It's hard to decide what's best about this cozy South End bakery, where the owners have thought of every amenity for busy city dwellers. Is it the a.m. treats? The lunch? The cute tables that overlook Appleton Street? The gourmet take-out options? The catering? When push comes to shove, we choose the scandalousy delicious breakfast goodies: scones to cry over, fruit-studded muffins, old-fashioned sour cream coffee cake, and granola that could put a commune out of business. We could go on, but our trainer says no. 123 Appleton Street, Boston, MA appletoncafe.com/.
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/.
Its name may sound utilitarian, but don't be fooled. This homey café makes the most tempting sandwiches on the island, like the aptly named Turkey Terrific: Thick, home-baked wheat bread topped with smoked turkey, buttery stuffing, cranberry sauce, and just enough mayo creates portable perfection for the beach or taking in the Straight Wharf view. Our only advice: Try not to order it every day; the entire sandwich menu, as well as the homey, baked goods and sweets (lemon squares, cranberry-walnut pound cake), deserves your full attention. 3 Harbor Sq., Nantucket, MA 2554, .
This full-service company can handle everything from bar mitzvahs to barbecues to prepared dinners for families of four. And while the menus have plenty to swoon over—passed apps like mini latkes with smoked salmon and chive crema, or entrées like fig-glazed lamb sirloin—it's what goes on behind the scenes that captured our heart. Started by East Coast Grill and Evoo alum Robert Harris, Season to Taste is one of the greenest companies around, delivering drop-off meals by bike, sourcing primo ingredients from New England farms and stores, and composting to reduce waste. If anyone can make a feast for 100 feel virtuous, it's them. 2447 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 2140, seasontotastecatering.com.
Good-for-you health food at the ritzy old Ritz? It's our guess that as successful babyboomers start to sag, they head back to their root vegetables for rejuvenation. But don't be fooled, the days of bland brown rice and tepid tofu are long gone. Take, for example, a Vegetarian Primavera with Roasted Bell Pepper Coulis or delicious Crab Cakes with Pickled Plum Sauce and Braised Napa Cabbage. After a macrobiotic lunch you'll have the energy (and the slim waist) to shop your way down Newbury Street. The menu changes weekly and it's $29 prix fixe for a three-course lunch or dinner. 15 Arlington Street, Boston, MA .
In our search for the holy grail of garden centers, we were pleasantly tempted by the personalized attention and quaint urban setting of Ricky's Flower Market in Somerville. But Mahoney's has the edge when it comes to one-stop garden shopping. Where else near the city can you find starter grapevines, elephant-shaped watering cans, large ceramic urns, and a barn filled with landscaping tools, not to mention the obligatory greenhouses brimming with flowers and herbs? The vast and varied selection makes it worth the extra work it sometimes takes to find a salesperson to answer your questions. 889 Memorial Dr., Cambridge, MA mahoneysgarden.com/.
You finally got up the nerve to invite your boss over for dinner, and while she may be a whizbang at corporate finance, she doesn't seem to know what a cocktail napkin is for. When you discover a large water stain on the cocktail table where her glass rested, you can either demand a raise or call Burma Design. These are the people Skinner turns to when an antique needs a face-lift. The workshop is a wonderland of wounded soldiers from Granny's attic, all awaiting resuscitation. The results are inspiring; if only we could be brought back to our former glory as easily. 285 Washington St., Somerville, MA .
Named Concierge of the Year by her peers, Ingalls won the award after working her way up the ranks at the Four Seasons: she started as a desk clerk when the hotel opened, in 1985. Ingalls is one of only 220 American concierges who made the cut for membership in Les Clefs d'Or, the society of professional concierges.
