5 Corners Kitchen: Former Aquitaine Chef Shares His Vision for New Marblehead Eatery

Posted: March 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, Bistro, Marblehead | Tags: , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

3262010bAlthough the North Shore has been experiencing something of a restaurant renaissance lately, Marblehead hasn’t really seen much activity in its dining scene—until now, that is. Marblehead resident Barry Edelman plans to change that by bringing enthusiasm, fresh ideas, and his passion for food to 2 School Street.

A former chef de cuisine at Aquitaine in Boston, Edelman had recently moved to Bistro du Midi in the Back Bay. When that didn’t work out as planned, he decided it was time to make his personal vision a reality and open his own restaurant.

As real estate agents have drilled into us, it’s all about location, and in that respect Edelman hit the jackpot. The former Ladycakes Bakery space sits precisely in the middle of the action at the Five Corners intersection. As Edelman says “When you walk into a space, you want to feel good energy.” With antique architectural charm, high pressed-tin ceilings, large windows, and a corner front door, the space has great potential. The clincher? Edelman can walk to work.

A hands-on guy with boundless energy, he is managing the renovation on his own, and I found him earlier this week with hammer in hand and plaster dust covering his jeans. He showed me around the space, which will feature a bar and dining room, accommodating about 40 people between the two. The kitchen is small, but being both owner and chef, he’s designed it to work for his style.

And what is his style? Despite a background long on French cuisine, Edelman says “I take pride in the simple things, I am going to be doing a lot of humble ingredients. My style is whatever’s good, whatever’s fresh, whatever’s local. I want 5 Corners Kitchen to be a place where people are happy, enjoy themselves, eat well, and not feel they’ve been robbed,” he said.

Edelman’s passion for this type of cooking is obvious. “Sometimes chefs feel like they’ve gotta be creative and do some crazy concoction,” he said. “I want to use fresh, local ingredients in a way t­hat makes sense. I’m someone who cooks a little bit more classically and tries to nail the way it should be done.”

Fresh is a word Edelman repeats like a mantra. And he’s serious about the local aspect. “I told my seafood vendor, ‘I’m the guy you’re going to want to call when you’ve got skate.’ Nobody uses skate or monkfish—local stuff like that comes from our waters.”

As spring unfolds, many more local foods will be available, of course. “I want to use the stuff that actually comes from here. We live in a beautiful place that has so many great farms,” Edelman said. “In the spring, you can bet I’ll be at the farmers’ markets every week.” He also hopes to be able to offer handcrafted charcuterie.

Right now, the plan is to offer six or seven appetizers and entrees very moderately priced, with entrees under $20. The menu will change almost constantly to accommodate foods that are fresh and in season. Like the main menu, the wine list will be small, clean, concise, and ever-changing, as well as affordably priced.

Edelman feels strongly about keeping his prices reasonable and says he’ll be able to do this because he’s not paying Boston rental prices. He wants to provide a city experience in terms of food and service but at a North Shore price point.

“The things I’m going to focus on don’t cost any extra money,” he said. “To properly season and cook a piece of fish doesn’t cost any extra. To greet someone at the door and make sure their server is attentive without being intrusive doesn’t cost anything.”

5 Corners Kitchen will initially be open for dinner and for a “good old-fashioned brunch with proper omelets” from 10:00 to 3:00 on both Saturdays and Sundays. Eventually, Edelman hopes to offer lunch as well. Right now, the target date for opening is May 1. From the look of things, Edelman has his work cut out for him to meet that date, but if he can create a comfortable room that offers interesting fresh food with great service at reasonable prices, we’ll be the first in line, whenever it opens.

Edited 5/11/10; 5 Corners Kitchen is slated to open tomorrow, May 12th, for dinner.

Edited 5/28/10; Our review of 5 Corners Kitchen has been posted.

5 Corners Kitchen
2 School Street, Marblehead
www.5cornerskitchen.com

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Our Valentine’s Crush: The Blue Ox

Posted: February 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Blue Ox, Lynn | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We had planned to take a night off from reviewing when we headed to dinner on Saturday night for a Valentine’s Day treat. But we had such a great meal at The Blue Ox that we’d be remiss not to tell you about it.

