Despite recent hubbub over Salem's retail revival, the miles-walked-to-treasures-found ratio at the Tannery—an old leather mill packed with more than 40 shops and services—remains the most enticing on the North Shore. It boasts two previous Best of Boston winners, Shanti Salon and luxe homegoods shop Wishbasket, as well as two of our favorite kinds of independents: bookstore (Jabberwocky Books) and toy store (Eureka). Summer has the added lure of the local farmers' market; during the holidays, the Tannery has a lock on one-stop gift shopping. 75 Water St., Newburyport, MA 1950, tannerymarketplace.com.
In the urban tundra between the Seaport District and South Boston sits an inconspicuous-looking 9,000-square-foot warehouse. Within it you'll find a candyland for modern-design addicts, a place where George Nelson, Hans Wegner, and Florence Knoll repose in sculptural armchairs and austere chaises. A favorite stop for interior decorators and movie stylists, Machine Age takes midcentury furnishings from around the world—dining sets, sofas, storage systems, lamps—and restores them to perfection, and also frequently updates pieces with new but always appropriate upholstery. Like so much of what it purveys, this place is a genuinely rare find. 645 Summer St., Boston, MA 2210, machine-age.com.
Opened last fall, the Crossing Main spinoff has been drawing local style fiends with the kind of high they formerly got in Boston: killer heels by big names. Look beyond the shelves of neatly displayed Nanette Lepore peep-toes and Loeffler Randall stilettos, though, and find an equally jones-worthy array of handbags (led by Orla Kiely, an area exclusive), jewelry, belts, and other accessories. Crossing Main's recently added personal styling service, available in store or at home, can help make sure that finishing touches don't go over the top. 28 South St., Hingham, MA 2043, .
Simply lining up the members of the bridal party by height is not Richards's style, which is more akin to photojournalism than traditional wedding photography. She captures every moment in dramatic black and white, from a miniature ring bearer playing peekaboo over a wing chair to a bride's quiet moment of contemplation. The resulting images might seem more at home in a gallery than on a coffee table. Maybe that's why Richards has flown as far away as Poland to document the special days of the rich and the famous—and why it's a good thing for Boston newlyweds that she spends most of her time on this side of the Atlantic. 247 Newbury St., Boston, MA .
Boston women who have their jewels (like they have their hats) probably got them from Shreve, Crump & Low. Holding down the corner of Arlington and Boylston streets since 1929 ("Shreve's" has actually been in business since 1796), it's still the place to go for a timeless strand of perfect pearls, a pear-shaped diamond pendant, a just-for-fun 18-carat-gold-link bracelet, or, for that matter, a tasteful set of commitment rings. Quality may never go out of style, but Shreve's is far more than just great-grandmère's jewelry store. 330 Boylston St., Boston, MA shrevecrumpandlow.com/.
Last year, Q joined the exodus that has seen just about every cool band, club, and scene relocate north of the Charles. Leaving the South End, Q's owners took their two vintage sound boards, a Neve 8068 and a Trident 80Band, and headed for the burgeoning Davis Square. Along the way, they acquired the requisite computer gizmos and hired engineer/producer extraordinaire Matthew Ellard. Even with the plush lounges, oodles of classic equipment, clients like James Taylor and Aimee Mann, and infamous annual who's-who-in-Boston-music Christmas party, Q still remembers the little voices: Local bands are welcome with open ears. 363 Highland Ave., Somerville, MA qdivision.com/.
Tucked away between Kenmore and the Back Bay on the quiet end of Bay State Road, this 1895 brownstone has been restored to a grand late-Victorian style—although the Victorians didn't have air-conditioning, 27-inch televisions, and Ethernet connections to the Web. Wet bars and refrigerators in every room almost qualify the eight spacious suites as studio apartments. (Many are bigger than a lot of Boston studios.) North Tower has the views of the Charles River, while Morningside is splashed the light from east-facing bay windows. 9 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA innboston.com/.
There are surprisingly few seaside inns within an hour of Boston. But when you've found this one— and can afford the upper-end price tag— who needs others? Many of the 26 rooms located in four diverse buildings of the inn's compound overlook the ocean. Many have fabulous sun decks or glassed-in porches with a view of waves directly below. Thick lawns and colorful gardens roll down to the water's edge. There's no sandy shore, but there is a pool and a gazebo. Plan ahead: The dining room is strictly BYOB, as Rockport is a dry town. 96 Granite St., Rockport, CT .
