Smoke is the barbecuer master's livelihood, but it's a delicate substance—too much and your meat tastes charred, too little and it's bland. Thankfully, Chris Thompson and Kate Economides have learned to tame the fickle ingredient. They smoke all of their meats on-site at Blackstrap BBQ, monitoring the slow-cooked pieces for hours on end. Their supply of oak wood lends a deliciously burnt tinge to brisket, sausage, chicken, and ribs, which are then rubbed with spices and arranged with down-home sides.
It can be hard to pick your meal, though, as The Boston Globe magazine attests: "Everything on the blackboard is irresistible." A classic single-meat plate comes with two sides and cornbread, but you can also pile sauce-covered bites between sandwich buns, which let you eat with your hands instead of large, unwieldy jai alai scoops. Then there's the Hog—a kielbasa wrapped in bacon, smoked, fried, and put on a roll. Most entrees come with sides, ranging from baked beans and collard greens to sweet-maple mashed potatoes.
Depending on your choice of meat, you get to sample different regional tastes. Ribs get a Memphis-style dry rub, whereas the pulled pork follows North and South Carolina traditions, and the brisket is all Texas. Kate and Chris serve these signature suppers from their Winthrop kitchen, but they also convey them to events through their catering business, Tastyplates.
Cast in dim, incandescent light creeping out of the dining room’s decorative lanterns, Kasbah Restaurant's cushy seats surround tables filled with slow-simmered tagines, fluffy couscous, and tapas plates selected from a menu of Moroccan fare. The chicken tangiers’ apricot-kissed sherry sauce helps it maintain its status as the restaurant’s best seller, but the house specialty is the fried calamari, which arrives dotted with cherry peppers and doused in a secret sauce whose recipe is only known by the kitchen’s chef and the mayor of Casablanca. An expansive drink list showcases the eatery's carefully crafted martinis and homemade sangria, and weekly events invite belly dancers to shimmy to the sounds of a live Middle Eastern band.
Using old family recipes, La Siesta offers fresh, homemade Mexican comfort food. Start out with chicken nachos ($7.95) and queso fundido peppered with chorizo and poblanos ($6.50), or feed a fleet of mouth ships from a la carte items, including cheese enchiladas ($2.50 each), steak tacos ($3.50 each), and chiles rellenos ($3.50 each). Special entrees such as shrimp fajitas ($14.95) and sautéed tilapia with white wine, black olives, and other veggies ($13.95) fire up tongue ovens, while deep-fried chimichangas combine shredded chicken or ground beef with pico de gallo, rice, and beans in a blanket of cheese, ranchero sauce, and sour cream ($9.95). Knock out lunchtime stomach rumbles with the huevos rancheros burrito, a combo of scrambled eggs and peppers alongside tomatoes, beans, and cheese ($5.95), or lure sweet teeth with flan and fried ice cream (both $3.95).
At Sain Visage, visitors can choose from a wide variety of facials, massages, and body treatments that effectively shed stress and dispel voodoo hexes. A 60-minute oxygen facial ($95) enhances blood circulation and rejuvenates skin, while a 40-minute express-treatment facial ($60) includes a light exfoliation, massage, and finishing mask. If you need to relieve tension while on break from the Pop–Tart factory, allow your muscles to become sweet fruit-purée beneath the hands of an expert therapist during a 30-minute de-stressor massage ($50). Or play hookey and languish your relaxation time with a 60-minute Swedish massage ($85), which uses long and smooth strokes with gentle to medium pressure. Body treatments exfoliate fleshoskeletons with services such as the 50-minute salt-glo body scrub ($80) that uses natural salts to polish the skin like a cellophane-wrapped Ferrari. Patrons can kick back and soak in the relaxing atmosphere and striking décor that features soothing lighting, soft tones, and comfy furnishings.
Butter, sugar, and flour. These three simple ingredients form the basis of each treat cooked up at Oakleaf Cakes. While the ingredients are straightforward, the cakes are anything but, as proven by head baker Amanda Oakleaf and the 4-foot-tall Dora the Explorer cake she constructed on the Food Network’s Cake Challenge. At her shop, Amanda and her team of artists, sculptors, and bakers create treats that run the gamut in flavor and function, from elegant tiers of red velvet to sugary cartoon figurines placed atop marshmallow fondant. Guests can dream up flavor combinations such as gingerbread cake slathered in white-chocolate buttercream or chocolate samoa layered in honey icing, or offer up a 3-D object for Amanda and her team to re-create in meticulous, edible detail. Regularly scheduled cake-decorating classes impart visitors with some of the team’s creative tricks of the trade, such as leveling cakes and keeping schoolchildren from swarming in through the doggy door at the sight of snickerdoodle cupcakes.
The bakery's from-scratch approach extends to the attached café, as well. Rather than keeping coffee warm throughout the day, staffers ground and brew each cup to order, using custom-roasted Barrington Coffee beans and an Aeropress. This cutting-edge brewing method is designed to extract exactly enough flavor from the beans to create the best brew possible, and achieves it in less than two minutes. Each sultry cup of joe perfectly complements the bakery's wide assortment of baked goods, which range from classic cupcakes, cookies, and muffins to wholly unique goodies including made-from-scratch pop tarts, artisanal marshmallows, and miniature cheesecakes.
At Oceanside Pilates & Yoga Studio, owner Ellen Conti and a crew of enthusiastic instructors help bodies look and feel their best with daily fitness classes. Burnt-orange and creamy-yellow walls surround a dimly lit workout area where students can roll out their mats or hop on a Pilates Reformer. Nearby, a turquoise statue of Buddha keeps watch over students from atop a black dresser, quietly reminding them to retain their inner calm whether working up a sweat or sinking in quicksand.
Classes include Kundalini yoga, which combines intense exercises and breath work, and gentle-flow yoga, which focuses on basic yoga poses, relaxation, and meditation. Based on the ballet barre, barre classes improve range of motion, balance, and flexibility by blending Pilates moves, yoga stretches, and fitness accessories such as weights and thera bands. Oceanside also offers organic spray-tanning services that coat freshly forged muscles in bronze, creating the illusion of a day spent at the beach or on the assembly line of a copper-tubing factory.