Amid a flurry of cleaning services catering to on-the-go urbanites, the Jamaica Plain outpost of this national operation shows an unbeatable blend of polish and professionalism. After setting the appointment and sending an e-mail confirmation, your cleaning team will arrive armed with grime-busting equipment and a dozen sprays, as well as a rigorous 22-step plan for restoring your home's sparkle. The Maids will even pick up and drop off your keys at work—another excellent reason to fork over the $159 fee, which is lowered if you book monthly follow-ups. 179 Boylston St., Jamaica Plain, MA 2130, .
Louis Boston is fast becoming the Tom Hanks of one-stop shopping. In a category with increasingly stiff competition, Louis returns year after year to win the prize, thanks to its superior selection, variety, and (okay, occasionally snooty) service. Where else can you find the perfect pair of shoes, killer dress, and new lipstick while having your nails done—all in one afternoon? Men can find a full range of suits, casual wear, shoes, and even tuxes, all ready to be tailored at a moment's notice. With Debi Greenburg mixing cutting-edge designers from Dries van Noten to Anait Bian with tried-and-true labels like Prada, the competition doesn't stand a chance. 234 Berkeley St., Boston, MA louisboston.com/.
Much like its open-air London market namesake, Chestnut Hill's Portobello Road is vibrant, cavernous, and filled with exotic goods. Co-owners Marina Kalb and Kristina Lyons source boho-chic clothing, jewelry, and home goods from all over the world (Santa Maria Novella perfumes, silk basics from Sula) and close to home (breezy linen Nuthatch button-downs, Chan Luu leather wrap bracelets). Even though the boutique is located along Route 9, it feels as exotic as a shop in brightly painted Notting Hill. 55 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, portobelloroadusa.com.
After slinging “Hot Noods” in kitchens across the area, chef Rachel Miller finally gave her Vietnamese-inspired pop-up eatery a permanent home in downtown Lynn last year. From there, she’s now churning out an ace takeout and delivery program that includes homemade mi kho noodles with caramelized garlic sauce, a warm lemongrass-infused lobster roll, and coconut margarita mix that promises to turn any ordinary night at home into a party. But what’s even more satisfying than the food is knowing that Miller frequently donates proceeds to local non-profits. 73 Exchange St., Lynn, MA 01901, nightshadenoodlebar.com.
Hands down, Schwartz is the most distinguished walker of dogs in the city. Gray-haired and bespectacled, Philip stalks the streets of the South End, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill with his small leashed brood (including his own gentle doberman, Tara). A former retail executive, Schwartz never had a dog as a child and is making up for lost time, caring for up to 40 a day. He also does some sleepover home-stays—attending to pets, mail, and plants—and gives advice about Parisian travel and cooking. The cost: $10 per walk, $40-$50 per night for home stays.
Don't attempt to call your own cab if you've had one too many here. "Where am I? Um... Harvey's? St. Botolph's? The Good Life?" None of the above—the latest incarnation of the rotating restaurant/bar is now the Good Life Uptown. 99 St. Botolph St., Boston, MA .
Once the lights go down and an eager MIT undergrad begins narrating elliptical orbits, visitors to the planetarium can hark back to the days when every kiss was a stolen one. All you need for romance is a little imagination: Just pretend you're in a car staring at the stars over Swampscott. Boston Museum of Science, Science Park at Charles River Dam, MA mos.org/planetarium.
Around these parts, the authentic Irish pub is an expectation, not a novelty. Which means there's a full-on scrum of contenders in this category—the Sligo, the Behan, Foley's—with none stooping to T.G. O'Friday's flair, and all possessing the power to make you linger for one more pint. What hoists the Squealing Pig over the top is its welcoming open layout, with kitchen at one end and fireplace at the other; outsize beer selection; and very Irish puckishness (heavy metal/kung fu film fests; 'toasties' made with Mars bars). All of which makes slipping inside this decade-old Mission Hill pub like a conversation with an old friend: effortless. 134 Smith St., Boston, MA 2120, .
Bowling alleys don't traditionally offer Veuve Clicquot. But then, Kings is not your traditional bowling alley. It's part lounge, part pool hall, and all fun. Dimly lit nooks, red fluorescent running lights, and upbeat dance tunes pumping through the cavernous one-time movie theater help make Kings the hippest place we've ever bowled (tenpin of course—none of that candlepin stuff). While away the wait (it can take upwards of two hours on the weekends to snag one of the 16 lanes) chowing down at Jasper White's Summer Shack or de Ville Lounge, both right on the premises. 50 Dalton St., Boston, MA kingsbowlamerica.com/boston/.
Upgrade your pizza delivery with one of these showstoppers, cooked well-done with bubbly crusts. For dessert, the brownie sundae is nothing short of divine. 513 Tremont St., South End, MA 2116, piccorestaurant.com.
"He didn't let go of 75 State Street until he heard bone crunch," said one admiring panelist.
Whether you order up one of the beautifully done basics—steamed lobster, Boston scrod—or a special like grilled wild striped bass, you'll have ample cash left over for a sinful dessert. 50 Dalton St., Boston, MA summershackrestaurant.com.
In one of the grittiest corners of the Combat Zone, Hand the Hatter still plies the ancient trade of blocking and cleaning hats. Your battered bowler and pathetic panama will be restored to their pristine glory. 20 La Grange St., Boston, MA .
We love the hint of sweetness in the fig-and-anise loaf at Sel de la Terre, and covet the bakery's chewy sourdough. But one bite of the buttery brioche at this boulangerie makes us feel we've died and gone to heaven. 255 State St., Boston, MA seldelaterre.com/.
We're suckers for any patch of down-home coastal life dropped smack in the heart of downtown Boston. But, even if we weren't, the Barking Crab would still be the best catch in its category. Cheap, straightforward seafood—fragrant steamers, crab legs so big they're architectural structures, and cod that flakes in moist, white chunks—is the draw. Don't expect to write home about the service: This place is on island time. But, somehow, the meal, the kitschy breeze-blown fishing nets on the walls, the salty air, the creaky wooden floorboards, and the ice-cold beer evoke the kind of sunburned day that loosens our standards—and our belts—a little. And isn't that, after all, the very definition of clam shack chic? 88 Sleeper St., Boston, MA barkingcrab.com/.