Charm for Breakfast: A Diner Tour of the North Shore

Posted: April 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Agawam Diner, American, Breakfast, Diner, Little Depot Diner | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

In our latest piece for the Boston Globe North section, we had a fun time focusing on classic diners north of Boston. The article came out yesterday, and you can read it here: Here’s The Dish on Diners

During our diner-ing, we ended up with many more photos than will ever be published, and we wanted to share some of them with you. We haven’t made it to every diner in every town (yet), but here is a pictorial tour of a handful of fun places to try for your next road trip or weekend breakfast.

 

The Capitol Diner in Lynn has been serving up specialties since the late 1920s, but we’re betting the Mickey-shaped pancakes are a newer addition.

New owners Ross and Alicia Scanlon have made the Little Depot Diner a hit by bringing in new energy and maintaining old favorites.

Lowell’s Four Sisters Owl Diner sports a newly renovated entrance and a cheery vintage interior. The Eggs Benedict is amazing.

The summer beach crowd is familiar with Pat’s Diner in Salisbury, but it was quiet on a winter afternoon. We enjoyed the unusual pork pie.

Pie is the thing at the Agawam Diner, and they always have an array of beautiful desserts on offer. Crowds convene at all hours for hearty meals and a cup o’ joe along with their favorite slice.

And lastly, a special photo of the Salem Diner, which was taken in 2008. This is our favorite shot as it shows the old neon as it was, before the diner suffered damage in a fire. The diner has been renovated, and George and Zoe Elefteriadis serve up great breakfasts, but we do miss the neon.

Share

Fresh, Fast, and Fabulous

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Breakfast, Cafe, Daily Harvest Cafe, Danvers, Vegitarian/Vegan | No Comments »

We love the idea of fast casual, but we usually find the food sub-par, particularly the freshness of the ingredients. We found just the opposite at a recent lunch in Danvers’ Daily Harvest Café. To be blunt, this place is what we wish Panera Bread was.

We had soup, sandwiches, and a sweet treat, and all exceeded our standards. The roasted vegetable soup ($3.99 for a cup) was hot and full of flavor. It was also full of delicious vegetables.

The turkey melt includes grilled asparagus, caramelized onion, provolone cheese, and honey mustard ($8.49). It’s a good-sized sandwich served on harvest wheatberry bread with all-natural turkey that is not your typical restaurant/deli fare. The Thai wrap is also generously sized, with huge pieces of white-meat chicken; moist Jasmine rice; carrots, cucumber, and peanuts for crunch; and light peanut sauce ($7.99). We appreciated the sandwiches came with a choice of carrots or apple slices in lieu of the ubiquitous chips.

There are a lot of things to like about the menu, including four or five soup specials each day, vegetarian and vegan options, a breakfast menu, a kids selection not full of processed foods, and coffee drinks like chai latte and caramel macchiato. The prices are on the high side for lunch, but you pay almost as much for inferior ingredients served by surly staffers at other fast casual places.

We were tempted by the cheesecake brownies at the counter, as well as the good-looking muffins, but we somehow couldn’t resist trying a frosted cinnamon bun ($3.25), which not surprisingly was fresh, not overly sweet, and delicious.

The next time you need something wholesome and delicious in the Danvers area, definitely head for the Daily Harvest.

Daily Harvest Café
103 High St, Danvers
(978) 777-4123
www.dailyharvestcafe

Share

Sundays at Reds: New Location, Same Tasty Breakfast

Posted: October 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, brunch, Peabody, Reds Kitchen + Tavern | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Having been to Red’s in Salem on many lazy Sunday mornings, we were excited to check out their latest incarnation in Peabody (on Rt. 1). It’s an enormous space but quite welcoming, with diner-style counters up front and family-style tables elsewhere, plus a nice-looking bar.

We arrived around 12:30 and were a bit disappointed to learn that lunch is not served on Sunday; the restaurant moves right from breakfast to dinner (starting at 2:00). Unlike their sister restaurant, this location serves alcohol and is open until 10pm Sunday through Wednesday and 11pm Thursday through Saturday.

