It wasn't long ago that even parties of two were forced to wait in the long line that formed nightly outside Olives. These days, with a new reservations policy, getting in is a snap; even large groups can be accommodated—at either the communal table in the main dining groom or in the private room out back. The notoriously hearty dishes make for easy sharing. And the affable servers, who know the food and wine menus inside and out, can help your group navigate from tortelli of butternut squash pasta to crispy duck l'orange to vanilla bean soufflé. 10 City Square, Charlestown, MA cheftoddenglish.com.
If it's good enough for Julia Child, it's good enough for us. Sure, it's bigger than your average farmstand, and the weekend traffic on quiet Pleasant Street can be a drag. But the Wilson family has been growing fresh produce since 1884 and selling it to the public for the past 50 years—long before yuppies discovered mesclun, and before the pan-Asian trend gave bok choy its buzz. More than 30 acres in Lexington and 250 in New Hampshire fuel the retail shop, where every conceivable fruit and vegetable is available, not to mention flowers and plants and a full menu of prepared foods, cheeses, condiments and baked goods. 10 Pleasant St., Lexington, MA .
American Seasons co-owner Orla Murphy LaScola greets patrons with a charming Irish brogue as she seats them on the cool, inviting porch or in the warm, rustic dining room. Wherever they sit, they're in for a treat: Chef-owner Michael LaScola's creations—which include such delights as fried oyster and rare beef salad with mustard greens and orange, and blackberry-anise bomb—are seasonally inspired and beautifully executed. Dine here during a weekend getaway, and you'll soon find yourself studying ferry schedules just to plot your next feast. 80 Centre St., Nantucket Island, MA 2554, americanseasons.com.
You know the scenario: (1) Every pot crashes to the floor as you reach for that little-used cake pan. (2) You swear you'll reorganize the kitchen as soon as you're done baking. (3) You never get around to it. (4) Repeat during your next cooking attempt. None of that would happen with an Arclinea kitchen, because those Italians have thought of everything: deep, customizable drawers instead of awkward, traditional cabinets; hidden but oh-so-useful electrical outlets; and, of course, a look that will make you the envy of every foodie in town.
An interior designer would call it classic modernism; we call it sleekness without pretense. However you describe Dennis Duffy's characteristic geometric lines and striking color combinations, you'd know them in an instant. Distinctive and original are the two adjectives uttered by nearly every client of Duffy Design Group, which was the team responsible for the livable luxury that is Manny Ramirez's Ritz-Carlton penthouse (but is just as happy to help Jane and Joe Suburb renovate their living space). Duffy has mastered the most delicate balancing act of all: divining clients' needs, yet supplying enough style to fill a house. 1313 Washington St., Suite 505, Boston, MA .
If tripping over midcentury treasures is your idea of a good time, then you'll party like it's 1959 in this 9,000-square-foot showroom where Charles and Ray Eames are alive and well. Encompassing hundreds of pieces from the 1930s through the 1970s by Italian, French, Scandinavian, and U.S. designers, Machine Age may have a few items that creep you out a little (hey, wasn't that easy chair in Uncle Morty's living room two decades ago?), but for aficionados, shopping here feels so much more right than shelling out for those Design Within Reach repros. 645 Summer St., Boston, MA 2210, machine-age.com.
Dock all the points you like for the pricey beer, seasonal setup, and occasional 'Ya Mo B There' booking, and this harborside venue with the graceful sail-like tent and stunning skyline backdrop still posts the winning score. Wide aisles give the B of A's 5,000 seats serious elbow room, while nine jumbo TVs ensure everyone gets an eyeful of the onstage action. Even if you believe the Roxy has the more intimate and interesting space, and the House of Blues (provided it sprays for tourists first) is coming on as a contender, you'd still have to concede that with the right band on the right night, the Pavilion is nothing short of a concertgoer's nirvana. 290 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 2210, bankofamericapavillion.net.
Sadly, the rediscovery of the cocktail culture has perverted the once noble activity of drinking, reducing it to a runway show for an unfortunate breed of baseball cap-sporting frat rats, who choke on cigars, while wincing through martinis. The lounge at Frank's Steak House, in North Cambridge, is sufficiently off the beaten path to attract the fully grown who really enjoy the basics—conviviality, entertainment, and, of course, booze. The rat-packy lounge is free of the smarmy irony that characterizes some of the Johnny-Come-Lately cocktail spots; Frank's has been open since 1938, and some of the patrons look as though they've been glued to their barstools since opening day. 2310 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA .
Next Wednesday about 10 o'clock, shake yourself out of your TV-induced stupor and set out for Central Square. when you spot the Cantab, take a sharp right through the door, go down a narrow staircase, and for a measly three bucks you'll discover a world of beer-drinking word lovers who are out to rescue poetry from the mannered monotone of more civilized readings. The poetry is usually impressive if not ground-breaking (as those present at the premiere of Patricia Smith and Michael Holly's collaborative "Funk 101" can attest) and always energetically rendered. And you may even get to judge. 738 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA .
With its three venues—the Cutler Majestic, the Paramount Mainstage, and the Jackie Liebergott Black Box—ArtsEmerson certainly dominates the Theater District, but its artistic reach goes far beyond the city. This year, executive director Rob Orchard landed the following: Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, reimagined by Brooklyn company Mabou Mines; a musical about the Shakers called Angel Reapers, co-conceived by Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur grant winners; and The Speaker's Progress, which used Shakespeare's Twelfth Night as the basis for a satire about the Arab Spring. The organization's biggest coup, though, was convincing Cambridge's reclusive John Malkovich to star as a serial killer in The Infernal Comedy. artsemerson.org.
Preen under the sunlit umbrellas, lounge with an icy, rum-laced banana mama, and watch the Portofino-meets-Prudential scene unfold. The Colonnade's rooftop pool itself may not be much bigger than your average backyard version, but its entertainment factor is larger than life. Besides, where else can city dwellers count Speedos, nosh on croque monsieur, and watch as a gigantic steel plank is hoisted to the top of an abutting building site—all while floating on their backs? Be warned: Sybaritic city escapes don't come cheap. Nonmembers pay a $22 entrance fee ($27 on Fridays). 120 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA colonnadehotel.com/roof_top_pool/.
The patio out front (and back!), freshly baked pastries, and satisfying sandwiches make this our go-to place to chill in the South End. 275 Shawmut Ave., South End, MA 2118, wholygrain.com.
Owner Mary Brenda Cortell gets our nod for both her commitment to local artists and her good taste. 127 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
And the consensus of our panel was that owner-manager Bill Barber is the most knowledgeable cheese man in the area. 29 Walden St., Concord, MA .
There's a tendency toward New Wave here, but owner Mark Ostrovsky still managed to outfit several of our editors with dinner jackets for an evening. 273 Newbury St., Boston, MA .