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.

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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

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Serious Sandwiches in Ipswich

Posted: April 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Cafe, Ipswich, Stone Soup Café | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

We had heard good things about Stone Soup Café in Ipswich, so when we found ourselves in the area and in need of nourishment last week, we stopped in. Good thing we were hungry—this place serves up a serious lunch.

The menu is large and includes salads, burgers, dogs, roll ups, specialty sandwiches like grilled cheese and avocado, fried chicken and fish, plus pizzas with gourmet toppings and a selection of house-made soups.

Breakfast items for lunch are a favorite of ours, so we were thrilled to see not only pancakes ($4 for one, $6 for two—and they’re huge) and eggs benedict ($8), but a monster egg sandwich ($7). It lived up to its name: after a cup of excellent spicy lentil soup with sausage ($3), we had to take half of this delicious grilled sandwich home. It featured fried eggs, hash browns, bacon, cheese and sautéed onions.

We also sampled a cup of clam chowder (creamy and full flavored, $3.50) and a reuben filled with pastrami and sauerkraut on grilled bread with melted cheese ($8). And yes, we took half of that home as well.

The service was attentive and friendly, even going so far as to bring us a sample of the lentil soup so we could judge the spice level. The décor is less pleasing; it looks like not much has been done since the restaurant moved from its downtown Ipswich location last spring into what had been Marco Polo, an Italian restaurant.

Stone Soup serves breakfast and lunch every day as well as dinner Thursday to Sunday, with entrees ranging from $9 to $17. A full bar is available for lunch and dinner, including beer from Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster.

Stone Soup Café
141 High St, Ipswich
(978) 356-4222

Stone Soup Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Brunch Bunch

Posted: March 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Breakfast, brunch, Lynn, Manchester, Newburyport, Rockport, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Marge: “What’s brunch?”
Jacques: “You’ll love it. It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.”

It’s that time of year again, when the spring bulbs start blooming and the people start brunching. Sure, eating breakfast out is always popular, but when the weather improves, a leisurely brunch and a long seaside walk to work off that eggs benedict is an excellent way to spend your Sunday. Spring also brings the two biggest brunch days of the year: Easter and Mother’s Day.

So while we adore local diners and feature breakfast joints all year long, we’ve got a list of places worth considering if you’re looking for something a little more upscale.

Nathaniel’s at Hawthorne Hotel in Salem is well known for its gorgeous Sunday Jazz Brunch, which has been consistently voted Best of the North Shore by North Shore Magazine. They offer seatings at 11:15 am, 11:30 am 1:30 pm, and 1:45 pm, and while reservations are not required, they are strongly recommended.

The Hawthorne will be offering an Easter Brunch Buffet from 10:30 to 7:00 for $40 per adult and $15 per child. Menus for the Jazz Brunch and the Easter Buffet are available in .pdf form on the Web site. A similar brunch will be offered on Mother’s Day, but the menu is not yet available.

Newburyport’s Ten Center offers their Bloody Good Brunch on Sundays from 11:00 to 3:00 with some interesting twists on the traditional and a Make Your Own Bloody Mary Bar. They are hosting a special buffet for Easter in the private dining room featuring a separate children’s buffet and a dessert buffet. Seatings will be at 12:00, 2:00, and 4:00; reservations are required. The buffet is $55 per adult and $15 per child.

A couple of places that don’t usually do breakfast are serving up specials for Easter brunch as well. The Blue Ox in Lynn is offering a mouth-watering three-course menu for $29 per person that includes things like baked Duxbury oysters with mascarpone cheese, diced apples, scallions, apple brandy and grilled local applewood-smoked ham with roasted fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus, sherry wine and shallot sauce. They will be open from 11:00 to 4:00 on Easter.

Finz in Salem also has an Easter special, a buffet that will include a raw bar and items like swordfish oscar and banana-encrusted salmon. The buffet is $35 per person and $16 for kids under 12.

If you’re looking for a pretty Sunday drive, head to Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport for their extensive Easter Grand Buffet from 11:30 to 3:30. The lobster deviled eggs and mascarpone stuffed french toast with wild-berry compote are calling our names. The buffet runs $45 per person, $22.50 for children ages 3 to 10. There is limited seating available, so they’re encouraging people to call early for reservations. The Emerson Inn will be serving a similar brunch on Mother’s Day but haven’t yet announced the menu.

