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Best bakery to get served by a retired right winger
The palate-pleasing pies at Antoine's Pastry Shop are so sought-after during the holiday seasons that the Khachadourian family, which owns and runs the business, have to call in a ringer - family friend and former Bruins right winger Ken Hodge - to help out behind the counter. But it's not just the pies - or Phil Esposito's linemate- that keep people coming back. Antoine's, which has been a fixture in the Newton village of Nonantum for more than 50 years, serves up high-end, mouth-watering Mediterranean-style pastries like cannolis, croissants, and melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon horns. Yum.

Antoine's Pastry Shop | 317 Watertown Street, Newton | 617.527.6747

Best way to feel like youre in Paris or New York without leaving Newbury Street
Sonsie has always been a tough place to get an easy handle on. Some people go there for the food. Some for the drinks. Some for the boys. Others for the girls. The really adventurous and energetic might want to sample all four. Like La Coupole in Montparnasse or the Odeon in TriBeCa, the style is lux with a suggestion of louche especially as night wanders into morning.

Sonsie | 327 Newbury Street | Boston | 617.351.2500 |

Best food-as-hangover-cure
On the difficult mornings that follow alcoholic overindulgence, a carbohydrate blast can often jolt body and mind back into functioning-mode. For the perfect mixture of complex sugars and heady flavors, head to Bagel Rising at the corner of Harvard and Comm Aves, where laid-back Allstonians dish out breakfast all day, lunchtime masterpieces, coffee, and some of the best potato salad we've ever tasted. The café's combos of cream cheese, meats, tofu, eggs, and cheese range from traditional (a whole-wheat bagel with veggie cream cheese) to adventurous (the Spicy Chix is roasted chicken, jalapeno cream cheese, tomato, and cucumbers). Whatever you choose, you'll feel rejuvenated and ready to face the day.

Bagel Rising | 1243 Comm Ave, Allston | 617.789.4000 | Mon-Sat, 7 am-7 pm and Sun 7 am-5:30 pm |

Best place to binge and still leave feeling somewhat healthy
At Chinatown's Buddha's Delight, we've found an exception to the rule that says lunchtime feasts leave you feeling unhealthily full of food, yet zapped of energy. Indeed, this Vietnamese-inspired vegetarian buffet, which overflows with fake meats, real veggies, curries, soups, and spring rolls, is easy on your stomach - and at $7.50 for all you can eat, it's not bad for your wallet either. The large, second-story room offers no-nonsense simplicity, a view of the bustling streets below, and is the perfect place to gather with a group of friends for a midday gorge-fest.

Buddha's Delight | 5 Beach Street, Chinatown | 617.451.2395 | also Buddha's Delight Too! | 404 Harvard Street, Brookline | 617.739.8830

Best place to pluck your "Precious Eyebrows"
Or, for that matter, restock your supply of Gunpowder. We're talking green tea of course, "Precious Eyebrows" being the translation of Chun Mei, a bright and grassy brew so-called because the leaves resemble that part of a maiden's visage. Besides such fascinating linguistic trivia, the bustling bistro of Teavana offers up every gradation of the ancient elixir from the palest Snow Geisha to the hardest Assam. It also stocks variations on such bracing beverages as the antioxidant-rich Yerba Mate (the "Mate Lemon Burst" is true to its title) and Roibos ("Roibos Peach" is an exceptionally serendipitous blend). Oh, and "Very Berry" tastes like a blueberry muffin in a cup. With free samples hot and cold always on hand, it's the healthiest indulgence around.

Teavana | Prudential Center Mall | 617.262.8327

Best late-night olfactory surprise
We'll admit that there have been nights when we've stumbled home through Allston just before the sun rises. On those nights, when bed seems so far away - and tomorrow morning all too close - it's hard to imagine anything cozier than the scent of fresh-baked bread wafting warmly into one's nostrils. That's why it's such a treat to pass the Clearflour Bakery, nestled in about one block from Comm Ave near Packard's Corner, teetering between Brookline and Allston. Something to look forward to - a morning filled with hearty Venetian olive rolls or "morning buns," and a larger loaf of sourdough, saved for a late-afternoon lunch.

Clearflour Bakery | 178 Thorndike Street, Brookline | 617.739.0060 | Mon-Fri, 8 am-8 pm and Sat-Sun, 9 am-7 pm |

Best Beer for Cheap
There are dive bars all over town where you can find a cold pint for two bucks. But you'll get what you pay for: cheap, flavorless lager. It's possible, however, to quaff a rich, well-crafted beer for a measly couple of greenbacks - and learn about the brewing process to boot. In Jamaica Plain, the Samuel Adams Brewery offers tours every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Learn about Boston's brewing history, stroll among the boilers and kettles, smell the malt and hops. And, at the end, drink it all in with samples of the beer that sparked a microbrew revolution. Best of all, those two dollars are earmarked for local charities.

Samuel Adams Brewery | 30 Germania Street, Jamaica Plain | 617.368.5080 |

Best way to combine Red Sox and raw fish
After Boston had gone three and out to Chicago last October in the ALDS, I went to my favorite sushi place, Umi, two and a half blocks from Fenway, and ruefully ordered their Red Sox Maki Mono Roll. It was designed for times like these, its layers of crabstick, eel, avocado, and scallion surrounding a heart of shrimp tempura and topped with bright red roe are a symphony of textures and flavors - crisp and tender, sweet, sour and salty - that mirrors the sting of fresh defeat and a nostalgia for past triumph. Just one of their imaginative concoctions (try the Fenway, Crazy and Black Widow rolls as well), it tastes like ... victory.

Umi | 90 Peterborough Street, Boston | 617.536.6688

Best place to eat well for the cost of a Happy Meal
A breakfast that rivals anything you'd get at a Paris boulangerie costs $5. A lunch that will, in all likelihood, be one of the finest meals you have in this city runs a couple dollars more. Flour Bakery + Café may be the best restaurant in Boston, period; it's certainly the best place to eat a gourmet meal for $10 or less - in other words, about the cost of a Happy Meal or half a Domino's pizza. For all who love good food but have limited cash - and that's most of us - Flour is an unparalleled destination.

Flour Bakery + Café | 1595 Washington Street, Boston | 617.267.4300

Best bar renovation
Before last fall, the major distinguishing feature of the M&M Tavern, in Dorchester, was that one could, apparently, stab or shoot someone without anyone in the small room seeing it or remembering that it happened. Located right in Grove Hall, it attracted locals from many different factions - for many it was a fun, welcoming mingling spot, but if you didn't know your who's who of street gangs, almost any comment or physical contact could have dire consequences. Now things are very different, from the reduction in gang tensions to the mainstreaming of Grove Hall, led by the Mecca shopping plaza right next door. The M&M shut down for several months and reopened brighter, cleaner, and friendlier, with a nice pool table and live music on weekends.

M&M Tavern | 442 Blue Hill Avenue, Dorchester | 617.442.7077

Best Guinness. No, seriously, best Guinness
Guinness is a good morning beer. Same color as coffee, not overly bubbly, smooth, slow, infinitely imbibable in the a.m. Flann O'Brien's, in Mission Hill, doesn't open until 11, but it pulls this city's premiere pint of Guinness. Any yahoo with an arm can pour a beer, but there's something about the black stuff at Flann's that stands out. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how or why, whether it's the temperature (not too cold), the beer-to-head ratio (consistent and precise), or the surroundings (the dark, snug space peopled with Mission Hillies, local punks, MassArt and Northeastern kids), but the pints taste better here.

Flann O'Brien's | 1619 Tremont Street, Mission Hill | 617.566.7744