Henry Ford may have invented the assembly line, but Anna's Taqueria has perfected it. The queue at any of its four locations is usually out the door but moves quickly, thanks to the deft hands of the burrito-istas who slap down cheese, guac, hot sauce, and tasty meat faster than Speedy Gonzales. Don't think quality suffers with velocity, however: The lemony grilled chicken, the spicy carnitas, and the juicy grilled vegetables are as delicioso as the assembly is rápido. 1412 Beacon St., Brookline, MA annastaqueria.com/.
We have a tendency to think of South End Formaggio as a great spot for fancy cheeses, unctuous olive oils, and other hard to find treasures. And it is. But there's plenty more here. The chewy, sesame seed-coated mini ficelle loaves lined with thinly sliced salami and slivers of sharp cheese are a treat you can eat with one hand while you drive home. That'll stop you from snacking on these fancy cheeses you're saving for your dinner guests. 268 Shawmt Ave., Boston, MA southendformaggio.com/.
When it moved into Elephant Walk's old Union Square location, Rauxa had sizable shoes to fill—and lived up to the challenge. Step down into the stark cavern for a sampling of delicious wines (including cava), fresh bread, olives, and impeccable entrees. If you thought tapas and sangria were all Spain had to offer, this new Catalan-style restaurant will change your mind. 70 Union Square, Somerville, MA .
Kill two birds with one stone: Armani Cafe —at the Prime Viewing Central between Fairfield and Exeter — is not only the best place to see other people, it's the best place to be seen in all your sartorial splendor. Required accouterments: cell phone, beeper, head-to-toe black Eurowear, and the Beemer double-parked nearby so all can see you coming and going. The pricey, trendy, yet tasty fare satiates cravings while you watch the creatures of Newbury stroll by. 214 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
With close to 200 herbs and spices to choose from, Harvest remains the wise shopper's best bet. Planning a romantic dinner? In one stop you'll find the cardamom, tumeric, and cilantro for your seductive Chicken Pasanda, and some Damiana herb to help keep the— uh— mood up. Bulk dispensers allow you to buy as much or as little as you need, and the staff is knowledgeable and friendly. 581 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA .
Italian on demand: Stuff the freezer with an assortment of Capone's gnocchi, ravioli, and tortellini, and toss in a couple of containers of vivid pesto and cardiac-crisis Alfredo sauce. Guaranteed, your guests will bicker over the last square of ravioli stuffed with lobster and crab, the last crescent of aged Gouda tortelloni. The three varieties of fresh gnocchi are addictive— black pepper, chive and sweet potato— and all plump up like miniature footballs when you cook them. 14 Bow St., Somerville, MA .
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.
The finest hairstylist isn't always the best wedding hairstylist. Bridal coiffure requires someone with impeccable listening skills, loads of patience (for dealing with your, ahem, entourage), and a knack for creating breathtaking updos. That's where Erik Howard comes in. The Will Charles Salon co-owner knows big-day tresses should be durable enough to withstand iffy weather and the embraces of well-wishers — not to mention dance-floor revelry. 11 Newbury St. , Boston, MA 2116, willcharlessalon.com.
The whole point of brunch is that it's an excuse for indulgence. So why not inject a dash of naughtiness and have it on a weekday? We're talking about industry brunch on Mondays at Starlite, where calling in sick is rewarded with a pile of biscuits and gravy, or the brunch burger (crowned with a fried egg). The crowd, mostly restaurant types shaking off the prior night's last call, won't bat an eye at your request for a second butter-maple bourbon with a chocolate-covered bacon slice. 3 Beacon St., Somerville, MA 2143, trinastarlitelounge.com.
No child's play, this. Christina's ice cream is an acquired and—unless your offspring have preternatural palates—grownup taste. By that we mean green tea. Adzuki bean. Carrot cake. Fresh rose. Herbal chai. Even the standbys generally get an epicurean twist: The vanilla is malted, and the coffee is cappuccino. All of it is homemade, and flavors change with the seasons and the whims of its creators. When's the last time you saw something sweet taken so seriously? 1225 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 2139, christinasicecream.com.
Choosing just one of Hi-Rise's cookies is a little like being forced to choose between your children. The almond macaroons taste like an intense nutty cloud. The oatmeal coconut, studded with whole pecans, are as chewy as can be. But it's the deep, dark chocolate sandwich cookies—more brownielike than crunchy and double-stuffed with an extra scoop of vanilla cream—that truly take the, er, cake. 208 Concord Ave., Cambridge, MA 2138, hi-risebread.com.
If God is indeed in the details, Au Soleil must be nigh holy. The operation gets every last request right, and often adds a few flourishes of its own. That might mean having bartenders shake up pitch-perfect cocktails to order. Or creating entrées that play up your favorite ingredients, or that reflect the seasonal bounty at chef-owner Frank McClelland's Apple Street Farm. Whatever occasion you're having catered, you can count on the eats being divine. 148 Hampden St., Boston, MA 2119, ausoleilcatering.com.
Talk about microbrewing: This Somerville-based enterprise was founded by husband-and-wife team Dann and Martha Paquette, and now employs all of four people to meet an ever-growing demand. Pretty Things' masterful ales are made in tiny batches, with each bottle and keg numbered (and slightly different from the next); the Paquettes even design their own labels. Restaurants and shops can't get enough of Jack D'Or, a dry saison with a touch of hops; or Baby Tree, a quad made with plums. MA
Chef Jeremy Sewall has a family connection to the best crustaceans around: His cousin Mark is a Maine lobsterman. And the best vehicle for his wares just may be Island Creek's lobster roll. Mixed with créme fraîche, dill pickles, and celery salt, the succulent meat is stuffed into a house-made rosemary-flecked roll and sent out to the table bursting at the seams. Take a moment to savor the stunning visual, because it'll be gone before you can say, "Pass the napkins, please." 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2115, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
One bite of this Allston beauty's crisp, pillowy scallion-and-roast-beef pancakes, and you'll never order those sad, green-flecked cardboard slabs from your local Chinese takeout joint again. Here, it's all authentic Taiwanese dishes—like three-cup cuttlefish, spicy beef-noodle soup, and dry-cooked chicken with three peppers—and none of that greasy cream cheese-stuffed crab rangoon or gloppy General Gao's chicken you get elsewhere. 103 Brighton Ave., Allston, MA 2134, jojotaipei.com.