The downside of an hour of someone expertly kneading every ounce of stress and tension out of your body? Knowing that as soon as it’s over, you’ll have to check your Zenlike state at the door, only to hop on the T (or, worse, contend with Boston drivers). But here, after one of nearly a dozen massage options (for straight-up relaxation, we like the signature "Flow" style), you can stave off the inevitable in the complimentary Turkish bath, stacked with sleek surfaces, cool washcloths, and mood lighting to keep the post-treatment buzz going. 2 Battery Wharf, Boston, MA 2109, boston.exhalespa.com.
Normally, we don't pay much attention to celebrity endorsements, but this time we'll take Madonna, J.Lo, and Donatella Versace's word for it. They, like all self-respecting fragrance freaks, adore Diptyque's intensely scented candles (rarefied variations like black currant and Bulgarian rose, quince, saffron, and leather), room sprays, and perfumes (wisteria and narcissus). But forget the celebrities: This year, Boston became the first and only American city to boast a freestanding boutique from the Parisian parfumerie, which means that even the unfamous among us can now wax poetic. 123 Newbury St., Boston, MA diptyqueparis.com/.
For a city with an Irish bar on every block, Boston is decidedly short on palatable Irish fare. The exception is this enclave of green cuisine in Brookline Village, which serves up traditional Gaelic dishes with a modern twist. Rabbit pie comes tender in a soda bread crust; fish and chips are wrapped in newspaper to seal in the steam. Meals go down even easier with the help of a hefty board of farmers' cheeses and some chunky, well-spiced homemade ketchup (not to mention the obligatory pints of Guinness). Service and consistency here have fallen off of late, but Murphy's is still a shillelagh above the competition. 14 Harvard St., Brookline, MA mattmurphyspub.com.
Boston chef Ed Gannon maintains Aujourd'Hui's reputation as one of the finest hotel dining rooms in the city. No, we're not swayed by the view. Okay, maybe a little. The unpretentious menu is flawlessly presented and prepared, and despite the formal china it succeeds in bridging the gap between over-the-top fine dining and the kind of food that people prefer to eat these days. Chef Gannon's creatively presented dishes are simultaneously hearty and light and they reach the table in a timely fashion. The chef gets extra credit for his friendly way of coming around to the tables, and for so willingly sharing his kitchen with visiting chefs for themed dinners. Four Seasons Hotel, 200 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
A little over a year ago, Avalon, the once white-hot star of the Lyons' Group club holdings, had dimmed to white-dwarf status. Except for Sundays, its perpetually successful gay night, the cavernous club was lame. And pretty empty. Enter promoter Steve Adelman, the man behind New York City's Tunnel and, before that, Limelight. Within weeks, Adelman was booking the biggest names in dance music at Avaland, the club's Friday night reincarnation. Superstar DJs like Frankie Knuckles, Little Louie Vega, and Junior Vasquez have all taken turns behind the decks, bringing Avalon to a boil and putting Boston on the dance-club map. 15 Landsdowne St., Boston, MA .
This mammoth Fenway space is more than just a place for catching concerts. Come midnight most nights of the week, the venue transforms into the dance club of choice for Boston collegians and techno lovers alike. With an outstanding lineup of big-name DJs from Junior Vasquez to Sasha, John Digweed, and Grandmaster Flash, an impressive sound system, and a newly redesigned VIP lounge called the Nu Room, the line behind Avalon's velvet rope is consistently one of the longest in town. Not to worry: The high-energy, anything-goes atmosphere attracts a hip but diverse crowd, making the people-watching alone well worth the wait. 15 Lansdowne St., Boston, MA .
The Boston literary culture may actually exist on the opposite side of the Charles, but that hasn't kept the folks in Coolidge Corner from thinking big. Writers like Dave Barry, Isabelle Allende, Frank McCourt, and Barbara Kingsolver have been featured in the "Writers and Readers Series" since it was founded six years ago. The readings, which take place either in the store or across the street at the larger Coolidge Corner Theatre, are frequent and usually free, and feature up-and-coming local scribes. Plus, the Booksmith is an independent, dog-friendly store with a smart and helpful staff. 279 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA brooklinebooksmith.com.