Feeling in a celebratory mood, we chose Matt O’Neil’s $39 prix fixe menu, which included two options for each of the three courses. The cauliflower soup was outstanding: creamy and smoky with a generous serving of bay scallops. Not loving frisee, we were skeptical about the salad but wanted something light before the pasta entrée. As it turns out, we don’t mind frisee one bit when it’s dressed in a maple vinaigrette and accompanied by fantastic duck prosciutto, tangy blue cheese, sweet apricots, and salty pistachios—an incredible combination.

Our main courses were also highly satisfying. The grilled filet mignon was properly cooked to medium rare and kissed with a flavorful port wine glaze. A heaping serving of mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus were perfect accompaniments. Just as good were the firm but light potato gnocchi with a generous portion of lobster and a wonderful sauce of butternut squash, mascarpone, and parmigiano.

Yes, we were too full for dessert, but we had to at least sample the mascarpone cheesecake (to die for) and the decadent chocolate layer cake with whipped-cream filling.

Given that it was Saturday night on Valentine’s Day weekend, we half-expected to run into kitchen missteps and/or harried waitstaff. We’re happy to report this was not the case. Despite a very crowded dining room, our waitress was smiling and calm throughout, and we never felt rushed or neglected.

With O’Neil’s obvious talent and reasonable prices for this quality of food (entrées run from $15 to $19), the crowds are no surprise. Still, opening this type of restaurant in downtown Lynn was a risk, so we’re glad to see that diners are not letting the location get in the way of a terrific meal.

Next Tuesday (2/23) at 7:00, O’Neil is holding a demonstration on deboning a chicken and preparing a chicken roulade. The cost is $35, which includes a three-course meal of escarole soup, the chicken roulade, and almond cream cake. We attended an earlier demonstration and found it informative and fun—you can read about it here. Call if you want to reserve a spot, as these tend to sell out.

The Blue Ox
191 Oxford Street, Lynn
(781) 780-5722
www.theblueoxlynn.com

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Local Flavors Shine at Hamilton’s 15 Walnut

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 15 Walnut, American, Bistro, Hamilton | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

With a focus on local food and a frequently changing menu, the bistro called 15 Walnut is a terrific addition to Hamilton’s dining scene, which leans toward pub-style restaurants. It’s also beautifully decorated in warm, inviting colors with exceptional art work and a large bar.

We sampled two sandwiches and two salads, with all four dishes clearly focused on top-quality ingredients. The Cuban sandwich ($10) was decadent and melty, with crisp grilled bread and pulled pork along with house-cured ham. The crispy haddock burrito ($11) was surprisingly light for a fish sandwich, a wrap with a perfect mix of fish, vegetables, and salsa fresca.

The 15 Walnut salad features red oak lettuce, Valley View goat cheese, candied walnuts, and fried shallots ($8). The wood oven beet salad mixes arugala with beets, almonds, and a very light aioli ($15 with chicken). We liked that the salads can be accompanied by steak ($7), chicken ($5), or scallops ($6), but we were surprised by the portion sizes, which were closer to side salad than entrée.

Since we were there for a quick lunch, we didn’t have a chance to sample any cocktails or desserts, which sound intriguing. For example, the Endless Summer is made with fresh-squeezed orange juice, orange vodka, cointreau, and splash of sour, and the honey crème brulee and the apple crisp are made with local honey and fruit. The entrées also sound good (especially the marinated skirt steak and the lobster mac and cheese) and seem reasonably priced at $17 to $22 with two sides.

Open from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm every day, 15 Walnut is definitely making it easy for us to return to sample more creative food with a local emphasis.

