Digging Out From Nemo: What’s Open Today

Posted: February 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 5 Corners Kitchen, Amesbury, Beverly, Event, Grand Trunk Imports, Hungry Betty's, Lynn, Marblehead, Newburyport, Rolly's Tavern on the Square, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

We hope everyone is safe and warm and starting to dig out from this crazy mess the blizzard has dumped across the North Shore. Some folks are without power, and as of this writing the driving ban is still in effect in Massachusetts, so a hot meal or a cold cocktail may be hard to come by unless you can walk, snowshoe or ski to a local establishment. Most markets and restaurants are closed today, we’d like to help out by listing which places are currently open or will be serving dinner tonight.

We’ll keep this as a running list, so please feel free to contact (email@northshoredish.com, @northshoredish on twitter) us with updates!

Updated Saturday February 9, 2013 at 7:44PM

Amesbury

• Barking Dog Bar & Grill is open
• Phat Cats Bistro will be open for dinner

Beverly

• Chianti will be open, live entertainment still pending
• E.J. Cabots is open
• CitySide Diner is open their regular hours.
• Cielito Lindo will be open for dinner

Essex

• The Farm Bar and Grill is open tonight

Gloucester

• Cape Ann Brewing Pub will be open at 6:30pm…bar only. Kitchen is closed
• Seaport Grille is open

Ipswich

• Christopher’s Table is open and has live jazz

Lynn

• Tatiana’s is open
• The Blue Ox opens at 5PM
• Rolly’s Tavern plans to open at 4pm

Marblehead

• Hayley’s Wine and Market Café is open
• The Landing is open
• 5 Corners Kitchen will be open at 5pm for dinner
• Maddies is open.
• 3 Cod Tavern will be open for lunch and dinner
• Hungry Betty’s will be open at 4PM

Newburyport

• Mission Oak Grill is open for dinner
• Brine will be serving dinner after 3PM
• Ceia Kitchen + Bar will be open at 3PM
• Enzo will be open for dinner at 5PM
• Andiamo will have the bar open at 5 and dining at 6PM
• The Grog opens at 5PM and Mardi Gras is ON
• Grand Trunk Market potentially opening at 1PM today

Peabody

• Maki Sushi is open
• Bill & Bobs Roast Beef will be open at 6PM

Salem

• Salem Beer Works is open
• Sushi Garden is open and DELIVERING
• The Grapevine opens at 6PM
• 43 Church is open and WILL have live music
• Victoria Staion and the Boathouse are open, with fires roaring
• Pamplemousse is open
• 43 Church will be open at 5Pm
• Bill & Bobs Roast Beef will be open at 6PM
• The Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel is open, with roaring fire.
• O’Neill’s will be open at 4 and their Black Heat Ball will go on as planned.
• Witches Brew café open at noon
• Gulu Gulu will open at 4PM
• In a Pig’s Eye will not be open for lunch, but will open later for dinner.
• Village Tavern open their regular hours, 11 – 1AM
• Howling Wolf will be open at 5PM

Swampscott

• Red Rock Bistro opens today at 4PM

6:56 PM Additional: Swampscott Patch just reported that the following take out places are open and delivering

China Green
781-203 Burrill St Swampscott, MA 01907
(781) 592-5357

Captain Pizza
3 Railroad Ave Swampscott, MA 01907
(781) 593-1568

Cindy’s Pizza
653 Humphrey St Swampscott, MA 01907
(781) 599-0358

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For Savory Sandwiches and Craft Beer, Stop into Swampscott’s Cup n Board

Posted: June 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cup n Board, Marketplace, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Since opening last October, The Cup n Board, a new specialty foods market in Swampscott, has been steadily gaining Internet buzz, a new favorite of food and wine bloggers and craft beer devotees.

Located on Burill Street, directly across from the commuter rail station in the former Fiory’s Market space, the spot is both convenient and awkward. Those unfamiliar with the area may find it difficult to navigate, but there is plenty of street parking on the adjacent block, and it’s perfect for commuters.

A small wonderland of local, organic, and fair-trade items, Cup n Board is worth stepping into just to peruse the shelves. Many local favorites are in evidence, along with beautiful baked goods supplied by Christopher’s Café in Lynn, a nice selection of cheeses, fair trade coffee, organic teas, and gelato.

