Goodbye Chester, Hello Clucky

Posted: February 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Salem, The Lunch Counter | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Lunch Guy is sad. His favorite place for chicken recently shut down.

But a guy has to eat, so he’s begun frequenting Clucky’s Wings on Bridge Street in Salem. It’s not the deal that Chester Chicken was, but the fries are hand cut and the wings are top quality.

Lunch Guy likes to go with the five-piece combo for $8. He gets five boneless buffalo wings with blue cheese dip, batter-dipped fries, and a drink. He goes with mild on the buffalo sauce, but those who love heat may want to try the blazing or even the inferno.

And if you’re craving wings but your lunch partner is not, Clucky’s is the place to go. Both Clucky’s and its neighbor, Damatas, are owned by the same company, so wing people can satisfy their craving while others munch on pizza or subs.

Clucky’s Wings
33 Bridge St, Salem
(978) 744-4401
http://dynesite.com/ma/salem_cluckys_wings/cluckys_wings_home.html

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Lunch on the Water

Posted: February 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Finz, Salem, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

We’ll come right out and say it: we think Finz should lower their prices, at least on their lunch menu. The dining room is inviting, the view of Salem harbor is wonderful, and the fish is fresh, so we enjoyed our lunchtime visit overall. But it’s hard to feel as though we got good value for our dollar.

The best entrée we tried was the blackened catfish tostada. The fish was moist and flaky, with great grilled flavor, and the accompaniments worked to make the dish a success—corn tortillas, Manchego cheese, tomato/avocado relish, and cilantro crème fraiche. Still, at $14, that’s one pricy taco.

The scallops in our pan seared scallop salad were cooked perfectly, but for $14, we wished for a few more. The greens beneath them were fresh but needed more dressing and were not all that plentiful.

The fried flounder po’ boy was reasonably priced at $8, but the roll was bland, the remoulade was unremarkable, and the Cajun seasoned fries, although crispy, weren’t really seasoned. The fish was good, however, fresh and perfectly cooked.

We commend the service (friendly and proficient) and the menu, which has a terrific selection of appetizers ($5 and up) and entrees ($8 to $16 at lunch). But given the current economic climate, it might be a good idea to make sure customers leave with full stomachs rather than empty wallets.

Finz
76 Wharf Street, Salem
(978) 744-8485
www.hipfinz.com/salem.php

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Restaurant Discounts

Posted: February 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

We recently discovered some great deals available with the Mass Value Pass, which is available for free at http://www.massvacation.com/valuepass/northboston.php

If you scroll down past the hotels, you’ll see discounts at several restaurants and food stores on the North Shore, including Harbor Sweets in Salem, The Grand Cafe in Rockport, The Landing at 7 Central in Manchester, Nathaniel’s Restaurant at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, and Woodman’s of Essex.

Just download the pass (it’s quick), print out the page, and you’re all set. You do have to give your e-mail address, and the discounts listed right now expire on March 31.

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Wine Dinner at Sixty2 on Wharf in Salem

Posted: February 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Salem | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

On February 24, the folks at Sixty2 on Wharf are teaming up with Eric Olsen from Salem Wine Imports and Eileen Wright from Adonna Imports to serve up an Italian four-course dinner. The cost is $75 per person (not including tax and gratuity).

Here’s the menu:
Antipasti: Porchetta; house-made salame with marinated vegetables; Institut Agricole Regional Valle d’Aoste 2007 Muller Thurgau

Primi: Pappardelle al Sugo (fresh pasta tossed with a rich sauce of guinea hen, wild mushrooms, pancetta and rosemary); Le Piane 2004 La Maggiorina

Secondo: Vitello al Brasato (braised veal with balsamic vinegar, black mission figs, and radicchio trevisano over a parmesan risotto); Fattoria Di Fiano 2004 Chianti Colli Fiorentina Riserva

Dolce: Panna Cotta e Biscotti (panna cotta with dried apricot with honey and vanilla and almond bicotti); Le Biancara 2001 Recioto

Reservations are required.

