estellesWe're on for a Saturday night special at Estelle's on Tremont St at the corner of Mass Ave. It's been a year since they took over this corner: Brian Poe, of Poe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, Parish Cafe and Tip Tap Room, is working with executive chef Eric Gburski, who logged big time at East Coast Grill. The menu is Southern and in interviews earlier, Poe specifies his cuisine as Gulf Coast-style: barbeque, seafood and grill with hospitality to match. I feel a drawl coming on.

We're greeted by the friendly manager who seats us right away. It's all happening: we've got football, backless bar stools and plenty of bench seating that looks out on one of the busiest corners in Boston's South End. Kim orders Falcon Perch pinot noir, rich with vanilla and yeast. Where the bread could be is a bowl of relish with sweet pickles, carrots and onions that go with soaking up the grape. Here's another stemless wine glass; maybe you're heating it, maybe that's okay. Only the drinker knows and she's not saying. Soda and tea come in Ball Mason jars and water, people, I kinda wish water didn't show up in plastic.

What to order, what to order? Kim's got grilled flank steak with mashed sweet potatoes and garlic spinach. 782 steak sauce is Worcestershire with sweet tomato, chili peppers, ketchup, cider vinegar, raisins, garlic and onion. One of us likes it a lot. The meat's generous with heaping greens and Kim's impressed with the crispy, peppery outside and that it comes out "really medium, not rare and not well done." She is, as you guess, our meat and potatoes specialist. All of it is gone in no time. Buttery sweet potatoes always make us think of Thanksgiving.

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bistromidiBistro du Midi is all about location. Facing the Public Garden and adjacent to the Four Seasons in Boston, it lives on Boylston Street not where you live, at least not where I live. But it's where you stroll for a south of France lunch. We like the downstairs where you'll meet Jenna who's minding the bar. Have the café menu at the bar and on the patio and if you can score a tiny table outside, take it. (Upstairs, Chef Robert Siska does it up big starting at 5 but we're partial to light fare). After two visits I'm on to this being one of those cafés where you think you're looking at someone you know from the movies. Today I think I see Dermot Mulroney. I ask Jenna and she agrees it looks like him: him in 10 years maybe. Still.

Quiche: It's Julie's choice with Languedoc Hecht & Bannier, better than good. This is a traditional quiche; the creamiest we've had since forever. It's topped with potato crisp and goat cheese, spinach, leek, and tomato fill it out but it's mostly cream and eggs. She says it's one of those lunches that taste like summer, even more with these bright greens. The last time I had my own quiche was a long time ago. I take just a bite; eggs are no longer mine and I miss them. This quiche is, as you expect, filling with the taste of France now that Maurice Chevalier is keeping us company.

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fairsteadintAndrew Foster and Steve Bowman dish contemporary American at Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline. It's a young vibe with a busy bar and communal tables so be ready to party. Why not? Even I have given up thinking I must get in my car to eat. It's not that I eat in the car. It just turns out favorite places or ones I want to try are elsewhere. So it's newsworthy that within walking distance of where I live, there are choices. Andy Warhol said it better: "I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.”

Julie and I start with sumac-cured salmon garnished with pomegranate. For the record, we never had fruit on our lox at home. This is more lox than I've ever had in one sitting, assuming you're out of cream cheese. It's a time when bread . . . Of course I should have asked our server, Scott. And yes, I'm well aware there's not a chance in the world Nathan Mhrvold, the modernist chef, will be inviting me to a 50-course, lab-prepared whimsical meal anytime soon.

Julie's having what she calls a medium-bodied Malbec with her wilted kale salad that has shallots, apple and pecorino I can smell across the table. (Wilted kale is so big our Whole Foods has a waiting list.) When it comes to salads, we're curious how far inventive chefs will go beyond mesclun. At home, we make lunch a lot with arugula, croutons, Boston lettuce and avocado. You impress, chef Jason Albus, when you do us one better.

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224 3Last year Boston Magazine named owner Kevin Tyo's 224 Boston Street: "Best Dorchester restaurant, neighborhood casual." Sadly, their website doesn't say when they opened. It's got to be 20 years and right from the start, the talk was good. It's your very own block party in the middle of the city three blocks off Mass Avenue and if it weren't so steamy, we'd be at one of those tables among the flowers on the patio.

You enter the red room with the bar to get to the green room with the chefs. It's an open kitchen that's noisy and friendly. The menu points traditional American: meatloaf, sirloin, mac 'n cheese, risotto, duck, pork chop, lamb along with salmon, cod cakes and scallops with sangría cold enough to induce brain freeze.

The big eater nearly always chooses pork chops on our food adventures. In her opinion, this one's tops and she easily meets her prediction: "I will eat it all." It's a hearty grilled double in a sweet apple glaze with asparagus. She opts for mashed potatoes that were cheerfully swapped for fried yucca. The chop's pink, moist and inspiringly, she finishes it with no trouble. I think she may have been dreaming of it all day or maybe it's the sangría.

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georgetownladiesEach night there is a line. I ask a young woman from Orlando, why? She says, "They're good." And what else? She points to the window sign: "They're on TV." They are on TV, on TLC: "All new episode! NY vs. Boston." Not baseball, cupcakes. The newly opened Newbury Street location of Georgetown Cupcake.

The number of people in line is 25 and sometimes more. Inside are two cashiers and five packers. They need them all. You pay first and wait to pick up. Everyone is smiling: the help, the people on line, the eaters, and we who'll soon have cake.

The concept comes from DC sisters Katherine Berman and Sophie LaMontagne. Wikipedia says the cupcakes have 250 calories. Neither of the cupcake sisters look like they have ever eaten a single cupcake.

My first is chocolate with cream cheese frosting that's been rolled in coconut. (Be sure to ask for the ones with cream cheese). Cream cheese is frosting's best friend. It's like bacon. If you put bacon that's not crispy between two slices of toasted mayo-ed cardboard, it's lunch.

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