Everything about this tiny store-front boîte makes you wish that you, too, had bought a fixer-upper in Jamaica Plain. Chef Tim Partridge's menu is the kind of food you'd cook at home if only you had more time, with basic but tempting dishes from roasted spring lamb with fingerling potatoes and watercress to simple seared sea scallops. 597 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, MA .
Sentimental favorite Redbones has been challenged over the last few years by a whole herd of new barbecue joints. But there's no beating the heaping portions of Memphis-, Texas-, Arkansas-, and St. Louis-style Fred Flintstone-sized ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and beef brisket; the appetizers, like catfingers and buffalo shrimp; the seemingly infinite draft beer selection; and the hillbilly ambiance. Okay, so the service is more Boston than Baton Rouge. But it makes up in efficiency for what lacks in warmth. 55 Chester St., Davis Square, Somerville, MA redbones.com/.
We wish we had thought of this—a take-home-dinner kiosk in the middle of South Station. You can peruse the daily updated online menu (marchingandchowder.com) from the comfort of your office, then pick up your meal on your way to catch the train. This year-old business offers soups, salads, gourmet-style comfort foods, low-fat and vegetarian options—even sushi. We think you'll like it; if you don't, they'll give you back your money. South Station, Boston, MA .
It doesn't hurt that Julia Child was a regular at this homey, comfortable Union Square restaurant, but what really makes eat a great neighborhood joint is the way owner Charlie Robinson welcomes diners from the neighborhood and beyond as if they were coming to dinner in his own home. Chef Pete Sueltenfuss's cuisine extends the welcome with hearty flavors and simple technique, from diver scallops stew to club steak. 253 Washington St., Somerville, MA .
Assuming the hyperfestive décor at this family-owned joint hasn't already knocked you on your heels, there's no doubt the powerful, wide-ranging flavors will. Surrounded by a rainbow of serapes and folk art furniture, diners are primed with homemade chips and salsa (and usually some high-test margaritas) before getting down to business. Mole is among the strong suits here, as is anything doused with the bright chili verde sauce. Bonus points for solid vegetarian choices, and lunch specials that pack dinnertime heft. 449 Main St., Melrose, MA 02176-3837, .
Before setting up shop in Gloucester, star chef Ken Duckworth gained invaluable training turning out classics like creamy wild mushroom soup and succulent Dover sole in Paris and at Boston's famed Maison Robert. The American desserts, such as peanut butter pie and cheesecake, are the vision of Duckworth's wife, Nicole, a self-trained pastry chef. Each dish, expertly executed and oozing with flavor, is testimony to the couple's passion for perfection. 197 E. Main St., Gloucester, MA 1930, duckworthsbistrot.com.
The Market Theater clamored onto the local scene pledging edgy, experimental works. And it made good with creative programming like Frederick Wiseman's The Last Letter and Biljana Srbljanovic's Family Stories. Now that the company is vacating its Harvard Square location and founder Greg Carr has parted ways with director Tom Cole, the first crop of Market devotees may find themselves back at the A.R.T.
The burgeoning SOWA (South of Washington) district is now a must-see destination, thanks in no small part to Bernie Toale. Toale's gallery has been a showcase for everything from the sculpture of Roxy Paine to the intricate, layered drawings of ICA Artist Prize-winner Ambreen Butt to the portraits of photographer David Hilliard. The gallery's Boston Drawing Project also provides a much-needed home for other local artists and for worthy smaller projects that might otherwise be overlooked. 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA .
Name a major motion picture filmed in the Hub in the past decade, and chances are you saw Celeste Oliva in it. But she's also a stage veteran who this year shone in the Lyric Stage's production of David Henry Hwang's satirical play, Chinglish. Acting with a graceful mix of strength and poignant vulnerability, Oliva stole every scene in her role as the provincial bureaucrat Xi Yan.
True, many happy couples found their love in the Ralph Lauren paint department of Homo Depot—er, Home Depot. But Sunday morning Mass at the Jesuit Urban Center spawns more blessed pairings. The Urban Center's liturgy is both classic and contemporary; its mixed congregation is mostly gay; its AIDS and HIV support programs are some of the in town; and its coffee hour is a great place to get phone numbers. 775 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA .
We're partial to this place as much for its spectacular location (straddling the border between the island's wild and civilized ends) as for its lengthy menu of perks: spa, private beach, afternoon nibbles of cheese and glasses of port, champagne at sunset. Guests are left with the feeling that they're staying not at a hotel but a very well-to-do friend's home. 120 Wauwinet Rd., Nantucket, MA 2584, wauwinet.com.
Hold the truffle oil, beer, prosciutto, peas, lobster, and other sacrilegious add-ins, please: Stephanie's old-school mac is just how we like it. Blended with cheddar, Romano, and Parmesan cheeses, baked with buttery bread crumbs on top, and served steaming with the perfect sauce-to-pasta ratio, this classic is best paired with a glass of crisp white wine at the bar. 190 Newbury St., Boston, MA stephaniesonnewbury.com.
The gleaming, U-shaped bar here is your gateway to Barbara Lynch's homemade pastas (the tagliatelle with Bolognese is a perennial favorite) and sophisticated plates like whole-roasted trout with anchovies and olives. True, this casual trattoria can be pricey for a weeknight meal—especially when Drink, Lynch's downstairs bar, is tempting you with aprés-dinner cocktails—but the return on investment is reliably delicious. 348 Congress St., Boston, MA 2110, sportelloboston.com.
We didn't need last year's Food & Wine accolades to tell us that Jamie Bissonnette rocks. The famously inked chef drives the two hottest spots in town—Toro and Coppa (co-owned with Ken Oringer)—which launched our obsession with charcuterie and offal. And while it will pain us to share his skills with New York when a Toro location opens there later this year, we're proud he'll be showing that city what Boston is made of (hint: a whole lotta pork). 253 Shawmut Ave., Boston, MA 2116, coppaboston.com.
From eggs, home fries, and pancakes to the turkey club piled with crispy bacon, the 24-hour South Street Diner nails the classics, then ups the ante with plates like chocolatey French toast and fried pickles (not together, thankfully). With Nitzer Ebb and Passion Pit on the jukebox and mimosas available until 1 a.m., we love South Street for the same reason we love Boston: It's steeped in tradition, but never short on quirk. 178 Kneeland St., Boston, MA 2111, southstreetdiner.com.