An old-school record store that drowns out the download age by cultivating loyal customers and an understated cool you can't buy on iTunes, In Your Ear caps one of the city's best vinyl collections with a superior trove of classical music CDs. It also draws audiophiles with a surprisingly deep selection of reel-to-reel tapes, manufacturer-sealed Pink Floyd and Eagles LPs, and an intriguing mélange of minidiscs. 957 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, .
It's not easy for an independent bookstore to weather the perfect storm of Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com; more local favorites have closed this year. But this shop takes on the giants and one-ups them with a crew of bibliophiles and the city's best reading series. Add to this a thoughtfully balanced inventory and the Used Book Cellar, and you'll see why Brookline Booksmith is a page-turner. 279 Harvard St., Brookline, MA brooklinebooksmith.com/.
Luxurious double-faced cashmere, the basis of an Akris coat, keeps out the cold and looks great in the process. (A novel concept in fashion: practicality.) The coat collection here is all about fabric and tailoring, exquisite wraps for the consumer who lives and buys by the maxim quality, not quantity. As one faithful customer pointed out: "They're forever." Better be, at these prices. 16 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Every fall and spring, rack after rack of Ermenegildo Zegna, Calvin Klein, Joseph Abboud, and other highbrow treasures are wheeled out onto the Basement's packed Downtown Crossing floor. They're the overstock and still-beautiful seasonal leftovers from upscale behemoths such as Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Barneys New York. And at prices that dip down to 70 percent off, you can snag two suits—plus tailoring—for the cost of one of their full-priced cousins. 426 Washington St., Boston, MA filenesbasement.com/.
With more than 30 brands in stock, from Akteo to Waterman, these stores are truly the one-stop shop for fine timepieces. Salespeople are very helpful without being pushy—an important consideration when you're slapping down an ungodly sum for an item you'll be wearing day in and day out for the foreseeable future. If you want something a bit more seasonal, you can pick up an official Olympic Swatch starting at $40. 80 Boylston Street, Boston, MA .
Not only are some of the city's most high-powered blondes among his clientele, but even Newbury's notoriously catty cutters (who'd sooner drink bleach than compliment a peer) cant resist gushing over Lyle's work. In the words of one, The foil placement is superb. And another: I understand why his blondes keep going back. 275 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, .
If you had told us a few years ago that one day we'd be scrambling to get to a yoga studio in Southie, we'd have thought you were nuts. Yet here we ar—and it's all a testament to David Vendetti. After his flowing, challenging class, we're sore but ready to take on the world, and looking forward to meeting him on the mat again. 36 W. Broadway, South Boston, MA southbostonyoga.net.
Even the most basic guest rooms at this Back Bay behemoth overflow with amenities: luxe slippers, Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, rainforest shower. But what stands out is the way staffers treat you: like a frequent, honored guest, even if it's the only time you'll ever visit. But we're guessing that after one night in the Ploh feather-and-down bedding, it won't be. 776 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2199, mandarinoriental.com.
On nights when you need to make an entrance, make a pit stop at the Loft first. Miami-bred owner Michael Albor does gravity-defying updos and soft, luscious curls like no one else. More important, his looks are upscale, not uptight—meaning that after a few hours of cocktailing, dancing, and otherwise having a ball, your piled-up 'do will look even better than when you arrived. 253 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, theloftsalonanddayspa.com.
People don't realize how important brows are to the face,' says Lauren Genatossio, brow master at Sarra. So she meticulously tweezes them into well-shaped submission. (She never waxes—plucking is more precise, she says.) Genatossio also offers advice on keeping brows looking their best—in the case of one tester, she even used pencil to show where they could use extra growth. The result is brows that feel naturally beautiful—never too thin or overly arched. 840 Summer St., Boston, MA 2127, .
Paul Roiff's $21 million hotel project in Beacon Hill is the ultimate in modernity. The boutique atmosphere extends to the rooms themselves, which feature an incredible roster of amenities in addition to the usual plus bathrobes: cream-colored walls, fireplaces, oversized entertainment centers with the latest film releases, and wet bars. The hotel even supplies personalized business cards for guests to give out while they're visiting or doing business in Boston. It is certainly a costly experience, but a unique one as well: Pampering never felt so sophisticated. 15 Beacon Street, Boston, MA xvbeacon.com.
The Giants are harder to book than they used to be, and their prices are higher than some of their competitors'. But this is still the company that people gush about. (And face it: How often do people praise their movers?) One move positively crooned about how the Giants moved a piano around a curved staircase without damage—or complaint. They are professional, efficient, and yes, gentle.
A TV show as appraiser? Absolutely. WGBH turns out episodes in various cities, where locals line up with treasured heirlooms and garage-sale finds. Some of the art specialists in the country—including some of the local auction bigwig Skinner—are on hand to give owners and viewers information on their finds, including the estimated value. Ah, the agony of learning your prized highboy is a well-crafted knockoff? Ah, the pleasure of discovering that one of granny's knickknacks is worth more than the house!
Hell-o-o-o! Can anybody help me? Where is everybody? The hardest thing to find in a department store these days is a salesperson. And even when you find one, too often they're clueless in helping match you with your quest. Not at Bloomingdale's. Time and again, the sales staff is on hand, pleasant, knowledgeable, and resourceful. That's shopping. The Mall at Chestnut Hill, Chestnut Hill, MA .
A step of evolution beyond your average one-hour photomart, Panopticon is a true custom lab—it will develop your film in the developer you need, at whatever temperature you request, for as long as you like. The friendly staff are also happy to make suggestions (recently they told a hapless editor how to "push" standard film for use in poor lighting conditions). Despite the painstaking work that earned it its reputation, Panopticon is also fast enough to offer same-day servic 187 Bay State Road, Boston, MA .