Yolanda's showroom is a mecca for brides-to-be, who make pilgrimages from across New England to worship at the shrine of Vera Wang and Richard Tyler. The front parlor is adorned with your typical frilly affairs, but the enterprising customer has only to utter a single, magic phrase ("I'm looking for something simpler") to find herself in one of the cool, spalike dressing rooms, immersed in a pile of tasteful, elegant, and streamlined creations. Yolanda's staff is happy to tell you when your 5-foot-2 frame just won't accommodate your dream gown—but with such grace and goodwill that you'll gladly accept the advice and thank them for it later. 355 Waverly Oaks Rd., Waltham, MA .
When your shoes need to be as buff as the rest of you, head here. Three factors separate a great shoeshine from a merely good one. First, the high wooden thrones need to be sufficiently elevated to allow a sense of kingliness. Second, it's gotta be quick—and these efficient women move people in and out. Third is technique: They use both a high-grade canuba wax and a water spray to give the polish extra shine; they have a crisp, napping motion with the towel; and they always take an extra few seconds to retie your laces. Nice touch—after all, kings don't like to bend. 1 Beacon St., Boston, MA .
If you want another boring blowout, go anywhere. But when you need hair that will stop traffic, sit yourself down in Desiderio's seat. Everything the man does (which includes a mean color if you need it) is creative but tasteful, intricate but seemingly effortless. He gives just the right bounce to shags, pins sleek braided updos with aplomb, and lends curls just the right twist. One of the city's most outgoing hair wizards, Desi (as he's known to everyone) listens intently to his clients' needs, and employs his experience to deliver. 37 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Frankly, we received plenty of fine haircuts at other upscale salons, but no one listened better than Justine Piecuch at Jeffrey Lyle. This stylist takes a hyper-personalized approach, starting with lots of questions about your lifestyle and daily beauty regimen. A low-maintenance lady, in particular, will emerge from the chair with a pretty wash-and-go 'do. Piecuch is also a great interventionist for those who've suffered bad cuts. She never advocates a Joan of Arc-style bulldoze; rather, she counsels you through the process of slowly growing it out. 135 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, jeffreylylesalon.com.
There are surprisingly few seaside inns within an hour of Boston. But when you've found this one— and can afford the upper-end price tag— who needs others? Many of the 26 rooms located in four diverse buildings of the inn's compound overlook the ocean. Many have fabulous sun decks or glassed-in porches with a view of waves directly below. Thick lawns and colorful gardens roll down to the water's edge. There's no sandy shore, but there is a pool and a gazebo. Plan ahead: The dining room is strictly BYOB, as Rockport is a dry town. 96 Granite St., Rockport, CT .
Fact is, you can't always be there when your beagle needs you. Let Jennifer North or one of her colleagues at Boston Pet Sitters take over the midday walk, or even those weekends when Snoopy isn't invited along to Tanglewood. She'll come as many times a day as needed to walk, feed, water, and generally coddle the little darlings. She comes with a pocketful of plastic bags for pooper-scoopering, industrial strength foul-weather gear for those New England winters, and, most important, a sincere love of dogs. 144 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA .
Three decades in the biz and not a whiff of mustiness about Salon Capri, where a phalanx of Penna family members (who also run a Hyde Park location) and their team of high-end stylists translate runway looks to suburban locks. One of 10 elite L'Oréal centers in the country, Capri scores extra points for its colorists, who'll finish that face-framing cut with sexy highlights. That goes over big with the married-with-kids clients who flock here, figuring, Why put up with mommy hair when you can have who's-your-mommy hair? 31 Lincoln St., Newton, MA 2461, saloncapri.com.
Since chef Jason Bond opened the doors last fall, the applause for Bondir hasn't let up. Now, nine months and zero missteps later, he gets another voice added to the gushing chorus: ours. His menus, which change every day, are detailed yet somehow still welcoming and unprecious. His flavors are creative and nimble but restrained, and focused on one thing above all others: freshness. Already he has the rest of the house—staffers and diners alike—dedicated to that idea, and to creating a vibe that isn't about status dining or stuffy service, but about eating deceptively simple, yet simply wonderful, food. 279A Broadway, Cambridge, MA 2139, bondircambridge.com.
