A moment of silence, please, for the newly shuttered Sports Depot in Allston, at one time the only true sports bar (thanks to its 70 TVs and $9.99 Sunday brunch) this town could claim. Left to fill its shoes are several bars near Fenway and the FleetCenter, but only the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse offers the requisite coziness and camaraderie every sports bar needs. Trivia Night on Mondays draws a packed house, while 22 TVs and 36 microbrews to choose from keep the energy high. Now if it could just lose the annoying 90-minute table limit. 309 Harvard St., Brookline, MA thecoolidgecornerclubhouse.com.
You can almost taste the sun rising again on the British Empire in your first sip of this bracing, gin-loaded cocktail. By the second dry sip, you're convinced you may actually have been an English general in a former life. By the third, after surveying the Bristol Lounge's sprawling marble grandeur, giant palms, and elegant service, you're convinced you're an English general right now. And by the fourth potent sip, alas, you have no idea what the British Empire is. All this from a few ounces of gin, dry vermouth, and cocktail onions, served chilly and gracefully, old chap. Four Seasons Hotel, 200 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
You could go to Buzz just for the bartenders—they're pure eye candy, completely unpretentious (nice, even), and they pour a stiff drink. Or, you could go for the DJs, who spin a hip-pulsing blend of pop, dance, and techno. You could even go for the shower of glitter, or the scores of cute boys on the prowl, donning muscle shirts and designer jeans. But we say go for all of the above on Saturday's gay night, when this Theater District hideaway becomes a two-story playground for dancers, gawkers, loungers, and anyone else looking for a fun night out. 67 Stuart St., Boston, MA .
The Coolidge, with its impressive lineup of indie features, gives film bluffs a place to call home. Adding to the charm: a new art-deco inspired marquee, a throwback to the picture houses of old. With a stellar schedule of surprise hits (Monsoon Wedding) and midnight movie series ("80s Midnite Movie Explosion," "We Love John Cusack!"), the nonprofit theater gets extra kudos for supporting local filmmakers and creative programming. This year's special guest appearances have been attention-getting, too: The Indepenent's Janeane Garofalo and Jerry Stiller, director John Sayles, and the controversial Tammy Faye Bakker Mesner. Now, that's what we call entertainment. 290 Harvard St., Brookline, MA coolidge.org/.
"Dyke Night" at the Midway Café in Jamaica Plain is, as the name so subtly suggests, geared toward lesbians. Still, it's a credit to Dyke Night Productions, which puts on this Thursday night party, that you don't have to like girls (in that way) to have a raucous time at this small neighborhood bar. DJs Kevin McCarthy (pop, disco funk) and Mix Mistress (vocal house, pop, hip-hop) rotate weeks at the turntables, and Dyke Night attracts so many attractive women that you may just wish you were a lesbian. 3496 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, MA midwaycafe.com/.
Let the Lycra-wrapped hordes swarm Lansdowne Street. The real action is around the block at Sophia's, where a beautiful and diverse crowd can be found jumping around on any of the three floors. Not into the bump-and-grind, Miami-style Latin sound on the main floor or in the basement lounge? Then hit the first floor, pick a stranger to share a pitcher of sangria, and your salsa impulses will no doubt kick in with a little help from the live band. Those who prefer a more mellow scene head to the rooftop—the building's courtship nucleus—to let the sweeping view of the city and soft music work their matchmaking magic. 1270 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
Inside this family-run warehouse are miles of floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with almost any book you desire. Even better, the staff not only finds what you're looking for in a flash, but also will give you a review (and quickly order books that aren't in stock). We could spend all day in the expanded remainders section, or leafing through the great selection of cookbooks. New hardcovers are discounted 20 to 30 percent. It may look like a no-frills kind of place, but the Book Fair will even gift-wrap your purchase. 82-84 Needham St., Newton, MA nebookfair.com/.
A joint venture with Rykodisc, indie label Slow River was started in 1995 out of head honcho George Howard's Providence apartment. Now headquartered in Salem, Slow River releases some of the most impressive sounds around, from the bluesy growl of Chuck E. Weiss (the album was produced by Weiss' buddy Tom Waits) to the emotional ballads of the Willard Grant Conspiracy, which is popular in Europe. (Really.) Keep your ears open for up-and-comers such as Josh Rouse and Richard Buckner—they're sure to be making the radio rotations soon.