15 Walnut
15 Walnut Rd, Hamilton
(978) 468-2434
www.15walnut.com

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North Shore Food Finds

Posted: October 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Asian, Bakery, Beverly, Bistro, Deli, Gloucester, Marblehead, Marketplace, Peabody, Revere, Rockport, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Everyone has their favorite restaurants, from the one you look forward to visiting on special occasions to the one you turn to when you can’t even think about cooking. But what about those favorite dishes and treats you’ve discovered in your neighborhood or on your travels? We’ve put together a list of ours in the hopes that readers will be inspired to respond in kind. If you’ve got a North Shore food find to add to the list, let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to check it out.

Bouchon, A&J King
Talk about addictive. This little cake looks simple, but it’s not. It’s rich and not too sweet with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a wonderful hint of almond. One of the best chocolate experiences on the North Shore. Oh, and they have great bread, too. ($2.25)

House Dumplings, Sugar Cane
We love dumplings of all sizes and shapes, but these are our favorite. The dough is thin and wonderfully crispy, the inside is flavorful, and the accompanying ginger soy sauce puts these little gems over the top. ($6)

Tiger’s Tears, Floating Rock
This dish has it all: spice, citrus, and crunch. Thin slices of marinated beef are served cold and paired with sliced red and green bell peppers, onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and ground roasted rice. If you like spicy food, you will love this—but don’t be scared off, we found the balance of heat and citrus just right.

Chicken Salad, Henry’s Market
We’re picky when it comes to chicken salad—no large chunks or odd ingredients, thanks. Henry’s makes it just the way we like it: finely ground, super fresh, and perfectly seasoned. We like it made into mini-sandwiches on the top-knot rolls baked fresh in the store daily.

Guacamole, Cielito Lindo
Made fresh and served in a molcajete (a stone bowl for grinding), this guac is the perfect antidote to a long day and just one of the things we love about this often-overlooked Mexican restaurant in Beverly. Grab a tortilla chip and dive in—you’ll be amazed at how quickly the generous serving will disappear. ($8)

Fresh-Baked Cookies, Shubie’s
These are the kind of cookies you could easily pass off as homemade (not that we would ever do that, of course). They’re baked fresh in the store every day, and while the peanut butter and oatmeal raisin ($8/pound) are terrific, the larger kitchen-sink cookies are the stuff of dreams, packed with dark and white chocolate and cranberries ($1.75 each).

While you’re in the store, be sure to check out the cheese counter, which has one of the largest selections of New England cheeses we’ve seen. Selections include several from Vermont Butter & Cheese, Cabot clothbound cheddar, Jasper Hill blue, Blue Ledge Farm crottini, Ploughgate Creamery willoughby, Spring Brook Farm tarentaise, Maplebrook Farm mozzarella, Shy Brothers Farm Hannabells, and cheddars from Shelburne and Grafton Farms.

Strudel, Helmut’s Strudel
What is it about apples and pastry that makes us swoon? We don’t know, but this place is the gold standard for the combination. Sweet, gooey apple filling and a crunchy, flaky not-too-sweet shell come together for the perfect mouthful. Folks, there’s a reason this tiny Bearskin Neck shop stays in business selling nothing but strudel and croissants. ($4 per slice)

Hot Cookie Dough Topping, Terry’s Ice Cream
If you like your cookies just barely cooked and hot from the oven, you get the idea here. Even better than hot fudge on top of ice cream, this is decadence in a cup. Go ahead, indulge; we’ll never tell.

Toasted Iggy’s Bagel, Foodie’s Feast
If you’re a fan of Montreal-style bagels (thinner and more flavorful than New York style), you’ve got to try Iggy’s, which are very similar. Our favorite way to enjoy them is to let the nice counter folks at Foodie’s toast one up and serve it alongside a steaming mug of joe. They’re also available at Whole Foods in Swampscott.

Truffle Paté, Crosby’s
This mousse-like spread is the perfect addition to your holiday cheese platter. We like to serve it on lightly toasted baguette slices or water crackers. It’s so good, you may want to buy two for your next cocktail party and forget to put the second one out.

Ribs, Smokin’ Jims
If you’ve never heard of Smokin’ Jim, you might be tempted to drive right by his parking-lot location on East Main in Gloucester. But these ribs are the real deal: smoked on oil-drum cooker until they just about fall off the bone. Side dishes like cole slaw, beans, and corn bread are available, too. There are picnic tables nearby, or you may want to drive over to Stage Fort Park. Hours vary seasonally, so check the Web site before visiting.

