Eli's is the rare watering hole that is not too cheesy, too pretentious, or too pricey. Tucked off the main room of the Barker Tavern, this candlelit nook has a gleaming mahogany bar that serves a jovial but civilized crowd. It also serves such scrumptious food as crab cakes with roasted yellow pepper coulis and duck breast with orange honey—hoisin sauce. 21 Barker Rd., Scituate, MA barkertavern.com/pub.html.
It's not often you can slink up to a hostess with 15 of your closest friends and expect that you'll be quickly seated—let alone get a drink and some nibblies without a side of attitude. Pho Republique may in fact be the only restaurant in town where the more really is the merrier: This Washington Street hot spot graciously handles large groups with ease—hell, even with verve. The inventive drink menu (beware the potent sake martinis and house sangria) and an affordably priced pan-Asian menu with options to please everyone (from shrimp rangoon spring rolls to steaming, aromatic bowls of pho) add up to a place where even the pickiest diners will be pleased. Best of all, the accommodating staff's unusual make-yourself-at-home attitude means a group can linger until the last drop of sangria is gone. 1415 Washington St., Boston, MA .
<p>It's hard to find a decent fabric store these days. The dwindling number of people who sew their own clothes has caused many textile shops to close, and most of those that remain are either large chains with uninspired inventories or discounters selling remnants, irregular goods, and closeouts.</p> <p>In this wasteland, North End Fabrics, at 31 Harrison Avenue, is an oasis for the home sewer. The small shop on the edge of Chinatown stocks a sumptuous and well-edited assortment of high-fashion textiles including Liberty of London cottons, the beautiful silklike polyester of John Kaldor, handerchief linens, wool suiting, silk jacquards, and tropical-weight wool challises. It even has the dubious honor of carrying New England's largest inventory of fake furs. All these goodies are tucked into barebones quarters, which on Saturday afternoons can set off an epidemic of claustrophobia among the customers. But the hard-core home sewers who flock there don't seem to mind. "I have this theory about fabric stores," says owner Ellen Bick. "It seems as if a kind of reverse ambience is best. Not that you want it to be grungy, but the more it looks like a mill store or a factory, the better the serious sewer likes it."</p> <p>Just how popular North End Fabrics is with serious sewers is demonstrated by its clientele, which includes aspiring fashion designers (Boston designer David Josef shopped there during his start-up years), photo stylists, costume designer, and well-dressed professional women who want couture-quality material for the outfits they sew. October brings a colorful crowd of gay men buying sequins and gold lamé for costumes they'll wear on Halloween at the annual gay ball.</p> <p>Many shops that operated during the heyday of Boston's Garment District (during the early 1900s) are now gone—victims of rising rents, changing times, and chichi real estate developments. But North End Fabrics has stood its ground there for 30 years. If that doesn't mean it's doing something right, nothing does.</p>
Over the years, hundreds of women have watched natural beauty they never knew they had emerge from under Katrina Hess's skilled brushstrokes. Weddings are a specialty, but, as Hess puts it, a woman should feel like a million bucks whether she's going to the office or going to the altar. Hess is a well of beauty tips and tricks (from how to avoid getting lipstick on your teeth to giving lashes that elusive perfect curl). Equally impressive is her product knowledge: While she's worked for many of the best (Bobbi Brown, Trish McEvoy, Chanel, Christian Dior), Hess now works only for her clients and has the luxury of culling every label's standout cosmetics into a dream palette. Combine that with her meticulously honed technique, and you've got a beautiful thing indeed. 105 Newbury St., 3rd floor, Boston, MA .
Just because your couch is now your office doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. The well-curated selection of soft, wearable tops at this Beacon Hill boutique includes colorful knit tees from Marni, flowy organic-cotton blouses from Apiece Apart, and collared button-downs from Acne Studios that look just as good on your Monday-morning Slack call as they do on your favorite restaurant patio come the weekend. 119 Charles St., Boston, MA 02114, frenchitalian.com.
The Kobe cap steak at Grill 23: We’re jonesing for the primal pleasures of a deep-charred steak crust that doesn’t involve sweating bullets over a home grill. The charred avocado nigiri at Café Sushi: Precise applications of lemon, salt, truffle oil, and fire-breathing blowtorch yield a showstopper too delicate for takeout travel. The quail kebobs at at Oleana: Ana Sortun’s elegantly boned-out game-bird skewers taste best in the urban paradise of Oleana’s gorgeous garden. The double-pork ramen at Yume Wo Katare: We miss waiting for hot bowlfuls of garlicky, pork-fat-drenched noodle soup at this intimate eatery, where the camaraderie in line is part of the fun. The “Royal Chocolate Cake for Two, Kween” at Orfano: The indulgence is available in sensible slices for the social-distancing era, but you can’t top the hedonistic joy of double-teaming an entire cake with a close friend.
