to mark the running of the bulls. Just as important, chef Jamie Bissonnette strikes precisely the right balance between beloved Spanish recipes (griddled garlic shrimp, chickpeas with chorizo) and adventurous ones (head cheese with pickled ramps, crispy pork belly with snails). Need a hit of liquid courage before you'll try the smoked beef tongue? That's what the sangria's for. 1704 Washington St., Boston, MA 2118, toro-restaurant.com.
From the outside, this sprawling liquor store looks like any other rundown rendezvous for drunken booze-hounds. Inside, however, you'll find one of the finest selections of vintage wine in New England. It's for the latter that we just can't seem to get enough of this store. Laid out in neatly labeled rows are bottles of liquid gold that may cost you more than a month's rent. But no matter: Even if you're not a millionaire collector, the knowledgeable staff will help you find a reasonable red to go with the venison stew that's bubbling at home. Especially strong: Rhone, Burgundy, and Bordeaux selections. Expand your vino repertoire at the Mart's regular tastings or by clicking through their encyclopedic Web site. And don't miss the bargain basement (which is exactly what it sounds like); it can be a treasure trove if you hit it at the right moment. 1354 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston, MA blmwine.com/.
There are more than 70 shoe repair joints in Greater Boston; picking the finest involves a little legwork. Why this particular shop—and for a second year in a row? Armenian-born Mike Damirshian's work is impeccable, especially at the prices he charges ($4 for a perfect shine, for instance). From the moment you walk in, you feel as if you've traveled back to a simpler time when shoes were made by hand and not machine. 84 Charles St., Boston, MA .