Nonetheless, we ordered up some of our breakfast favorites and thoroughly enjoyed them. The pancakes have got to be one of the best deals around, with three platter-sized fluffy cakes for $6.25. We had the chocolate chip, but the blueberry and banana are also delicious. Served with a side of bacon or sausage ($2.50), it’s enough food to last until bedtime.

Two eggs with thick-cut Canadian bacon, home fries, and rye toast also hit the spot ($6.50). The home fries are crispy outside, soft inside, and well seasoned, without being too heavy on the salt or garlic.

Like just about everything on the menu, the omelets are a great value: a huge portion of eggs with generous fillings. We enjoyed the tried-and-true Western with cheese ($6.25) and the more unusual fresh spinach with feta ($6.25). You can create your own concoction from a variety of ingredients and cheeses.

Unfortunately, the breakfast specials that day sounded great and were sold out when we arrived. Guess we’ll have to get up earlier if we want to sample the lobster benedict or one of the other benedict-style offerings. We managed to make do with a respectable waffle ($5.50), bacon, and a tasty Absolute Bloody Mary ($9.00).

The Sunday dinners we saw on the tables as we left looked tempting, so we’ll definitely plan a return trip to try the chicken pot pie ($9.50) and the rib-eye steak ($24).

Reds Kitchen + Tavern
131 Newbury St, Peabody
(978) 531-7337
www.redskitchenandtavern.com

Red's Kitchen and Tavern on Urbanspoon

Share

A Tale of Two Brunches

Posted: February 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly, Breakfast, brunch, Cafe, Organic Garden Cafe, Tryst, Vegitarian/Vegan | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Extraordinarily for us, last weekend saw not one but two brunches, both in Beverly. On Saturday, we had relatives staying who wanted to go to brunch, and our favorite Wellesley student is vegan, so we let her choose the venue. She decided on The Organic Garden Café on Cabot Street, which not only serves vegetarian and vegan fare but largely raw foods as well.

The space is small and comfortable, and our waiter was attentive. We were offered both the breakfast and lunch menus and chose items from both, sipping our drinks while we waited for the food. The coffee was respectable; the hot cocoa, made from raw cacao, was super rich; but my favorite was the lemon ginger and raw honey tea. Blended fresh, it arrived frothy and hot and was a perfect antidote for winter weariness.

Our entrees ranged from “live”(dehydrated instead of baked) granola ($6) and quinoa porridge with agave nectar, cinnamon, cardamom, and raisins ($4 with additional toppings $1 each) to the Southwestern faux omelet on baby spinach ($7), made with a combination of ground nuts and veggies in lieu of eggs. We also tried the omelet, nausage patty, & crepe combo ($9) where a mix of sunflower seeds, flax, onion, portabella, and seasonings stand in for the sausage.

Clearly, the faux versions of traditional meat items are not meant to replicate the carnivore’s experience; they are fanciful takes using similarly spiced or textured food. Everything was extremely fresh tasting and well seasoned, and in the end, the savory foods with their layers of flavor won out over the sweet; the southwestern plate being a real standout.

The large case displaying great-looking desserts was enticing, but we were so sated that we opted to purchase a few treats to take home for later. Eschewing the cakes and cookies, we had to try the “I am Mighty” balls ($3.50) for the name alone. A dense combination of fruits, nuts, and seeds dipped in dark chocolate; it was like the ultimate protein bar—tasty, satisfying, and energizing.

On Sunday, we ended up back on Cabot Street just a few doors down from the Organic Garden, to meet a Beverly friend at Tryst. As one would anticipate, this meal offered a much more traditional brunch menu, including the standard Bloody Mary’s and mimosas. Two of our party went for alternate benedicts; the spinach enhanced eggs florentine ($8) and the eggs royale ($11), with a generous portion of Scottish smoked salmon. Our third entrée was the French-style omelet with goat cheese, broccoli, and roasted red peppers ($9) and a side of bacon ($3.50)

The menu mentions that eggs are local, but isn’t specific as to the source. The omelet was huge, and the vegetables tender but a bit heavy on the peppers. The benedicts were lovely, with velvety lemon hollandaise and excellent quality smoked salmon. Each plate included a portion of hash browns and two huge orange wedges. The hash browns seemed an oddity; a small, dry half-patty that I wanted to be tastier than it was.

