Think of it as a love letter to raw fish. Traditionalists will savor the thick, buttery cuts of salmon, tuna, and yellowtail. The more adventurous will relish the yellowtail roll, spiced with chopped garlic, daikon, and jalapeño, or the crispy shrimp tempura rolled with cucumber and spicy mayonnaise. Whatever your style, you'll find the portions at Osushi generous and the service friendly. Copley Place, Boston, MA osushiboston.com/.
Before you spend $35 on a steak, ask a few questions. That's part of the fun at Abe & Louie's, where the waiters sing the praises of dry aging and expound upon the flavor of New York sirloin versus a power-packed 24-ounce porterhouse. The only thing better than talking about the meat is eating it: Whether you're lunching in the masculine dining room or partaking in the nightly meat market at the bar, your steak is guaranteed to be broiled to perfection. 793 Boylston St., Boston, MA abeandlouies.com/.
Delicious proof that true Mexican cuisine rarely involves either the words "chimichanga" or "Tabasco," Olé's menu is weighted toward seafood with authentic and traditional dishes full of superior ingredients. Don't miss the pescado a la veracruzana (roast snapper in a garlic-tomato-caper sauce). The guacamole is mashed fresh at your table and served in the mortar, while even the desserts—the deep-fried cheesecake burrito, for example—are surprisingly good. 11 Springfield St., Cambridge, MA olerestaurantgroup.com/.
Sushi aficionados know they've stumbled onto authenticity when there's a certain something missing. Namely, silverware. There's not a fork in sight at Inaho, where owners Yuji and Alda Watanabe have created a minimalist paradise in the land of fish and chips. The long sushi bar sends out tender, just-plucked yellowtail, ahi, salmon, and eel nigiri and sashimi, and tasty maki like the Red Dragon (tuna, avocado, spicy house mayonnaise, and more tuna) and the Naruto roll (fluke, tuna, and salmon roe). 157 Route 6A, Yarmouth Port, MA 2675, .
We like to think we know wine. But like 99 percent of the population, we really just like to drink it. Thank heaven for Liz Vilardi, the nose-in-the-know at sparkling new shop Central Bottle. While her knowledge of wine is encyclopedic, she and her staff take a decidedly non-snooty approach to tasting and selling it. Explain what you're after, and they'll even help you pick out cheeses, cured meats, and house-made appetizers to nibble along with it. 196 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 2139, centralbottle.com.
It takes a brave soul to sample lobster ice cream, and an even braver one to put it on a menu. But Ben & Bill's is that bold and, after years in the shadow of that other island sweet shop, has emerged as the Vineyard's frosty frontrunner. The servings of handmade ice cream (ginger, pumpkin pie) and gelato (tiramisu, chocolate mandarin) are enormous, but if your sugar cravings still aren't sated, you can bag some candy and truffles to go. 20A Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs, MA 2557, benandbills.com.
At this spacious, boisterous Kenmore Square brasserie, groups can reserve a round table, slide into a cushy leather booth, or pull together a few tall tables at the bar to enjoy a casual feast. Brisk service, a well-stocked raw bar, and a varied menu filled with small plates that range from salt cod fritters to fried calamari makes for easy sharing—whether you're with simpatico diners or fussy friends who don't share your enlightened palate. 528 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, easternstandardboston.com.
Not many restaurants are willing to dedicate a chunk of valuable real estate for the few weeks that merit outdoor dining. But chef-owner Leo Romero's mission is to let guests experience the joys of una noche Mexicana, and his colorful patio, lit with twinkling candles, does just that. Try the utterly un-Tex-Mex enchiladas verdes and cool house margarita—then enjoy a memorable evening under what might as well be the starry skies of Veracruz. 30 Gloucester St., Boston, MA 2115, casaromero.com.
Quick with the drink recommendation and the flourished bottle, Shawn Ahern is a professional in a trade too full of aspirant talk-show hosts. He pours a finely tuned martini and is brisk and responsive to eye contact, yet his friendliness never turns obtrusive. And unlike many barmen of fashion, he's utterly free of snootiness, so even the most fatuous of requests ("I'll take a chardonnay and a glass of ice") is met with elegant service, graciously delivered. 1357 Washington St., Boston, MA unionrestaurant.com/.
It's hard to be unhappy when you dine at Olé. The vividly colored dining room sings in shades of orange and yellow, and the food begins with handmade guacamole—prepared fresh tableside—and ends with such authentic Oaxacan specialties as grilled marinated tuna steak with tomatillo-avocado salsa. In between come high-octane margaritas with countless flavor combinations and a choice of 22 premium tequilas. If that's not enough to put a smile on your face, there's also homemade sangria, a perfect match for the subtly spicy chiles rellenos. 11 Springfield St., Cambridge, MA olerestaurantgroup.com.
Miss your adolescence? The Formica booths at Little Stevie's aren't just seats, they're time machines that sweep you right back to braces, babysitting money, and after-school specials. And the pizza's right there with you: pillowy, bubbly, and doughy edges with a paper-thin and oven-charred crust, sweet and tangy tomato sauce, and a hot, dense layer of mozzarella. Say what you will about teen angst; pie this good makes it all seem worthwhile. 1114 Boylston St., Boston, MA littlestevespizzeria.com/.
There's some damn fine bread in this town, but we're throwing down the gauntlet and calling it for Hi-Rise. Why? Shelf after shelf of simple but flawlessly executed loaves: chewy sourdough, rich stone-ground cornbread, sweet and yeasty brioches, and hearty raisin-pecan. Holidays bring special orders of exemplary stollen and challah. House baker Rene Becker is a self-proclaimed fanatic about ingredients and techniques, and it shows. He's the Leonardo da Vinci of carbohydrates. 208 Concord Ave., Cambridge, MA hi-risebread.com/.
Experienced sweet-tooths know exactly where to turn when sugar cravings hit. Vanille's pastry cases are chock full of tantalizing treats: cappuccino cheesecake, chocoholic bliss tart, Boston cream pie. Don't fret if you can't decide. Just sample the bakery's petit fours—bite-sized sensations that include the ethereal diva (chocolate and caramel mousse) and the encore-deserving opera (coffee buttercream cake). We dare you to resist becoming addicted to this Beacon Hill sweet spot. 70 Charles St., Boston, MA frenchmemories.com/.
If you knew sushi like Ginza knows sushi—well, you'd never go anywhere else for sushi again. No other place offers such subtle and succulent yellowtail, melt-in-your-mouth tuna, tasty scorpion, and scrumptious salmon roe—and such a wise selection (with more than 50 choices, all of them off-the-boat fresh). Ginza's chefs craft such beautiful maki and nigiri combos it seems a pity to eat them. Rival chefs at top restaurants envy them for their access to the finest fresh fish in town. 16 Hudson St., Chinatown, Boston, MA .
When it comes to the steak-house experience, Grill 23 has it all—a cavernous men's clubby atmosphere, impeccable service, the kind of bar where one is apt to imbibe too many martinis, and, of course, great steaks. Non-carnivores need not despair: The grilled swordfish is superb and the kitchen turns out a terrific paella. Sommelier Alicia Towns expertly helps you navigate a first-rate wine list. 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA .