You'd think that after eight years, a fusion joint like Blue Ginger might be a tired concept; after all, who doesn't offer garlic-black pepper lobster these days? But Ming Tsai is a disciplined kitchen maestro: He knows not to mess with the classics (like that aforementioned oft-imitated lobster) and how, and when, to create new ones (such as sweet Hawaiian-style tuna ;poke atop a crispy rice cake) that keep his menu fresh—and little old Wellesley a gastronomic destination. 583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482-6411, ming.com/blueginger.
Regulars at No. 9 Park are devoted to the house cocktail for the same reason they are to chef Barbara Lynch's prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras: It's simplicity perfected. While similar combos at other establishments tend toward the cloying, the Palmyra balances subtly sweet Rain vodka—made from white corn—with locally picked mint and a squeeze of lime to create an irresistible, always refreshing summertime sipper. 9 Park St., Boston, MA 2108, no9park.com.
A warm and radiant person must be at the heart of a romantic restaurant, and chef-owner Corinna Mozo fills this sweet subterranean spot with her love of cooking and a sensual style. Walls in this intimate nook are painted a lusty green. The unstudied mix of artwork keeps you in a relaxed South End mindset. And since the menu is neither exclusively highfalutin nor high-priced, you can turn any meal into a celebration. Hint: The most romantic seats in the house are in the greenhouse. 560 Tremont St., Boston, MA .
In a fiercely competitive category, Salts takes the cake for its extraordinary Eastern European-accented appetizers (chive pierogies with sweet Maine lobster, smoked paprika-fired gypsy bundles); its friendly, informed waitstaff; and its insanely decadent chocolate soup dessert. Entrées—both fish and meat—are brilliantly executed, each a medley of unexpected ingredients, such as pan-seared halibut with mahogany clams, fiddleheads, fennel, and roasted potatoes. Salts also offers a topnotch wine list, a nice selection of ports, and a warm, charming décor. 798 Main St., Cambridge, MA saltsrestaurant.com/.
Don't ever trust a bakery with prefilled cannoli. Modern fills them on the spot, so you don't get soggy cylinders found at so many pastry counters. The shell of this perfect cannoli is light and flaky, never greasy, and the not-too-sweet ricotta cream is never dry or slimy. Filling cannoli to order takes longer than squirting the cream in advance, but if you're in a rush, you shouldn't be in the North End anyway. 257 Hanover St., Boston, MA .
Whether you want a cake covered in flowers, ballerinas, or baseballs, this is the place. Not only does the cake taste great (especially the frosting), the decorators can reproduce any cockamamie theme your birthday boy or girl desires. We've gobbled a cake topped with an iceberg and a Sweet 16 cake with a saucy blonde Barbie waving from her little Deuce Coupe. There are traditional birthday cakes, too, domed in a trellis of flowers and ribbons—pretty, delicious, and appropriately decadent. 1356 Beacon St., Brookline, MA .
With its glossy, red shingles and gabled roofs, the Coonamessett Inn is the epitome of old Cape Cod, a perfect setting for high-style weddings and anniversaries alike. But you needn't wait for a special occasion: Sunday brunch features an array of delicious classics, from make-your-own omelets and baked salmon with special weekly sauces like beurre blanc or citrus, melon, and mango, to oversized fruit plates and gorgeous renditions of sweet favorites like chocolate mousse and carrot cake. 311 Gifford St., Falmouth, MA 2540, capecodrestaurants.org.
Slow-smoked, slow-cooked, but served fast, Jake's pork ribs are greasy slabs of heaven. Or they would be, if heaven were built out of meat so tender it melts off the bone in saintly gobbets, doused in a sauce precisely balanced between infernal smoke and angelic sweetness with just the right smack of spices. The devout will also want to pay homage to the beef ribs, the brisket, and the "burnt ends," all of which are equally divine. 3492 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, MA .
Rani is a study in contrasts. The spicy pinch of lamb vindaloo meets the sugary melt of mango chutney, and the taste of sour curry is followed by the sweet nectar of a rose lassi. No taste bud is ignored at Coolidge Corner's hottest new bistro. The atmosphere is airy and pleasant, with authentic décor to match the authentic Hyderabadi cuisine. And the service is as steady as the stream of locals coming through the door. 1353 Beacon St., Brookline, MA ranibistro.com/.
Push through the glass and wood storefront, past the bright pots of Trish McEvoy cosmetics and rows of neatly packaged Molton Brown potions (you can hit all of the above on your way out), and head straight for the heart of this operation: the spa. The intimate setting in back serves as the stage for some world-class pampering—whether it's a custom-designed massage at the hard-working hands of Amy Nicalek or a soul-saving pedicure. The entire staff works at the expert level. Better yet, they're downright sweet. 300 Boylston St. (Rte. 9), Atrium Mall, Chestnut Hill, MA grettacole.com/.
Glowing candles and a well-scrubbed interior may keep it more refined than your average fish shack, but Periwinkles' sea fare is straight-off-the-boat fresh. The crabmeat pie is a sweet and thick bit of retro revelry; the fresh lobster pizza on sourdough crust is tangy, filling, and scrumptious. Sitting on the deck perched over the Essex River at sunset, with an Ipswich Ale and a plate of grilled swordfish, provides an experience with which few places on earth can compete. 74 Main St., Essex, MA periwinklesrestaurant.com/.
The real ice-cream aficionado's conundrum: Once you've gone Danish, you'll never go back. If that Danish is Farfar's, however, you'll go back repeatedly. This isn't your over-the-top carnival of crazed flavor and obnoxious and undiscriminating mix-ins. Farfar's is about amazing, rich texture and simple but intense fresh flavors. The cinnamon is a coup de cremerie. The peanut butter reaches deep into the nut's truest flavor. And the sweet cream tastes like innocence itself. 272 Saint Georges St., Duxbury, MA farfarsicecream.com/.
As if life on picturesque Duxbury Harbor wasn't sweet enough, French Memories steps in with a cadre of top-notch carbs to up the ante. On hand are tiny petits fours and crunchy baguettes that would hold their own anywhere along the Seine. But the standouts are the truly irresistible almond croissants. Their crispy, buttery layers and dense, nutty filling condense into one cakelike bite. 459 Washington St., Duxbury, MA frenchmemories.com/.
More of a fish market than a dining destination, this Nantucket favorite deep-fries clams to crispy perfection. The crunch of the outer coating is followed by a burst of sweet and briny bivalve—the stuff of summer dreams. Sayle's also offers lobster rolls, whole lobsters to go, and superfresh raw catch for you to cook at home (although you might struggle to match the savory flavors of Sayle's). 99 Washington St. Ext., Nantucket, MA saylesseafood.com/.
At first, we were hopelessly distracted by the eye candy, as Abbicci's exotic-looking French and Peruvian servers floated by sensuously to a soft instrumental soundtrack. Once the food arrived, though, our gazes were fully focused on the Mediterranean-inspired plates before us: scallion-and-pistachio-stuffed Peppadews, scotch-glazed squad, and pan-seared pork loin with sweet and sour pepperonata. Owner Marietta Bombardieri fiercely edits her wine list to match her menu. As for other types of matchmaking, you're on your own. 43 Main St. (Rte. 6A), Yarmouth Port, MA abbicci.com.