Going on a fashion bender along Newbury can leave even hard-core shoppers feeling a tad wilted. Good thing Fresh is close at hand: With white-tiled walls and elegant white fixtures, the locally based chain's recently renovated Back Bay outpost soothes like a Victorian powder room, while simultaneously offering pep-promoting potions. Perfumes are touched with intriguing notes like Moroccan basil; skin care is punched up with lemon oil and cucumber extract; and a number of body products (even deodorant) feature real sugar in the mix. Just when you thought you'd lost your will to buy, it's back. 121 Newbury St., Boston, MA 2116, fresh.com.
From the day it opened, the West Side was a draw for Cantabrigians looking for a perfectly made cocktail and a darkly lit booth. But when chef Alex Jenkins arrived last fall, there was another reason to visit: Her menu of Mediterranean and creative American standards goes a step above most bar food, mixing flavorful recipes with straightforward presentation. The reasonably priced menu changes seasonally and makes good use of local ingredients. Tried-and-true dishes like centra di tavola—with artichoke and olive spreads—and the bistro pizzas are the best bets. 1680 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA westsidelounge.com/.
This Central Square institution has been providing the Boston Japanese (and other tofu freaks) with the ingredients for their home cooking for years. Yoshinoya's endless variety of fish, nori (edible seaweed), fresh fish, and all the snacks and sweets one could wish for make this the place to begin the preparations for any good Japanese meal. 36 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA .
Squint through those frumpy, outdated spectacles of yours and take a good look around this sleek Brookline Village shop. You'll readily appreciate the cache of 1,000 or so designer frames, dotted with cult brands (Kamuro, Kata) and European faves (Face Face, Lafont). You'll admire optometrist-owner Galina Rabkin's staff of brainy-chic glamazons. And you'll absolutely obsess over the one-of-a-kind photo booth providing a 360-degree view of how various pairs of glasses work with your face—something that, while it might seem gimmicky, can save hours of agonizing in hindsight. 11 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 2445, viziooptic.com.
Some say visiting a good day spa is so therapeutic it's tantamount to regular trips to a shrink. If that's the case, the relaxed, blissful feeling you'll leave with after an afternoon at Bella Santé will seem like a breakthrough. Perched in a second-floor sanctuary above Newbury Street, the spa has a soothing beige décor and wonderfully quiet atmosphere (cell phones are verboten)—your first signals to relax. Then there are the treatments: facials so effective they're like mini-facelifts, massages that melt away even the peskiest knots, body buffs, herbal wraps, and pedicures that last for months. The unassuming, easygoing staff is professional and subdue, just like the spa itself. 38 Newbury St., 2nd floor, Boston, MA bellasante.com/.
Chef Jody Adams is clearly a romantic: Her menu is loaded with graceful, elegant dishes that can make even the most stoic diner swoon. Her refined palate is tempered with whimsy, and all ingredients are procured locally. Favorite dishes: Grilled lamb chops in pomegranate molasses; lobster fricasse with fresh corn; coconut and passion fruit Napoleon with caramel rum sauce. In addition to the New American food, the restaurant also has very professional service, a sexy backlit bar area with cushy booths, tango dancing lessons every Thursday night, and nearby rooms in the Charles Hotel in which to discreetly retire. 1 Bennett Street, Cambridge, MA rialto-restaurant.com.
The same team that brought use the Elephant Walk's mix of French-Cambodian fare has been quietly churning out straight, serious, and superlative Cambodian dishes for years in Waltham. Focusing on fish, noodles, rice, and vegetables, the kitchen does wonderse with simple classics like trey dhomrei (sautéed white fish with pineapple, peas, and basil) and curries packed with exotic fresh vegetables. Portions are large, prices are reasonable, and the patient waitstaff will walk neophytes through the finer points of Cambodian cuisine. Between the frescoed, peach-hued walls and geometric, inverted light fixtures, the room hits just the right point between modern and soothing. 663 Main St., Waltham, MA .
We loved this fabulous pastry shop when it was only in Marblehead. We love it even more now that it has opened a second shop in Brookline. The chausson aux pommes (apple turnover) is incredible. 1336 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA .
