All week long, Metro will be highlighting our selections of the city's best -- from dining spots to health and beauty oases -- for 2012. Check back tomorrow for our picks in nightlife and culture.
Best 'no, kitty -- this is my pot pie' pie: Treats on Washington
379 Washington St., Brighton, 617-202-5837,
The annual Cartman-Approved Pot Pie award (Google "No, kitty -- this is my pot pie") now goes to Treats on Washington's golden-crusted, all-natural, humanely raised chicken pot pie. Second place: The pie-meets-calzone-like baked sandwiches are -- well, kitty isn't getting any of that, either.
Best place to get full on the cheap without feeling like a cheapskate: Abigails
291 Third St., Cambridge, 617-945-9086,
Abigails runs the gamut from sandwiches to entrees, but the fare is all hearty, no matter what you go with. Abigails is also tied with itself for being the best place to tag along with friends who are eating if you're too broke to afford a full meal. Seriously, the gouda fries are only $9, and you'll be patting your belly all night with satisfaction.
Best reason to give up your veganism: 5 Napkin Burger
105 Huntington Ave., Prudential Center, Boston, 617-375-2277
OK, so you don't have to give up your veganism at this New York import -- they have veggie burgers -- but why not? Do you really want to miss appetizers like the Deep Fried Pickles and Pastrami? Or burgers like the signature 5 Napkin with gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli? Or entrees like the Chipotle Chicken Mac and Cheese? Your choice.
Best use of chickpeas in a pita: Amsterdam Falafelshop
248 Elm St., Somerville, 617-764-3334,
Unlike most falafel shops, this one, modeled on those in Amsterdam, lets you pick your toppings buffet-style. And oh, what a delicious selection it has -- too many to mention, but it'll suffice to say it goes way beyond lettuce. The crew fry up the balls fresh throughout the day, but give each customer so many (five is standard) that they can't always keep up with the demand. The wait is well worth it.
Best suburban diner to eat like you're in NYC: Strip-T's
93 School St., Watertown, 617-923-4330,
Critics and bloggers alike flock to Watertown -- for the first time ever, probably -- to rave about this longtime neighborhood diner transformed into a foodie haven by chef Tim Maslow, who recently announced plans to expand into Brookline.
Most likely to start a bitter but delicious pizza war: Otto
289 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-232-0014,
Portland, Maine's Otto, with experimentally delicious toppings combos like butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry, could've easily gone up against the Upper Crust in its prime (though the war may be over since the Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy). With two other locations, in Harvard Square and near B.U., it's threatening to become just as ubiquitous -- not too fast, guys!
Most likely to give Colonel Sanders a run for his money: Bon Chon
57 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, 617-868-0981,
This Korean chicken wing chain still has most of its locations in Asia, but the Allston joint has been doing well enough that one just opened in Harvard Square. What's the food like? The way people talk about it, it seems to border on a religious experience, at least insofar as freshly cooked fried chicken with perfectly balanced hot sauce is capable of producing such a thing. Turns out it's pretty capable.
Best Southern accent in Yankeeland: M3
382 Highland Ave., Somerville 617-718-6666,
M3's basic ideal of meat and three veg doesn't come close to describing Tennessee native Jason Owens' Davis Square restaurant. Without compromising Southern home cooking, M3 delivers retro diner chic for the modern palate -- and the best damn fried catfish north of the Mason Dixon line.
Best designated driver who won't judge your indulgence:City Wine Tours
1 Mifflin Place, Suite 400, Cambridge, 855-455-8747 ext. 3
City Wine Tours takes the wheel, or heel, and guides oenophiles on wonderful wine-tasting treks around town. (Now if only they could drop us off at home after!)
Best cure for the uncommon cold: Aquitaine's French onion soup
569 Tremont St., Boston, 617-424-8577,
Even in the land of clam chowder, Aquitaine's French onion tops the comfort zone chart for the sniffles and snizzles of winter. It's made the classic way - white wine, onions, stock and topped with a hearty crouton dripping with Gruyere.
Best place to call ahead to make sure it's actually in business this month: Tonic
3698A Washington St., Jamaica Plain, 617-522-4131,
After a rocky start, the loss of the opening chef and a brief hiatus, JP's sleek (but cheap) French/
Japanese hybrid bistro is (we think) back in business.
Best place to look European without having to drop any T's:The Blue Room
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge 617-494-0968,
The Blue Room's new wine bar, Belly, is the last bon mo(t) in off-the-wall, across-the-pond wines. Nibble equally eclectic charcuterie and cheese while getting the nose on a wine chosen by Central Bottle's amazingly enthusiastic wine lovers.
Best-looking 100-year-old dame: Fairmont Copley
138 St. James Ave., Boston, 617-585-7222,
Not only is the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel sporting the best facelift since Joan Rivers, but Oak Long Bar + Kitchen is the most swellegant place ever and looks way better than before the centennial renovations.
Best Boston cream pie -- or is that best cupcake?: Sweet
49 Mass. Ave., Boston, 617-247-2253,
Sweet's Boston cream pie cupcake is the best er, cupcake, er, cream pie, er ... whatever, it is, it's the cupcake that even cupcake deniers love to guzzle.
Kindest pizza in the world: Veggie Planet
47 Palmer St., Cambridge, 617-661-1513,
Veggie Planet's pizza is simply the tastiest, cruelty-freest snack around. It's kind to humans, too, with lower gluten whole-wheat flour made by those fine Haley House peeps.
Best place for a man date:Sweet Cheeks
1381 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-1300,
It's safe to say that the best way to the heart of the majority of the bruter sex is dinner at Sweet Cheeks. For everyone else, it's simply the best BBQ in town.
Coziest place to take in some history in a glass: Kitchen
560 Tremont St., Boston
Eating and drinking are history. Just consult the dozens of classic cookbooks that line the shelves on this new South End entree that takes the origins of its food and drink as seriously as its preparation.
Best make-out table for that smoochy romantic dinner: Avila
1 Charles St. S, Boston, 617-267-4810,
Avila’s alcove seat means your liaison dangereuse remains cozy and cosseted. Glance out at the hoi polloi while you’re sequestered in this private dining nook in this pretty restaurant. Chef Rodney Murillo’s pan-Mediterranean menu will definitely seal the deal.
Best place to eat breakfast at an inappropriate hour: The Friendly Toast
1 Hampshire St., Cambridge 617-621-1200,
With an endless (and endlessly creative) menu, including pumpkin pancakes and green eggs and ham — not to mention the surreally wacky decor — this Kendall Square mainstay is delicious for both mouth and eyes. The only trouble is finding the notoriously elusive One Kendall Square plaza —we recommend a divining rod.