A store's shoe section cannot be judged by its stock of sky-high Manolos and red-soled Louboutins alon—though, to be sure, Barneys has plenty of those. No, what we need is a selection that will keep us feeling well heeled even on the days when cabbing it just isn't an option. Shoes we can walk in, trod over brick sidewalks in—hell, hoof across the Charlestown Bridge in. Which is why we're gaga over this store's lineup of Lanvin studded sandals, Jil Sander Chukka wedge booties, and Margiela oxfords. Posh, meet practical. We've been meaning to introduce you two. 100 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 2116, barneys.com.
You can thank the Tager family's sharp eyes and dead-on sense of balance for many of Boston's most beautiful homes. Principal Sheldon Tager brings to his two New England antique shops in Newton and Nantucket the same originality and knowledge that has made him a nationally acclaimed interior designer. The proof is in the distinctive pieces—from American crafts to French country gems—brought back from regular trips to Europe, antique shows, and auctions. But the true kicker is how the store mixes and presents them: a subtle drama that flat-out nails the art of rustic refinement. 26 Elliot St., Newton, MA bellemaison23.com/.
Like anything well loved by a child, this Brookline Village institution has become charmingly worn around the edges, the creaky floors a testament to decades of small roaming feet. It eschews the chain bookstores' gloss (and their piles of trinketry and TV tie-ins) for shelf after wonderful shelf of kids' titles—more than 21,000 in all. The shop may be considering spiffing up for its 30th anniversary this year, but here's hoping it'll always be a tad dog-eared: After all, that's how bookworms mark a place they want to go back to. 237 Washington St., Brookline, MA 2445, .
Kid alert: This well-laid-out shop in Inman Square has lots of room for wandering feet, plus fun and interactive on-site activities for curious minds. There's a play area with a crawl-through tunnel; a plastic structure holding more than 200 balls for jumping around in; a large-piece floor puzzle; a plastic house for climbing in and out of; and, most important, a storyteller the first Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. And those things aren't even on sale! Stelabella has top-notch goods, including the usual suspects, like Radio Flyers and Lincoln Logs, as well as an impressive selection of arts and crafts kids. Open seven days a week. 1360 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA stellabellatoys.com/.
Before it reopened after renovations and started serving only dinner, Aujourd'hui at the Four Seasons had a seemingly unshakable hold on the title of best power breakfast. Now that honor has been decisively usurped by Café Fleuri—a sunny, cushy space at the Langham Hotel where every weekday morning the elite now meet to eat. Financiers, lawyers, politicos, and every bigwig in between file in to carve up the universe while they're carving up their fruit-covered waffles and Maine lobster and soft scrambled eggs. Breakfast of champions, indeed. 250 Franklin St., Boston, MA boston.langhamhotels.com/restaurants/best_boston_restaurants.htm.
Charles David may have the dazzling hair-color bar and AZ Studio the highly shoppable product boutique, but Zona's got the talent, times two. Andrew Zona recently closed his top-notch Hingham Square salon to join brother Frank's equally favored setup in Queen Anne Plaza, uniting the third generation of a hairdressing family that traces its roots back to 1800s Italy. Despite that long history, nothing feels dated about either the space, which got a swank facelift last year, or the services, which could hold their own on Newbury. 10 Washington Street, Norwell, MA 2061, .
There's something of an X-Men feel to the staff photo on Indra's website, and it's justified: The black-clad stylists lined up like superchic superheroes do, in fact, have serious hair powers. Their not-so-secret lair is a hip, Aveda-branded salon known to the likes of Paula Cole and Olympian Jenna Johnson; there, pros including co-owner Jose Batistine (brings dying color back to life!) and senior stylist Jen Traverso (rescues curls in distress!) perform their follicular feats. And at Indra's fast-growing 'talent academy,' the next generation of wonder-cutters delivers new 'dos at wallet-saving prices. 8 Main St., Andover, MA 1810, indrasalon.com.