Although the market carries a respectable selection of wines, the real standout is the craft beer case. The impressive array of imported ales and craft brews includes local favorites like Clown Shoes, Cody, and Notch Sessions as well as Pretty Things, Blue Hills, and Mayflower. If you’re hesitant to buy a whole six pack in order to try something new, many are available as mix n’ match, so you can put together a combination to take home.

Cup n Board holds one beer and one wine tasting a month, each accompanied by small bites crafted specifically for the occasion. In July, they’ll have a Notch Session beer tasting with Chris Lohring of Salem on the 8th and an Argentinean wine tasting with Swampscott’s Michael Lancaster of Global Wines on the 22nd.

Swampscott resident Susan ‘Suki’ Ellsworth and several neighbors developed the idea of the market together, but when the others backed out of the project, she decided to continue on her own. With a background in catering and food service, a ready smile, and an upbeat manner, Ellsworth seems ready to take on the world, one fabulous sandwich at a time.

And the sandwiches are really that great. At $7.95 a pop, they are large enough to save half for later and stuffed with fresh ingredients. On our first visit we tried the Thai Chicken, which contained chicken, lettuce, carrots, onion, cilantro, spicy sauce, and peanut sauce in a lightly toasted roll. It was crunchy, savory, and delicious. We also tasted the Vietnamese: carrot slaw, cilantro, cucumbers, red onion, siracha, and soy with pork (you can substitute portobello mushroom), which had much more of a kick.

Another night we called ahead an ordered sandwiches so they were ready for pick up after stepping off the train. The Rueben was a lighter, pressed version of the classic, with turkey in lieu of corned beef, and the Mediterranean was a taste revelation. A pressed sandwich with turkey, olive spread, red onion, spinach, and feta cheese, it was tangy and unique and will definitely be making a return to our table.

Ellsworth also offers a variety of salads for $6.95 each, based on what produce is locally available.

The Cup n Board is open from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm during the week and 9:00 to 6:00 on Saturdays so commuters can grab their coffee and muffin heading in and a light dinner and libation on the way home. You can find additional information about daily specials on their Facebook page.

Cup n Board
205 Burill Street, Swampscott
(781) 595-0511
thecupnboard.blogspot.com

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Flavor and Passion Come Through at Swampscott’s G Bar

Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, G Bar and Kitchen, Mediterranean, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Imagine a friend asks you to his house for dinner, and that friend happens to be a chef who whips up some amazing dishes with perfect flavor balance. With its intimate dining room, open kitchen, and terrific food, that was pretty close to our experience at G Bar and Kitchen in Swampscott last week.

We were warmly greeted when we walked in and seated at a cushy banquet. The room holds only about 15 tables, with bar seats for about 10 more, and the décor was clearly chosen for sound baffling and comfort as much as style. We ordered Stella Artois ($5.50) and a glass of pinot gris ($10) and happily snacked on fresh focaccia and delicious green olive spread.

For starters, we shared an order of spring rolls ($8) and a caesar salad (which the waitress split for us without being asked). The rolls were crispy without a hint of grease, and the flavor was great: a combination of cool mint, spicy ginger and chili, and baby bok choy. The salad was a huge hit, crisp romaine and arugula with lots of focaccia croutons and a dressing that managed to be light, creamy, and pungent all at once ($7).

We went for one of the entrée specials that night ($28). The dayboat seafood was swordfish, and it did taste amazingly fresh. It had a slight crust on the outside and a tender inside and was seasoned perfectly. It was accompanied by tender asparagus and two eggplant rollatini filled with goat cheese that would make a great entrée themselves.

The beef short ribs were equally good in their uber-comfort-food way, especially accompanied by savory parmesan-romano risotto ($25).

We were a bit too full for dessert, but we read they are made onsite, so that gives us a perfect excuse to return to try more of Chef Brackman’s thoughtful cuisine and warm hospitality.

G Bar and Kitchen
256 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 596-2228
www.grestaurant.com

G Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Beat the Winter Blues With Local Food Events

Posted: January 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: 62 Restaurant & Winebar, Blue Ox, Event, Finz, Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The holidays are over and that means it’s time for food events to kick into high gear here on the North Shore. Our heads are swimming just looking what’s going on in January and February. And that’s without considering Valentine’s Day specials, which we’ll cover separately.

On Tuesday January 18 at 7:00, Chef Matt O’Neil will be doing a cooking demo and three-course tasting at The Blue Ox in Lynn ($39). There will be a mache salad with braised beets, walnuts, parmesan, blood oranges, and blood orange vinaigrette followed by butter-poached lobster and porcini/saffron quinoa. For dessert, a honey cake with chocolate, raspberry puree, and whipped cream. We’re salivating already. Call (781) 780-5722 to reserve a space.

The next Tuesday, January 25, Finz in Salem is putting on a vodka dinner hosted by Pinnacle Vodka at 6:30 ($59). It begins with oysters accompanied by a mango vodka-blood orange puree cocktail. Next is an Asian scallop ceviche with a lychee martini, mojito grilled swordfish with a berry vodka mojito, and espresso rubbed tenderloin with a caliente café martini. Dessert is a Pinnacle and strawberry sorbet with strawberry Pop Rocks. Sounds like a taxi may be in order after this one.

Vodka is also the star of Red Rock’s Tuesday Tasting on the 25th at 7:00 ($25 including tax and gratuity). Russian Standard Original, Platinum and Imperial vodkas will be featured in six cocktails. Russian-influenced appetizers like smoked trout, oysters, salmon roe caviar, dark pastrami, gravlox, pickled beets, and herring will accompany the drinks. Break out your (faux) fur hat and head on over to Swampscott.

On Saturday January 29 at 6:30, Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead hosts its annual Taste of the North Shore ($60). The event includes an all-you-can-eat buffet with specialties from North Shore restaurants and caterers, a silent auction, and a live auction. For more information, call (781) 631-9300 or e-mail taste@emanu-el.org.

Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia visits 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar in Salem on Sunday January 30 at 6:30. For $75, attendees will enjoy a cooking demonstration by Chef Antonio Bettencourt and Ms. Esposito, a multi-course dinner, and a signed copy of her latest book Ciao Italia: Five-Ingredient Favorites. Call (978) 744-0062 for a reservation. Sounds like a true Italian extravaganza.

Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate & Ice Sculpture Festival begins on Friday February 4th with a chocolate and wine tasting at Hamilton Hall from 6:30 to 8:30 ($25). Tickets are on sale at the Salem Chamber of Commerce office, 265 Essex Street Mon-Fri from 9:00 to 5:00 and will be on sale the night of the event based on availability (the event sold out last year). Sugar rush, here we come.

On Tuesday February 8 Red Rock’s Tuesday Tastings is USA Craft Beers ($25 including tax and gratuity. At 7:00, Local beer master Kyle Sartanowicz will offer expert commentary while attendees taste six outstanding made-in-the-USA beers with foods to match.

Last but not least, on Thursday February 10 at 6:00, Caffe Graziani in Salem is hosting an international wine  dinner featuring a five-course meal and an abundance of French, Italian, and Argentinean wines. The full menu is posted here. The cost is $75, and space is limited. Call (978) 741-4282 for information and reservations.

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Beyond the View: Red Rock Bistro’s New Menu

Posted: December 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

While most of us love a gorgeous ocean view, a seaside restaurant doesn’t always mean a great meal. There’s always that nagging question: was the food as good as the view? Joe Guarino, the new head chef at Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott, is taking on that challenge with gusto. Together with owner Paul Petersiel, Guarino has revamped the menu, re-thought the wine list, and lowered prices overall.

The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, along with a Sunday jazz brunch from 10:30 to 3:00. The new menu has a Mediterranean influence but covers a broad range of tastes. The wine list features 40 wines by the glass, with most around $8. We enjoyed the two cocktails we tried: a refreshing Cool as Cuke with Hendricks, St Germain, cucumber, mint, and lime ($11) and a grown-up version of a lime ricky ($9.50).

While we usually visit restaurants anonymously, in this case we were invited to meet Petersiel and Guarino and sample some items on the new menu. Although Guarino took over as head chef in August, the restaurant hasn’t promoted that fact until now to let him get his sea legs, so to speak.

