Less than a year old, Wired Puppy's Newbury Street café is smartly taking cues from its sister store in Provincetown. Each cup of tea or coffee is certified organic and fair-trade, and the skilled baristas are happy to discuss the origins of your latte's beans (though if you don't care about pedigree, they're happy to just serve you). WiFi is free, and pooches are welcome on the patio. In short, the drinks are delish, the help is cheerful, and this new spot is—at press time, anyway—still sort of a secret. 250 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, .
Like to eat while on display, with the entire passing world gawking at your menu choices? Pull up a sidewalk seat on Newbury. Prefer to dine discreetly en plein air, where you can focus on the meal, the company, and the cool breezes? Settle in at Harvest's soothing garden retreat, tucked into a hidden nook off Harvard Square. Kick back among the sun-dappled linden trees and order a plate of chef Mary Dumont's salmon with green garlic, or the tea-marinated duck with rhubarb. Then try to decide which is more restorative: the food or the setting. 44 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 2138, harvestcambridge.com.
Huge second-floor bay windows and sky-blue walls make you feel like you're floating int he clouds as your cranium is massaged with soothing-scented liquids. The walls are lined with works by local artists, and the eight barber chairs are spaced comfortably apart in an airy room. But best of all is the zero-attitude, down-to-earth mentality of the stylists. No hippier-than-thou hair bullies here. The staff is friendly and helpful— co-owner Jeffrey cheerfully washes clients' hair; stylish Tonya volunteers techniques for blow-drying tresses to perfection at home. 118 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Great Vietnamese should be the way it is in Vietnam: simple, brimming with sharp flavors, and built with ingredients that shout their freshness. Enter Pho Lemongrass, where a diverse (and bilingual) menu overflows with anise-and-ginger-laced dishes. Pho, the beloved noodle soup of Hanoi, comes steaming in huge bowls and filled with the protein of your choice (the shredded chicken breast is the savory standout; less so, the tripe), and packed with crunchy bean sprouts, lime juice, and chiles. One of the best entrées is vegetarian—the lemongrass tofu, which is heartily textured, spicy, and scattered with peanuts and vegetables so fresh, they might as well have just been plucked from the Mekong Delta. 239 Harvard St., Brookline, MA pholemongrass.com/.
Do your dopey morning brain a favor and resist the impulse to overthink breakfast. We'll make it simple for you. Start with: thick-cut French toast, or some big spongy pancakes. Also: real butter and syrup, and real sugar for that mug of high-test coffee. And, if you must: a few nutritious bits, like turkey-apple sausage and homemade oatmeal. A laid-back diner with laid-back prices and an array of mini meals for the kids, Johnny's does all this better than anyone else in the neighborhood. Which makes this pick a blissful no-brainer. 30 Langley Rd., Newton Centre, MA 2459, .
On the approach—down a dismal stretch of highway, across from a gas station—Evenfall scarcely looks the date-night part. Enter, though, and the picture improves as you discover a space that's cozy but not cramped, dim but not dark. Things get better still with chef Scott Pelletier's seasonal dishes, which are too good not to share; a recent evening saw couples swapping forkfuls of braised Kobe beef cheeks and chestnut ravioli. By the time you're stealing bites of your companion's warm apple strudel, the iffy setting outside feels like a benefit. After all, what's romance without surprise? 8 Knipe Road, Haverhill, MA 1835, evenfallrestaurant.com.
Dainty eaters, beware. Only those with a hankering for a little grease and gobs of pork-addled flavor are able to handle the made-to-order plates at Cambridge's stick-to-your-ribs haven. Sure, the chicken's great, but there's also smoked turkey with collard greens, and bread crumb-encrusted mac and cheese, and silky sweet potatoes, and (the only thing harder than settling on an order here, you'll find, is nabbing one of the few seats). Coast Café may not have much competition in these parts—KFC? Popeyes?—but it could surely hold its own in Dixie. 233 River St., Cambridge, MA 2139, .
Don't write off Olé for its unremarkable exterior. Inside you'll find a peppy atmosphere and Boston's most bona fide Mexican fare: In place of sloppy enchiladas, chef Erwin Ramos serves up inventive plates including tacos de cangrejo, crabmeat tacos with crème fraîche and baby spinach, and costillas de puerco, pork ribs cooked in banana leaves with a chili ancho peanut glaze, which go down even better when accompanied by pitchers of the potent house sangria and bowls of fresh guacamole prepared tableside by friendly waiters. 11 Springfield St., Cambridge, MA 2139, olegrill.com.
With eclectic specials such as the Japanese breakfast (seaweed, pickles, broiled salmon with vegetables, steamed rice, green tea), or the fitness breakfast (yogurt, exotic mushroom frittata, six-grain toast), it's impossible not to find something to please even the pickiest clients. And while the tables are close together, the plush carpet and thickly cushioned chairs make for an unhurried setting. Le Meridien recently spent a little more than $2 million on Cafe Fleuri's renovation, hiring the Parisian interior design firm Pierres-Yves Rochon to create an atmosphere perfect for schmoozing. But you'll have to clinch the deal on your own. Le Meridien Hotel, 250 Franklin St., Boston, MA .
It was the delightful French pixie Amélie who set us on a quest for the perfect, crackable crème brûlée. And it's another sylph, Pigalle pastry chef Stacy Klein (how does she stay so slim?) who's finally delivered it. Klein's creamy custard, infused with sweet corn, is heavenly under a patina of burnt sugar that cracks like glass. Also amazing is her grown-up version of s'mores, toasted á table and paired with milk-chocolate sorbet and candied kumquats. You'll be tempted to skip your main course (but don't!). 75 Charles St. S., Boston, MA pigalleboston.com/.
Male wine collector and female wine collector meet and fall in love. The result? A marriage of private wine cellars that would send any oenophile to the nearest singles bar. The Stonehedge Inn is the lucky home to such a cellar, cultivated by Dawn and Levent Bozkurt. The wine list is an insane document—clearly the work of people who live and breathe the world of wine. There are 15 years of Chateau Latour, including a 1945 bottle for about three thousand dollars. You probably won't find bargains here; what you will find is that wonderful, rare wine you never thought you'd drink in your life. 1160 Pawtucket Blvd., Tygnsboro, MA .
There's very little on the cutting edge of hairstyling that hasn't made its way up north, thanks to Interlocks. This full-service salon and day spa may have a small-town feel, but it boasts a pool of stylists and colorists straight from the Back Bay and beyond. Specialty services include strand-by-strand hair extensions, thermal straightening, and imaging software consultations so you can see your hair in any color, style, and length before you take the plunge. Once you're properly coiffed, head over to one of the massaging thrones in the nail salon for a "Margarita Mango" pedicure. 58 Merrimac St., Newburyport, MA interlockssalon.com/.
Darling details make the difference at Petit Patapon. Whatever best becomes your little one—frilly ruffles, rugged stitching, whimsical embroidery—this organized shop has a stylish stock of it. The daisy-flecked T-shirts come with extra protection from harmful UV-rays. Bright capri pants shine in patterns that veer from funky to frilly. There's plenty of handsome headwear, embroidered denim jumpers, and little linen pants sized to fit everyone from infants to grade-schoolers. Can you blame us for wishing the collection came in bigger sizes? 27 Central St., Wellesley, MA .
Honesty and patience aren't traits typically associated with an auto body shop. But George's takes the pain out of taking out the dents, with fair prices and work so good you'll never know your car was damaged. They won't patronize or hurry you (they even close for lunch at noon), and the shop is a short walk away from the Needham MBTA commuter line. If they're busy, try Ken's Auto Body next door. It has both the same ownership and the same old-fashioned work ethic. 238 rear near Chestnut St., Needham, MA georgesautobodyservice.com/.
What may be the South Shore's most fetching dining room (white tablecloths, cherry hardwood floors, plaid banquettes, soothing antique prints) now sports an equally alluring menu. Chef Andrea Schnell, an alumna of Duxbury's Windsor House, whips up newfangled, delectable New England favorites. The sweet, juicy tuna with chile vinaigrette alone is worth a visit. All's not perfect: The service here still needs work, and on some busy nights delivery can be slow. But between the convivial atmosphere and the pretty room, there's no better place to kill those extra minutes. 150 North St., Hingham, MA thesquarecafe.com/.