A hotel is only as good as its amenities, and Union Street owners Ken and Deborah Withrow provide just about every one you can think of: Frette sheets and plush Matouk robes; wood-burning fireplaces; a made-to-order breakfast in the morning; and fudgy homemade brownies in the afternoon. Luxe but not stuffy, it's a cozy spot that feels like home. 7 Union St., Nantucket, MA 2554, unioninn.com.
In replacing their much-loved UpStairs at the Pudding (some considered it the real institution of Harvard Square), Deborah Hughes and Mary-Catherine Deibel had big shoes to fill—their own. But they've done it, creating an outstanding restaurant that has surpassed the expectations of even their most loyal following. The décor is at once outrageous and glorious—plaid patterns on the walls with animal-print carpeting, jewel-toned upholstery, massive fireplaces, gilded mirrors, and lots of pink. Two menus, in the hands of chefs Susan Regis and Amanda Lydon, offer everything from simple grilled cheese and rich tomato soup to flavorful Kumamoto oysters, roasted lamb, and rabbit. Don't miss the "wedding cake for one" dessert: The portion is large enough to share, but this is a divine indulgence for you and you alone. Via Matta, meanwhile, has had the kind of debut year legends are made of: Mick Jagger commandeered a table not once, but twice in the restaurant's first two months of business. Add to that gushing praise from critics nationwide and you've got, by all accounts, a bona fide success. But is that really a surprise? Schlow and partners Christopher Myers and Esti Benson know how to put on a show, as evidenced by the success of their powerfully stylish Radius. At Via Matta, the gloss is toned down, but the style still shines through, with an elegantly casual dining room, cozy bar, and adjacent café. Then there's the food: perfectly executed traditional Italian fare bursting with flavor, from the simple spaghetti aglio e olio to pan-roasted chicken—all dishes that will make you long for another serving. UpStairs on the Square: 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge; Via Matta: 79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA upstairsonthesquare.com; viamattarestaurant.com.
You didn't have to be black or Jewish to admire either August Wilson's stirring Joe Turner's Come and Gone at the Huntington or Herb Gardner's heartwarming I'm Not Rappaport at the Colonial.
One step inside this Cambridge bakery and you know you're in a serious place for serious bread. Half of the shop is an open baking area where workers mix, cut, shape, and bake loaves in an oven the size of a station wagon. A heady, yeasty aroma wafts through the air. Owner René Becker uses handmilled wheat for his classic whole-wheat loaves, and rye and corn breads. The daily specials are equally alluring: walnut- or olive-studded rounds, sesame and sunflower seed-coated ficelle, potato boules, or cheddar-pepper loaves. The extra care and craftsmanship comes at a slightly higher price than at many other bakeries, but after one bite, you'll happily hand over your cash. 208 Concord Ave., Cambridge, MA hi-risebread.com/.
A GA ticket to House of Blues means A) you’re seeing one of your favorite acts, and B) you’re about to move. We love House of Blues for the energy on the floor, whether you’re dropping it low with Lizzo, moshing with August Burns Red, or crying as you hold an iPhone in flashlight mode aloft with Jenny Lewis. Hey, however the music moves you is cool with us. 15 Lansdowne St., Boston, MA houseofblues.com/boston.
In the world of cosmetics—full of synthetic chemicals you can't pronounce and futuristic plastic packaging you can't dispose of with a clear conscience—the soaps, scrubs, and other skin-care products from Sabon are a welcome change. And a fairly appetizing one, at that, since many of the ingredients (brown sugar, honey) are as at home in the pantry as they are atop the vanity. Much of the line comes in recyclable glass jars, and nothing is tested on animals. Human testing, on the other hand, is something else entirely: Customers are encouraged to sample liberally to find their favorites. 129 Newbury St., Boston, MA sabonnyc.com.
There are certain advantages to Boston's lingering Anglophilia. Aquascutum is one of them. The sole American outpost of the venerable British chain carries trim tailored suits, broad-collared dress shirts, and vibrantly hued ties, as well as the clothier's signature line of elegant raincoats. The slickers are debonair enough to fit into even the dandiest wardrobe—and utterly inspirational here in our puddle-prone city. 450 Boylston St., Boston, MA aquascutum.co.uk/.
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
The true test of a good burrito is: Will you travel for it? In Boston, burrito lovers have little choice. This is, after all, a city with a whole lot of average Mexican food. To find an affordable burrito worth eating, we recommend taking any and all forms of transportation to one of Anna's Taqueria's three area locations. The restaurants are clean, the service is speedy, and the food is fresh. And the burritos? Well, they're so big and tasty, you might just forget you're in Boston. 1412 Beacon St., Brookline, MA annastaqueria.com/.
We have a tendency to think of South End Formaggio as a great spot for fancy cheeses, unctuous olive oils, and other hard to find treasures. And it is. But there's plenty more here. The chewy, sesame seed-coated mini ficelle loaves lined with thinly sliced salami and slivers of sharp cheese are a treat you can eat with one hand while you drive home. That'll stop you from snacking on these fancy cheeses you're saving for your dinner guests. 268 Shawmt Ave., Boston, MA southendformaggio.com/.
Choosing just one of Hi-Rise's cookies is a little like being forced to choose between your children. The almond macaroons taste like an intense nutty cloud. The oatmeal coconut, studded with whole pecans, are as chewy as can be. But it's the deep, dark chocolate sandwich cookies—more brownielike than crunchy and double-stuffed with an extra scoop of vanilla cream—that truly take the, er, cake. 208 Concord Ave., Cambridge, MA 2138, hi-risebread.com.
When it comes to evaluating a neighborhood pub, there's only one criterion: You want to hang out there every day. For 14 years, the Burren has been meeting this requirement for hundreds of regulars. They don't return again and again for the standard Irish fare (bangers and mash, fish and chips), though this is as solid as it comes. They return because the back room features weekly music and comedy, because the bar isn't dominated by flat-screens, and because the lived-in comfort feels like home, only better. 247 Elm St., Somerville, MA 2144, burren.com.
Celebrity relocates to Boston area. Celebrity purchases multimillion-dollar pad. Celebrity homeowner puts Dennis Duffy on speed dial. You'd be smart to do the same. Duffy's jaw-dropping interiors are marked by flawless furniture, one-of-a-kind home accessories, and seamlessly integrated artwork. And whether he's working on a luxe Back Bay penthouse, an industrial South End studio, or the aforementioned A-list manse, he always delivers original touches. 530 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 2118, duffydesigngroup.com.
Released this winter, Dubus's Townie was a rarity: a Bay State memoir entirely lacking in Oirish flavah and Whitey Bulger references. Instead, Dubus chronicled his days growing up in the Merrimack Valley of the 1970s, broke and in a broken home, and learning to fistfight out his frustration. When redemption comes, it's a devastating punch to the gut, making Townie one of the best books of the year. andredubus.com.