We applaud that approach, which seems to have paid off, as we enjoyed many of the dishes we tried, including the duck confit egg rolls (crispy with a great flavor, $9), the short rib bomb (spicy chipotle mayo, chorizo, and pepperjack, $8), and the bucatini with clams (wonderfully garlicky and spice, with perfectly cooked pasta for $16). We liked the flatbread pizza with shrimp, which was richly flavored and crispy, and a great value at $13. We also recommend the highly addictive peanut butter and banana ice cream cake ($8).

While we ate, we learned that Guarino grew up in East Boston and previously worked in the kitchens of Boston’s Church, The Butcher Shop, and Bonfire and was a sous chef a few years ago at Red Rock. We also heard Petersiel’s tale of buying the restaurant (then called Dale’s) in 1999 on a whim after The Barnacle in Marblehead refused to serve him a lobster roll late one afternoon.

Since the large bar is well lit and welcoming at night, and the restaurant’s views are extraordinary any time, we hope Guarino continues to give the North Shore crowd consistent, quality food at reasonable prices. We look forward to trying brunch, which features standards like omelettes, french toast, and bagels with lox along with more unusual choices like lobster eggs benedict and short rib hash with poached eggs and rosemary aioli.

We may also stop in for bar snacks and live music (Thursday through Saturday nights) or for a Tuesday tasting (December Dec 21 is Piper Heidsieck champagne with oysters and caviar for $35; February 8 is USA craft beers for $25).

Red Rock Bistro
141 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 595-1414
www.redrockbistro.com

Red Rock Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Dish Tidbits: Spring 2010 Restaurant Openings

Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Essex, Marblehead, News, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Whether it’s a sign of economic upswing or simply the continued evolution of the North Shore’s vibrant restaurant scene, it’s difficult to keep track of all the exciting openings going on in the area this spring.

A few weeks ago, Bolivian coffee importer Cafe Valverde Coffee Roasters replaced Fuel coffee shop at 196 Essex Street in Salem. This was apparently the starting flag, signaling a host of new openings.

This week saw the openings of Greenland Café and Coven Dessert Bar and Artisanal Market in Salem and the much-anticipated 5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead.

Marblehead will see another new storefront soon, when Hooked Seafood & Grill opens in the old Super Sub space on Pleasant St. in June. Sticky Rice, the on-again off-again Thai restaurant on Hawkes St., has been sold to a new owner and is slated to re-open under the name Sticky Rice Bistro.

Salem has become a hotbed of restaurant activity recently and is looking forward to several openings in addition to the two this week. Since publishing its menu online, there has been a ton of buzz about Howling Wolf Taqueria, which will open at 76 Lafayette St. in early summer. The plentiful burritos and veggie options look to be winners.

Also on Lafayette Street a new restaurant serving pub fare, The Lafayette Grill, is scheduled to open in the old Casa Blanca space, which neighbors are hoping will be a step toward cleaning up the troubled area.

In the former Edgewater Café space on Washington St., the Adriatic Restaurant and Bar, which will feature a mix of Italian and European food, is finishing up renovations and hiring waitstaff and will open doors shortly. (added 5/17/10:  a great video of Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll interviewing the owners of both Coven and Adriatic can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INGDTKQo4Ww )

Another seafood venue has taken over the empty Derby Fish & Lobster space at 215 Derby St. and will be opening under the name Seaport Grill. No word yet on how soon.

And if that’s not enough new food for Salem, the recently renovated jail space is reportedly in talks with a restaurant, but nothing official has been announced yet.

Vinnin Square is seeing its share of the action as well. On the Salem border, Rizzo’s Roast Beef and Pizza of Peabody will be opening a second location in the plaza next to Staples. And on the Swampscott side, it looks like City Bar and Grill, which acquired a liquor license during the winter, has finally started to fit up the former Friendly’s/Finagle spot. Any independent venture would be welcome in the square, which feels overrun with chain restaurants and fast food outlets.

Over in Beverly, North Shore Restaurant group has taken on the new eatery being developed at the revived North Shore Music Theater. Named BackStage Bistro, it promises “top notch American cuisine” with theatre props from favorite past performances as decor and a show-tune sound track.

