The North End
Boston's Italian-American enclave has dozens of restaurants; many are tiny and don't serve dessert and coffee. Hit the caffès for an espresso or cappuccino and fresh pastry in an atmosphere where lingering is welcome. My favorite dessert destinations are Caffè Vittoria, 296 Hanover St. (tel. 617/227-7606; www.vittoriacaffe.com), and Caffè dello Sport, 308 Hanover St. (tel. 617/523-5063; www.caffedellosport.us). Mike's Pastry, 300 Hanover St. (tel. 617/742-3050; www.mikespastry.com), is a bakery that's famous for its bustling takeout business and its cannoli. If you plan to eat in, find what you want in the cases first, then take a seat and order from the server. For gelato, head to GiGi Gelateria, 272 Hanover St. (tel. 617/720-4243; www.gelateriacorp.com), which serves at least two dozen flavors of the Italian version of ice cream as well as pastries, coffee, and Italian soft drinks.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace & the Financial District
Expensive -- The national chain McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant has a branch at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in the North Market Building (tel. 617/720-5522).
Inexpensive -- Clover Food Lab operates Clover Food Truck, which parks near Dewey Square, on the Rose Kennedy Greenway across from South Station (Atlantic Ave. and Summer St.) weekdays from 8am to 6pm.
Moderate -- Artú has a branch at 89 Charles St. (tel. 617/227-9023). It's open Sunday and Monday from 4 to 11pm, Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 11pm.
The most entertaining and delicious introduction to Chinatown's cuisine is dim sum. At lunch and dinner, many restaurants have a second menu for Chinese patrons (often written in Chinese). You can ask for it or tell your waiter that you want your meal Chinese-style.
If you're serious about sweets, consider ending -- or even beginning -- your meal at Finale, 1 Columbus Ave. (tel. 617/423-3184; www.finaledesserts.com).
The area around Park Square (near Stuart St. and Charles St. S.), between the Theater District and the Public Garden, is a hotbed of upscale national chain restaurants. None of these places offers a unique or even unusual experience, but they're all reliable destinations if you're feeling unadventurous. They include Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 217 Stuart St. (tel. 617/292-0808); Maggiano's Little Italy, 4 Columbus Ave. (tel. 617/542-3456); McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, 34 Columbus Ave., in the Boston Park Plaza Hotel (tel. 617/482-3999); and P. F. Chang's China Bistro, 8 Park Plaza (tel. 617/573-0821).
Expensive -- There's a branch of Legal Sea Foods at 26 Park Sq., between Columbus Avenue and Stuart Street (tel. 617/426-4444; www.legalseafoods.com).
The Back Bay
Expensive -- For seafood of all sorts, Jasper White's Summer Shack has a branch at 50 Dalton St. (tel. 617/867-9955), across the street from the Sheraton Boston and the Hynes Convention Center. The excellent tapas restaurant Tapéo, 266 Newbury St. (tel. 617/267-4799), is owned by the same family as Dalí.
Moderate -- P. F. Chang's China Bistro has a branch in the Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St. (tel. 617/378-9961).
The Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., offers two dining options (tel. 617/859-2251; www.thecateredaffair.com/bpl). The Courtyard restaurant serves lunch on weekdays and afternoon tea Wednesday through Friday, and the self-service Map Room Café serves meals and snacks Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
Kenmore Square, the Fenway & Brookline
Moderate -- For after-dinner dessert and coffee, head to Finale, 1306 Beacon St., Coolidge Corner, Brookline (tel. 617/232-3233; www.finaledesserts.com).
The dining scene in Cambridge, as in Boston, offers something for everyone, from penny-pinching students to the tycoons many of them aspire to become. The Red Line runs from Boston to Harvard Square, and many of the restaurants listed here are within walking distance of the square; others (including a couple of real finds over the Somerville border) are under the heading "Outside Harvard Square."
Harvard Square & Vicinity -- A brilliant idea cooked up by a pair of Harvard Business School students, Finale, 30 Dunster St. (tel. 617/441-9797), specializes in dessert.
There's a Legal Sea Foods in the Charles Hotel courtyard, 20 University Rd. (tel. 617/491-9400).
Outside Harvard Square -- There's a Legal Sea Foods at 5 Cambridge Center, Kendall Sq. (tel. 617/864-3400). The Elephant Walk has a branch outside Porter Square, at 2067 Massachusetts Ave. (tel. 617/492-6900).
Clover Food Lab sends a Clover Food Truck to MIT, where it parks at 20 Carleton St. (btw. Amherst and Main sts.), weekdays from 8am to 7pm.
The food court on the lower level of the Porter Exchange mall, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Porter Square, is home to half a dozen or so Japanese businesses that attract expats from all over the Boston area. The super-authentic dining options are mostly fast-food counters with small seating areas in front; wander around until you see a dish that strikes your fancy. All open in the late morning and close by 9pm. Start at Cafe Mami (tel. 617/547-9130), but also check out -- in rough order of preference -- Sapporo Ramen (tel. 617/876-4805), Tampopo (tel. 617/868-5457), and Ittyo Restaurant (tel. 617/354-5944; www.ittyo.com). Afterward, hit Japonaise Bakery (tel. 617/547-5531; www.japonaisebakery.com) for French- and Japanese-style pastries, notably the items that incorporate azuki (red bean) cream.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.