Marissa’s Salsa, Whole Foods
You’ll never want to go back to that stuff in the jar once you try this fresh version, packed in ice in the produce section and featuring a heavenly balance of heat and cilantro. Even better, it’s made in small batches by Nahant resident Marissa Salomon.

Potato Chips, Mandrake
We like the well-built drinks, reasonably priced food, and friendly bartenders at this downtown Beverly spot. Add the freshly made potato chips served as bar snacks, and you’ve got the start of a beautiful relationship.

We had a lot of fun putting this post together, and we look forward to hearing from readers who try one of our “finds” and those with a special treat to contribute…

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Nine Elm Makes Danvers a Dining Destination

Posted: September 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Danvers, Nine Elm American Bistro | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments »

The dining scene in Danvers Square has seen quite a revitalization over the past year, and the leader of the pack is Nine Elm American Bistro, which has garnered a loyal following since Matt and Jean Sanidas opened the doors last September.

We decided to see what all the buzz was about and headed there for dinner recently. The cozy dining room was inviting, with warm lighting, wooden tables, chalkboard specials, and the smell of garlic wafting from the kitchen. An adorable bar lines one wall, though only beer and wine are served. (Danvers only accommodates nine full liquor licenses, so new restaurants are often granted a partial one.)

Our server was friendly, attentive, and quite happy to let us linger over the menu. After ordering a bottle of wine, we settled on the Prince Edward Island mussels, sautéed with parsley, lemon, garlic, and white wine ($8) and the summer vegetable tart baked with goat cheese and ricotta ($8) to start.

The tart was unexpected; instead of the sautéed veggies we imagined, it was a pastry shell with a cheesy, almost quiche-like filling. While tasty, it lacked a certain oomph. The mussels, however, were a memorable standout— lush and delicious. The shellfish was fresh and the jus perfect; it deserved to have every drop sopped up with the wonderful grilled bread that accompanied the dish.

For entrees, we chose the pan seared sea scallops with spinach-basil risotto and sweet corn butter sauce ($24) and grilled filet mignon with yukon gold mashed potatoes, blue cheese butter, and a red wine reduction ($26).

Once again, the seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly. The scallops were expertly seared, and the risotto had a wonderful light pesto flavor that tasted of summer. The steak was marvelous with a slightly smoky grilled exterior and melt-in-your mouth interior. Matt Sanidas’ secret to making red wine reduction is mystery, but with a taste like that, I bet the recipe is kept under lock and key.

We didn’t really need dessert, but we were having such a lovely leisurely meal that we decided to prolong it by ordering the flourless chocolate torte with vanilla bean ice cream ($6) The torte was rich and dense and quite good, though we regretted not ordering the profiteroles when we saw a delectable trio of them served to an adjacent table. Oh well, next time.

And where Nine Elm is concerned, there definitely will be a next time. Some may find the idea of an upscale bistro in Danvers Square a bit surprising, but with meals like these, it’s certainly worth investigating.

Nine Elm American Bistro
9 Elm Street, Danvers
(978) 774-9436
9elm.com

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Sonoma Misses the Mark

Posted: August 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Casual/Pub Food, Salem | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

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On the recommendation of some folks on Chowhound, we had dinner last weekend at Sonoma, a gastropub that opened at the beginning of the summer on Congress Street in Salem, about six blocks from Pickering Wharf.

The place looks terrific, with an attractive bar and a freshly painted interior. The menu looked good, too, with many tapas selections and some interesting sounding entrees. Unfortunately, our meal did not match the surroundings.

The flatbread pizza ($10) was the only good selection of the night: crisp and flavorful with shrimp and pesto. They were out of the shrimp and avocado salad, the chorizo was fine but nothing special, and the torta espanola had no flavor at all. Appetizers run $8 to $10; hot and cold tapas are $6. We sampled a cosmopolitan and a drink special with vodka, chambord, and pineapple ($10); both could have used more booze and less mixers.

