Telecommuting has its perks, but none are as tasty as the grilled corn tortillas — with fillings like tender marinated chicken in a rich, complex mole sauce — that office crowds snatch up from this beloved stalwart of the downtown-lunch-hour scene. Made with palpable passion by matriarch Julie King and her daughter, industry advocate Bessie, the tacos are destination-worthy no matter where you work, but take a tip from the regulars and drench your carnitas in Villa México’s transcendent black salsa, now sold by the jar for snacking at home. 121 Water St., Financial District, MA 02109, villamexicocafe.us.
Adopted a dog from out of state during the pandemic? This shop’s Red Sox jerseys and lobster rope toys will have Fido looking and feeling like a local in no time. You’ll find plenty of stylish accessories for citified cats and dogs, too, from catnip-scented cactus toys to colorful striped dog beds by Pendleton. 217 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116, thefishandbone.com.
Some hotel bars are trendy watering holes with rooms upstairs; others are mediocre places for conventiongoers to pickle themselves. The Oak Bar is another species entirely: an escape that's equal parts time machine (jazz piano; career bartenders doling out snack mix) and glorious splurge ($17 martinis delivered in an icy shaker; a Chateaubriand sandwich on brioche). 138 St James Ave., Boston, MA 2116, oaklongbarkitchen.com.
Sure, the only requirement for a good bartender is that he's quick with a drink. For a great bartender, stir in some personality. But to be elevated to Bar God status, you need a whole lot more. Peter has the perfect recipe: Take equal parts wit, charm, and smarts, add lightning reflexes with a lighter, perfect name recall, and fabulous looks, and top with a huge dollop of humor. No wonder 29 has been a magnet for big personalities- scientists and hairdressers and club kids and club owners - during the five years that Peter's held court. He thinks the patrons pack the small watering hole because they're "united in their love of alcohol." Ask a regular, and it's for Peter's sake. 29 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
There's no more appropriate place to seal the deal than in the Julien Bar, once the reception room for the governors of the Federal Reserve Bank and now the financial district's most appealing watering hole. But keep it clean: N. C. Wyeth's murals depicting Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton set a lofty tone. 250 Franklin St., Boston, MA .
While longtime sole man Arthur Savas might not, as one pal jokes affectionately, 'win any personality contests,' he is undoubtedly a shoe's best friend: re-heeling, re-soling, and otherwise patching up even the saddest specimens. But could he handle the spanking-new Pradas with the torn fabric-covered heel? Savas protested we were expecting too much...yet a week later the job was done, the work irreproachable. 260 Elm St., Somerville, MA 2144, .
Of course, the better story would have been some cheese sliceslinging hole in the wall beating out the gourmet spots as our pizza parlor champ. Maybe next year. For now, you can't do better than the thin, chewy-crusted pies at Stone Hearth Pizza. If rarified toppings like arugula, white beans, Yukon gold potatoes, hot Thai peppers, and all-beef, nitrate-free pepperoni sound a smidge pretentious—well, yeah, they are. But they also make a mighty tasty pizza. And with a price tag of about $11 for a whole pie, you can afford to keep it real with a $4 draft. (A $4 artisanal microbrewed draft, but still.) 57 Leonard St., Belmont, MA 2478, stonehearthpizza.com.
Come for an expert cut and color, stay for the waxing, spray tan, and facial services at this full-service Quincy salon, situated in the first floor of a charming old home. With just a handful of chairs that face full-length mirrors, the intimate, sunny space feels even more like home once you sit down and chat with owner Hillary Deshler or one of her experienced stylists, all of whom are adept at creating beautiful, face-flattering looks. 46 Independence Ave., Quincy, MA 2169, indesalon.com.
The idea of handcrafts is intriguing; the reality, often ho-hum. Folklorica, however, hones its edge with one-of-a-kind creations by big names (Alexis Bittar, Jane Diaz) and sharp local talent. 61 Union St., Newton Centre, Newton, MA 2459, .
The one the Globe put on former business editor now reporter Stephen Bailey, whose idea of editing the page was sometimes likened to a drive-by shooting of the business community.
Interior designer Jill Goldberg’s expertly merchandized eight-year-old shop has all the rugs, furnishings, and knick-knacks that make a house a home. You’ll leave with an Assouline book, a Brahms Mount throw, and a whole new design perspective. 12 Union Park St., Boston, MA 2118, hudsonboston.com.
After you're done drooling over Audio Concepts' fantasy home-theater setups—massive TVs, booming speakers, George Jetson-worthy remote controls—find a salesperson and tell him your audio-visual dream. No matter the budget, be it $1,000 or $20,000, he'll briskly and breezily sketch out a plan to turn your underutilized family room or basement into the neighborhood cinema. 870 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA audioconcepts.com.
Forgoing customary kitsch, Octavia's is chock-full of one-of-a-kind must-haves, making it fun both to explore and buy from. The constantly changing stock yields a little bit of everything, from an antique mirror, mosaic side table, or funky fringed chandelier to a hand-painted lamp. Come the holidays, don't miss the boutique's unique decorations. 9 Standish St., Duxbury, MA .
Browsers fast become buyers at this three-year-old décor outpost, which sees its stock of tony/whimsical antiques and home goods turn over so speedily that the idea of a gift registry is moot. One week you'll discover an arresting turn-of-the-century Chinese altar, the next a shipment of traditional picture frames in silver and gold leaf and burnished burlwood. There are a few constants—fine French lotions and soaps, glossy dupioni silk pillows—but the rest depends on owner Laura Rosenberger's tasteful caprices. "If it looks beautiful, feels beautiful, or smells beautiful, I'll buy it," she says. Funny, we know just what she means. 33 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead, MA 1945, .
Ascending the worn wooden stairs to reach Nesting on Main recalls a trip to Grandma's attic. The three owners, each with a talent for finding charm in the humblest of artifacts, have covered almost every inch of surface in their four-room boutique with antique card-catalog drawers, beveled mirrors, birdcages, glass doorknobs, chess pieces—the list is seemingly endless. If by chance you don't find what you're after, just write it down in the "wish list" book, and let the buyers work their magic. 44 Main St., Concord, MA 1742, .