We hear that Mark McDonough and Co. will also be making some big changes to Alchemy in Gloucester, giving it a more comfy, lounge-y feel and emphasizing small plates and platters to share.

Also in Gloucester, Giuseppe’s, a new restaurant and piano bar will be moving into the former Elliot’s space in the Blackburn building. Their website promises the place will be “very musical, very Italian and

On Cape Ann, rumor has it that the Market Restaurant in Annisquam will be re-opening May 29 under the management of two former Chez Panisse chefs, which certainly sounds worth investigating.

There have also been murmurs about a tapas and healthy-fare venue opening in Essex. In a town synonymous with fried seafood, we’re sure this will be a welcome addition.

Looks like we’re going to have an exciting summer trying out all the new tastes, and perhaps some we don’t know about yet. Give us a shout at email@northshoredish.com, or leave a comment if you know of any more our readers would be interested in.

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Upcoming Events: A Winter of Wine and Chocolate

Posted: January 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Event, Lynn, Newburyport, North Andover, Salem, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

With the arctic temps and frosty winds that have settled in, many of our friends are suffering from the post-holiday blues and have hunkered down for the winter. Happily, the next few weeks on the North Shore offer some great opportunities to lift your spirits and get out of the house.

First up, on January 14 at 6:30 pm, 10 Center Street in Newburyport will have wine expert Joyce Hulm, the regional manager of WJ Deutsch & Sons importer, and Craig Hanna, cellar master at Topper’s of Nantucket, on hand for the first of four wine dinners, this one focusing on wines of Sonoma. It’s a four-course meal, each course paired with a different wine, for $45 per person.

Sadly, January 15th sees the seasonal closing of Salem’s Lobster Shanty. Stop by to hoist a pint and give Diane and Lee your best. Sport your Shanty logo-wear any time this week and receive a 10% discount on your meal, and if you haven’t got any, shirts and hoodies will be discounted 20% until closing night. Never fear, the Shanty will reopen for business on April 1 (no foolin’).

On January 27, Finz in Salem will partner with Mercury Brewing Company for an Ipswich Beer Dinner. Four courses are paired with different beers for $35 per person. We’re thinking the Winter Ale float with fig ice cream and chocolate covered ginger snap sounds intriguing.

On January 30, though it’s a bit far afield for some, it’s likely worth the drive to Wine ConneXtion in North Andover for their first-ever saké tasting (kikishu) from 1:00-4:00. It will be hosted by local blogger Rich Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie, so we know it’ll be both fun and informative.

If you haven’t heard of Wine ConneXtion, it’s because they’re new on the scene, but we hear their selection is great and their prices extremely competitive. If saké is not your thing, you might want to check out The Grand Tasting on February 6 from 12:00 to 5:00. More than 50 wines to be poured, and food will be served.

Coming up February 4, Caffe Graziani in Salem is hosting an International Wine Dinner at 6:00 pm. A five-course dinner, it will feature their signature Italian cooking paired with five different wines from around the world for $75 per person.

Chocolate enthusiasts will be happy to hear about the next two events on the roster. On Thursday February 4 from 5:00 to 7:00, Whole Foods in Swampscott will be hosting a Chocolate Fest. There will be chocolate demonstrations and many samples available from 16 chocolate experts representing a variety of artisan chocolatiers, including locals like Dan’s and Taza Chocolate. The tasting will feature live jazz music and a chocolate fountain as well.

Salem pulls out all the stops February 5 to 14 with its yearly Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival, which features a fabulous Chocolate and Wine Tasting in Hamilton Hall on February 5 at 6:30 pm. Details on the festival are still unfolding, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

One last note: Sunday dining seems to be a hot topic these days. Corey over at Downtown Lynn tells us that The Blue Ox has announced they will now be open for dinner on Sundays, and there is a lot of buzz about Sixty2 onWharf’s new Jazz Supper Club on Sundays from 6:00 to 9:00.

So cheer up, stay warm, and eat well. Spring is only….well, never mind.

(A follow-up to this post with even more events is here.)

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True Comfort at Caffe Paolina

Posted: January 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Caffe Paolina, Italian, Swampscott | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

We know it’s time to lighten up a bit after all that holiday indulgence. Still, last weekend in the midst of the whirling frozen stuff, we felt in need of some January cheer.