Neither of our entrees was a success. The thick-cut pork chop was tender but the sauce and everything else on the plate was bland ($19). The duck pasta in wine sauce was worse, with stringy, flavorless meat and pasta cooked to mush ($18).

With only eight tables, Sonoma is quite small, but it’s still more than one waitperson can cover. Although our waitress was nice, she was completely overwhelmed. Water glasses stayed unfilled, and used dishes sat on our table for most of the evening. Judging by how long we waited for our main meal, the small kitchen was also struggling to handle the Friday night crowd.

We give the folks at Sonoma credit for opening a restaurant in this economy and for getting creative with the menu. Hopefully, the kitchen will begin focusing more on quality than variety and the front of the house will solve its staffing issues.

Sonoma
75 Congress Street, Salem
(978) 607-0140
www.sonomasalem.com

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Summer Lovin’: Outdoor Dining Season Begins

Posted: May 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Cafe, Casual/Pub Food, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

outdoor

The weather may not be cooperating just yet, but we’ve pulled out our tank tops and beach cover-ups and officially declared the start of the no-socks season.

To that end, we’ve got a round-up of the best al fresco dining we’ve found on the North Shore, followed by a list of several more we’re hoping to get to before Labor Day.

We’ve just begun compiling this list, so feel free to vote for your favorites from below or add any we might have overlooked. Please note that we’ve purposely left out clam shacks and beach-food places like Lime Rickey’s in Marblehead (we’ll have more coverage of lobster rolls, fried clams, and ice cream as the temperature rises) and a few places that have outdoor seating but may not meet our criteria for good food.

The Barnacle, Marblehead
It’s lunchtime on a sunny day, you’re sipping a bloody mary on the deck of the Barnacle and waiting for your fried clams—you’ve officially hit the seaside dining jackpot. The food at this unassuming pub is good, not great (stick with the chowder, the fried seafood, and the bloodys), but you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer view than Marblehead harbor in the summer, and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

Jack-Tar, Marblehead
The patio outside one of our favorite pubs is small but charming, and the food is both comforting and reasonably priced. We’re fond of the generous drinks, the $3 to $5 tapas, and the pizza with pancetta and blue cheese (a selection of pizzas is $5 from 5:00 to 7:00 every night).

The Landing at 7 Central, Manchester
The pubby front rooms at the Landing are great for cozying up in cold weather, but make your way all the way to the back, and you’ll be seated on the comfortable second-story porch. The menu is large and varied, featuring everything from burgers and caesar salad with salmon or steak tips to pepper encrusted duck. We recommend the lobster omelet for brunch.

The Landing, Marblehead
This Marblehead institution is right in the thick of the summer action at the town landing on Front Street. Sitting out on the deck overlooking the harbor you’re likely to see anything from lobster boats unloading their catch to campers returning on the ferry from Children’s Island. As you’d expect the menu offers many summer seafood favorites; ours are the lobster roll and the baked scrod.

Rockafellas, Salem
The place to see and be seen in Salem in the summer, Rockafellas’ entrees are reasonable (honey glazed salmon is $16, bourbon turkey tips are $15), and there are plenty of tapas for those just needing a little something with their cocktails, including quesadillas and catfish fingers. If the wait at Rockafellas is long, there are several options for outdoor dining nearby, including Gulu Gulu Café, Fresh Taste of Asia (best dumplings on the North Shore), and the Lobster Shanty.

The Farm, Essex
Whether you are heading back from the beach hungry or just looking to savor a cold brew on a summer night, a brand new patio with live music and weekly specials like their 35-cent wing night make this new addition to the Essex restaurant scene fun central.

Grapevine, Salem
Sumptuous food is the attraction at this Italian gem, starting with tuna carpaccio over crispy flatbread and proceeding to rigatoni with braised veal or perhaps oven roasted swordfish with lemon-caper sauce. With only eight tables in the outside garden, the atmosphere is romantic and the service is top-notch.