Already an island go-to for its waterfront location and killer raw bar, Cru wins our vote this year for its stacked beverage program. Pick your poison from a seat at the quartzite-topped bar or the scenic open-air deck: Both are prime perches for indulging in any number of boozy concoctions, from the restaurant's signature Crucomber—a refreshing blend of Bison Grass vodka, lemon, cucumber, and toasted sesame—to the shareable Garden of Elyx, a fruity libation of Absolut, Applejack, green tea, and raspberry. Oh, and did we mention the wide-ranging wine list, with bottles sourced from Alsace to Santorini? You'll want to check that out, too. One Straight Wharf, Nantucket, MA 2554, crunantucket.com.
The brothy xiao long bao (or soup dumpling) has long been the darling of the food world. We get it, sure, but we’d also like to turn your attention to the Taiwanese pan-fried dumpling: a tubular, crisp-bottomed parcel with a fragrant ground-pork filling and open ends designed for maximum dipping-sauce absorption. Find our favorite rendition at this Chinatown mainstay, and round out the meal with other Taiwanese standards, like wok-charred eggplant with basil and chewy coin-shaped rice cakes sautéed with ground pork. 34 Oxford St., Boston, MA 2134, taiwancafeboston.com.
There are plenty of glitzy art stores around town, chock-full of intimidating expert-only items. But, sadly, not all of us are born Picassos or Pollocks, and we need our questions answered with more than an eye roll and a sigh of ennui. That's why we shop at Artist & Craftsman Supply for everything from linseed oil to fabric paint to graphite. The space is funky yet polished, and the smart, comforting staff helps us out every time. Stop in and you might soon be well on your way to becoming art's next big thing. 580 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 2139, artistcraftsman.com.
Make sure you get the watermelon steak with confit tomatoes. Or no, wait: You've gotta taste the romaine salad with made-to-order croutons—the greatest thing to happen to the caesar since anchovies. In fact, nearly everything—starting with the appetizer of a cured-salmon-and-red-onion tea sandwich and ending with the homemade pies—at Jeff Fournier's 51 Lincoln is a fresh, creative must-try. Our only piece of unwavering advice: If you order the luscious lobster noodles with lobster-champagne sauce, be prepared to share. Your companions are definitely going to want to nab some for themselves. 51 Lincoln St., Newton Highlands, MA 2461, 51lincolnnewton.com.
We don't know how they do it ("If we told you, it wouldn't be a secret," the waitress cheerfully told our undercover critic), but this unassuming, family-operated storefront bar sells buffalo, barbecue, honey-hot, and honey-barbecue wings that are the tangiest in town. Sandwiched between a florist and a shoe store, the Busy B has successfully resisted every attempt at decoration, but it's so casual and friendly that the regulars occasionally even brings their kids. What other tavern do you know that serves milk? For adults, there's also a good selection of draft beer to cool your mouth down. 451 Main St., Watertown, MA .
Norwell is hardly a hotbed of international enchantment, but this tiny house of beauty has it in spades. The journey begins in the tasseled Moroccan aesthetics room, where you can undergo a Valmont facial—using the famed and exquisite Swiss product line laced with sweet Bulgarian rose—at the nurturing hands of Barbara Foley while you gaze up at a swathed ceiling. Or give yourself over to one of the masseuses, who make their own herb-infused oils and will leave you wondering if you even have a spine. Maxime's nerve center is a conglomerate of beauty bar and hair salon. (Ronit Enos is a meticulous whiz at color.) Relax in the plush cranny decked out like the Taj Mahal as you wait for your day of beauty. 124 Washington St., Norwell, MA maximesalon.com/.
Toasted or untoasted? Either way has its advantages. Fresh off the shelf at baker Adam Hirsh’s long-awaited new shop, the bagels are a soft, chewy foundation for substantial sandwiches such as the Monumental, featuring a hard-boiled egg, local greens, and bacon. Warmed, the crisp exterior crackles pleasantly. Bagel lovers can’t go wrong with flavors like "everywhere" (a thoroughly seeded everything); jalapeño-cheddar; and egg—but our favorite order is sesame, toasted to bring out the nutty flavors, with a generous schmear of house-made bacon-everything cream cheese. 3346 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, exodusbagels.com.