We headed for lunch at Caffe Paolina, which is in a near-deserted strip mall in Swampscott and looks like it might be a coffee shop. Instead, we were greeted by Paolina herself and served fantastic Southern Italian-style food that warmed us considerably better than our supposedly waterproof boots.

We decided on two starters: an antipasti ($12) and the antipasto alla Paolina and the involtino di melanzana (rolled eggplant cutlet, $5). Before they arrived, we were treated to complimentary bruschetta: firm Italian bread topped with chopped onion, tomato, and olive oil.

The antipasti was an interesting combination that seemed odd but tasted wonderful: lettuce accompanied by roasted peppers, cooked broccoli and green beans, shrimp, and melted cheese. The eggplant was even better: breaded and fried, filled with ricotta and spinach, and topped with warm tomato sauce.

The three pasta entrees we tried were fantastic. The lasagna ($12) was an authentic version with thin sheets of pasta and a creamy béchamel rather than the heavier ricotta/thick noodles we often see. It was surrounded by a light tomato sauce a bit on the sweet side (in a good way).

The fettuccini alfredo ($11) and chicken, broccoli, ziti ($12) had the same luscious cream sauce with a distinct flavor (cheese? nutmeg?), the kind you’d return for. The broccoli was cooked through but firm, and the chicken was tender.

The panini we tried, with polpette ($8), was not as good. The meatballs were bland, so the dish just fell flat.

As lunch spots go, Paolina’s is not inexpensive. But the quality of the ingredients and techniques is spot on, and the pasta entrees are generous—enough to take half home if you’ve indulged in some of the Italian bread or an appetizer. And we noted that the prices on the dinner menu are quite similar: around $10 for starters, $12 to $15 for pasta, and $15 to $17 for entrees, making it a good value (it’s also BYOB). The interior décor is more café than restaurant, but with great food at reasonable prices, we don’t think anyone will mind.

646 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 593-6455
www.caffepaolina.com
(Note: Web site is under construction, but the hours and menus are there)

Caffe Paolina on Urbanspoon

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Gone to the Dogs

Posted: August 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly, Boston Hot Dog Co., Fred's Franks, Gloucester, Kell's Kreme, Popo's Hot Dogs, Rockport, Rondogs, Salem, Swampscott, Top Dog, Wakefield | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

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This time of year, the media is full of summery stories on the best fried clams, lobster rolls, and ice cream, and we at the Dish are no exception. Last weekend, we set out to find the tastiest hot dogs on the North Shore, risking our arteries and our families’ patience by visiting six vendors in two days.

Given the variety of available products and everyone’s personal taste, it would be folly to attempt to declare a single “best” dog, but we found some tubular treats definitely worth working into your summer itinerary.

All the dogs we tasted were well above average quality, and all but one was served on a buttered, grilled New-England-style frankfurter bun. A few bare-bones dogs ran $2.50; the rest averaged $3.50 to $3.95. Also, we appreciated that several vendors offered the Ipswich Ale Mustard made by local Mercury Brewing Company.

First, we needed to solve the Popo’s (pronounced POP-oh’s) mystery. Having occupied a storefront in Swampscott for several years, we assumed they’d left when the space was taken over by Kell’s Kreme. A quick search revealed they had moved to a location in Gloucester. But it turns out that Kell’s negotiated a licensing deal and still sells Popo’s hot dogs out of this location.

Kell’s has an ice-cream-parlor ambiance: super clean, well lit, and staffed with friendly college kids who were helpful and attentive. On offer were kosher beef, natural casing, and veggie dogs with a plethora of toppings, some complimentary, some at an extra $.50. Our favorite was the Boston Dog, served with baked beans, caramelized onions, and diced real bacon bits. Rich and savory, it was a meal on a bun.

Still curious about the “original” Popo’s, we headed to Gloucester where we met founder Mark Scaglione, a terrifically nice guy who told us his story while prepping our dogs. A lobsterman from Nahant, Scaglione opened the Swampscott location in 2004, and it quickly became known for delicious dogs. With an eye toward the future, he partnered with his friend, Ed Williams from New England Restaurant Brokers and Brighams Ice Cream, to create a new venture: licensing (not franchising) Popo’s hot dogs. The Gloucester location isn’t just a great place to grab a dog, it’s a model for potential investors.