Can’t Wait to Try:

The Lobster Pool, Rockport
This seems to the favorite among foodies for casual outside dining in Rockport. The straightforward menu of seafood (and homemade pie) implies a no-fuss-no-muss attitude, and we’re looking forward to trying the lobster roll this summer.

My Place By the Sea, Rockport
We’ve been hearing good things about the food at this upscale restaurant for years. From the pictures we’ve seen of the outside deck, this is the place to be on a summer night with your sweetheart.

Madfish Grille, Gloucester
Rocky Neck is one of those places that always makes us feel happy, and the Madfish Grille looks like just what we’re in the mood for when eating outside in the summer. Margarita shrimp, crab BLT, panzanella salad, grilled lamb, scampi pizza—need we say more? (Ed. Our review 9/3/09)

Plum Island Grille, Newbury
Creative cuisine and a fabulous sunset: sign us up. This island retreat is at the top of our list to try—if anyone has been recently, please leave your menu recommendations in the comments. (Ed. Our review 11/13/09)

Michael’s Harborside, Newburyport
The Newburyport waterfront is always hopping in the summer, and Michael’s is right in the thick of things. The menu says their lobster roll is famous, we hear good things about their burgers, and the balsamic brown sugar short ribs sound intriguing.

Danversport Grille and Bistro, Danvers
Quite a few North Shore residents have pointed us toward this restaurant, part of the Danversport Yacht Club but open to the public. The menu tends to classic dishes like chicken oscar and prime rib, and the view overlooking the inlet’s docked boats looks spectacular.

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Sixty2 on Wharf Hits the High Notes

Posted: April 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bistro, Mediterranean, Salem, Sixty2 on Wharf | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


If you’re ready to shake off those winter doldrums and step out, we’ve got the perfect destination for you. We had a superb meal last night at Sixty2 on Wharf, the latest addition to Salem’s Pickering Wharf.

We found the décor, the food, and the service spot on at this chef-owned restaurant featuring Boston-quality Mediterranean cuisine. We were warmly welcomed by the host and seated in the cozy dining room featuring an unusual cork floor, stylish black tables, and inviting red walls.

The menu starts off right with a large selection of antipasti, all of which are $5. (We’re already plotting a return for a night at the bar sipping cocktails and sampling the small plates.) We discussed our options over a glass of white cote de rhone and a dirty dirty martini. The wine ($10) was a generous pour served in a carafe, and the martini featured Grey Goose and gorgonzola-stuffed olives.

Our appetizers set the tone for the meal—visual appeal, layers of flavor, and perfect texture. Fresh milk mozzarella was served in coin-sized medallions with crisp baguette slices and pepper jelly on a beautiful piece of gray slate. Polpettes were small balls of porky goodness, easily enough for two to share.

For entrees, we went with the night’s pasta special, gnocchi with oxtail, and the sea scallops with romesco sauce and farro. Our waitress was a gem who seemed genuinely happy to be serving us and had an extensive knowledge of the menu and wine selections. We explained that we wanted a light red to go with the scallops and were happy with the pinot noir she recommended.

The scallops ($25) were large and succulent with a wonderful crunchy sear on the outside; they combined well with the earthy farro. The hand-made gnocchi were also a highlight—moist and feathery light. The only thing off key was the oxtail, which was quite chewy.

The mozzarella and gnocchi were part of the $22 Neighborhood Nights three-course prix fixe menu, a fantastic value currently available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. To end the meal, we indulged in the toffee pudding and the brown butter tart. Both were worth the calories, but the unusual flavors in the pudding and wonderful softly whipped cream really sang.

It’s easy to understand why the Boston Globe named Sixty2 best new restaurant on the North Shore, and we were pleased to see a good-sized crowd on a Tuesday night, since pricier restaurants sometimes struggle to fill seats in times like this. But it’s clear the locals have caught onto the symphony of flavors chef Tony Bettencourt and his crew are serving up.

Sixty2 on Wharf
62 Wharf Street, Salem
(978) 744-0062
www.sixty2onwharf.com

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