A visit to any of our local high-end jewelers will render you an expert on the four Cs in no time. But on selection and service, Long's takes top honors, offering more than 500 styles in-store (from vintage-inspired numbers by Ritani to modern beauties by Furrer-Jacot) and guaranteeing that if a stone shakes loose long after you walk out the door, they'll fix it, gratis. 100 Summer St., Boston, MA 2110, longsjewelers.com.
Turning out memorable meals in private homes—which often means tight quarters and picky palates—is a task that could sap any chef's muse. No surprise the catering arm of the vaunted L'Espalier/Sel de la Terre group is more than up to the challenge. Planning a small fete, we laid out the hurdles: seafood allergies, vegan diets, decorating don'ts. Au Soleil fired back with scads of ideas, including using petits fours as favors and dressing the table with bouquets of our favorite blooms. From intimate dinners to 600-person galas, this event-maker handles every gathering with aplomb. 148 Hampden St., Boston, MA 2119, ausoleilcatering.com.
With so many excellent options—Great Scott, the Lizard Lounge, Middlesex—identifying the city's best live-music venue isn't easy. But T. T.'s tops our list thanks to the variety of acts (local pop stars the Pills and farther-reaching talent like Canadian crooner Ron Sexsmith) and the superior amenities (two bars, pool tables, and plenty of room by the stage). Plus, great acoustics mean you can actually hear the music, making it the ideal spot to discover your new favorite band. 10 Brookline St., Cambridge, MA 2139, ttthebears.com.
It has the air of a country roadside antiques store, with friendly prices and unexpected treasures (a satin-wood inlaid floor-length dressing mirror, with marble-topped side tables, 1927, $1,650). If you want to go totally rustic, consider a painted jelly cabinet from New Hampshire (33"x57," $325), or if solid, functional stuff is more in line with the decor, how about a Sheraton chest in mahogany and pine, with turned columns ($895), or a bowback Windsor chair for $145? A year ago, we found four lovely caned chairs a la Napoleon, for $240. Take your time, look carefully, and you're bound to find something you love and need—and can afford. 93 Charlest Street, Boston, MA .
The maitre d' at L'Espalier is so accustomed to proposals among his customers, he'll happily dispense advice about where to conceal the ring. It's all part of the superb and attentive service at this Back Bay institution, which just so happens to serve equally superb food. Chef Frank McClelland's delectable courses, which start with a dainty amuse bouche, are cosseted with luxury ingredients and inevitably end with tiered trays of precious petits fours—the fabled backdrop to more than a few passion plays. And if all that doesn't whet your appetite for love, consider the surroundings: a dimly lit and tastefully sumptuous townhouse that even includes one chamber known as the Seduction Room. 30 Gloucester St., Boston, MA lespalier.com/.
It's not often you can slink up to a hostess with 15 of your closest friends and expect that you'll be quickly seated—let alone get a drink and some nibblies without a side of attitude. Pho Republique may in fact be the only restaurant in town where the more really is the merrier: This Washington Street hot spot graciously handles large groups with ease—hell, even with verve. The inventive drink menu (beware the potent sake martinis and house sangria) and an affordably priced pan-Asian menu with options to please everyone (from shrimp rangoon spring rolls to steaming, aromatic bowls of pho) add up to a place where even the pickiest diners will be pleased. Best of all, the accommodating staff's unusual make-yourself-at-home attitude means a group can linger until the last drop of sangria is gone. 1415 Washington St., Boston, MA .
Who would expect to find the recherché charm of an exquisite Champs-Elysées café in Chelsea? Anyone who knows Truly Jörg's—the tiny European-style patisserie crammed with utter delicacies—that's who. Co-owner Jörg Amsler has created desserts for Dubya's dad in Kennebunkport and was trained as a pastry chef and chocolatier in Switzerland, and it shows in every crumb. His chocolate croissants are a perfect blend of bittersweet satisfaction. The tantalizing cakes on sale here range from decadent coffee buttercream and mocha genoise torte to deeply tart-sweet raspberry swirl cheesecake. The dainty petit fours, bite-sized treats that melt on your tongue, will have the most discriminately sweet tooth addicted at first bite. 131 Arlington St., Chelsea, MA trulyjorgs.com/.
