Hard to believe the best cup of coffee and best deli exist side by side in a converted parking garage across the river, but that's the way it is. Great cheeses, breads, and meats, along with off-the-wall specialties like pesto, ratatouille, and a strange house policy of no mayonnaise (only mustard or butter). The Garage, 36 Boylston St., Harvard Square, MA .
In this den of preppy testosterone, the open floor plan encourages circulating (the better to scope prospects), the pop soundtrack doesn't drown out conversation (the better to initiate small talk), and the martini menu is 20 varieties long (the better to loosen your inhibitions). 755 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2116, voxboston.com.
We've never understood the phrase "so hip it hurts." A bikini wax—now that hurts. But a night spent amid lacquered wood and PYTs, drinking mango martinis while dipping into small plates of Japanese zensai and nodding along to high-rent house DJs? There's nothing painful about that. 499 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, .
Who needs comfort food when you have comfort drink? Lurking beneath the floorboards of the stiff-backed, black-attired glam scene at the Wonder Bar is a comfortable lounge downstairs. It has enveloping booths and sofas and a TV playing sports du jour. The jazz wafts down from upstairs; the pretense, fortunately, does not. 186 Harvard Ave., Allston, MA .
Two acts ostensibly playing the same style, but each with a unique sound. The former's catchier doubletimes tunes rocket you from your seat; the latters more sluggish, sparse style digs a deep groove. Plus, you have to love the 'Stonians endearing tribal loyalty: "Living in Allston is the final word!"
Is your dog more accustomed to play dates than crates? Then this is the overnight care for him, with three yards for larger dogs, and three areas indoors for smaller pooches and puppies. Boarding is $25 per night, day care is $20. Call well in advance of holidays and school vacations, which book up fast. 204 Bridge St., Weymouth, MA .
Natale's is the place to go for high-end men's clothing south of the city. Everything in the store is tailor-made with only the finest wools and fabrics; staffers pride themselves on their ability to help you create a custom wardrobe designed precisely for your needs; and a lifetime of alterations is guaranteed. 171 Washington St., Norwell, MA natalesclothing.com.
A gorgeous waterfront location, impeccable service, creative New England fare from chef Gabriel Frasca—Straight Wharf has it all. Particularly notable are the signature clam bake—buttery lobster and chorizo over sweet corn and clams—and the flaky, baked-to-order strawberry galette with house-made buttermilk ice cream. 6 Harbor Square, Nantucket, MA 2554, straightwharfrestaurant.com.
Boston has a long, rapturous history of genius buskers, from Susan Dietrich Schneider, the infamous "Space Lady" of the ’80s, to such future stars as Tracy Chapman, Mary Lou Lord, and Amanda Palmer. But none has so captured the soul of the city as Keytar Bear, our unofficial musical mascot. Yes, our funky spirit animal—the furry king of costume-core—has been twice attacked by thugs. But he's now back in action, appearing with Guster in January and welcoming the Fenway faithful with slinky grooves on Opening Day.
Well into the Kindle era, Boston still hits out of its weight class when it comes to bookselling, and we treat big-name authors like visiting royalty. The Booksmith is where our memoirists, like Andre Dubus III and Gail Caldwell, and our suspense gurus, from Hank Phillipi Ryan to Joseph Finder, come to tell their tales. It’s where Atlantic columnist James Parker throws a celebration of his literary magazine the Pilgrimthe one produced 10 times per year by the city’s homeless population. And it’s where Barney Frank turns up to talk baseball. In sum, it’s the kind of place you keep going back to, because you never know what they’re going to think of next. 279 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 2446, brooklinebooksmith.com.
You’ve never seen brunch like they do it at “Props,” as the locals like to call it. Creative menu items—including a breakfast sandwich piled high with fried green tomatoes, egg, chili jam, and ranch pickles, and a yogurt parfait with roasted strawberries and coconut-blueberry granola—make this Sunday-only meal service something you’ll anticipate all week. And with an outdoor patio and easy-order pop-up brunch takeout window, it’s never been easier to get your fix. 9 India St., Nantucket, MA 02554, proprietorsnantucket.com.
Invite a little life into your workspace with help from this South Boston shop, which carries and delivers all things leafy and green (bamboo palm, burro’s tail, Venus flytraps), plus fun pots to display them in. Even better: You can brighten two households with Micro’s “buy to give” initiative, which lets you sponsor a succulent to send to a local essential worker. 365 W. Broadway, Boston, MA 02127, microplantstudio.com.
Smart, streamlined, safe food shopping? We’re sold! This ongoing series of open-air markets allows you to reserve a socially distanced place in line ahead of time, then proceed to tables of mask- and glove-wearing vendors who handle and bag your selections, from Picnic & Pantry’s kitchen staples and specialty groceries to prepared spinach-and-cheese layered phyllo from Koshari Mama, a mother-daughter maker of Egyptian cuisine. One Bow Market Way, Somerville, MA 02143, bowmarketsomerville.com.
Okay, so the Southwest Corridor (pictured, top) isn’t exactly a secret. But considering that the rectilinear park stretching from the Back Bay to Forest Hills is basically an open-air urban butterfly garden, it’s the closest thing to magic you’ll find within walking distance of your T stop. Come summertime, the corridor’s community plots burst into bloom with sunflowers, lilies, hollyhocks, black-eyed Susans, zinnias, and more, attracting Bostonians and butterflies alike. Boston, MA 02130, mass.gov/locations/southwest-corridor-park.
The Order: Take your pick! At this two-month-long al fresco pop-up, chef Will Gilson will preview multiple menu highlights from the Lexington, his restaurant/café/rooftop bar juggernaut that is slated to open in September. The Cause: A portion of all July and August proceeds goes to Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a food-rescue organization marking its 10th year of service. lovinspoonfulsinc.org. 219 Jacobs St., Cambridge, MA 02141, thelexingtoncx.com.