The weekend turned out to be a lesson in expectations. Having had lovely dinners at Tryst and heard good things about their brunch, our expectations were high. The meal was certainly tasty but didn’t knock our socks off. It’s a solid choice for those seeking a good brunch in a nice room (not as common as you’d think on the North Shore), but in future, we’ll stick to Manhattans and roast chicken at the bar.

My only assumption about Organic Gardrn Café was it likely had a “hippy-crunchy” vibe, which it did, though not oppressively so. The opportunity to sample foods I had never contemplated making at home made it very enjoyable. What fascinated me was not the raw aspect of the food, but the creative combination of textures and tastes. I found myself thinking about returning for lunch or dinner to explore more menu items.

Tryst
282 Cabot Street, Beverly
(978) 921- 2266
trystbeverly.com

Organic Garden Café
294 Cabot Street, Beverly
(978) 922-0004
organicgardencafe.com

Share

Celebrating the End of Summer With Mad Martha

Posted: September 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, brunch, Cafe, Mad Martha’s Beach Café, Newbury | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Just before Labor Day weekend, we took a day trip to Plum Island to eke out the last of the summer. After a long walk on the gorgeous beach at the Parker River Reserve, we were ready for lunch at Mad Martha’s Beach Café.

We were warmly greeted and immediately felt at home among the bright flowers and hand-painted artwork. The menu is extensive, with breakfast and lunch offerings, plus a number of daily specials.

I was in a savory mood, so I passed up the delicious-sounding blueberry coconut pancakes (next time, for sure) and went with Old Man omelet ($8.75). It did not disappoint: a huge portion of eggs stuffed with onions, mushrooms, large chunks of salty ham, and gooey cheese. The accompanying red potatoes were tender but could have used more crisping on the grill.

My dining companion ordered the portabella burger, which was topped with spinach and roasted red peppers ($8.25). The bread was fresh and slightly sweet, but the sandwich lacked punch.

Given the beauty of the area and the attentive, friendly service we received, we’ll be returning to this funky cafe. We suspect breakfast is the way to go here and that the portuguese french toast is in our future.

Mad Martha’s Beach Café
51 Northern Blvd, Plum Island (Newbury)
(978) 462-7707
www.madmarthasbeachcafe.com

Mad Martha's Beach Cafe on Urbanspoon

Share

Wenham’s Grassy Roots Feeds Body and Soul

Posted: March 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Cafe, Grassy Roots, Wenham | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Let’s face it, healthy food is not always delicious. But we’re happy to report that at a lovely new spot in Wenham, we found a lunch you can feel good about. We stopped into Grassy Roots last weekend and were delighted by the airy space and the fresh selections.

We started with one of their juice combinations, which are made on the spot from whole fruits and vegetables. The Get Up and Go is a tasty combination of pineapple, lime, and cucumber ($7) that was made on the less-sweet side at our request. (It would be fabulous with a touch of gin in it, but that’s another story.)

The store carries a great selection of smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and panini, along with fresh baked goods. We tried the Lovely Viola, which featured large chunks of moist poached salmon, arugula, onion, and dill tartar ($10). Definitely worth returning for. We felt the same way about the Barstool, a combination of roasted eggplant, hummus, roasted red peppers and watercress that tasted incredibly fresh and more decadent than most vegetarian sandwiches ($8).

Of course, since we wanted to report on all of the shop’s offerings, we had to try a few of the goodies on display. Honestly, the things we won’t do for you people. The triple chocolate brownie was dense and fudgy, though we’re not sure the small size was worth $1.50; the muffins were moist and flavorful; and the cheddar chive bacon scone was one of the best savory scones we’ve ever had—cheesy and smoky with a wonderful light texture.

If you’re traveling on Route 1A, definitely stop into this high quality breakfast and lunch spot, and if you try the mocha morning smoothie, let us know how it was because we already regret not trying it.

Grassy Roots
152 Main St, Wenham
(978) 468-5200
grassyroots.squarespace.com

Grassy Roots on Urbanspoon

Share

An Affordable Indulgence: Brunch at Nathaniel’s

Posted: January 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, brunch, Nathaniel's at the Hawthorne Hotel, Salem | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Looking to extend the holidays a bit further, we set out for the Hawthorne Hotel last Sunday. Nathaniel’s, the hotel’s main restaurant, features a Sunday Jazz Brunch and recently changed from a buffet to a prix fixe menu, giving us the perfect excuse for a last indulgent meal of the season.