Any good steakhouse offers oversized hunks of beef, a clubby atmosphere, and expert, deferential service. A truly great one, like Grill 23, has all that plus a chef who prides himself on going beyond the perfect sirloin. Jay Murray (a former vegetarian!) tempts diners with less popular but equally flavorful 'chef's cuts' (medium-rare flat iron, anyone?) and serves up seafood, like the soft-shell crabs Milanese, of which any fine-dining establishment would be proud. In short, the joint gives a new wrinkle to the phrase 'the thrill of the grill.' 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 2116, grill23.com.
There are plenty of great wine stores in Boston, but what keeps Brookline one step ahead of the pack are its serious French wines—particularly Burgundies and Rhones. BLM has been bringing in Guigal's great Rhones for more than a generation, and the result is a selection that is extraordinarily broad and deep. Bargain hunters can look for finds in BLM's basement and close-out bins, and special at its Saturday tastings. And for the real oenophile cum computer geek, its e-mail newsletter, with Roger Ormon's informative tasting notes, keeps you abreast of a wide range of special offerings, as does its Web site at www.blmwine.com. 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA .
This isn't the place to start a diet, unless you're on a strict regimen of noodle kugel, knishes, and chopped liver. The fresh cheese blintzes and potato pancakes are to die for. And your Jewish mother will kvell over the brisket even if she doesn't take to tray of offerings such as pork sausage and smokehouse ham. Kosher, this is not. In fact, what has made this "new Jewish"-style restaurant one of the eating spots in Brookline are the less traditional offerings, including cheddar-apple omelets and banana French toast. The wild artwork and hip young wait staff seal the deal: This ain't your grandma's deli. 335 Harvard St., Coolidge Corner, Brookline, MA .
Some might scoff that Matt Murphy's perennially wins this award because, well, there aren't exactly Irish restaurants on every corner of this largely Irish town. That probably just means they haven't tasted the sausage, beans, and mashed potatoes with a hint of anise. Or sipped a perfect pint of Guinness while devouring fish and chips wrapped in the morning paper and accompanied by chunky, homemade ketchup. This Brookline Village hideaway is still an unadorned pub experience: good people (Jason Waddleton is one of the friendliest waiters in the Boston area), live seisiuns, or sessions of traditional Irish music, and food that's proud to call itself—dare we call it—Irish cuisine. 14 Harvard St., Brookline Village, MA mattmurphyspub.com/.
Food without wine is, well, just food. But add the right wine and a meal can become a symphony, a masterfully composed creation of flavors and textures married in perfect harmony. It makes sense that at a restaurant with food as sophisticated as Michael Schlow's, the wine list would be up to the task of accompanying it. That's thanks to co-owner and wine director Christopher Meyers, who personally oversees the wine selections. In one dinner alone we were treated to a delicious champagne, a South African sauvignon blanc, and a French syrah. The variety of wines is dizzying, with choices spanning the globe from Chile to New Zealand, and at prices that range from a splurge to the truly outrageous. 8 High St., Boston, MA radiusrestaurant.com/.
One visit to Mahoney's and even urban gardeners will be hard-pressed to leave without a basket of bleeding heart, a container of lavender, or some climbing clematis. The garden center is a lush oasis of greenery extending as far as the eye can see—all of it healthy and guaranteed to grow for at least a month after you buy it. The nursery-cum-greenhouse is a rare find in a town where cheap florists are spreading like weeds. No wonder it attracts swarms of horticultural fanatics who come for annuals, perennials, gardening accessories, and everything from potting soil to pruners. 889 Memorial Dr., Cambridge, MA .
There are some places where you feel cooler just by walking in. Such is the case with this funky pool hall, which sets the right mood with red-felt tables, an alternative-music soundtrack and Roy Lichtenstein-esque mural on one wall. The crowd seems to consist of Cambridge's hipper denizens who have taken time off from the art studio or recording hall to rack a few. It's a fresh change from the meat-market pool halls downtown. The only downside: Pool tables here are a bit close for comfort—though depending on who's at the next table, that's not necessarily a bad thing. One Kendall Square, Building 200, Cambridge, MA flattopjohnnys.com/.