On any given night you can find crowds gathered on the sidewalk outside this cramped, noisy, hole-in-the-wall North Ender, jostling for the chance to dive into some of the freshest homestyle Italian cooking in Boston. Pomodoro is not fancy; it's cash only, and offers only two wine choices, house red and white. But it is damn good. Our advice: While you wait for a table, nibble from a plate of crisp, lightly fried calamari with tomato sauce, and save room for pastas, seafood, and veal dishes that sing with simple bold flavors. Ever-present properietor Siobhan Carew makes this place a gem. 319 Hanover Street, Boston, MA .
Don't be misled by the hotel setting: Dante de Magistris is no banquet chef. Since opening his eponymous restaurant at the Royal Sonesta two years ago, de Magistris has found his voice (part Italian homeboy, part fancypants chef) and now fully expresses it in imaginative dishes like duck ragu accented with sour cherries, and striped bass with fava beans and Meyer lemon. Formal European training gave him discipline and technique, which means the pasta and fish are perfectly cooked and every sauce is fresh. Oh, and the view, across the Charles to downtown Boston, is priceless. 40 Edwin H Land Blvd, Cambridge, MA 2141, restaurantdante.com.
Formaggio is the cheese shop that puts all others to shame. Whether it's a rustic sheep's milk cheese from Vermont or a bleu de Termignon made only by an old woman in France from her herd of nine cows, owner Ihsan Gurdai finds the world's best and rarest cheeses and brings them home to Boston. Shopping can be a slow process, since the staff spends a lot of time dispensing thinly sliced samples. There's a method to the madness: A customer who tastes the rich overtones of real Parmigiano-Reggiano from the red cows of Parma will never go back to the powdery stuff in the green can. 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, MA formaggiokitchen.com/.
There are plenty of great wine stores in Boston, but what keeps Brookline one step ahead of the pack are its serious French wines—particularly Burgundies and Rhones. BLM has been bringing in Guigal's great Rhones for more than a generation, and the result is a selection that is extraordinarily broad and deep. Bargain hunters can look for finds in BLM's basement and close-out bins, and special at its Saturday tastings. And for the real oenophile cum computer geek, its e-mail newsletter, with Roger Ormon's informative tasting notes, keeps you abreast of a wide range of special offerings, as does its Web site at www.blmwine.com. 1354 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA .
Yes, we love the biscotti (and the heavenly hazelnut meringues) at Biscotti's, made by a strapping soccer-playing lad from Salerno (95 Salem Street, Boston, 617-227-8365). But on North End pastry expeditions, we head to Maria's Pastry Shop, where Maria Merola continues to turn out her addictive, chocolate-drenched spice cookies; crunchy, shell-shaped sfogliatelle and extravagant lobster tails; soft, nearly fat-free anisette cookies; big, wheel-shapped taralli; and, of course, cannoli filled to order. Some North End traditions won't change, come hell or Big Dig derricks. 46 Cross St., Boston, MA .
Some might scoff that Matt Murphy's perennially wins this award because, well, there aren't exactly Irish restaurants on every corner of this largely Irish town. That probably just means they haven't tasted the sausage, beans, and mashed potatoes with a hint of anise. Or sipped a perfect pint of Guinness while devouring fish and chips wrapped in the morning paper and accompanied by chunky, homemade ketchup. This Brookline Village hideaway is still an unadorned pub experience: good people (Jason Waddleton is one of the friendliest waiters in the Boston area), live seisiuns, or sessions of traditional Irish music, and food that's proud to call itself—dare we call it—Irish cuisine. 14 Harvard St., Brookline Village, MA mattmurphyspub.com/.
The aquatic critters sold here are fresh enough to bite back. Also highly recommended: The Davis Square Fish Market & Sea Grill at 27 Holland St. in Sommerville, more a lunch counter than a real market, serves a big variety of seafood (spawn and cusk are on the menu in season) prepared any way you request it. A tomato or grapefruit juice cocktail, a mixed salad cut up to order, vegetables, and potatoes come on dinners. Freddie the Fish, a combination fish market and restaurant in Day Square, East Boston, also cooks up plentiful portions of surf food at low prices and boasts a small selection of good wine and beer as well. 100 Front St., Scituate Harbor, MA .