Sixty2 on Wharf
62 Wharf St, Salem
(978) 744-0062
www.62onwharf.com

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Italian Warmth to Thaw Those Mid-Winter Blues

Posted: February 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Caffe Italia, Italian, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Not sure how it happened, but two different times in the past few weeks we found ourselves having a light supper at the bar at Caffe Italia on School Street in Marblehead.

Both the restaurant and bar are very inviting on a frigid winter’s eve; warm lighting, delicious smells, and pleasant staff make it a welcome respite. We weren’t looking for a big meal and, like everyone these days, are keeping a tight rein on our budget, so decided sampling few appetizers might be the way to go.

The bar was hopping both weekend nights we went, mostly with a 40-something crowd, eating as well as drinking. The bar is U-shaped which gives it a convivial atmosphere, and the single large screen tv is at the back of the room, so it doesn’t overwhelm.

Every entrée that went by looked and smelled terrific, making us question the decision to order just apps, but we stuck to the original plan. Both the Guazzeto di Cozza, PEI mussels sautéed with fresh tomato seafood broth, ($10) and the Cappesante, pan-seared jumbo scallops served with spinach and drizzled with balsamic reduction topped with roasted pepper, ($11) were excellent. In fact, we enjoyed the scallops so much we ordered them the second time as well. The Broccoli Stufate, sautéed broccoli rabe, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and a touch of hot pepper, ($7) was tasty, and the only clunker was a potato leek soup on special one night. Lumpy and oily with little flavor, it was a big disappointment.

Where drinks are concerned, the cocktails are reasonably priced, and the wines run from $6 to $7.50 per glass. The wine list is respectable, with the expected concentration of Italian selections. Although the bartenders are eager and attentive, they are also young and inexperienced. When a request for a Manhattan or a Sidecar is greeted with a sure smile but a quizzical look and an inquiry about the ingredients, you know you’re in trouble. Both attempts were palatable, but we suggest these kids bone up on their cocktail knowledge.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Caffe Italia offers live music some weekend nights. Their online entertainment calendar doesn’t seem to be kept up, so you’ll have to call to find out the schedule. On one of our visits, The Transistors, a fun retro rock band, had the place jumping. People of all ages got up and danced, and many of the patrons at the bar found themselves singing along.

So while we have yet to partake of a full meal there, we can recommend Caffe Italia for its warm, inviting atmosphere and the bar as a fun place to have a tasty and inexpensive dinner.

Caffe Italia
10 School St., Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
http://caffeitaliarestaurant.com/

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Holding Hands at Midnight

Posted: February 6th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Gloucester, Marblehead, Newburyport, Salem | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Holding hands at midnight,
’Neath the starry skies
Nice work if you can get it
And you can get it if you try
—Cole Porter

Planning to take your sweetie out next weekend? Here’s a roundup of some romantic spots for a Valentine’s Day dinner, along with a few places offering special menus.

Tryst in Beverly is offering a prix fixe menu on Friday and Saturday nights. The four-course meal is $75 per person. The regular menu will not be available.
www.trystbeverly.com

Ten Center St in Newburyport is serving a four-course dinner derived from its regular dining menu for $75 per couple or $40 per person.
www.tencenterstreet.com

The always-romantic Grapevine in Salem is offering a three-course prix fixe menu during the month of February and March for $21 per person (not including beverages, tax or gratuity).
www.grapevinesalem.com

For a more casual meal, Capts in Salem is offering three courses for $30 or five courses for $40.
www.capts.com/ValentineDay.aspx

Bella Verona doesn’t have a Web site, but this tiny spot across from the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem is cozy and candle-lit. The food is great and very reasonably priced.
Update: Bella Verona does have a Web site, as Cathleen pointed out. It’s http://www.bellaverona.com/

We haven’t tried Duckworth’s Bistro in East Gloucester, but it was recommended to us by a Chowhound who goes there regularly, and the menu looks terrific.
www.duckworthsbistrot.com

It’s been a while since we dined at Pellino’s in Marblehead, but it has a great atmosphere, and we continue to hear good things about the food.
www.pellinos.com

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Dish Hearsay: Bizarre Happenings on State Street

Posted: February 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Marblehead | 1 Comment »

Having watched a Marblehead institution slowly decline over the last 10 years or so, we were hopeful for a new life for Maddie’s Sail Loft when it reopened under new management. Sadly, we almost immediately heard tales of mediocre food and poor service. We’ve been understandably reluctant to make a confirmation visit—and now we’re glad we stayed away.

