Windex-starved mirrors line the walls of this snug Vietnamese joint. Maybe it looked less silly around Y2K. Now? We forgive—nay, embrace—the campy environs once our lips hit the steaming bowls of bò kho (slow-cooked beef stew). Like its tableside bottles of sriracha, Pho 2000 is a kitschy vessel full of awesomely kicky flavor. 198 Adams St., Dorchester, MA 02122, pho2000boston.com.
Pini Swissa identified our hair dilemma immediately—lose the bulk around the crown that grows in bushy after a week, he advised. This is the man who styles Tom Brady, after all, so he should know. A close fade on the side nicely transitioned into a fuller top that looks great when styled with a bit of product, or parted and slicked for formal occasions. No one mistook us for Mr. Ba¼ndchen afterward, but we did receive a few long glances while strolling down Newbury Street. 18 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116, piniswissa.com.
When it comes to pie, we like our hand-pressed crusts substantial and loaded to the brink with butter. So too does Petsi, and the Somerville and Cambridge shops augment their expertly sound pie foundations with just-as-serious fillingsblueberries with a big boost of cinnamon, say, or a bourbon-chocolate-pecan combination that makes for an irresistibly decadent wedge. 285 Beacon St., Somerville; and other locations, petsipies.com.
This little Charles Street stationer is a dream for do-it-yourselfers, packed as it is with almost 300 kinds of handmade papers (and a wall of grosgrain ribbon wheels for good measure). Forget-the-hassle types, on the other hand, can peruse the more than 30 card lines, from the august Crane's to quirky newcomer Blonde. For business cards or note cards, Bob Slate's would get the nod, but Rugg Road's intimate, cheerful vibe makes it our hands-down pick for anyone looking to celebrate life's announcement-worthy occasions. 105 Charles St., Boston, MA 2114, ruggroadpaper.com.
When we notices our Martha Stewart-wannabe friends actually leaving the city to buy their shantungs and chintzes, the answer was clear: for price, selection, and service, The Fabric Place wins hems-down. Whether you need custom drapes or bias tape, the knowledgeable staff make the superstore feel like Oleson's Mercantile, minus obnoxious Nellie. 136 Howard St., Framingham, MA .
Think all Thai restaurants in Bosotn are serving from the same kitchen? This Fenway spot is a welcome departure from bland curries and soggy pad thais. The dinner roster is absolutely enormous, featuring a dozens of noodles dishes and a vast selection of seafood oddities; our favorite is "Fisherman Madness," a fresh and spicy combo of crustaceans and filets. The ambiance is relaxed, making Brown Sugar perfect for dining solo or entertaining a blind date. 1033 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA brownsugarcafe.com.
When we're feeling pinched, we direct our dollars to brasseries, where New England frugality meets Gallic joie de boeuf. And voila: a first-rate steak for one-third the price. At Gaslight, the excellent steak frites plate consists of pan-charred Brandt Farms bavette, crispy fries, and a boat of buttery béarnaise, and costs just $19.75. 560 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 2118, gaslight560.com.
If only every produce section at every grocery store were like Siena Farms' bounty of chemical-free heirloom vegetables, fragrant herbs, and tender greens picked just that morning. Instead, we spend all winter staring glumly at the waterlogged iceberg at our supermarket and counting the days until farmer Chris Kurth opens up his stand at Copley Square. It's not just the quality, but the variety of his goods—all displayed with tips on how to prepare and serve them—that keeps us coming back. 113 Haynes Rd., Sudbury, MA 1776, sienafarms.com.
This newcomer—which shares space with Cafe Tango, in Somerville—goes way beyond boring crullers and plain old glazed, offering a roster of flavors like chocolate chipotle, brown butter-hazelnut crunch, and orange-ginger cream. Sorry, Dunkin'—we'll be taking our doughnuts with a side of locally sourced frosting from now on. 16 Bow St., Somerville, MA .
Among the numerous suitors vying for our affections in this category, it's the South End phenom Gaslight that's romanced us best. The booming brasserie gets the vintage Parisian accents exactly right, and serves up skillfully swizzled cocktails and well-executed bistro fare (classics like choucroute garni and onion soup gratiné, plus stunning fruits de mer platters) at a price guaranteed to bring out the bon vivant in any Bostonian. 560 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 2118, gaslight560.com.
The better story would have been that finally, in this, the year of the cow, one among the city's numerous new upscale meateries had managed to dethrone our 14-time Best of Boston stalwart. Nothing doing. Mooo inherited the Federalist's matchless wine list. KO Prime has the best offal around. But for a prime, dry-aged rib-eye with a power client (downstairs) or a significant other (the more intimate upstairs), Grill 23 still rules the herd. 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 2116, grill23.com.
It's rare that we actually enjoy waiting for our entrées to arrive. But at Mezé we could hang around all night, happily feasting on tasty mezethakia (small plates) like spanakopita, stuffed peppers, and souzoukakia (meatballs) and enjoying a stunning view of the Zakim Bridge. The menu features such classics as grilled sea bass, dressed simply with fresh oregano, lemon, and sea salt, and an earthy moussaka (lamb-and-eggplant casserole) that manages to be hearty, not heavy. 100 City Sq., Charlestown, MA .
Whether it's delivering the pork, hiking the minimum wage, extending health care benefits to the poor, or working behind the scenes on the Fleet-BankBoston merger and the Patriots stadium deal, our hyperactive senior senator hasn't stopped running for reelection since 1994. Which is why, come next year, his Republican challenger-whoever the poor fool may be—will be wearing a blindfold, smoking a cigarette, and saying his last words.
After tenures at Sage and eat, chef Nick Speros has migrated north from Boston and opened 197 East Main. If you're smart, you'll follow him. Tuck into the rib-eye or native halibut, and you'll see what we mean. The seafood is fresh off the Gloucester day boats and the rich entrées come with tender vegetables that provide the perfect textural contrast. Speros wanders the dining room to get his guests' reactions firsthand. Our feedback? Keep up the good work. 197 East Main St., Gloucester, MA .
Occupying the better part of a nondescript strip mall on Route 114, Giblees has attire for every manly occasion: golf, work, weekends, and formal affairs—plus a pool table and coffee bar for gents who need a break from the dressing room. Assistance is available but never forced—our inquiry about a birthday bow tie for a super-stylish pal yielded a drawer full of dapper options. 85 Massachusetts 114, Danvers, MA 1923, giblees.com.