Underneath all those tattoos and piercings is a man deeply committed to hair. Kavanagh combs, coddles, and coerces your strands to suit any occasion, with a down-to-earth bonhomie rarely seen among big-city stylists. Trained at Vidal Sassoon, this locally grown talent is now a disciple of Sandy Poirier's Shag principles, which include rocking out while preening the clientele and getting 'Princess' tattooed on your knuckles. (Alas, his mother nixed that last part.) 840 Summer St., South Boston, MA 2127, .
After suffering through trainers who merely barked advice (our ears are still ringing), we were overjoyed to discover owner Vera Wilkinson's quiet expertise. Certified both as a dog-behavior consultant and professional dog trainer—and armed with more than a decade of experienc—Wilkinson begins by watching you interact with Fido at home. Only then does she offer suggestions. She takes her time, and you and your dog will end up the better for it. 1786 Beacon St., Brookline, MA 2445, cooperativedog.com.
Marion knows that men's haircuts can be a delicate affair—one part seduction, and a heaping dose of free therapy. Not only will she unflinchingly shear the stray legions off the ears and mow through the shrubbery that accumulates in the zone where the neck ends and the back starts, she will also equivocate like a pro on touchy matters. "Receding hair line? What receding hair line?" Ecocentrix, 30 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
When a local institution undergoes a renovation, we take notice. As part of this year's stunning Four Seasons makeover, lumpy old armchairs, timeworn furniture, and outdated décor were tossed to make room for cushy couches, flat-screen TVs, rich comforters, and marble-topped dressers. Add to that the hotel's already unflappable service, prime location, and stellar restaurants—Aujourd'hui and the Bristol Loung—and this sleepover spot has soared back to the level of glamour its brand implies. 200 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2116, fourseasons.com.
Anyone who has discovered the rewards of that fledgling and hybrid phenomenon called the medispa knows what makes a great one: equal parts medical knowledge, professional responsibility, and an eye for beauty. The staff at Beauty Therapies masters all three, and the result is a solid understanding of everything from how to prevent dehydration after microdermabrasion to the ideal way to replace collagen to nearly painless permanent laser hair removal. Not many spas this side of Switzerland can say as much. One Brookline Place, Suite 302, Brookline, MA .
Harvey is the head teaching professional at one of the city's most exclusive clubs, the Badminton and Tennis Club, in the Fenway. A native Aussie, he's the man racquet aficionados like the Globe's Bud Collins and PBS's Kim Prince turn to for friendly advice when their backhands get rusty. "Tennis is a good form of stress management," offers Harvey. "I look at the individual and bring him into the learning problem. It involves his whole being. The actual physical movements are the simplest part." Boston, MA
Experienced sweet-tooths know exactly where to turn when sugar cravings hit. Vanille's pastry cases are chock full of tantalizing treats: cappuccino cheesecake, chocoholic bliss tart, Boston cream pie. Don't fret if you can't decide. Just sample the bakery's petit fours—bite-sized sensations that include the ethereal diva (chocolate and caramel mousse) and the encore-deserving opera (coffee buttercream cake). We dare you to resist becoming addicted to this Beacon Hill sweet spot. 70 Charles St., Boston, MA frenchmemories.com/.
Everything about this dark Somerville caverna qualifies as an aphrodisiac: the richly colored, bordello-inspired décor, the hum of loud conversation, and, above all, the lusty and authentic food. That means tapas such as tender scallops in a silken saffron cream sauce, deliciously tart baked goat cheese in fresh tomato and basil, and sultry pairings like green-lipped mussels with smooth chunks of avocado. Dovetailed with the heady rush of garlic and a carafe (or three) of red wine, the menu delivers on the most beloved of all Spanish ingredients: passion. 415 Washington St., Somerville, MA dalirestaurant.com/.
When it comes to the steak-house experience, Grill 23 has it all—a cavernous men's clubby atmosphere, impeccable service, the kind of bar where one is apt to imbibe too many martinis, and, of course, great steaks. Non-carnivores need not despair: The grilled swordfish is superb and the kitchen turns out a terrific paella. Sommelier Alicia Towns expertly helps you navigate a first-rate wine list. 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA .
Before you spend $35 on a steak, ask a few questions. That's part of the fun at Abe & Louie's, where the waiters sing the praises of dry aging and expound upon the flavor of New York sirloin versus a power-packed 24-ounce porterhouse. The only thing better than talking about the meat is eating it: Whether you're lunching in the masculine dining room or partaking in the nightly meat market at the bar, your steak is guaranteed to be broiled to perfection. 793 Boylston St., Boston, MA abeandlouies.com/.
Chalk it up to the anticipation of an unforgettable meal, the warm reception proffered at the host stand, or maybe just the impact of that briskly shaken craft cocktail in your hand. Whatever the reason, there's something so magical about No. 9 that your date suddenly seems to have gotten infinitely more attractive. And just wait till you try what Barbara Lynch's kitchen has created that day, be it sturgeon with pork belly en papillote, or a chocolate cream tart with saffron and grapefruit—two spoons, of course. 9 Park St., Boston, MA 2108, no9park.com.
Some hotel bars are trendy watering holes with rooms upstairs; others are mediocre places for conventiongoers to pickle themselves. The Oak Bar is another species entirely: an escape that's equal parts time machine (jazz piano; career bartenders doling out snack mix) and glorious splurge ($17 martinis delivered in an icy shaker; a Chateaubriand sandwich on brioche). 138 St James Ave., Boston, MA 2116, oaklongbarkitchen.com.
A model steakhouse offers classic dishes, great wine, and flawless service. A modern steakhouse, like the Metropolitan Club, does it with style. Here you'll find the usuals bolstered by new wave add-ons like smoky tomato soup served with an adorable mini grilled cheese; an appetizer of watermelon 'steak' topped with French feta; and desserts—like the brown sugar fruit tart or the banana coconut cream pi—that improve on childhood favorites. 1210 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, MA 2467, metclubandbar.com.
This tiny Brookline shop has made its name—quite literally—on its nubby olive rolls, grainy loaves, and airy brioche. But when we line up on weekends, it's for something a bit sweeter, in the form of cinnamon morning buns, stunning fruit tarts, and showstopping pain au chocolat—a pastry so buttery and deeply chocolaty, you'll make the pilgrimage for a warm one each morning. 178 Thorndike St., Brookline, MA clearflourbread.com.
In just a year, Treadway has taken this already exciting snack-and-cocktail spot and upped the ante even further with his unique mix of seasonally driven classics (like our favorite drink of summer, the grapefruit-and-tequila-based Paloma), modern spins on standards (barrel-aged mai tais), and fun, laid-back options like the smoky mezcal pickleback. 9 Sanborn Ct., Somerville, MA backbarunion.com.