A reliable source e-mailed us this week to say she visited twice last month. On the first visit, a questionable cheeseburger resulted in an all-night illness. A return visit took an bizarre turn when a waitress delivering an item accompanied by the restaurant’s special ranch dip stuck her finger in our source’s dressing, licked her finger, and announced it was excellent!

“I was at a loss for words,” she wrote us. More than just a conversation killer, we fear.

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Quick Trip to the Azores

Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Azorean, Gloucester, Portuguese, Seafood | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

If your travel budget is looking as slim as ours this year, consider taking a culinary trip to the Azores. On a recent frigid Saturday night, our spirits were lifted by the warm atmosphere and out-of-the-ordinary cuisine at The Azorean in Gloucester.

We began with cocktails, including a very tart version of sangria featuring passion fruit liquor (passion fruit is a popular local item in the Azores, located about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal).

The accompanying cheese platter ($7) fell flat, with flavorless black olives and none of the selections piquing our fancy. The marinated pork spread was interesting, though, spiced with cinnamon and vinegar. And we thoroughly enjoyed the owners mix, a good-sized bowl of garlic shrimp and fried calamari ($13). The batter on the squid was pleasingly light, and the spicy garlic sauce in the bottom of the bowl had wonderful flavor.

The entrée selection is varied, with a large number of beef, chicken, and pork dishes, along with more than 10 seafood selections. Not all of our dinners were a success, but we can recommend the seafood casserole ($17), the monkfish in lobster sauce ($18), and the grilled codfish ($19), which came with whole smashed potatoes and delicious fish stuffing. Unless you are a true salt lover, we suggest staying away from dishes based on salt cod, which has been salted, dried, and reconstituted.

We’re a fan of green wine, a Portuguese specialty, and were disappointed that they were out of the $22 bottle we selected. Although we were perfectly happy with the crisp white our server suggested as an alternative ($30), do try the slightly effervescent vino verde if it’s available.

The restaurant was also out of the chocolate mousse, which leads us to believe it’s good. We did try the chocolate layer cake (rich ganache but nothing fantastic) and the pineapple coconut tart with chocolate crust—an interesting flavor combination and not overly sweet.

Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, and the ochre walls, European-style tiles, and old-world paintings helped us forget this tough New England winter for a few hours. The restaurant area emptied out fairly early, but the good-sized bar has tables as well and seemed like an excellent place to send your taste buds on a mini vacation.

Azorean
33 Washington Street, Gloucester
(978) 283-5500
www.azoreanrestaurant.com

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Chocolate Tasting Friday in Salem

Posted: February 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Salem | Tags: | No Comments »

As part of the Salem’s So Sweet event, a chocolate and wine tasting is being held this Friday (2/6), from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in Hamilton Hall (9 Chestnut St, Salem). Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the event or at the Chamber of Commerce (265 Essex St, Ste. 101, 978-744-0004).

Participating restaurants and retailers include Captain Dusty’s, Capt.’s Waterfront Grill, Coffee Time Bake Shop, FINZ Seafood & Grill, Harbor Sweets, Maria’s Sweet Somethings, Market Wine and Spirits, Nathaniel’s, New Civilitea, Pamplemousse, Rockafellas, Rose Medallion, Salem Wine Imports, Salem Waterfront Hotel, Sophie’s Sweet Shop, Strega Restaurant & Lounge, Victoria Station, and Ye Olde Pepper Co.

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