Even diners who prefer their atmospheres serene are willing to brave the frenetic crowd here for one reason: the food. Simple tapas like tortilla espanola shine; the wine-braised short ribs are so rich they could almost double as dessert; and the house specialty, maiz asado (grilled corn with aioli, lime, and aged cheese) has made an addict out of many. Come in early if you're after a seat, as this place packs 'em in like sardines nearly every night. 1704 Washington St., Boston, MA 2118, toro-restaurant.com.
For those of us who've longbelieved that a burger's quality is directly proportional to its heft, it defies logic that one of the beefiest, juiciest, tastiest (and cheapest) burgers in town is, in fact, flat as a pancake. Well seasoned and slathered in a sweet mayonnaise sauce, Flat Patties' freshly ground patties are tender and packed with flavor. The nicest part? The quarter-pounder rings in at just $3.95. 33 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 2138, flatpatties.com.
No self-respecting Townie goes to this older-than-God tavern for the food. You go for the beer, the too-loud music, and the chance to see your cousin, your neighbor, your accountant, and your handyman getting a little sloppy over a fifth round of Sam Adams—sometimes all at the same table. Have a couple of cold ones, and the fish and chips will seem like four-star cuisine. 2 Pleasant Street, Charlestown, MA 2129, .
Everything about Italian specialist L'Andana (which this magazine named the Best New Restaurant of 2008) is so generously proportioned that it might seem excessive. That's fine by us, considering that Jamie Mammano of Mistral, Teatro, and Sorellina fame is the one laying on the flourishes. So, yes, we'll happily loll in the overstuffed banquettes; order up big bowls of dreamy homemade pastas or three-course Tuscan suppers with enormous, flawlessly grilled steaks; and raise our giant wine glasses to the joys of going overboard. 86 Cambridge St., Burlington, MA 1803, .
Front Street's bar (260 Berkeley St., Boston) is a quiet, secure haven, protected by Horgan. A five-year veteran of the bartending wars of Boston and Cape Cod, Horgan knows his regulars and what they drink, and he protects their privacy. "This isn't a pickup bar," Horgan says. "People come here to relax. Single women come in by themselves and trust me to see they're left alone. People know that no one will bother them here." Front Street, 260 Berkely St., Boston, MA .
This brasserie's knack for maintaining civility amid Kenmore Square's chaos is but one reason to worship Sunday brunches here. The others are the creme brulée French toast, the tomato and basil quiche, and the bloody marys made with vegetable-infused vodka (take that, V8!). The swank-looking digs may scare off the budget-fretful, but that'd be a shame. At $15 or less per brunch entree, Eastern Standard gives better (and tastier) bang for the morning buck than most. 528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, easternstandardboston.com.
Gordon's is Waltham's answer to one-stop shopping for wine and spirits aficionados. The wine market has a solid foundation in Bordeaux in addition to an impressive international selection; in addition, Gordon's sells a wide range of single-malt scotches and imported tequilas. Added amenities: a gourmet catering service, a glassware department, and an e-mail newsletter listing daily specials. 892 Main Street, Waltham, MA gordonswine.com.
With a brewery, distillery, and winery all surrounding one chill courtyard, this is the perfect place to while away a few afternoon hours on the Grey Lady. Sip a Summer of Lager, slurp oysters (if you're lucky enough to catch the occasional raw bar), and play cornhole, all set to live tunes played by local musicians. Bonus: It's located off the new Hummock Pond Road bike path, so you can safely coast there and back to town. 5 Bartlett Farm Rd., Nantucket, MA ciscobrewers.com.
The talented stylists here give you exactly the cut you need (and maybe never even knew you wanted)—one with shape, body, and texture in all the right places. The salon's proprietary line of curl enhancers, shine sprays, and styling gels, meanwhile, will keep it looking that way long after you leave the styling chair. 311 Woburn St., Lexington, MA nazkupeliansalon.com.
There was a time when anyone on the South Shore interested in fine furnishings had to make the trek up to Boston. But there's no need now. At this lovely one-stop decor shop, you'll find outstanding American lines like Oly and Hickory Chair, French furnishings made by Grange, and accessories by the Vermont-based Simon Pearce. Overwhelmed? Seek out the in-house designer, Bill Barr, who offers complete interiors service. 81 1/2 Fairhaven Rd., Mattapoisett, MA surroundingshome.com.
If only wine bottles could talk. Instead, most languish on store shelves across the city, relying only on crumpled winemaker-written blurbs and outdated Robert Parker ratings to convey their quality and nuances. The lucky ones, however, end up at the Urban Grape, where co-owner T. J. Douglas's genius layout groups wines based on their common characteristics, enabling customers to easily find what suits their tastes. 7 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, MA 2467, theurbangrape.com.
Since the 19th century, the sprawling barn at Wilson Farm has proffered more than 100 varieties of the grower's own fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers; fresh-baked breads and pastries; locally made cheeses; and house-made pastas, soups, salads, and more. It's a one-stop shop in the dead of winter, the height of summer, and any time in between. 10 Pleasant St., Lexington, MA 2421, wilsonfarm.com.
Rustic-cool State Road reflects the woodsy, Berkshires kind of vibe that defines West Tisbury. Yet chef Jackson Kenworth's excellent dishes—pancetta-wrapped bluefish, milk-braised pork stracci, Menemsha lobster spaghetti—have the sophistication of the finest city restaurants. And with historically dry West Tisbury finally loosening up, that gorgeous zinc bar that's always been reserved for enjoying BYO beverages may finally be stocked one day. 688 State Road, West Tisbury, MA 2575, stateroadrestaurant.com.
The romance started with a rich local-oyster-and-bacon chowder with chive and truffle oil. Then came the scallops with oyster mushrooms, asparagus, pancetta, pea shoots, and chive béarnaise, and then the organic beef special with ramps and shiitakes. By the time the heavenly macademia-nut-and-coconut tart showed up, we knew for certain that this homey new spot from Brewster Fish House alum Martha Kane would be more than just a one-night stand. 800 Main St., Dennis, MA 2638, fincapecod.com.
The location ain't Park Plaza chic, but kitchen-wise, this 20,000-square-foot space is virtually unbeatable. Inside, you'll find products including professional-quality Thermador and Viking ranges and glamorous wine refrigerators from Sub-Zero. The knowledgeable salespeople don't work on commission and will help you figure out what you really do and don't need for your kitchen and cooking style (which just might benefit from one of Yale's on-site cooking classes). 296 Freeport St., Dorchester, MA yaleappliance.com/.