And that it was, from the service to the setting to the food. For $16.95, we were each able to choose from a large selection of salads, entrees, and sweets. For salads, we sampled the arugula with smoked salmon with ricotta salata (delicious), the spinach with bacon and hard-boiled egg (equally good), and the caesar (good but slightly overdressed).

The entrees run the gamut from sweet to eggy to more-lunch-than-brunch. We were very happy with the flavorful harvest pasta (also available as a vegan dish), the meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and the harvest frittata, which was cooked perfectly and topped with an abundance of asparagus, spinach, onions, and Vermont goat cheese.

The runaway hit was the brioche french toast, which was just crusty enough and topped with a strawberry-rhubarb compote so delicious we didn’t even pick up the maple syrup pitcher. And yes, there might have been some whipped cream involved.

To guild the lily, we sampled the buche de noel, a raspberry/cassis mousse, and an almond pear torte. All were great quality, with the torte being the favorite of the bunch. Note that coffee ($2.25) is not included in the prix fixe.

The dining room is very well appointed, with enough sound absorption to keep the noise level of even a full room in check. We commend the service, which met our every need but never rushed our leisurely meal. The jazz duo was also enjoyable, with classics given a welcome twist.

If you plan to go, reservations are highly recommended, but feel free to bring children, who can choose from their own three-course menu for $9.95. For even more selection, kids or adults can choose from a substantial à la carte menu. Also à la carte are cocktails  ($7.75) like Bloody Marys and Greyhounds made from Gloucester’s Ryan & Wood vodka, gin, and rum or the interesting-sounding lemonsecco, featuring prosecco mixed with limoncello liqueur.

Nathaniel’s Restaurant at the Hawthorne Hotel
18 Washington Square, Salem
(978) 825-4311
www.hawthornehotel.com/dining/index.htm

Nathaniel's on Urbanspoon

Share

Morning Decadence: Gloucester’s Sugar Mags

Posted: August 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, brunch, Cafe, Gloucester, Sugar Magnolias | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Carrot cake for breakfast? We came pretty close at Sugar Magnolia’s last weekend—and loved every bite. Along with several savory dishes, we ordered the full stack of carrot cake pancakes with maple cream cheese butter (3 for $6). The pancakes were huge and full of flavor, and the cream cheese was a delicious, frosting-like spread.

It’s hard to beat that level of indulgence, but our other meals came close. We tried the Western Ave and the East Main omelettes. The former contained linguica, onion, pepper, and American cheese; the latter had spinach, tomatoes, bacon, and swiss cheese. Both were large, perfectly cooked, and accompanied by hash browns and toast for $7.50.

The veggie scramble was an abundance of tender-but-not-mushy broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, and (our choice) goat cheese, a marvelous combination. With toast and home fries, it was $8 and more food than one person could eat. The crab cake “bene” ($10) was superior to most we’ve had, with two very crisp yet light crab cakes, perfectly poached eggs, and a light, flavorful sauce.

We also tried the pineapple fritters, which came with a delicious brown sugar dipping sauce. They were crisp outside but a bit soggy inside, due to the pineapple. Next time, we’ll go right for the carrot cake pancakes to satisfy our sweet tooth.

The service was attentive, relaxed, and friendly, with as many refills as we desired on our bottomless cups of coffee ($1.50). Note that with food and service this good, there tends to be a wait on weekend mornings. Our wait was 15 minutes on Sunday just before noon—and well worth it.

Sugar Magnolia’s
112 Main Street, Gloucester
(978) 281-5310
www.sugarmags.com

Sugar Magnolias on Urbanspoon

Share

Updating a Wenham Classic

Posted: June 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bakery, Breakfast, Tea, The Exchange at Wenham Tea House, Wenham | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

As we suspect is the case with many of you, we hadn’t been to the Wenham Tea House in years and years. While we weren’t paying attention, manager Emma Roberts completely revamped the place, so when they recently became a Dish sponsor, we drove over to experience The Exchange at Wenham Tea House for ourselves.

