Winston's Newton store feels more like a mom-and-pop shop than the Boston area florist's biggest location. The mind-boggling array of blooms on offer includes roses, hydrangeas, peonies, calla lilies, and arty, twisted sea grass. And the resourceful, creative staffers will be eager to help you, once you're done staring slack-jawed at the symphony of colors. 11 Florence St., Newton, MA winstonflowers.com.
Oy vey, they're not supposed to make corned beef or pastrami this good outside of the Lower East Side. Despite the high prices and yuppie decor, Zaftigs is as close as you'll get in Boston to the traditional Jewish deli experience. Save yourself the trip to New York and head to Brookline for great sandwiches, gelfite fish, chipped liver, and other classics of the genre. 335 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA zaftigs.com/.
Though we have many advantages as a city, Boston is not New York when it comes to bagels. Thank goodness for Cafe Fresh, a suburban outfit doing its best to raise everyone's favorite breakfast carb to a higher level. The bagels are suitably oversized, hard on the outside, and soft in the middle. If you don't live in the 'burbs, make a weekend pilgrimage and see what we mean. Take that, Eli Zabar. 374 Washington Street, Dedham, MA .
Over the past four years, Gaslight has proven it's more than just the restaurant du jour. It consistently turns out terrific takes on French classics in an authentically Parisian atmosphere. Crowds pack the dining room for dishes like the falling-apart duck confit with orange gastrique, and quite possibly the most sinful meat entrée Boston has ever seen—the bar steak, smothered in luscious cognac cream sauce and caramelized shallots. 560 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 2118, gaslight560.com.
The better story would have been that finally, in this, the year of the cow, one among the city's numerous new upscale meateries had managed to dethrone our 14-time Best of Boston stalwart. Nothing doing. Mooo inherited the Federalist's matchless wine list. KO Prime has the best offal around. But for a prime, dry-aged rib-eye with a power client (downstairs) or a significant other (the more intimate upstairs), Grill 23 still rules the herd. 161 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 2116, grill23.com.
The hype, for once, is justified: Ken Oringer's achingly trendy taberna not only outclasses its Boston competition, but would stand proud among the top eateries in Barcelona. The tapas are inspired—gambas al ajillo arrive in a delicate cascabel chili sauc—and expertly prepared: At last, a potato omelet that's not overcooked. For steak lovers, there's a prime rib for two that's to die for. But maybe the biggest surprise, considering the deafening buzz, is that the all-Spanish wine list is extremely reasonably priced. 1704 Washington St., Boston, MA 2118, toro-restaurant.com.
It's strange that Boston is short on purveyors of good Irish food. (Especially when, according to our research, the city was founded by Patrick O'Patrick and his brothers Pat, Pat, Patty, and Steve, who, we're pretty sure, was adopted.) But who needs options when there's Matt Murphy's—still the best spot in town for fish and chips, rabbit pie, and good soda bread. Wash it down with a Guinness and suddenly you're Irish. Even if your name is Steve. 14 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 2445, mattmurphyspub.com.
The fact that every Boston Brazilian joint has earned its fame doling out all-you-can-eat portions of meat left us wondering: How do those girls in Rio look so hot in their thongs? Then we discovered Muqueca, where even our most carnivorous friends fell for the single servings of spicy dishes, including the traditional seafood stew for which the restaurant is named. It's so good we guarantee you'll bring back your very lean booty for more. 1008 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA 2139, muquecarestaurant.com.
If you're hankering for tender roast pork, thin slices of ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles layered inside a crusty baguette (with a creamy mango shake for dessert), get in line. This local hot spot draws fans from Boston and beyond to feast on its Cuban sandwiches and homemade soups chockfull of seafood, meat, and vegetables. It's Little Havana every night of the week. 416 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, MA elorientaldecuba.com/.
After a three-year apprenticeship with a fine-sausage maker in Germany, Dave Nosiglia returned to Boston and started stuffing and smoking his own. By now, his clients include the restaurants, wholesalers, and gourmet retailers around. Look for his chicken sausage with fresh rosemary and brown sugar (or with Marsala and mushrooms); or the smoked prosciutto, provolone, and pepper sausage—then stoke up the grill. 15 Coventry St., Roxbury, MA .
It would be a shame if this unpretentious little bar near turnpike exit 17 got too trendy. The honey hot Buffalo wings are worth the few years off your life you risk by dipping them in bleu cheese for an unlikely taste sensation. But cholesterolically speaking, what's the difference? A satisfying supply of about 10 wings goes for $2.75 (less at lunch). Buff's Pale Ale, made by Boston Beer Works, is a nice accompaniment. 317 Washington St., Newton Corner, MA .
Sunday brunch should be a relaxing way to stretch out the end of the weekend and ease into the coming week. Bella Luna is a mellow, funky setting for Full Moon pancakes, French toast, or a Lost in Space breakfast pizza, to the tune of good live jazz that's present and audible without being overly intrusive. And brunch in JP is not only less hectic in Boston proper...it's half the price. 405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, MA .
Hands down, the best dim sum in Boston. Get there before 10:30 a.m. on Sunday or be prepared to wait for cart-delivered delicacies that include shrimp chow foon, sticky rice wrapped in grape leaves, and chicken feet—if you dare. The bill usually averages around $12 a person, and then you need not think about food again until dinner. 9 Tyler St., Boston, MA .
In slightly less than a decade in business, Emanuel Coelho's firm has painted hundreds of houses around Boston. The secret of its success boils down to that magical combination rarely seen in contractors: top-quality workmanship—backed by a five-year, no-chip warranty—and a rate that leaves clients with a little extra cash for other home-improvement projects. 14 William St., Medford, MA 2155, .
The Boston Globe Spotlight Team, whose Pulitzer Prize-worthy coverage of the archdiocesan sex scandal was earth-shattering journalism at its and a return to the kind of aggressive investigative reporting that is badly needed in this town after years of newspaper "exposés" about such easy targets as crooked small-town building inspectors and ticket scalpers outside Fenway Park (no, really?)