In addition to its popular Tuesday Night Music Club—a music series featuring unplugged sets by leading local musicians—the Kendall introduced a new program this year, Earfull, pairing local musicians with authors reading from their works. It's the kind of thing that could happen only here, in this grubby, smoky, intimate, and delicious Kendall Square hole in the wall. Any night's crowd is a Who's Who of the local rock scene. Every night's performers are up-and-coming or already-there singer-songwriters of the most polished aural sort. And the grilled chicken and selection of cold draft beers ain't bad, either. 233 Cardinal Medeiros Ave., Cambridge, MA .
In a neighborhood brimming with worthy bistros (Ten Tables, Arbor) and watering holes (Milky Way, Doyle's), finding the best among them seems impossible. Until you've tasted brunch at Centre Street. No other place draws such a salad of local characters—yups, students, families, and artists. The food and art are local, too, and the tunes are just loud enough to inspire but not preclude conversation. The servers are so friendly, they feel like buddies who just happen to be fetching you fluffy banana pancakes with farm-fresh blueberries. And that's the best kind of friend there is. 669A Centre St., Jamaica Plain, MA centrestreetcafejp.com.
Sometimes all it takes to stir up emotion is a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with drippy candles and a few two-tops. Other times the road to love is paved with linen tablecloths and crystal goblets. Safe middle ground can be found at Glory, where live jazz, glowing yellow walls, and candles create a comfortable haven for first dates, anniversaries, and everything in between. If all that doesn't get you in the mood, the grilled stuffed veal chop, pan-seared trout, and warm chocolate cake by chef Corinna Mozo (formerly of Truc) surely will. 19 Essex St., Andover, MA .
Chef Frank McClelland bristles when L’Espalier gets pigeonholed as French—and it is more haute New England meets Paris, when you think about it. Check the beef from Maine. The gooey Vermont fromages. The scrappy Yankee self-reliance of plating foie gras with fruit from your own organic farm! The duck-for-two stunner, presented whole, comes with sides and a beguiling slice of American large-format je ne sais quoi. Whatever you call it, this gastronomic tour de force blasts into its 40th year rocking A-game sparkle. Tomato, tomate. 774 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02199, lespalier.com.
You won’t find interloping bachelorette parties at this veteran watering hole, secreted away downtown. What you will find are refreshing vestiges of a time before gay bars got gentrified: cheap drinks, little pretense, and dancing throngs—not to mention an abundance of pheromones—during recurring parties like “Fuzz” and “Casual Fridays.” Recent cosmetic updates and the addition of popular local DJs, whose eclectic soundtracks span Top 40 to artsy indie pop, have made the place feel hipper—but here, it’s still unabashedly queer. 14 Pi Alley, Boston, MA thealleybar.com.
On any given night you can find crowds gathered on the sidewalk outside this cramped, noisy, hole-in-the-wall North Ender, jostling for the chance to dive into some of the freshest homestyle Italian cooking in Boston. Pomodoro is not fancy; it's cash only, and offers only two wine choices, house red and white. But it is damn good. Our advice: While you wait for a table, nibble from a plate of crisp, lightly fried calamari with tomato sauce, and save room for pastas, seafood, and veal dishes that sing with simple bold flavors. Ever-present properietor Siobhan Carew makes this place a gem. 319 Hanover Street, Boston, MA .
This brick-walled South End hole in the wall reminiscent of an Alabama dive bar serves up the perfect antidote for a hot, sticky day: cool shade, cheap beer, and a cheeseburger the size of a small cow. Trust us; you won't be asking, "Where's the beef?" Oozing with fatty juices, these burgers taste as if Dad just flipped them off the backyard grill onto the not-big-enough Kaiser roll. The steak fries may be like lead paperweights, but Tim's friendly devil-may-care atmosphere, brewery mirrors, boom box funk music, and gap-toothed regulars make up for any feeling of weightiness. 329 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA .
Nestled in a picturesque valley between Brighton and Chestnut Hill, Newton Comm. is a well-groomed gem of a course. The front nine presents the topographical challenge of being mostly on a side slope, while the back nine meanders around water hazards and finishes up with a truly breathtaking hole—a swooping downhill to a wide green surrounded by water and a wall of pines. The staff is almost overly friendly, and the rates are reasonable ($20 for Newton residents, $25 for nonresidents). Best of all, very few of the golfers are Tigers, and most are willing to forgive newbie hacks with 37 handicaps. 212 Kenrock St., Newton, MA sterlinggolf.com/newton/.
No matter if you’re hosting a Zoom meeting or clicking over to a virtual lunchtime yoga session, you won’t want to hide Outdoor Voices’ (pictured) bold, eye-catching leggings and ultra-soft sweats. The company’s sustainably sourced activewear, after all, was designed for “doing things,” whether those things are running for miles or running your business (and your life) from your kitchen counter. 31 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 02210, outdoorvoices.com.