They still serve tea, of course (Thursday through Saturday from 2:30 to 4:15), but the restaurant has a new chef and now serves gourmet breakfasts and lunches. All of the food is made from scratch, including the raspberry jam served with terrific scones and the decadent Crescent City French Toast you see here, which features cream cheese filling, pecans, sautéed bananas, and brandy syrup ($8.75).

Roberts, owner of Capers Catering, is a Wenham resident and is clearly enjoying bringing this town landmark back to life. She told us how residents often donate their old china to the restaurant and about her plans to update the gardens and put in a patio for spring/summer use. She has already updated the shop next door to the restaurant, which now features jewelry from local artists alongside appealing cookbooks, whimsical dishes, candles, and hand-made quilts. Right next to the gift shop is Irresistibles, featuring upscale women’s casual wear.

There is also a small take-out operation where you can buy the housemade jam, baked goods, and frozen gourmet casseroles. Many of the recipes from the restaurant and shop can be found on Emma’s blog. Also on the website is information on holding an event at The Exchange, which has become a popular spot for children’s birthday parties, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, and charity events.

The Exchange at Wenham Tea House
4 Monument St, Wenham
(978) 468-1398
www.wenhamteahouse.com

Wenham Tea House & Shops on Urbanspoon

Share

Local Takes on New Meaning at The Market in Annisquam

Posted: June 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Gloucester, Steakhouse, The Market | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

You couldn’t get much farther apart than Berkeley, California and Annisquam, Mass, but these two towns do have something important in common—a love of fresh, local food. And now, they have something else tying them together: The Market Restaurant, owned by Annisquam native Amelia O’Reilly and Berkeley’s Nico Monday.

Both recently moved back to the North Shore after more than five years cooking at Northern California’s famous Chez Panisse. They brought Monday’s brother, Oliver, with them to oversee the purchase of local produce and seafood.

It’s no coincidence that O’Reilly and the Mondays arrived in May to set up their new restaurant. For one thing, the idea is to take advantage of the abundance of the New England summer—lobster and other seafood, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and people not wanting to turn on their stoves. For another, their restaurant license is seasonal (until October 15), although O’Reilly says they may hold cooking classes or offer catering out of the space during the winter.

The restaurant’s space is small and casual but charming, with eight indoor tables and six outdoors, overlooking picturesque Lobster Cove. Starting June 4, dinner will be served nightly except Wednesdays; the menu will feature three entrees, three salads, and one or two desserts. For now, dinner service is BYOB, but a beer and wine license is in the works.

The menu will change nightly depending on what seafood and produce are freshest and will include options like fish stew, fried scallops with homemade onion rings, and a vegetarian option. O’Reilly says they plan to serve meat only if it comes from a local, organic source.

Starting June 5, breakfast will be served, starting with fritter-like sour cream donuts at 7:00 and full entrees at 7:30. Expect to see hearty fisherman’s fare like fishcakes, beans, and anadama bread (a local favorite flavored with molasses and cornmeal). On June 21, a picnic-style lunch service will begin with items like lobster rolls and fried fish sandwiches, perfect for taking to an outside table, the beach, or a boat.

We were invited to attend the restaurant’s grand opening this weekend, where we sampled crispy brandade, lobster paella with aioli, and rocket salad with shaved fennel. Everything we ate was delicious—perfectly cooked and seasoned—a successful tying together of the traditional (brandade are fritters made with salt cod), the local, and the gourmet. The paella looked marvelous and tasted even better, with large chunks of lobster, mussels, clams, saffron flavored risotto, and the addictive aioli.

It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of these three food lovers and their passion for local products. Seafood comes from Cape Ann Fresh Catch and other local purveyors and may, one day, simply arrive at the restaurant’s dock. Bread baskets will be filled by Salem’s A&J King, hot dog rolls are from Virgilio’s in Gloucester, and Oliver has posted a Google map showing North Shore farms that will supply the restaurant’s produce.

Some greens won’t have to travel even that far—lettuce and herbs are already growing at O’Reilly’s mother’s house in nearby Lanesville. We can’t help but think that Alice Waters would approve.

The Market Restaurant
33 River Rd, Lobster Cove, Gloucester
(978) 282-0700
www.themarketrestaurant.com

Share