We deferred to our readers here. "Softer than Eagerman's," one wrote on her ballot. "So fresh out of the oven they'll burn your hands," said another. "I'd kill for an Al Jaffe's onion bagel," vowed still another. When we checked it out for ourselves, we found our voters' taste unimpeachable. 285 Harvard St., Brookline, MA .
Whatever your particular fetish—prim Lanvin flats, foot-high Louboutins—Barney's indulgent 3,200-square-foot shoe space is the ultimate playground. (In the year since it opened, we've officially kicked our persistent online footwear-buying habit.) Did we mention sizes are rarely unavailable here? On those few occasions when you can't immediately find your desired style, chances are that it exists somewhere in the Barneys universe, and a helpful associate will be able to track down said pair long before withdrawal sets it. Copley Place, Boston, MA barneys.com.
It's easy to forget, in our world of PDAs and ADD, that drawn-out dining can be a thing of delight. Everything at this hotel restaurant, from its jacket-and-tie requirement and exacting service down to its immaculate china and crystal settings, speaks to a serious attention to detail. The Gallic-inspired menu spotlights delicacies such as Long Island duck breast with melon-basil salad, beef tenderloin with pea purée, and iced Key lime soufflé. And at the end of your leisurely meal, should you find yourself too stuffed to drive home, you can wend your way upstairs for a stay in one of Blantyre's opulent suites. 16 Blantyre Rd., Lenox, MA 1240, .
The Minuteman Bikeway may seem the obvious choice for bike enthusiasts, but it's too straight for our taste. A good bike path needs some twists and turns, with long, empty stretches of solitude and glimpses of the city skyline. Only the Esplanade provides all that. The paths along the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge are usually so packed they require complete attention, but once you reach Newton and Watertown, the ride is all yours. The stretch? Watertown Square, where you glide over wooden bridges, swoop under low-hanging trees, and, for a few wonderful, brief moments, hear nothing but the crickets and the whir of your pedals. MA
They say the proof is in the pudding, or, in this case, the carburetor: Paul Levin is the guy to fix your car. With a vast knowledge of foreign and domestic autos, plus a wicked sense of humor, Levin puts you to task with a thorough Q&A session while narrowing down a diagnosis for your ailing vehicle. Sensitive to tight budgets, he won't take you for a ride. Levin is also completely accommodating. He even offered to look through our car receipts to check the quality and pricing of repair work done in the past. 90 Windom Street, Allston, MA .
Chances are that, after last winter, you're beginning to give some serious consideration to solar. Dinoto, who handles solar sales for this Cambridge company, isn't surprise. "Solar is definitely a thing of the future," he says. If not the present. Dinoto will analyze your house, checking it out from attic to basement, and assess the existing heat source. "Then I plug in the figures—how many people live there, what the hot-water consumption is—give a labor quote, and discuss financing." After that, Dinoto will take you through the store to see what's available. Figure on spending $3,700 to $4,500. But as Dinoto points out, you'll probably get your investment back in savings in five to seven years. Cambridge, MA
An Armenian religious icon watches over Valeriy Gazaryan and his customers at Alton Place Shoe Repair, in Brookline, and indeed, his work seems to border on the miraculous. Gazaryan is a man of few words. He silently examined our tired bootsscuffed leather, busted zippers, worn-out heeland agreed to see what he could do. Four days later, our boots came back shined, rezippered, and reheeled, all for about $25. 3 Alton Place, Brookline, MA 2446, .
Patrice Vinci is the beauty fairy godmother you never knew you needed. With an old-school Boston accent and gorgeous golden tresses of her own, the colorist wields her brushes like magic wands and her dyes like potions. Case in point: a visit that turned our thick blond curls a rich, multi-toned copper that looked so incredibly natural, even our mother swore we must have entered this world a redhead. Expert or enchantress—why can't it be both?—Vinci will help your hair live happily ever after. 91 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116, patricevinci.com.
Open year round, Smolak’s commitment to sustainability shows up in its dedication to teaching future generations the importance of family farms. Educational tours interesting enough to keep the adults entertained are bolstered by animals to feed and a robust pick-your-own schedule. A kids’ club, meanwhile, offers special access and discounts to future events like breakfast with Mrs. Claus and Easter egg hunts. 315 S. Bradford St., North Andover, MA 01845, smolakfarms.com.
Where else can you summon pan-seared scallops and a Manhattan with the push of a button on your plush recliner, all while watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster? Showcase SuperLux has elevated theatergoing to a Zen experience, with a legit dinner menu and cocktails that will make even the dreariest rom-com bearable. What about the popcorn, you ask? Here, it's on the house. 55 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, MA 2467, showcasesuperlux.com.
In a city as proudly nerdy as this one, it's easy to find like-minded friends interested in vanquishing demonic forces. But the speakeasy-style A4cade, a collaboration between Roxy's Grilled Cheese and Area Four, is the only place where you can sip tiki cocktails while playing Ghostbusters-themed pinball and the ’90s classic Simpsons arcade game. (If whaling on bad guys with Marge's vacuum cleaner isn't your style, there's always foosball.) 292 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, areafour.com.
Whether your brood’s in tow out of necessity or to ensure accurate sizing, Bringing Up Baby makes the experience both convenient (the nursing and changing room) and fun (a toys area, crafts events). With its four organic layette lines and haute-tot labels like Québec-based Deux par Deux, discerning parents and those splurging for special occasions will be more than satisfied. 663 E. Broadway, Boston, MA 2127, .
There's no shortage of painfully chic, designer-heavy boutiques in the western 'burbs. But this four-year-old spot manages to be both artfully fashionable and charmingly approachable—no sizing up or talking down to customers here. The place is stocked with glamorous yet fun apparel and accessories, and the stylish staffers, including owner Lee Gaston, are happy to help you translate the trends to complement your personal taste. 21 Leonard St., Belmont, MA 2478, bessieblue.com.
In addition to products from Kate Spade and Vera Bradley, Crane & Co. carries an in-house line (we love the hand-engraved Queen Bee notes for thank-yous). Whether you're looking for invitations or your first set of monogrammed stationery as husband and wife, staffers will fall all over themselves to make sure you're pleased. 156 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, crane.com.
If you're spending too much time counting sheep, drag your weary bones to Frette, where the bedding experts will help you unravel the mysteries of linens—for example, thread count (the higher the number, the heavier the sheet). The store carries sheets, quilts, bedspreads, and accessories by top designers, in addition to the in-house line, which comes in both classic shades and colorful prints. 776B Boylston St., Boston, MA frette.com.