"Bloodless surgery" isn't a phrase typically associated with spa treatments. Then again, there's nothing typical about the way that Quincy native Moore—who coined the term to describe his massages—operates. His Stuart Street office is just that: an office, with no cucumber water or silk robes in sight. In place of such frippery, you get what is simply the best deep-tissue, Swedish, and therapeutic massages in Boston, for half the price of most rubdowns elsewhere. This year Moore's list of clients (which includes several local politicians, athletes, and news anchors) grew so lengthy that he opened a second location in Brookline. 441 Stuart St; 1678 Beacon St., Boston, Brookline, MA 02116, 02446, .
Good thing J.P. Licks launched a new line of ice cream cakes in time for its 40th birthday. Now we can properly celebrate the small chain of Boston-area scoop shops, which has gifted us over the years with countless creative flavors served in cones and cookie sandwiches. All of them are still handmade at Licks’ home base in Jamaica Plain, including a few boozy varieties — like caramel-bourbon-fig or cherry-amaretto — that would feel particularly appropriate for raising a ruby anniversary toast. Multiple locations, jplicks.com.
After 65 years of bringing movie magic to Harvard Square, this repertory theater has left us with memories as cinematic as any scene projected onto the screen: Where else could we see John Hodgman introduce The Dead Zone, snicker at Trash Night’s grade-Z dreck, and experience David Lynch’s Lost Highway in 35mm—all in the same month? Harvard alum Natalie Portman must feel the same way, given that she chose the Brattle to stage her Boston Calling Film Festival. 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138, brattlefilm.org.
Hipsters, locals, and industry folk mingle at this Inman hangout, where stiff drinks and retro vibes accompany seriously good late-night eats, cranked out by the kitchen staff till midnight on weekends. The crisp tots with rosemary-garlic aioli pair well with a Green Goblin (a neon mezcal-based tipple), as does the beefy Starlite chili with a side of cornbread—a butter-soaked masterpiece so good, you might as well order an extra slice to take home for breakfast. Correction, June 26, 11 a.m.: In the July issue of Boston, we misstated how late Trina's serves (midnight). We regret the error. 3 Beacon St., Somerville, MA 02143, trinastarlitelounge.com.
All of Milton (and a good chunk of Boston) flock to chef Chris Parsons's sprawling fiefdom in a former car showroom and ambulance garage. They come for creative craft cocktails and local beer on draft. They come for the rustic-meets-sophisticated ambiance. Most of all, they come for Parsons's whimsical, honest-to-goodness American fare—spaghetti with green garlic, broccoli rabe, bacon, and a poached egg; grilled smoked-chicken flatbread with homemade ricotta; and a juicy Niman Ranch burger on brioche, presented with a side of house pickles and potato chips in an adorable metal box. 95 Eliot St., Milton, MA 02186, steelandrye.com.
Editor's Note, July 13, 1 p.m.: Ames Street—which merged with its neighbor Study for a combined concept called "Study at Ames" in late June, after press time for our Best of Boston issue—closed July 12.
After creating a top-tier nightlife enclave at Somerville’s Backbar, Sam Treadway and team are now schooling the country’s smartest city in cocktail-making. Here, they offer an ever-changing matrix organized by liquor, breaking down off-center sips (purple-cabbage gin, anyone?) to make even foreign flavors feel approachable. 73 Ames St., Cambridge, MA 02142, amesstreetdeli.com.
Boston has a long, rapturous history of genius buskers, from Susan Dietrich Schneider, the infamous "Space Lady" of the ’80s, to such future stars as Tracy Chapman, Mary Lou Lord, and Amanda Palmer. But none has so captured the soul of the city as Keytar Bear, our unofficial musical mascot. Yes, our funky spirit animal—the furry king of costume-core—has been twice attacked by thugs. But he's now back in action, appearing with Guster in January and welcoming the Fenway faithful with slinky grooves on Opening Day.
When Tim Maslow arrived in Boston from New York a few years ago to overhaul his father’s Watertown café, he made waves with his brash flavors and witty presentationsso much so that local food fiends fretted that his success might take him back to the Big Apple. Then came the August 2013 debut of the modern-Italian Ribelle, with its dry-aged meats, hand-rolled pastas, and clever panelle sliders. In short? It seems Maslow is in it for the long hauland our dining scene is all the better for it. Strip-T's, 93 School St., Watertown; Ribelle, 1665 Beacon St., Brookline, stripts.com.