One thing that sets Popo’s dogs apart is attention to detail. We ordered the slaw dog, and Scaglione mixed the cole slaw on order, so it was light and fresh rather than swimming in day-old mayo. We have to admit that although on a quest for dogs, we ordered one of Popo’s famed lobster rolls, which was again mixed to order. This is the first time we have ever been asked how we wanted the lobster salad prepared! The small size was plenty big, chock full of fresh meat, and quite delectable.

Kell’s Kreme
168 Humphrey Street, Swampscott
(617) 599-9900

Popo’s Olde Fashioned Gourmet Hot Dogs
6 Rogers Street, Gloucester
(978) 239-9994
www.poposhotdogs.com/Home_Page.html



Boston Hot Dog Company (a bit of a misnomer as it exists only in Salem), is a unique experience, due in large part to owner Frangoulis, a grinning, energetic man with a boundless personality. He chats, he eats, he addresses everyone rapid-fire and tosses off jokes like a borscht-belt comedian. It’s like low-rent dinner and a show.

Boston offers both beef kosher and natural casing dogs, as well as Italian sausage, three flavors of chicken sausage, and a whopping five flavors of veggie sausage. But the clear favorite here is the quarter pound black angus beef dog. (shown at the top of this post) Whoa, baby, that is one big meaty meal with flavor to spare.

Like Popo’s, Boston offers a Frank Sinatra dog (have it your way) with a long list of available condiments. The best one we tasted was the sweet-but-tart homemade onion relish; we regretted not picking up a jar to bring home ($6).

Boston Hot Dog isn’t the largest or tidiest place we visited, but it’s got a loyal following among Yelpers and Chowhounders, along with the rest of the world. Behind the counter are a US map and world map studded with pins. Downtown Salem is a tourist magnet in the summer, and Frangoulis, who’s been in business five years, makes it a point to mark visitor’s hometowns—people from Alaska to Zimbabwe have chowed on these dogs.

Boston Hot Dog Company
60 Washington Street, Salem
(978) 744-2320



(Editor’s Note 7.21.11: Rondogs has been replaced by The Scotty Dog)

Rondogs, a two-year-old Beverly drive-up made local news this summer when multimillionaire Red Sox owner John Henry made a highly publicized pit stop there on the way to his impending nuptials. We arrived with much less fanfare, but were treated with prompt and perky service just the same.

Although not as charming as a drive-in restaurant from the ’50s, Rondogs’ carhop service is fun and unique. (There are picnic tables if you don’t want to eat in your car.) Like the others, Rondogs serves a variety of dogs, and it’s the only place we visited that offers rippers (that’s deep fried dogs to you and me).

We were disappointed that they were all out of grilled mushrooms and settled for the sauerkraut, which was quite respectable. The dogs were tasty, but the gourmet dogs seemed pricey. The ¼ lb. Rondog is $3.50, and the toppings are mostly .50 each, so at $5.95 for four or five toppings, it’s definitely pricier than the other loaded dogs we tried. It makes the ¼ lb. cheeseburger with four toppings look like a bargain at $3.95.

With a location on busy Rantoul Street at a traffic light, some may not enjoy the view and noise, but the kids will love the served-in-your-car experience, and Rondogs is open until 1:30 a.m. on weekends, making it a good destination for late-night snacking.

Rondogs
437 Rantoul Street, Beverly
(978) 922-3647
www.udine4less.com/rondogs



Top Dog, a Rockport favorite, has also seen its share of famous visitors of late. We heard that Adam Sandler and company, filming in various North Shore locations this summer, have stopped in several times for a hot dog fix.

It’s a fun and funky spot out on Bearskin Neck catering to families and tourists with self-serve condiments, free drink refills, and even free Top Dog tattoos for the kids. There is more indoor seating than most of the places we visited and chalk boards to doodle on while you wait.