And although we haven’t seen any published holiday specials, the following restaurants serve up Sunday brunch on a regular basis:

Cala’s in Manchester hosts a brunch from 11:30 to 2:00 that includes breakfast standards, bistro fare, and a build-your-own pizza menu. Reservations are available but not required, and the menu is available here.

Tryst in Beverly offers breakfast from 10:00 to 1:00, and we’ve heard good things about it, though the menu isn’t available online. It is also first-come, first-served, as they don’t take reservations.

Salem’s Lyceum, which recently underwent a metamorphosis, is open for brunch 11:00 to 3:00, and the menu has some intriguing-sounding dishes at a range of prices. Edit: They have since published an Easter menu, which can be found here.

So whether you’re treating the family, your mom, or just yourself, there are so many tasty options on the North Shore, you’ll wish you had a month of Sundays to enjoy them.

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Gloucester’s Fort Square: Familiar Faces at Breakfast

Posted: February 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Cafe, Fort Square Café, Fort Square Cafe, Gloucester | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The ever-so-charming Joey C. of Good Morning Gloucester steered us to Fort Square Café last weekend when we were looking for a casual place for breakfast. Not surprisingly, he was right on the money. With great food, local specialties, and counter staff that greets you like a long-lost sibling, this place is right up our alley.

2262010bThe breakfast menu at tiny Fort Square is extensive and served all day. It includes eggs, omelets, and pancakes served with various breakfast meats and choice of hash browns or home fries. We tried two specials that day and loved them both. Crispy french toast ($5.50) was coated in crushed Honey Bunches of Oats and perfectly cooked. A side of bacon was crispy and flavorful. The tasty Portugese scramble with peppers, onions, and chorizo, home fries, and toast is $8.50, but we guarantee you won’t need another meal that day.

We also sampled mudiga steak, a local favorite consisting of thin slices of beef that have been breaded and fried. For fisherman, or those who like to eat breakfast like one, the steak is served with eggs, hash browns, and a toasted roll. Those not quite as adventurous might enjoy it more for lunch. We saw a steak sandwich with roasted peppers and melted provolone go by that looked delicious. Many other sandwiches are available for lunch ($4.50 to $6), and we’re hoping to return to check out the chowder.

Fort Square Café
29 Commercial St, Gloucester
(978) 281-3100
No Web site, open Mon-Sat 7:00 to 3:00, Sun 7:00 to 1:00
Fort Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Breakfast With the Stars: Mildred’s Corner Café

Posted: December 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Cafe, Lynn, Mildred's Corner Cafe | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

A reader e-mailed us a few weeks ago to recommend a couple of restaurants in Lynn, and this long weekend was the perfect time to check out one of them: Mildred’s Corner Café.

Boy, are we glad we did. Mildred’s is a charming spot with creative breakfast and lunch offerings, kitschy Hollywood décor, games to play while waiting for your food, and warm, attentive service. The tiny seven-year-old café, which is only open Friday to Sunday, is clearly a labor of love by Jan McLaughlin-Muirhead, who describes herself owner, cook, waitress, chief dishwasher on the menu.

We had been seated for approximately five seconds before being offered coffee, which came in large, colorful mugs. Tea is also available—19 types of loose tea, a fact that surprised and delighted us. After studying the menu and relaying our choices, we sat back to admire the movie-star posters and test our knowledge of silver-screen trivia.

Along with the usual breakfast offerings like omelets and French toast, Mildred’s large menu has seasonal specialties like pumpkin pancakes, gourmet items like a wild mushroom omelets, and light fare in the form of fat free yogurt with granola and fresh fruit.

We tried the crabcakes benedict ($11), which came with a generous portion of both hollandaise sauce and home fries. Everything was well seasoned and tasty, although the potatoes could have been more crisp. We also enjoyed the English breakfast ($6), featuring a small cup of baked beans, two delicious sausage patties, and grilled tomato slices along with fried eggs.

The huevos rancheros ($9) was a winner, combining flavorful refried beans with large chunks of sautéed tomatoes/peppers/onions, a generous scatter of ripe avocado, and two fried eggs. The junior member of our party declared her crispy bacon the best she’d ever had, enjoying it along with her scrambled eggs, pancake, and Go-gurt ($5).

It was a great way to start off a Sunday, and we look forward to returning to explore more breakfast items and interesting-sounding sandwiches like the avocado egg salad. We hear that there is often a wait for tables, so we were glad to see a small counter with stools as well as a separate waiting area with couches and a television playing (you guessed it) classic movies.

