This long, narrow restaurant in the heart of Newburyport has a certain bistro appeal, and when lit with candles in the evening, it's, well, not exactly European but charmingly provincial. Caesar Salad and Steak Diane are house specialties— the salad may even be prepared tableside. But as you'd expect in this neighborhood, seafood is the marquee food group, so why stray? 25 State St., Newburyport, MA .
It would be a shame if this unpretentious little bar near turnpike exit 17 got too trendy. The honey hot Buffalo wings are worth the few years off your life you risk by dipping them in bleu cheese for an unlikely taste sensation. But cholesterolically speaking, what's the difference? A satisfying supply of about 10 wings goes for $2.75 (less at lunch). Buff's Pale Ale, made by Boston Beer Works, is a nice accompaniment. 317 Washington St., Newton Corner, MA .
Life should always pause around 4 p.m. so people can revive themselves with a cup of tea. Besides this genteel refreshment (or coffee, if you must), the Four Seasons Hotel serves the traditional three-tiered silver trays of dainty crustless-cucumber-and-smoked-salmon sandwiches, scones with lemon-curd and Devonshire-cream, miniature fruit tarts, and tea bread. A pampering staff and exquisite views of the Public Garden provide almost more afternoon comfort than kindergarten naptime. Four Seasons Hotel, 200 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
The variety may not be the most extensive, but Kettle Cafe wins the taste test by a mile. In addition to muffins, croissants, and biscotti at the Kettle, there are only five sandwiches, but each of them is guaranteed to get you back for a return visit. Proscuitto with arugula, shaved Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, cracked pepper, and a smear of horseradish on herbed foccacia tries to win your tastebuds over from others such as Black Forest ham with aged sharp cheddar, mango chutney, and grainy mustard on harvest bread. 2888 Columbus Ave., Boston, MA .
This farm's tomatoes are the best summer heat antidote— fleshy and cool, never mealy. The papayas are huge, and the corn— well, teens say it's worth biting into, braces be damned. Wilson Farms has every fruit and veggie you need for your Labor Day cookout, and many you don't. Although some of the exotic produce is shipped in from foreign climes, the rest is farm-stand fresh. 10 Pleasant St., Lexington, MA .
Order pad thai, if you must. But what makes Khao Sarn worthy are its specialties from the northern reaches of Thailand—miang kum, for example, is a do-it-yourself dish that lets you wrap a few flakes of baked coconut, roasted peanuts, and tiny dried shrimp in a spinach leaf and finish with a dollop of sweet sauce and a squeeze of lime. It's a flavor explosion—and your new must-have at any Thai meal. 250 Harvard Ave., Brookline, MA khaosarnboston.com/.
For muy delicioso and auténtico Mexican food north of the border, make a beeline for this Union Square hot spot, featuring colorful woven tablecloths and walls bathed in warm yellow. Burros overstuffed with juicy steak, smooth guacamole, chunky salsa, and sour cream highlight the menu, but no matter what you order—from the tamales, enchiladas, and flautas to chile rellenos, vegetarian tacos, and homemade flan—you're guaranteed exceptional food at reasonable prices. 247 Washington St., Somerville, MA .
Some desserts are among life's sweetest rewards precisely because they aren't too sweet. Kristen D. Murray understands this. Consider her walnut pain perdu, a soft and almost custardy bread laden with tart red currants, rich, nutty crunch, and tangy water-buffalo-milk yogurt sorbet. Or feast your eyes—and stomach—on her black pepper cheesecake, a masterpiece of smooth cheese jolted with black pepper and cut with the soothing sweetness of caramelized pineapple and tart-as-can-be-green apple compote. 9 Park St., Boston, MA no9park.com/.
This Afghan restaurant packs a tapestry of spice into every dish, from the marinated meat on the seekh kabab to the delicate baby pumpkin. The broad dining room's flaming bread oven, extensive wine list, and exotic decor transport you from everyday Cambridge to distant Kabul. Soothe your surging palate afterward with full-bodied Turkish coffee. 143 First St., East Cambridge, MA .
To complement his "Adventurous American Cuisine," chef and owner Andy Husbands shook up an Adventurous version of the classic cocktail as a signature drink. As with any great margarita, the secret is hand-squeezed sour mix (none of that pre-mix swill) and a heaping dose of gold tequila, in this case Sauza. Replacing the triple sec with Grand Marnier doesn't hurt, either. 647 Tremont St., Boston, MA .
Carmelized onion and cheese ciabatta (a twisted Tuscan bread), triple-raisin loaf, and parmesan-pepper breadsticks are just a few reasons to check out Biga. In addition to retail sales through their cafes, you can find them at Bread & Circus—and on the tables of some of the best restaurants in the city. The cafes now serve roasted tomato and fontina pizzas, salads, and sandwiches like the smoked turkey with caramelized-onion chutney, goat cheese, basil, and Dijon that will make your mouth water! 197 8th St., Charlestown, MA .
Have your empanada and eat it, too. Mucho Gusto is as much a museum of kitsch as it is a kitchen of Cuba. Mami Aida turns out perfect pork sandwiches, savory rice and beans, beef picadillo, and exceptional cafe con leche in a delightful time-capsule setting filled with collectibles from the '40s, '50s, and '60s (all for sale). The service is prompt, the portions are filling, and the rhumba makes you forget that Massachusetts Avenue is just a block away. 1124 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
At least four different seasonal soups made form scratch every day, as well as chili, chowder, triple—strength chicken vegetable soup, and a range of appealing salads make this a popular destination among Brookline's lunch seekers. We loved the root vegetable for gloomy days, the chilled wild berry for sunny ones. A perfect takeout idea for dinner when packed to travel. And their Soup-o-Gram is just the ticket for friends who are under the weather. 2-4 Brookline Place, Brookline, MA .
A veritable font of bath-related knowledge, Billie Brenner has been in the high-end fixture business for 40-some years, and today presides over her Design Center showroom with her daughter, Robin. They carry every European line worth floating over the Atlantic, including Lulu, Belle de Jour, and Jado, and have exclusive dibs on several boutique U.S. brands. 1 Design Center Place Suite 429, Boston, MA 2210, .
In slightly less than a decade in business, Emanuel Coelho's firm has painted hundreds of houses around Boston. The secret of its success boils down to that magical combination rarely seen in contractors: top-quality workmanship—backed by a five-year, no-chip warranty—and a rate that leaves clients with a little extra cash for other home-improvement projects. 14 William St., Medford, MA 2155, .