It's not hard to miss Uptown Espresso, tucked into the first floor of a townhouse in the South End—although once you know it's there, it's virtually impossible to walk past. The coffee, a dark roast from upstate New York, is bracing without being overwhelming; tea lovers can choose from more than 20 blends. Order an iced espresso, latte, or steamer to go, or settle in for a quiet moment on the sunny glassed-in porch. 563 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA .
It's annoying when a toned yogi informs you, as you struggle with a simple pose, that soon you'll be balancing on your chin. But under David Magone, that's not only possible, but likely—just look at the limber loyalists in the front row. The 29-year-old has created his own dynamic blend of yoga called PranaVayu, and he gives easy-to-follow instructions that are both practical and inspirational. You'll be all twisted up in no time. Insideyoga.com;yogasquare.com.
Roll into this 'cah spa' and let a team painstakingly shampoo, buff, and wax your begrimed automobile back into the gleaming ride it once was. Nimble, speedy attendants can complete most jobs—from conditioning your leather to glazing your acrylic—in less than an hour. For a quick fix, the five-minute, $8.95 drive-through starts with a wash and ends with a hand-dry toweling. You won't find a deal like that at the day spa. 434 Cambridge St., Allston, MA 2134, allstoncarwash.com.
Yuri's is little more than a table and a display case jammed in the back of a jewelry store called Small Pleasures. Luckily, Yuri really knows how to fix old watches. Not only did he once fix a World War II chronograph that baffled lesser creatures, he unfroze its ancient stopwatch function. While Yuri works his magic, you can covet the pricey Hamiltons in the display case. 142 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Cantabrigians had another reason to delight in the annual opening of the patio at Up Stairs at the Pudding this year: a makeover. But don't worry, this Hall of Famer has done nothing with the lush green patio more drastic than paint its floor periwinkle blue. Ah, but it's the perfect hue for this romantic roof garden—a whimsical counterpoint to the pink table linens, tiny recessed Christmas lights, fresh roses, and bougainvillea. Add a clear, starry night and Deborah Hughes' delightful cuisine, and you'll mistake this spot for Tuscany. 10 Holyoke Street, Cambridge, MA .
Bob the Chef's South End soul food temple offers a straightforward menu of southern foods that comfort, such as buttery collard greens, spicy black-eyed peas, and falling-off-the-bone ribs. And the "glorifried" chicken, prepared barbecued, simply baked, or expertly fried, can cure whatever ails you. Balancing the menu is a jumping roster of live jazz performances and the "all-you-can-eat Sunday Jazz and Gospel Brunch," featuring top-notch homemade biscuits. No wonder we keep coming back to Bob's. 604 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA .
Many day spas promise an escape from city life, but none delivers like Exhale. The two-story, Zen-like space alone is enough to set stress on standby, what with its hushed hallways and dimly lit treatment rooms. Choose from a full-service spa menu (we like the four-hand harmony massage), take a yoga or core fusion class, and let the courteous staff soothe and smooth your worries away. 28 Arlington St., Boston, MA exhalespa.com/.
This small club is clean and equally comfortable for men and women. The emphasis is on firming and toning (not muscle building). Varied aerobics classes taught by 15 instructors include step, low impact, high-low impact, advanced high-low impact, and body conditioning. Karate instruction is available, too, and there are Cybex and cardiovascular machines. The initiation fee is $295, and dues are $360 a year. 3 Hancock St., Boston, MA .
<p>Spyridon Ganas's breaded, cheesed, and fried eggplant topped with pepper and provolone and baked in a crisp sub roll is worth the trip. Eleven inches of vegetarian junk food for $1.50.</p> <p>Until the end of the month, when it closes for the winter, Wallace's drive-in (right down the street from the Pizza Palace) scoops up gargantuan homemade ice cream cones. The toasted pecan fudge is especially good.</p> 30 East Central, Natick, MA .
From the outside, it's easy to mistake Brad Duncan Skin Care for a physical therapist's office. But once you ring the bell and descend the stairs, you'll find yourself in Zenlike subterranean digs. Duncan's skin-care mecca focuses on anti-aging corrective facials that leave skin clearer and tighter. He specializes in intense (though surprisingly painless) pore extractions and enzyme-based exfoliation. He's also friendly, serene, and possesses the type of complexion we've envied since ninth grade. 530 Tremont St., Boston, MA 2116, .
After three decades in the business, spa owner Mkhitaryan has developed a rare power: the ability to make the most uncomfortable of beauty rituals a bit less so, and with pristine results. Whether it's your first time or your 50th—and whether it's a standard cleanup or something "a little more expensive"—the motherly aesthetician gets the job done with speed, all the while chattering on amiably in a way more commonly associated with less compromising activities. Boutique, 257 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Reaching for romance, many florists dress their posies in frills of ribbon and corsets of ferns: courtly, demure, a peck on the cheek. Contrast that with the stripped-down sensuality of Fiddlehead, which treats flowers as the sirens they are. The dramatic split-level space and textured black and green wall panels offset color-blocked arrangements in sunburnt orange and none-too-bashful pink. Those feeling the need to accessorize can outfit their purchase with an attention-getting vase—though, as Fiddlehead shows, there's nothing wrong with just going au naturel. 24 Front St., Salem, MA 1970, .
At his tiny South End enoteca, chef Jamie Bissonnette turns out some of the most magnificent pizza crust around—crunchy, chewy, smoky, and soft all at once. Coppa's 'fungo' pizza ($15) comes crowned with morel mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and creamy Taleggio; the 'cavolfiore' ($15) features cauliflower, chili flakes, parsley, and Bra Duro cheese. In other words, this sure isn't Uno's. 253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, MA 2116, coppaboston.com.
In this, the age of the bacon-topped cupcake, it's nice to know that a simple vanilla confection can still be done right. At Georgetown's first Boston outpost, the Madagascar-bourbon-vanilla cake is delicate and moist, and the cream cheese frosting is fluffy and rich. If you do have a craving for something a touch more exotic, the specialty cupcakes (fresh strawberry, Earl Grey-lavender) are praise-the-heavens delicious, too. 83 Newbury St., Boston, MA georgetowncupcake.com.
On the desertlike stretch of Mass. Ave. that cuts through Porter Square, Christopher's is a tiny oasis, its green umbrellas beckoning from the T station like palms in the sand. There are well-priced options like fish tacos and burgers with mushrooms and Swiss cheese, and a host of veggie choices that suit the less carnivorously inclined. And once you sample the selection of ice-cold beers, you'll know for sure that this retreat is anything but a mirage. 1920 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 2140, christopherscambridge.com.