The hush-hush August wedding of Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Eliza Dushku, a Watertown native, and local real estate exec Peter Palandjian started with the bride and groom joining the Boston Bike Party and ended with a bash (and this sweet photo) at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln. The dreamiest part of the festivities, though? Their intimate ceremony in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library, where the couple swapped vows.
Is there anything worse than suffering through another boring bridal or baby shower? Spare yourself by throwing a spa party instead. G Spa's private lounge is perfect for showers, birthday parties, and girl-power get-togethers. The white couches make a stylish setting for muscle-soothing massages and skin-brightening facials. Bring in a party of six or more for two treatments apiece, and you'll get exclusive use of the lounge and the swift work of the well-trained staff. Because if you have to shower your friends with gifts, you might as well get something for yourself, too. 35 Newbury St., Boston, MA gspa.com/.
You can go to a luxurious, candlelit spa where they'll charge you a C-note to slather lavender ointment on your aching back, or you can go somewhere where licensed therapists will actually help get to the source of the problem. Enter Backworks, where serious muscle healing, soft-tissue tretament, and stress reduction are the foundation for easing a bona fide injury or soothing the aches that result from simple daily stress. After just one intense hour of deep-tissue massage, we left in a physical state we haven't known since childhood: utterly care-, stress-, and knot-free. 34 Batterymarch St., Boston, MA backworksinc.com/.
We know it's in, yikes, Faneuil Hall Marketplace. And we know it's owned by, yawn, Todd English. Still, KingFish Hall blows all the other seafood joints in town right out of the water. The décor is kitschy but cool: overstuffed booths in the shape of monster scallop shells, shimmery fish mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and plenty of brightly colored sea glass adorning the walls and stairwell. The open kitchen—featuring a huge lobster cauldron—churns out delicious seafood dishes that boast a hint of Asian influence. Don't miss the Thai-spiced grilled squid or miso Chilean sea bass. South Market Building, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA .
Walk through the door of this swank eatery, and you can't help but feel 10 times cooler than you really are. Subtle lighting, high-backed leather booths, and R&B playing just above the gentle hum of conversation—they call it ambiance, and the West Side Lounge has it in spades. The food is equally hip. Inspired by the Kentucky roots of chef Alex Jenkins, the menu offers such comfort dishes as bourbon-marinated pork chops and homemade peanut butter ice cream. Even the martinis, complete with blue cheese-stuffed olives, have a style all their own. 1680 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA westsidelounge.com/.
Let the soothing cup of honey-laced tea in the eucalyptus steam room be your first clue: Bella Santé is serious about relaxation. Cell phones are banished from the plush-but-minimalist space, set out in elegant neutrals. And unlike at most frenetic day spas, there's no hair salon to keep the noise level at full blast. In its stead are bliss-inducing treatments like the remineralizing Moor mud wrap, head-to-toe spa massages (as well as La Stone therapy), pedicures that leave feet tender as a child's, and customized aromatherapy sessions. Before heading into the beautiful (and well-stocked) locker room, stop by the waiting area's long window and take a quick peek at the bustle of Newbury Street below—a stark contrast to Bella Santé's enclave of peace and quiet. 38 Newbury St., Boston, MA bellasante.com/.
Unlike the now-ubiquitous Asian fusion restaurants it resembles, this Coolidge Corner newcomer serves food that is authentically exotic. Fortunately, the knowledgeable waitresses excel at coaching diners who might otherwise steer past the Northern Thai specialties and play it safe with spring rolls and pad Thai. The miang kum appetizer (roll-your-own packets of baby spinach leaves filled with bits of lime, coconut, peanuts, fresh ginger, onion, and dried shrimp) reveals a different texture and flavor combination with every bite. The haw moak (chicken or salmon seasoned with red curry and coconut milk and steamed in a banana leaf) brings a hint of heat, but not too much. Spicy dishes—and there are many here—are rated on a scale of one to three chile peppers, and the kitchen doesn't sacrifice subtlety when adding fire. If you still manage to torch your taste buds, you've got an excuse to order the soothing mango sticky rice for dessert. 250 Harvard St., Brookline, MA khaosarnboston.com/.