We love a salon with cushy sofas and lemon water, but those details mean nothing if the stylists aren't hair-care experts. Most Mellie employees have 10-plus years of experience — but more important, we left feeling fab after a stylist turned our awkward layers into a look we couldn't wait to debut. 376 Granite Ave., Milton, MA 2186, melliehairsalon.com.
Fancy-schmancy menus that focus more on mimosas than food? Feh. When we crave brunch, there's no better place than Zaftigs West. Though the breakfast menu is offered all day — and night — our favorite time to gorge ourselves on banana-stuffed bourbon-vanilla French toast; buttermilk pancakes with strawberries; smoked fish; and a multitude of scrambles, hashes, and omelets is on a weekend afternoon, when the service is especially laid-back and friendly. 1298 Worcester St. (Rte. 9), Natick, MA 1760, zaftigs.com.
Though the restaurant is in a strip mall, its interior is all dark wood, banquettes, and candlelit conversation—the Left Bank, via Route 9. After enjoying dishes like filet au poivre, blissfully heavy on the cognac crème, it's easy to forget where you are...until you spill out the door and into a parking lot. Our advice? Postpone the inevitable, and stick around for a digestif. 500 Legacy Pl., Dedham, MA 2026, aquitainededham.com.
When we walked through the door and spied the ceviche and raw bar, we were infatuated. When we climbed the staircase and saw the packed, boisterous tequila bar, we were besotted. But once we took a sip of the hibiscus margarita laced with fresh lime and chili salt, it was a full-on love affair. It may not be the scene-iest spot on the island (that would be the Pearl), nor the most debaucherous (the Chicken Box). But Corazón's good looks and charming vibe have completely stolen our hearts. 215 Water St., Nantucket, MA 2554, corazonnantucket.com.
Once we were commitment-shy (dare we say promiscuous?) when it came to hair colorists—one specialist after another, never settling down. Then we met Lyle, and it was love at first highlight. While especially skillful at brightening blondes, he's made our brunette, redhead, and raven-haired pals happy, too. And despite his fancy address, Lyle's chairside manner is appropriately meticulous, never fussy. Emerge Spa & Salon, 275 Newbury St., Boston, MA emergespasalon.com.
Brow shaping may seem like a skill you can pick up from the average beauty mag. Alas—overplucked arches as our witness—it's not. The pros at LuxLash advise clients on the style that will most flatter their face, and then use wax, tweezers, and even hair extensions to create it. Thanks to cushy furnishings and Billie Holiday warbling in the background, the experience is surprisingly relaxing. Even more soothing is knowing you'll never have to endure growing out a do-it-yourself disaster again. 232 Newbury St., Boston, MA luxlash.com.
We feel pretty—and fizzy and funny and fine—every time we enter Brooke Garber and Stephanie Nist's boutiques. They stock the fete-ready dresses we've come to expect, plus pieces from favorite brands like Yumi Kim, Myne, and Milly that inject style into our workaday and weekend wardrobes, too. The fact that we can build whole outfits here, from foundations (neon Hanky Panky thongs) to finishing touches (flirty JoJo earrings), makes Mint Julep worth toasting. 1302 Beacon St., Brookline, MA shopmintjulep.com.
When our test vehicle went in, it was encrusted with mud, pollen, tree buds, and bird droppings. When it came out, it looked like it had just rolled off the assembly line. These guys attack each car with painstaking indvidual attention, all for just $7.25 for an exterior wash ($6 with a fill-up at the adjacent pumps); they even shine the rear-view mirror. Here, "hand-dried" doesn't mean a halfhearted swipe with a dirty towel, either. There's usually a line, but the wait is worth it. 434 Cambridge Street, Allston, MA theirving.com/.
Owners Tom and Mary Prince are not only gracious hosts, they're also obsessive about their food: beautifully executed Italian fare that features light-as-air Neapolitan-style pizza crusts, hand-cut tagliatelle and pappardelle, and homemade sauces (we're talking 'roast-our-own-tomatoes' homemade). The Italian-heavy wine list and the servers' well-informed chatter make you feel—just for a minute—that you're closer to Firenze than Framingham. 154 Turnpike Rd., Southborough, MA 1772, tomassotrattoria.com.
Dining at a lively North End restaurant doesn't have to mean slurping spaghetti in tight quarters. In fact, Antico Forno is spacious enough to accommodate a weeknight impulse visit, family in tow. The thin-crusted pizzas from the brick oven are divine (our favorite is topped with artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and white truffle oil), as are hearty pasta dishes like linguine baked in parchment with tomato sauce and a generous serving of shellfish. 93 Salem St., Boston, MA 2113, anticofornoboston.com.
When this newly revamped sushi hot spot introduced a weekend-only, late-night menu, we put it into our regular post-party rotation. With its umami-packed ramen topped with barbecued eel; blistery bonito-topped shishito peppers; soft, unctuous pork-belly buns; and deep-fried hot dogs with miso-mustard sauce and pickled vegetables, Uni provides us with an excellent excuse for sleeping till noon on Sunday. 370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 2215, unisashimibar.com.
We've been known, on those perfect 72-degree days, to work an "emergency" business lunch at Sam's into our schedule. Neither Newbury Street's sidewalk cafés nor Cambridge's funky hidden patios can match the scenic respite from the daily grind that this Seaport gem delivers. And considering the crowds on the huge, sun-drenched deck—noshing on polished yet unfussy fare (like the tomato-marmalade BLT)—it seems we're not the only ones who've caught on. 60 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 2110, samsatlouis.com.
Don't let the hairnets scare you: This Union Square joint is the closest you'll find to authentic Tex-Mex in Boston. It even saved one of our friends from moving back to the land of the Rio Grande. The red peppers and zucchini used for the veggie burros are grilled to a juicy crispness while you watch. Don't miss the fabulous homemade corn tortillas! 247 Washington Street, Somerville, MA cantinalamexicana.com.
Back during the NCAA basketball tournament, we spent an afternoon at the Remy's near Fenway. It almost broke our head. It wasn't just that there were a zillion TVs, but that the two biggest ones over the bar were 11 feet long. (That's, like, two Dustin Pedroias!) With an exceptional beer list and more-than-good-enough food, there's no place better to spend NFL Sunday, college football Saturday, or, really, any day. 1265 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2215, jerryremys.com.
With the doors at UpStairs at the Pudding closed, we've turned to another gem for outside dining. Just sitting in Harvest's enclosed, shaded garden patio off Brattle Street provokes daydreams—and offers the evidence that this Harvard Square institution has entered the millennium with style and good service. Chef Josh Foley's everchanging menu is burgeoning with New England ingredients (if there are scallops on the menu, order them) that are as fresh as the patio's air, and make us happy the management extends our unreliable warm seasons with powerful gas heaters. 44 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA harvestcambridge.com/.