Perhaps the best answer to what defines the Cambridge experience, The Charles Hotel is the epitome of understated elegance. Sure, The Charles has all the amenities one would expect from a first-class hotel (health club, plush towels, in-room computer portals), but it also has a combination of "extras" that take it over the top in our book: the Regattabar (the best place to hear live jazz in town); incredibly private rooms (you'll have no idea you even have neighbors, the walls are so thick); and even a library form which patrons can check out anything from Iris Murdoch novels to cookbooks. For a real splurge, the presidential suite, which has been enjoyed by the likes of Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda, is the way to go: With its own kitchen, baby grand piano, two bathrooms, and entertainment center, you'll never want to go home again. 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, MA charleshotel.com/.
The more private a space is, the more luxury it deserves. Enter Waterworks, a shrine to beautiful bathrooms whose Newbury Street shop and Boston Design Center showroom are filled with tasteful and functional bathtubs, sinks, vanities, storage units, whirlpools for two, old-fashioned footed tubs, and a collection of stylish fixtures crafted out of porcelain, metal, and glass. Soaps, delicately scented with everything from soft florals to clean citruses, are crisply packaged in perfect rows. There are more than a dozen fluffy and absorbent towel patterns to choose from, deliciously thick bathrobes and slippers, and our favorite: a firm terry-cloth—covered headrest for those times when you need to soak for a really, really long time. 103 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
In a business more fickle than the entertainment industry, chef Todd English proves that talent equals staying power. When he first blipped onto our radar in 1989 with the opening of Olives in Charlestown, we knew he was going to change the culinary landscape of this town permanently. What we didn't expect was that we'd have to share him with the rest of the world. English is now the proprietor of 13 restaurants in seven cities, from Aspen to Tel Aviv. Amazingly, quality has never suffered: The butternut squash tortelli at Olives is still the same wondrous combination of rich and rustic flavors, and the pizzas at Figs are still funky and delicious as ever. English is unafraid to take risks: His newest spot, Kingfish Hall in Quincy Market, is enlivening the touristy food scene with its creative takes on New England staples and its fun atmosphere. How does he do it? The man's got the gift. Thanks for feeding us so well, Todd. We're still hungry for more. 10 City Square, Charlestown, MA toddenglish.com.
Ida Goldstein brings contemporary colors and lines to traditional Boston. 16 Munnings Drive, Sudbury, MA .
Even a lowly Toyota can sidle up to Kathleen Sullivan Alioto's Rolls-Royce here. Boston School Committee, 26 Court St., MA .
Bronson Alcott's utopia here failed, but the idyllic setting won't fail to please.
Call her the nail whisperer: Having notched 20 years on Newbury, Rak can tame even the scraggliest, most ill-behaved digits into a groomed and gleaming set. 38 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, .
<p>The life span of most nightclubs is short, largely because crowd loyalties tend to change about as often as the Republican candidate for governor. Fortunately, however, that fact has always kept the city's impresarios on their toes. Local club owners know that to make it, they've got to make it happen. With clean sight lines and state-of-the-art acoustics. Or an interior that's as sleek as it is comfortable. Or a consistently solid lineup. Or the right kind of crowd.</p> <p>Club managers Sam Marcus, Robert Gregory, and Chloe Sachs have put together all those elements—under the same roof, no less—at Nightstage, an upscale Cambridge music room that opened a day after Hurricane Gloria, and with all the storm's gusto, last September.</p> <p>Six years ago, Sachs, a devoted fan of the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, sensed a blues revival coming and gambled on it. "Our basic love was the blues," says Sachs. "But we were tired of seeing the acts we wanted to see in such grody conditions."</p> <p>According to Sachs, the concept behind Nightstage, located at 823 Main Street, was "to create a comfortable and sophisticated space in which to hear the music we wanted to hear and to attract the kind of crowd we wanted to attract—namely, people in their middle twenties and older." Six years later the reality is exactly that.</p> <p>Although Nightstage—a two-level room coated in muted lavender, taupe, and gray with recessed lighting, wall-to-wall carpeting, and a mahogany bar—is arguably the best-dressed club in the area, its real success has hinged on the breadth of its nightly (except Monday) performance schedule.</p> <p>Since opening, Nightstage has attracted top names in blues (Memphis Slim, Sippie Wallace, Albert King), jazz (Sun Ra, Carla Bley), folk (Leo Kottke), Latin (Tito Puente), pop (Girls' Night Out), and bluegrass (Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys), plus local talents like the Screaming Coyotes.</p> <p>Says Sachs: "The best part of it all has been the diversity of the crowds and the music we've been able to pull in. We feel that culturally we have really given something to the city, and that's been incredibly gratifying."</p>
Steep hillsides, storm-surge zones, and ill-placed parking areas are no problem for LeBlanc Jones, which relies on native plantings—not to mention a vast understanding of local terrain conditions—to create swoon-worthy gardens, terraces, and courtyards. Boston, MA leblancjones.com.
The Premier Restaurant, 1130 Washington St., Roxbury, remains this city's premier Jewish deli. One taste of its cabbage soup, kasha varnishkes or corned beef sandwiches (with Russian dressing and coleslaw) and Yassar Arafat would enlist in the JDL. 1130 Washington St., Roxbury, MA .
It has overcome the hotel bar stereotype—that of the elevator music-themed nightcap—and regularly packs in a crush of yuppies and guests. Dim lighting and Azure chef Robert Fathman's specialty liquors provide all the courage you need to sidle up to the eye candy from room 202. 61 Exeter St., Boston, MA 2116, citybarboston.com.
At the Ayurvedic Rehabilitation Center in Brighton, Loretta Levitz practices in the 5,000-year-old Indian ayurved tradition, which uses herbs and other means to bring the body into balance. Although she specializes in severe and chronic illness, much of Levitz's work is devoted to developing herbal, nutritional, and spiritual "lifestyle" plans for her clients. 103 Bennett St., Brighton, MA .
It's strange to refer to a 35-foot-tall sculpture as a "hidden" gem, but this bronze-and-copper marvel (originally created by Italian-Jewish sculptor Arrigo Minerbi in tribute to the Catholic order that harbored him during the Holocaust) seems to inhabit a world of its own from its hillside Orient Heights perch. Those who make the pilgrimage will be rewarded with breathtaking city views—and handy proximity to Belle Isle for an après-awe lobster roll. 150 Orient Ave., East Boston, MA 02128, .
The contagious only-in-a-karaoke-bar camaraderie at Charlie's has crooners of all ages forgoing television remotes in favor of their own version of American Idol. During the always entertaining Tuesday night ham-fests, gleefully off-key patrons cover everything from frizzy '80s power ballads such as "Don't Stop Believin'' to campy oldies like Peggy Lee's "Fever." There's no prize for the best cover at this diner-bar; thankfully, there are no incoherent ramblings from Paula Abdul, either. 10 Eliot St., Cambridge, MA 2138, charlieskitchen.com.
This gorgeously untarnished world of sweeping dunes and fresh Atlantic air is about as idyllic as nature gets. That may seem to be true of many Cape shorelines, but this one stands out from others for its spectacular and endless stretches of perfectly undisturbed white sand. With nary a touch of human architecture for miles, this slip of coast also provides a view of the sunrise that approaches the sublime. Rte. 6, Truro, MA .