Mildred’s Corner Café
45 Lewis St, Lynn
(781) 595-4600
Open 7:30 to 2:00 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Mildred's Corner Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Maria’s is the Place for a Hearty Breakfast

Posted: October 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Maria's Place, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

There is no shortage of great places to grab breakfast on the North Shore, and we’ve got another one to add to your list.

On Sunday morning, we stopped by Maria’s Place in Salem for carbs and caffeine to jumpstart our day. Set at the end of a strip of storefronts on Jefferson Ave., the dining room is large and open, giving it a sort-of cafeteria feel, with a counter and grill along one wall. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, with locals chatting up the kitchen staff and waitresses calling out “See you next week” to regulars. We were greeted and seated right away, our helpful server promptly filling our coffee cups.

The menu featured all the usual suspects, and we had a hard time choosing, so we decided to order several things to share. The first was the popular hungry man breakfast, which includes two eggs, sausage, bacon, homefries, toast, two pancakes, and a glass of juice for $9. The menu warns there are no substitutions, but for a $1 more we had the blueberry pancakes in lieu of plain. It turned out to be a huge amount of food, and while the homefries were ordinary, the blueberry pancakes were excellent: large, nicely browned, and full of flavor.

We also ordered the Belgian waffle ($6), along with sides of corned beef hash and grilled kielbasa, an unusual addition to the menu ($3.75 each), While it tasted fine, the corned beef hash was too finely ground; we prefer larger chunks of meat and potatoes. The waffle was quite respectable, and one taste of the kielbasa made us glad we had ordered it. Salty and savory, it was a welcome change from the usual side dishes.

Although Maria’s Place is bright and clean with terrific service, it somehow lacks the charm of local diners or places like Red’s and The Driftwood. Still, if charm’s not your thing and you’re looking for a no-nonsense friendly place for a solid breakfast, look no further. Maria’s is open 6:00-3:00 Monday through Saturday and 7:00-2:00 on Sunday. It also features an extensive lunch menu.

Maria’s Place
10 Jefferson Ave, Salem
(978) 744-1817

Maria's Place on Urbanspoon

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The Driftwood Serves Up Local Charm on Marblehead Harbor

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Diner, Driftwood, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Driftwood Restaurant has been a Marblehead institution for so long we’re surprised it hasn’t been granted official historic landmark status. And while its reputation has gone up and down over time, and earlier this year it was closed for a while due to a tax issue, it remains a local favorite and still boasts a line out the door on weekend mornings.

The interior décor is diner meets clam shack, with nautical doodads and work by local artists adorning the counter area and walls. The small tables covered with red and white checked vinyl cloths are set pretty close together, and on a busy day, you may end up chatting with your neighbor as you chow down. The crowd includes everyone from crusty old locals who all know each other to young families and summer tourists.

On a recent visit we decided to try a breakfast special that included two eggs, two pancakes (we chose blueberry), bacon or sausages, and tea, coffee, or juice for $7.75 as well as a mushroom cheese omelet ($6.25) with a side of corned beef hash ($3.75)

The coffee arrived quickly, and while it’s never going to threaten the local coffee house business, it was respectable. The omelet was decent, and we liked the wide range of breads on offer for toast. The waitress warned us ahead of time that the corned beef hash was cooked to order so it could take longer, but the wait wasn’t noticeable, and the hash was quite good—savory and not greasy.

The breakfast special was definitely satisfying, with crispy bacon and eggs cooked to order, and the winner of the morning was the blueberry pancakes. Fluffy, golden, and studded with fresh berries, they were delightful. The waitress was quick to refill our coffee and didn’t rush our check, two things we appreciate anywhere, but especially at a busy diner.

The restaurant is primarily known for its breakfast, as it opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at 2:00 p.m. We hear the lunch menu features a pretty good lobster roll, though we haven’t tried it yet, and the famed fried dough served only on weekends and holidays sounds inviting as well.

Like a weathered old wharf rat sitting at the town landing, the Driftwood may be rough and tumble to look at, but it’s full of salty charm.

The Driftwood Restaurant
63 Front Street, Marblehead
(781) 631-1145

Driftwood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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French Toast and Friendly Faces at Beverly’s Depot Diner

Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Breakfast, Depot Diner, Diner | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

With all of the incessant rain lately, we were feeling in serious need of some comfort food. And because bacon is one of our favorite comfort foods, we decided to head over to The Depot Diner in Beverly. Not to be confused with the Little Depot Diner in Peabody; it isn’t a vintage style diner, but rather a storefront restaurant in a small strip mall next to the North Beverly commuter rail station.