Tucked into a storefront on Prince Street, year-old Sage is the kind of restaurant we love to honor. Why? Because it shines on the short list of quality restaurants in the North End. Because it only has 28 seats, guaranteeing individual attention to every diner. Because the handmade gnocchi could float on a feather. Because the waitstaff is amiable and efficient. Because the wine list is small, reasonably priced, and ideally suited to the cuisine. Because chef Anthony Susi went out, saw the world, came back to his home (he's a North End native), and brought the restaurant that he cut his teeth on. Get the picture? 69 Prince Street, Boston, MA .
Huge second-floor bay windows and sky-blue walls make you feel like you're floating int he clouds as your cranium is massaged with soothing-scented liquids. The walls are lined with works by local artists, and the eight barber chairs are spaced comfortably apart in an airy room. But best of all is the zero-attitude, down-to-earth mentality of the stylists. No hippier-than-thou hair bullies here. The staff is friendly and helpful— co-owner Jeffrey cheerfully washes clients' hair; stylish Tonya volunteers techniques for blow-drying tresses to perfection at home. 118 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Don't mess around with movers that fail to show up on time or try to hold your belongings hostage until you fork over a wad of cash vastly in excess of the original estimate. Gentle Giant will give you an honest quote, turn up exactly as promised, and call you at work just before coming.Plus, the crew is gentle, like the name says. Another bonus: You can have an intelligent conversation with your movers, who all seem to be hard at work on the Great American Novel. All in all, Gentle Giant belongs in the Haul of Fame. 29 Harding St., Somerville, MA .
We knew that Jody Adams had it in her to open another outstanding restaurant. And now that we've enjoyed the bold, world-inspired cuisine at Trade, the companion to her Harvard Square flagship, Rialto, we only wish it hadn't taken her so darned long. Then again, if time is what Adams needed to craft her spicy lamb-sausage flatbreads, cool yet crisp squid salad with borlotti beans, and tender, flaky whole-roasted fish with flattened cumin-dusted potatoes—all within the confines of an industrial-chic space—well, we're happy she didn't rush. 540 Atlantic Ave., Boston, MA 2210, trade-boston.com.
With its oaky scent, worn wooden shelves, and thousands of bottles, Brookline Liquor Mart is simply an oenophile's delight. This superstore has been doling out educated, accessible wine advice for more than 40 years and boasts an enormous selection from the world's best wine-producing regions. There are varietal tastings every Saturday, an intriguing rare wine room, and monthly sales and specials. For large orders, take advantage of the delivery service or place orders online for future case shipments. Or just come in and browse; everyone from first-time tasters to experienced collectors can find a gem. 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA blmwine.com/.
Gourmets and gourmands alike have for generations found solace in this small family-run specialty foods shop; the high culinary priestess herself, Julia Child, called founder Jack Savenor her butcher for decades. No wonder. The friendly, knowledgeable staff will guide anyone through the international selections, doling out advice on how to serve foie gras or properly prepare lion meat. The cases stocked with imported cheeses, a commendable produce section, and bread from Iggy's all earn this neighborhood market an enduring place in Boston's epicurean pantheon. 160 Charles St., Boston, MA savenorsmarket.com/.
Three years after its feverishly hyped opening, the South End's Stella draws a dinner crowd that's more Newton-Wellesley than bright-young-thing. After those diners have retreated is when the insider action at this stylish modern Italian restaurant gets under way. Until 1:30 a.m., Boston's movers and shakers perch on the tall bar chairs and inhale mushroom and white truffle oil thin-crust pizza and fantastic (and only available late-night) burgers—welcome tidbits for those who would otherwise be scarfing greasy New York-style slices on their stumbles home. 1525 Washington St., Boston, MA 2118, bostonstella.com.
Turning out memorable meals in private homes—which often means tight quarters and picky palates—is a task that could sap any chef's muse. No surprise the catering arm of the vaunted L'Espalier/Sel de la Terre group is more than up to the challenge. Planning a small fete, we laid out the hurdles: seafood allergies, vegan diets, decorating don'ts. Au Soleil fired back with scads of ideas, including using petits fours as favors and dressing the table with bouquets of our favorite blooms. From intimate dinners to 600-person galas, this event-maker handles every gathering with aplomb. 148 Hampden St., Boston, MA 2119, ausoleilcatering.com.