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Cambridge Mass Appeal

SHOPPING At the well-curated design boutique Abodeon (1731 Mass. Ave.; 617/497-0137), handwritten labels explain the provenance of each piece: furniture and tabletop items from Design House Stockholm, Iittala, and Georg Jensen; bright orange vintage Krenit bowls from Denmark; serving trays fashioned out of salvaged highway signs. • A collection of outlandish bicycles is a highlight of Absolutely Fabulous (1309 Cambridge St.; 617/864-0656), a great new antiques shop in Inman Square. Owner Mara Loeber seeks out chic vintage clothing, classic European prints, and furniture and glassware from almost every era, selling them at a minimal markup. • Another Inman gem, J. Austin Antiques (1361 Cambridge St.; 617/234-4444) specializes in Arts and Crafts and Stickley furniture, with handsomely restored pieces such as a Mission drop-front desk for $400. • Reside (266 Concord Ave.; 617/547-2929) stocks Mid-Century Modern furnishings that you won't find reproduced in the Design Within Reach catalogue: beautiful George Nakashima chairs and mint-condition pieces by Alvar Aalto, Herman Miller, Dunbar, and Knoll. • And, of course, this town has a few bookshops. Seamus Heaney and Robert Pinsky are among the regulars at the musty, dusty Grolier Poetry Book Shop (6 Plympton St.; 617/ 547-4648), the oldest continuous poetry bookstore in America. • At the 72-year-old Harvard Book Store (1256 Mass. Ave.; 617/661-1515), the employee picks are actually compelling and the window displays worth looking at.

NIGHTLIFE A crop of new bars has sprouted in the burgeoning, yet-to-be-named area between Porter and Harvard Squares. (HarPort?PoHaSqua?) Yuppies and students reared on Sex and the City congregate at the West Side Lounge (1680 Mass. Ave.; 617/ 441-5566) or the larger Temple Bar (1688 Mass. Ave.; 617/547-5055), both sleeker and sexier than your average Cambridge nightspot. • There are two incentives to cram into the candlelit bar at nearby Chez Henri (1 Shepard St.; 617/354-8980; dinner for two $100): one is the deftly mixed mojito, the other is the Cuban sandwich. Both have achieved mythical status. • Funky down-market bars are going the way of $700-a-month studios here, which is what makes the B-Side Lounge (92 Hampshire St.; 617/354-0766) such a find. The faux-dive interior may be as self-conscious as the cans of Schlitz at the bar, but the clientele is too cool to care. • On any given night at the Middle East (472-480 Mass. Ave.; 617/864-3278), in grungy Central Square, a trance DJ, a belly dancer, an indie-rock band, and an Afrobeat collective might all perform in separate rooms. • A multi-ethnic crowd slinks into the Moroccan-themed Enormous Room (567 Mass. Ave.; 617/491-5550) in Central Square to recline on silk pillows and dance to moody electronica. It's the sultry, sophisticated lounge this city never had, never expected. Welcome to Cambridge, version 2004.

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