Cape Ann recommendations
"the grapevine" in salem is wonderful. owned by two women, it's got good service, a great energy and the kitchen puts out top-notch food at "not-city" prices. they tend to cook fish a bit more well-done than i prefer, but they claim that's how their suburban guests like it. so specify a temp if you get tuna or salmon. i always ate at the bar there, but they have a cute patio, and a fairly quiet dining room.
also "glen's cool bar" in newburyport. really lively flavors that remind you of miami or california moreso than stodgy new england. great bar scene and i seem to recall they have live music a few nights a week, after dinner winds down.
and for a casual traditional spot, "woodman's" in essex for fried clams. bare-bones tray service and picnic tables, but the clams are killer.'
i lived on the north shore for 8 years. there is a lot of very mediocre food up there. combine that with awkward and inattentive service, and options really narrowed. i found myself at the grapevine several times a month.
Neither Salem or Newburyport are on Cape Ann - so here's a few that are in the four cape ann towns & Ipswich:
Farnham's Fried Clams
SKIP: Riverside, Woodmans
Halibut Point (Pub with decent menu)
Seafood/Fried - Captain Carlos, The Causeway
Elegant: Passports, Duckworths, Franklin, White Rainbow
Cool, Trendy: Alchemy
Portageuse: The Oceanview Boulevard
Old School: Gloucester House
Helmands Strudel (Bearskin Neck)
Seafood/Lobster Rolls, Fried: Lobster Pool, Ray Moore's
SKIP The Greenery
Ithaki (Greek) is outstanding
Breakfast/Lunch: Stone Soup
Glens in NBPT is quite good.
We've spent a lot of time this summer in Rockport and I agree with Roy Moore's for lobster. It's great for the kids as they can have fun eating lobster and not worry they're making a mess. We also love the Lobster Pool. It's BYOB and a great view from the picnic tables out back. The menu has something for everyone: I get the lobster roll, my kids get chicken tenders, husband (who doesn't eat seafood) get a cheeseburger, and our vegetarian friend gets salad.
I don't get what is to rave about Helmund's Streudel. We went once and our streudel was dry and way over-baked. The cheese one tasted funny in an "off" way. Their coffee was lousy, too.
Speaking of coffee, I haven't found a decent cup in Rockport. I hear The Greenery serves Starbucks so I'll get a cup to go when we're there this week.
Also, try Flav's Red Skiff. Get there early for breakfast, though.
Check the New England board for other comments.
Cape Ann Coffee on Eastern Ave (in front of stopnshop) has an excellent cup. Too bad about the strudel...it's been a while so maybe it ain't what it used to be. Flavs is a rave, yup. Not bad coffee either. Theres a new small coffee shop in Lanesville thats supposed to have good good beans and brews.
I am curious about negative feedback on Helmut's (not Helmand's) Strudel. I have been summering and weekending in Rockport for quite some time and I can pretty confidently state that the product hasn't changed as long as I have been around and the place is nothing if not consistent. On weekends I get a cup of coffee (black) when it opens and get another mid-morning, always the same, always good, best in town. As for the baked goods perhaps your taste has grown accustomed to all of the half cooked baked goods that one typically finds now-a-days. Stuff that sticks to your inards on the way down. BTW, Helmut's, like many, does not make his own stuff and I have yet to learn where he gets his stuff.
Bean & Leaf is supposed to be a coffee house but I only go occasionally. Whatever I have had there has been good but I'd have to visit a couple of more times before I said anything further.
Conspicuously absent from Rockport dining is "My Place By-The Sea". Yes, very expensive but it is good and the view better.
Flav's Red Skiff is solid but nothing to write home about. I used to be a regular until the traitors closed down this past winter for two months.
Beach Street Bistro is pretty good and has a view.
To me, Cape Ann means fried clams at the Clam Box in Ipswich, and (JT) Farnham's and Essex Seafood in Essex. They're all self-serve shacky type places. Woodman's, also in Essex, claims to have invented the fried clam, but IMO they're not as good, too often bloated and soggy. The clams at the Village Restaurant in Essex are also pretty good, but not quite as good as the shacks and, anyway, fried clams aren't sit-down food.
Huge fan of:
Jim's Bagel & Bake Shoppe
24 Washington St, Gloucester
Best whole wheat bagel ever, other bagels are excellent. The lobster tail pastry brings tears to my eyes. Other stuff is also generally good to excellent.
Lobstaland on 128 on the way out of town is also really excellent. They make my favorite fish sandwich. Great fried clams, and most of the food is really nicely done. The view of the marsh rocks at Sunset. Be forewarned, much of the help, particularly the bartender, is really surly.
I just had excellent iced coffee and a really good donut at Jim's.
Picked up some excellent square (bakery) pizza across the street at Scalfani's (I think that's the name) too.
There's a little coffee shop in Rockport near the Madras Shop (heading away from Bearskin Neck) that has decent coffee and specializes in a cardamom bread that's good too. Sorry I don't know the name.
The Blue Marlin in Essex has some great pub chow and makes a good fried fishermans platter too. I am a huge fan of their ruebin sandwich at lunch. Good bar too.
The lobster stew at the Franklin is heavenly! The upstairs is one of the nices places to hang when you dress for it and want a few drinks.
FYI: Cape Ann is officially all of Essex, Manchester, Gloucester and Rockport.