In trying to determine a bar's worthiness, here's a helpful question: If in the company of the most fantastically annoying people imaginable (say, the combined casts of A Shot at Love and A Shot at Love 2), could you still have a good time? Signs point to yes at this beer hall situated on Waltham's restaurant row, where the master-crafted suds and a merry vibe take the edge off in a big way. Locals mix with Brandeis types and code crunchers from the 128 tech corridor at the U-shaped bar or in the large open seating area, downing nachos and buffalo popcorn shrimp and, naturally, pint after pint of house brews. Though signature recipes like the Hops Explosion IPA dominate the taps, look for the seasonal, uber-strong Oktolager—a few rounds of which could make any yammering nincompoop at your elbow sound like an alum of the Algonquin Round Table. 256 Moody St., Waltham, MA 2453, watchcitybrew.com.
Push through the porthole-windowed door, and you'll swear you've walked into the design equivalent of that old "Sprockets" routine from Saturday Night Live. Everything here is in ridiculous conflict: Stately black tiles cover the floor and lower half of the walls, while bright and modernistic yellow paint finishes the job. The mirror above the starkly modern circular water basin (it really is a basin) is wedged into the corner, breaking your reflection into a surreal, fun-house. And the aural struggle between the television in the corner and the radio speaker in the ceiling is kind of funny: imagine Marvin Gaye doing play-by-play for a Red Sox game. But as men's rooms go, this one wins for being as conversation-inducing as that aforementioned German talk-show skit. 393 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA .
When you finally get to strut your stuff down the aisle, you want guests to remember the smile on your face—not the ill-fitting suit on your back. With locations in Newton and now the Seaport, Mr. Sid offers private consultations for made-to-measure bespoke tuxes (plus high-end lines such as Brioni) that will make even the most reluctant shopper feel—and look—special. A fortifying cocktail before or after a fitting doesn’t hurt, either. 49 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 02210, mr.sid.com.
An ill-fitting bra can ruin your outfit and your mood. Thankfully, the experienced staffers at KM Hudson understand shape and comfort, sizing clients up with just a look before taking precise measurements. Of course, proper sizing is only one part of the equation: After measuring, they’ll happily sift through their enviable stock of 6,000 bras to find the perfect undergarment for your shape. 125 Charles St., Boston, 02114, kmhudsonltd.com.
Big egos like big flavors, want big portions, and prefer big tables. Little wonder, then, that breakfast at Clio has reached utopian status among so many heavy hitters. Haggle over freshly baked pecan bread. Intimidate the enemy over creamy scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, chives, and caviar. Impress your peers with the cool-but-elegant setting and finely tuned service that appears as if on cue. of all: The hotel, known for its personalized service, attracts out-of-towners for whom rolling out of bed and going downstairs for a convenient breakfast meeting is a big, big plus. It's helped to lure away the power crowd from Aujourd'hui at the Four Seasons, at least a few morning a week. Eliot Suite Hotel, 370A Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA cliorestaurant.com/.
As the longtime wine doyenne of the Barbara Lynch empire, Cat Silirie knows her way around a corkscrew. For proof, look no further than the corner of Tremont and Waltham, where over the past six years she's nurtured this updated boucherie into a temple of vino that effectively puts the cork in the Hub's ersatz wine bars. The list digs deep with bottles from producers and small family farms—even grapes!—we've never heard of, but every server intuits precisely what will rock that plate of charcuterie or artisanal cheese. Hang out and nibble across the meat-centric menu while watching the South End go by, or have a glass while the staff packs your shopping bag with aged steaks, house-cured bacon, and Bolognese sauce. 552 Tremont St., Boston, MA 2118, thebutchershopboston.com.
Our first choice for children's books is your local public library. That said, this wee shop in Brookline is a close second for its thoughtful mix of classics (of the Make Way for Ducklings, Charlotte's Web, and Eloise ilk) as well as blockbuster newcomers like the Harry Potter series. The selection runs the gamut, from the newly released works of 1940s author Louis Lenski's "little" books to volumes that speak to contemporary teens. The store is nearly childproof, too, with huge stuffed animals and pop-up books on shelves strategically lower in height, so little ones can let themselves, and their minds, wander. 237 Washington St., Brookline Village, MA thechildrensbookshop.net/.
Raise your hand if you're tired of the same standard sushi, meal in and meal out: tuna maki, salmon sushi, tuna sushi, salmon maki. We're tired of it, too, which is why we thank our lucky stars for the Chinatown flagship branch of Ginza. This restaurant proves there's life beyond the basics with artful orchestrations such as Boston maki—lobster, salmon, rice, lettuce, and a smattering of salty roe. Lest you assume that creativity eclipses flavor here, it doesn't. Everything from the cooked octopus to the seasonal raw seatrout is sweetly fresh, cut to order, and best washed down with any of the 12 varieties of sake. 16 Hudson St., Boston, MA ginza-boston.com/.