Few people bother to write the Better Business Bureau to impart praise, but Gentle Giant, which gets 80 percent of its customers from repeats and referrals, inspires fierce and outspoken loyalty. "The 'giants' are impressive!" reads one client's testimonial for the Somerville-based chain on the bureau's website. "Their presence actually reduces the stress level!" With a number of standout amateur athletes (big ones) in their ranks, these guys can really hustle, yet they won't drop your mom's antique vase or sweat-stain your suede couch—and they frequently come in below estimate. 29 Harding St., Somerville, and other locations, MA 2143, gentlegiant.com.
Let the Lycra-wrapped hordes swarm Lansdowne Street. The real action is around the block at Sophia's, where a beautiful and diverse crowd can be found jumping around on any of the three floors. Not into the bump-and-grind, Miami-style Latin sound on the main floor or in the basement lounge? Then hit the first floor, pick a stranger to share a pitcher of sangria, and your salsa impulses will no doubt kick in with a little help from the live band. Those who prefer a more mellow scene head to the rooftop—the building's courtship nucleus—to let the sweeping view of the city and soft music work their matchmaking magic. 1270 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
The Kobe cap steak at Grill 23: We’re jonesing for the primal pleasures of a deep-charred steak crust that doesn’t involve sweating bullets over a home grill. The charred avocado nigiri at Café Sushi: Precise applications of lemon, salt, truffle oil, and fire-breathing blowtorch yield a showstopper too delicate for takeout travel. The quail kebobs at at Oleana: Ana Sortun’s elegantly boned-out game-bird skewers taste best in the urban paradise of Oleana’s gorgeous garden. The double-pork ramen at Yume Wo Katare: We miss waiting for hot bowlfuls of garlicky, pork-fat-drenched noodle soup at this intimate eatery, where the camaraderie in line is part of the fun. The “Royal Chocolate Cake for Two, Kween” at Orfano: The indulgence is available in sensible slices for the social-distancing era, but you can’t top the hedonistic joy of double-teaming an entire cake with a close friend.
Which isn't stopping Bull & Finch Pub owner Tom Kershaw from opening one in Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Muses nonwithstanding, the Art Store sells everything your magnum opus needs, and at prices that won't leave the artist in you starving. Forget rummaging through piles of 200 pre-stretched canvases to find the size you want; it's all neatly ordered against the wall. Every shade of paint—oil, acrylic, watercolor, you name it—is represented, and the paper selection runs from handmade, violet-embedded sheets to plain foam core. Like to sit while you sketch? There's furniture here too, plus easels and mesh file boxes. Come to think of it, the large, open, and neatly arranged space may just inspire you after all—to organize your studio. 401 Park Dr., Boston, MA .
Yes, we know. Radius is a name that's been dripping off foodies' lips like a thick béarnaise sauce since it opened two and a half years ago. And now it's getting yet another award that has nothing to do with food? Well, trust us—any interior this stark and masculine that still manages to make a women's room feel inviting deserves notice. Simple bud vases collaborate with dim lighting in the cavernous and elegantly sweeping, lounge-like room. The streamlined basin sinks are matched by highly stylized soap dispensers (filled with grapefruit liquid hand soap from Fresh) that are so adorable, otherwise staid ladies have been known to make off with them. 8 High St., Boston, MA radiusrestaurant.com/.
Meteorologist Dick Albert's assistant at Channel 5
You can’t make your dog enjoy getting groomed, but you might be able to trick him into not hating it here. Upon walking in, Fido will be distracted by buckets of treats and chew toys at snout level; by the time he reaches groomer Sarah Sneyd, even the most anxious pooch will be primed for a top-notch wash and cut. 313 Belgrade Ave., Roslindale, MA bostonpaw.com.
Louis has long clothed our city's who's who in sometimes elegant, sometimes edgy apparel—Balenciaga and Zac Posen, Project Alabama and Proenza Schouler. Plus, the überchic staff isn't übersnooty, offering honest opinions without leaving you feeling obligated to buy. That's something even the most sophisticated shopper can appreciate. 60 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 2110, louisboston.com.
Most men appreciate a stiff one (we're talking drinks, people). And most men enjoy impressing others with their knowledge of crafting a good stiff one (please). Adam Lantheaume's recently expanded cocktail-supply shop, in a new Davis Square location, is like a candy store for mixology connoisseurs. Books about cocktails, handstitched ice-crushing bags, shaker tins, glasses of all shapes and eras, and a vast selection of garnishes help stock every man's dream bar. And hard-to-find ingredients like gum syrup and maple bitters will have him drunk with joy. 69 Holland St., Somerville, MA 2144, thebostonshaker.com.
Debi Greenberg and Beth Negron have revamped the top floor and stocked it with an eclectic range of labels that runs the gamut of trends from funky to cool classics. In the Betty room, young, cutting-edge designers at affordable prices hang feet away from the likes of Jil Sander and her European contemporaries, Prada, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana. The buying team is constantly on the lookout for new design talent, so expect to find one-of-a-kind items that rarely materialize on department store racks. Another bonus is the sales staff which is fashion-friendly without being overbearing. 234 Berkely St., Boston, MA .
Someone once said you can tell a man's personality from his tie. Ari Boston has a selection to reflect even the most complex psyches, in fine woven silks from Italy. 6 Liberty Square, Boston, MA .
Cribs, strollers, potties, bottles, diaper bags. And stuff you never even dreamed a baby might need. 29 Tower Rd., Newton, MA .