Flour Bakery + Cafe
Joanne Chang, a James Beard Award-winning baker, gained fame when her gooey caramel sticky buns bested Bobby Flay in Season 2 of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Her bakery features a wide range of pastries, breads, cookies and sandwiches. Chang graduated from Harvard College with a mathematics degree but turned to her “eat-dessert-first” inner self and now oversees eight cheery locations in Boston and neighboring Cambridge.
BTW: Sticky buns are always available. They are huge and can be shared.
Flour Bakery + Cafe, 131 Clarendon St., Boston, Mass. 02116
The Friendly Toast
A wealth of classic breakfast staples — pancakes, Benedicts, eggs, avocado toast — are served in generous portions here all day. The menu has something for all ages and all appetites (including some gluten-free and vegan options). Two cheery locations are chockablock with retro tchotchkes: one a few minutes’ walk from Back Bay Station in Boston and another in Cambridge’s Kendall Square.
BTW: Use the website to get on a wait-list and manage the crazy-long lines.
The Friendly Toast, 35 Stanhope St., Boston, Mass. 02116
This bright, casual restaurant near Boston University features Chinese American fusion dishes with ingredients from local- and family-based producers. Mei Mei began as a food truck and earned a following with its Double Awesome: oozing eggs, Vermont cheddar cheese and pesto in a scallion pancake. Dumpling classes are also offered. Irene Li, who founded Mei Mei with her brother and sister, just received her fifth consecutive James Beard Award nomination for rising chef.
BTW: There’s a 20 percent university discount with an ID on weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. for students, staff and faculty.
Mei Mei, 506 Park Dr., Boston, Mass. 02115
Clover Food Lab
Clover is a healthy fast-food spot with an environmentally conscious ethos and more than 10 minimalist locations, including in Cambridge and one that’s steps away from Old City Hall. It features a seasonal, locally sourced, vegetable-based menu so good that you’ll forget it’s meatless. Clover loves to tweak and improve; its signature chickpea fritter has gone through at least 37 iterations since 2008. Sandwich favorites include the Impossible meatball and blue oyster mushroom.
BTW: Order with and pay the employee holding a tablet device near the menu.
Clover Food Lab, 1326 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Mass. 02138
When it opened in 1975, Harvest’s modern American cuisine was so refreshing that Julia Child became a regular. The farm-to-table movement was budding, and this gem tucked off an alley was trending. Located in Harvard Square, it remains a favorite of academic types and those who favor a bit of contemporary formality and white tablecloths. Many mains — beef, seafood, chicken — feature New England staples: mussels, fiddleheads and Taza chocolate.
BTW: No reservation? Consider the bar. The burger is delicious and the martinis spot on.
Harvest, 44 Brattle St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138
Island Creek Oyster Bar
Named after oysters farmed close to Cape Cod, this upscale modern restaurant in the Hotel Commonwealth is oyster heaven near Fenway Park. It features about a dozen Massachusetts oyster varieties and New England seafood standards, including a pricey lobster roll. Steak, chicken and a burger will make non-seafood eaters happy. While the tab adds up fast, the place will ease seafood cravings.
BTW: Oyster selections rotate according to availability. Ask the servers which appear less frequently and try those.
Island Creek Oyster Bar, 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Mass. 02215
South Street Diner
The concert just ended, the bars are closed and you are hungry. This faded diner in the Leather District, near South Station terminal, has been around for more than 70 years, and it serves breakfast, burgers and frappes (New England milkshakes with ice milk) 24/7; the bar closes at 1 a.m. Being popular with clubbers sometimes means long lines at 2 a.m.
BTW: Reservations for three people or more can be made from 1 to 5 a.m.
South Street Diner, 178 Kneeland St., Boston, Mass. 02111
Within the plaza, this basement hangout is full of techies from nearby MIT, the Google and Facebook offices, and anyone else craving an extensive beer list and Nashville hot fried chicken along with their billiards and pinball. Food is served until midnight, and the decor is Grandpa’s-camp-lodge kitsch. This is a place to share inventive beer-and-shot combos or pitchers of cocktails with roasted cauliflower or a bowl of mussels.
BTW: Bar stools are limited, and tables are reserved for diners.
State Park, 1 Kendall Sq., 300 Lower Level., Cambridge, Mass. 02139