A huge industrial loft in Woburn, the Boston Rock Gym is carpeted with 20 tons of chopped-up car tires, the walls are studded with tiny gargoyles, dinosaurs, and rocklike footholds, and the place looks like a preppy torture chamber. One of the best-equipped climbing gyms in all of New England, the rock gym has 30 different climbing routes of varying complexity, ranging from beginner to impossible. Check out Hades—a bouldering cave in which climbers hang upside down, suspended by their fingers and toes—as well as the Treadwall (imagine a treadmill that's a vertical wall). Patient instructors keep an eye out for your safety and offer group classes and individual instruction. 78G Olympia Ave., Woburn, MA .
Puffy's not the best shopping companion: drooling on merchandise, constantly demanding attention, invading strangers' personal space. Any place that overlooks —welcomes, even—such unseemly habits scores big with us. This year Polka Dog expanded to accommodate its lines of animal gear with voluminous bins of squeaky cupcakes and rubber telephones, walls of collars, piles of beds, and accessories for literal clothes hounds. As if all that weren't enough, there's the popular buffet of inventive edibles, for when your guests' shoes are no longer an option: liver chips, salmon coins, and catnip "pawbreakers" for delicate breeds; cow thigh bones for those with heartier appetites. 256 Shawmut Ave., Boston, MA polkadog.com.
Anatomy of a Winner: Whether you're shopping for an elegant dinner party or a simple weeknight meal, you're sure to find a bevy of options at this Somerville meat specialist. That's because the butchers here break down whole animals to create a variety of tasty cuts. Here's how they carved up a Berkshire/Yorkshire hybrid pig. 1. Pig head, for an adventurous crowd. 2. Boneless pork loin, which is perfect for roasts. 3. House-ground sweet Italian sausage. 4. Garlic-and-thyme sausage farce, for making stuffing. 5. Pig skin, for frying into cracklings. 6. Rolled porchetta, filled with garlic and herbs. 201A Highland Ave., Somerville, MA mfdulock.com.
Tony Maws has made a name for himself with the meaty inventiveness of his dinner menu, and his brunch menu reflects that same ethos. Oft-changing dishes include rabbit ragout layered with smooth, creamy grits; tender roasted veal and cheese pressed into a gooey sandwich; and beef cheek, brisket, and tongue tossed into a savory hash and served alongside onion rings. Equal attention is paid to items bubbly and sweet, like the ever-changing "Sunday Sparkler" cocktail and the luxurious house-made doughnuts drizzled with thick caramel sauce. 853 Main St., Cambridge, MA craigieonmain.com.
How do we love thee, Dok Bua? We love the Thai-American comfort food you so expertly turn out (the gloriously delicious pad see ew; the rich, spicy-sweet pineapple curry). We also can't get enough of your more-authentic dishes, like the miang kum—an ultraflavorful combination of dried shrimp, toasted coconut, peanuts, lime, ginger, and tamarind sauce served with spinach leaves for wrapping—and the wonderfully dense steamed egg with ground pork, which comes topped with loads of cilantro. But most of all we love that we can always expect everything to taste as fresh as can be. 411 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 2446, dokbua-thai.com.
Tony Maws isn't one of those chefs who tries to make it look easy. In his new Central Square digs, the open kitchen takes center stage, providing an unobstructed view of exactly how that (Vermont organic) lamb three ways and (Maine dayboat) halibut get onto the plate. Maws even spells out his principles on the Craigie website, including 'First we find the ingredients, then we create the menu'—which means that every day he's sourcing what's local, in season, and, for the most part, organic. By degrees, Maws takes it further than anyone else in town, and his work is your reward. 853 Main St., Cambridge, MA 2139, craigieonmain.com.
Talk about knowing your audience. With its giant bucket of crayons on the hostess stand and army of highchairs standing at the ready, this seafood favorite not only welcomes tots with open arms—there's even a balloon sculptor and free sundaes on Sunday evenings—but it also serves the grownups in tow some very respectable chow (think ceviche and wood-grilled lobster). The latter accommodation, in fact, nudged the Summer Shack ahead of perennial pick Full Moon, which, while wonderful for its party vibe and fully stocked play area, keeps the food on the so-simple-you-could've-made-it-at-home side. 149 Alewife Brook Pkwy., Cambridge, MA 2140, summershackrestaurant.com.