It was bustling on our arrival, but we managed to snag a free table, though we’re told arriving after 9:00 on a weekend morning will mean fighting the crowds for a seat. The dining room is large and open, and in lieu of a diner motif, the décor is made up of warm mustard and terracotta colors, accented by bright abstract paintings and dark wood tables.

Our waitress was cheerful and efficient, providing coffee (dark and rich) and juice in short order as we surveyed the large menu of breakfast and lunch items. The omelets being consumed at the next table looked impressive, but we decided on the eggs (any style) over corned beef hash with homefries and toast ($7.75) and the Portuguese sweet bread french toast ($6.50) with a side of bacon ($3).

The corned beef hash was quite tasty, with nice crispy bits and savory flavor that complemented the eggs. We were impressed by the variety of breads available for toast and pleased rye was among the offerings. The homefries, however, were lackluster—bland and mushy. The french toast was heavenly: two large, thick slices of Portuguese sweet bread transformed into fluffy, eggy perfection. The bacon was nicely crisp and not too greasy.

Whether you are looking for a bright spot on a dismal day or simply a tasty hearty breakfast, we found that a stop at the Depot Diner is just the ticket.

Depot Diner
23 Enon St., Beverly
(978) 922-6200
www.depot-diner.com


Depot Diner on Urbanspoon

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Down on The Farm: New Essex Eatery Shows Promise

Posted: April 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Casual/Pub Food, Essex, Farm Bar & Grille | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

ribs2When we drove into the parking lot of The Farm Bar and Grille, the new Essex eatery, at 6:30 last night, we were lucky to find a space. We wondered whether the jammed lot was because it was new, good, or simply the only neighborhood bar.  Inside, we realized there was something else we hadn’t considered: thirty-five-cent wing night. Yep, that’s right, Thursday nights at The Farm feature wings for just thirty-five cents apiece, and the sizable bar was packed with both young and old taking advantage of this deal while sampling the many beers available on tap.

We were seated in the dining room, which was about half full when we arrived and at capacity by the time we left. The room has a nice open feel to it with big windows, warm tones, vintage farm tools adorning the walls and a vast chalkboard filling the rear wall. This isn’t a quiet romantic dinner place; it’s a big boisterous family and friends place.

While the much of the beer selection was listed on the blackboard, when asked about wine our waitress said there was no wine list, but recited a handful of reds and whites. We opted to try a few of the brews and also ordered a Sidecar from the bar, which tasted oddly of Benedictine, so was likely made with B&B ifarm21nstead of brandy.

We felt compelled to start off with some of the wings, which required a minimum order of six and were available in buffalo, BBQ, or honey mustard. We opted for the buffalo, which were meaty, hot but not eye watering, and accompanied by homemade blue cheese sauce that was marvelous.

The menu was short and to the point, focusing on comfort food at very reasonable prices. There was no kids’ menu, but we were told that burgers and mac and cheese were available in less expensive smaller portions for children.

The burger ($9) was fresh and juicy, piled high with bacon but missing the cheese, which was quickly rectified. Also missing was a pear salad that never arrived, but truthfully we didn’t notice once the other entrees were served. The rack of smoked babyback ribs, ($22) were very impressive—a huge portion falling off the plate. They were tender and meaty, wet-style with a tangy sauce and excellent flavor. We also tried the grilled salmon topped with cilantro olive oil infused oranges. ($16) The oranges were unremarkable, without much cilantro taste, but the salmon itself was delicious. It was moist and rich, enhanced by the subtle smoky grilled flavor. The grilled seasonal vegetables were also quite good, especially the zucchini spears. All of the entrees were served with hand-cut french fries, generous and tasty.

Alas, we were disappointed when told that the restaurant had already run out of all of the desserts except apple crisp. However, when the junior member of the party ordered an ice cream, it arrived as a mini sundae, complete with whipped cream and a cherry.farm-sign

The Farm has only been open a week and the owners are still obviously working out the kinks, but they’ve got a lot going for them. With a great outdoor patio, weekend live music (no cover charge), plans for a volleyball court, horseshoe pits and a Richardson’s ice cream stand, they are positioning to be the destination for fun this summer. All we can say is that if they succeed, they’re gonna need more parking spots.

The Farm
233 Western Ave., Essex
(978) 768-0000
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Essex-MA/THE-FARM-Bar-Grille/61002762093

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