The dogs are basic, but there are plenty of toppings to choose from. We couldn’t resist the Golden Retriever, a mac-and-cheese dog, just for the fun of it. It was surprisingly good and drew longing gazes from several five-year-olds as we sat eating it outside. The German Shepherd was also worthy; the sauerkraut was fresher and more flavorful than at Rondogs, if a bit skimpy. Top Dog is known for their fried clams as well, but we’re waiting for another visit to try them.

Bearskin Neck is always packed with tourists in the summer, so expect a line around meal times, but it moves at a good pace, and the friendly wait staff is dedicated to service.

Top Dog
2 Doyle’s Cove Road
Bearskin Neck, Rockport
(978) 546-0006
www.topdogrockport.com



Last but far from least, we couldn’t complete this epic journey without a stop at Fred’s Franks. Wakefield doesn’t fall into our usual definition of North Shore (being north but not shore), but so many people had recommended Fred that we felt compelled to pay him a visit, and he did not disappoint.

Fred is located right on the rotary at exit 40 off Rt. 128, with a beautiful view of the lake. Here Fred hangs out with his cart and his big green egg, a fabulous giant charcoal grill. Yes, these were the only dogs we tasted that were grilled to order over a charcoal flame, and they were awesome.

Fred uses Pearl all-beef natural-casing franks in three sizes; regular (1/8 lb.), jumbo (¼ lb), and a ½ lb. monster the likes of which we’d never seen. He also offers kielbasa, chorizo, and linguica and works that grill like a maestro, snapping it open with a custom pully system he devised.

The condiments are self serve, though Fred will happily make suggestions, and he offers a few of his own creations, like habanera mayo and habanera barbeque sauce. Our favorite was the homemade sweet-and-sour chopped cabbage, which added a tangy crunch. Fred doesn’t grill his buns, but they are fresh baked and generous, in various sizes for the different meats. With such incredible dogs, this spot is destined to become a favorite stop on any road trip, long or short, from now on.

Fred’s Franks
Exit 40 off of Route 128, Wakefield
www.fredsfranks.com

Rather than the heartburn we expected from this weekend, we found wonderful people, stories, and an unexpected local passion for this American classic. Not to mention some darn fine franks. One note of caution: several of these vendors close for the winter, and their hours vary greatly, so check out their Web sites or call ahead to avoid disappointment. Now, go eat some hot dogs. And let us know who serves up your favorite!

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The Lunch Counter: Lunch Guy Meets Five Guys

Posted: June 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Swampscott, The Lunch Counter | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

lunchcounter1

Even before the hype of President Obama’s recent Five Guys run, Lunch Guy was looking forward to trying out the franchise’s new branch, which opened this past Monday in Vinnin Square, because he’s a sucker for a good burger.

After navigating the full parking lot, the long order line, the mysterious menu board, and the even longer pick up line, Lunch Guy finally grabbed a seat in the small, noisy restaurant to enjoy his burger and fries. The first surprise was that the Cheeseburger ($5) was actually two stacked burgers. The Little Cheeseburger ($4) is a single. While they charge extra for bacon or cheese, all other sides are free.

burgerThe burger itself was quite tasty, quality fresh ground beef in real patties, grilled and assembled with precision by the cast of thousands crammed in behind the counter. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to be served in a pub, not a storefront burger joint.

Despite only Coke and Sprite being shown on the menu, the free-refill fountain drinks ($2) offered a range of sodas. The fries ($2.79 small, $4 large), advertised as hand cut daily and cooked in no-cholesterol peanut oil, were not Lunch Guy’s favorite. While certainly fresh tasting, they were closer to the boardwalk style, and he prefers them crispy.

5guys1Lunch Guy says the paradox is that it’s a sit-down burger experience in a fast-food environment, and the bottom line is that even though he enjoyed the burger, Five Guys isn’t likely to become a regular habit for him. He has a limited time for lunch and wants to relax while eating. With all the time spent waiting in line, (eight minutes from door to order, 10 to 15 to receive the order) he’s not going to have too much left to eat, and relaxing is out of the question with the noise and surging lunchtime crowd. The craziness and crowds should subside once the novelty wears off, but Lunch Guy leaves us with this tip: call in your order ahead or try grabbing lunch after 1:00, when the crowds have abated a bit.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
980 Paradise Rd., Swampscott
781-595-1300
http://fiveguys.com/

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