The winding menu of succulent roast quail, fragrant la lot sausages, crispy-pork-and-shrimp-stuffed banh xeo crepes, and bright goi salads can be overwhelming at first. One solution? Spring for the Bo 7 Mon, a seven-course extravaganza (at an extremely gentle price tag) that will load you up on so many Vietnamese flavors and textures, you won't feel like you're missing out on a single thing. 291 Adams St., Dorchester, MA .
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.
It's hard to compete with a sandwich joint that's tapping into the culinary genius of just about every megachef in Boston. Among the delicacies on the roster of almost two dozen sandwiches: Chris Schlesinger's smoked ham and cheese with mango chutney, Lydia Shire's lobster salad sandwich, and Michael Shlow's rare sirloin with caramelized onions and horseradish cream. The only real problem here is figuring out which one to order. 361 Boylston Street, Boston, MA parishcafe.com.
Central Square is one of Greater Boston's most eclectic neighborhoods, and no restaurant captures the area's unique vibe quite as well as River Gods. Small but not cramped, energetic without being earsplittingly loud, it's usually populated by a mix of students, yuppies, old-timers, and Che Guevara acolytes. On top of a great beer selection, there's a menu that should satisfy everyone from the pickiest vegans to the most carnivorous diners. 125 River St., Cambridge, MA 2139, rivergodsonline.com.
This Kenmore Square taproom raises the, ahem, bar on pub food. Try the build-your-own Fenway Franks, one of the crispy tater tot varieties (like 'poutine tots' or 'tots mexicana'), or the tasty nachos. The 7-ounce burger, meanwhile, comes piled high with whatever unconventional toppings we crave, from chili to chipotle aioli. Apologies to Burger King, but when we want it our way, we come here. 476 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2115, thelowerdepths.com.
While every place on this page gets kudos for channeling neighborhood vibe, credit veteran chef Chris Douglass with being nervy enough to actually create one. Opened in 2005 in less-than-humming Peabody Square, his approachably stylish bistro now draws foodies from near and far with superbly executed, kindly priced ($20, tops) comfort food. And with the recent success of his pasta-centric Tavolo right down the block, Douglass seems primed for a hat trick. 555 Talbot Ave, Dorchester, MA 2124, ashmontgrill.com.
We deferred to our readers here. "Softer than Eagerman's," one wrote on her ballot. "So fresh out of the oven they'll burn your hands," said another. "I'd kill for an Al Jaffe's onion bagel," vowed still another. When we checked it out for ourselves, we found our voters' taste unimpeachable. 285 Harvard St., Brookline, MA .
Just as fashionistas favor couture over ready-to-wear, design aficionados prefer unique interior to chain-store décor. That's why those in the know turn to Frank Roop. Roop works with combinations of vintage treasures, elegant fabrics, his own custom furniture creations, and one-of-a-kind pieces collected during his frequent world travels. They all come together into living spaces that are very soothing, vibrant, and sophisticated. 129 Newbury St., Boston, MA frankroop.com/.
Filling in for Joe Sciacca one morning last month, the Mayor (or whoever ghostwrote the column for him) gave as good as he has gotten all these years. But he also showed a charming self-deprecating wit (which again suggests it was ghosted). If only he carried that over to his day job—it would be like that Alcatraz would finally be off his back.
Some suburban day spas, catering as they often do to busy moms, have entirely missed the point of an escape: A noisy cut and blow-dry during a massage is not relaxing. But the Lexington outpost of Bella Santé gets the pampering thing down perfectly with imported teas, soothing music, and peaceful treatment rooms. And, of course, one-at-a-time services that are stress free. 76 Bedford St., Lexington, MA bellasante.com/.
Yes, it's in a shopping plaza (albeit an upscale one). And yes, it's technically a chain. But step inside and such details fade away. The gold-ceilinged trattoria is packed nightly with yuppies lounging around on ample outdoor seating, schmoozing at the indoor bar, and lingering over sambuca-steamed P.E.I. mussels and assorted raw-bar creations. The weekend brunch highlights seafood and a do-it-yourself bloody mary bar. 94 Derby St., Derby Street Shoppes, Hingham, MA rustickitchen.biz/.
Christiane Bourque, wife of former Bruin Ray, has created a European-style spa with lovely little touches (perfumed sachets in every locker) and heavenly big ones (heated massage tables). The private rooms have individual rock waterfalls and treatments such as Vichy therapies and microdermabrasion. Lounge time in the sauna, steam room, and marble Jacuzzi is included with any massage or body treatment. 94 High St. (Rte. 35), Danvers, MA maisonesthetique.net/.
One part science, five parts high art, hair coloring is a sensitive subject to most women. And while a good color job looks as if it happened naturally, few (if any) natural heads of hair are as richly colored and perfectly flattering as those doctored up by Nick Penna Jr. Young, laid-back, and highly decorated for his styling prowess, Penna highlights and infuses tresses with subtly natural yet lustrous shades of color. Just ask any of his devoted clients—that is, if you can get them to tell. 31 Lincoln St., Newton, MA saloncapri.com/.
Beauty may be only skin deep, but the relaxing effect of a day at Grettacole goes so much deeper. A true spa-goer's spa, Grettacole is staffed by an army of masseuses, aestheticians, and nail technicians—every last one a perfectionist—who can fix a nail as perfectly as they can clean your pores or buff your skin to a high shine. The spa offers not only top-of-the-line services, but also excellent salon and spa products from Kérastase, Bumble & bumble, and Trish McEvoy. 95 Central St., Wellesley, MA grettacole.com/.
Here's a new island tradition: Disembark at Straight Wharf and make a beeline to Cru. This swish, year-old spot, decked out in striped pillows and driftwood chandeliers, has the raw bar to beat and the see-and-be-seen crowd you'd expect at a place with not one but two bars slinging cocktails and wines by the glass. And good news for those who've already OD'd on seafood: The chicken under a brick with warm farro salad, wild ramps, and roasted grapes is a hit. One Straight Wharf, Nantucket, MA crunantucket.com.