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Good places between Boston and the N. Shore?

In-laws live in Rockport and don't like to drive into the city. We live in Somerville and don't always like to make the trek up to Rockport.

Is there anything approximately mid-way that is worth going to? Though we are looking for a place specifically to celebrate a birthday this weekend, this is a constant issue, so any suggestions are VERY appreciated.

Rte 1 seems to be a total wasteland, but plese feel free to correct me if I have overlooked a hidden gem (or even someplace passable)!

Thanks so much!

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  1. On Rte. 1 in Saugus there is a place called Out of Asia. They do a decent job with Asian cusine, and it's one of the places that I like to hit when I am in the area and hungry. Sometimes they can be heavy with the sauce on the sauced dishes but I like their menu and food.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Infomaniac

      Is Donatello any good? It seems like I've heard it's decent and it looks like it might be nice.

      1. re: Joanie

        Yes, it is good. I was thinking of mentioning it, but some people might not like it, because it seems to have a regular following of, well, regulars. It's not a destination so much as a tradition. But the couple of meals I've had there have been quite good.

        1. re: Karl S

          I remember when it was Brother's III or some number like that many moons ago. I've always enjoyed it there, but Karl is right about it being a spot for regulars. The owner or manager was hugging and kissing everyone who came in except for me and my party. It's good food though.

          1. re: Infomaniac

            Good- pricy- and if your name ends in a vowel you have a better chance of being a regular:}

    2. Hi

      If you are looking for something kind of upscale I would suggest Gavin's on Rte 114 in Middleton, MA. It is about 5 miles off Rte128 so it is easy to get to. It is a high-end steak house but they do have a selction of seafoos and other choices. I have always enjoyed the meals I have had there but is is upscale so it is not cheap.

      1 Reply
      1. Also forgot to suggest Sushi Island In Wakefield center too. It is a full service Japanese place that serves a wide variety of Japanese food so it is not just sushi. The sushi is excellent though if you like it.

        6 Replies
        1. re: RoyRon

          I would second Sushi Island, and add that the Duck Walk if right next door, and has good Thai food.
          In Melrose, there is Turners SEafood, and MExico Lindo for good Mexican.

          1. re: macca

            Can you make specific recs for Duck Walk? We've been there a couple of times with friends, and I haven't liked anything I've ordered (it's been awhile, so I don't remember. . . ). As a point of reference, I like Thai Moon in Arlington.

            1. re: phoebek

              Never been to Thai Moon- I like the duck- not sure which preparatin it is- but it is mildly spicy. Their pad thai is good, too. WE usually go once a year for my moms birthday dinner ( she loves it!). Last year, I'll bet we got at least one of each appetizer. I remember the shrimp was great. There is also some kind of spicy vegatable dish with peanuts ( I know, not much of a clue) that is really good.
              I am going for our annual dinner next week. There are 20 of us in the party- picky eaters and hounds. We all like it. I will pay attention to what everyone orders, and report back.

              1. re: macca

                I like the Crispy Tamarind Duck. Also the Golden Bags.

                1. re: Chris VR

                  I think this may be the duck I had last time, too. It was good. Will put the Golden bags on our appetizer list this time.

                  1. re: macca

                    Now that you've jogged my memory, I remember that I hated the Golden bags when I tried them - they were soggy and greasy. . .

        2. And there is Su Chang's in Peabody.

          1. I struggle with this too...my parents live on the south shore and i live in Rockport! It's a bit easier for us as we're willing to take the train into N Station and we meet for dinner in the N End. On the few occasions we have met "in between" we've gone to:

            Polcarri's (good Regina's pizza, decent/good American-Italian)
            Border Cafe (ok food, but convenient and chips and salsa good)
            Naked Fish (wouldn't go again)

            My SO says that Prince's pizza is good, old-school atmosphere pizza place. We're going to try that next. There's a Legal Seafood in the N Shore mall if you're willing to come up that far.

            My parents are basic food people so these places work for us. Not sure about your in-laws, but there's no way Wakefield or Melrose would work for us, too far out of the way, but might work for you.

            Good luck!

            1. Beverly - Cabot Street: Tryst - French/American bistro - great food and service - usually need reserfvations.
              Soma - more Mediterranean - lots of excellent fish dishes; service, however, usually leaves much to be desired. Kame for good, not great, Japanese
              New steak place in Peabody that's gotten good posts - Pellana on Sylvan St. Haven't tried it yet.
              Second Duck Walk in Wakefield, not a fan of Sushi Island.
              Sake on Rt1N in Saugus - IMO, best sushi around and good cooked food, too.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JRL

                Oh, sorry, must disagree on the Duck Walk. I want to like the place, but can't bear the sappy sweetness and greasiness of everything I've tried. The vegetarian curry dishes are horrible -- vegetables undercooked, out of season, just gross. Hate that duck curry dish -- so greasy and heavy. Donatello can be good, but expensive. Meat dishes -- especially lamb -- particularly nice. Primo in Rockland is a splurge, and maybe north of what you are thinking, but really nice, especially in the summer.

                1. re: JMT123

                  Primo is in Rockland, Maine. I am sure that it is a bit North of what they are looking for!

              2. The Panang Duck @ The Duckwalk in Wakefield ROCKS!!

                1. I have enjoyed Orzo's rt 1 Saugus.

                  Wakefield- Ristorante Molise on Main Street

                  1. Is there anything good to be said about The Continental? I've never been but it's always packed.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Chris VR

                      My father loved the Continental and we used to take him there for Fathers Day sometimes. It's been about 5 or 6 years since I've been, but I think it would be a good place to take a group. I think they have someone walking around serving popovers there too.

                      1. re: Chris VR

                        Right out of the 70's (or earlier). Lots of appetizers pass around- chicken wings, spinach pie, fritters, popovers and some I am forgetting. The wine steward wears a HUGE key around his neck. Most patrons are retired! My mom and her friends go for the early bird specials. I will say their bean dip is good. I have there with a group, but the food was not memorable. Just remember the appetizers coming around.

                      2. there's also red rock bistro in swampscott, which is right on the water, off 1a. gorgeous view, and the food is pretty good. and if you don't mind a bit of a detour, the grapevine in salem is one of the better restaurants in essex county.

                        1. My husband took me to the Grapevine for the first time for my birthday last month - and I have to agree it was fabulous! I had a fabulous rabbit dish and they have great specials everyday.

                          If you are willing to make the trek up to Salem, I also recommend the Lyceum on Church Street. Those are probably the two best resaurants in town.

                          1. clippyZ, what are your tastes? what places have you liked and what did you consider wasteland food? Everywhere we eat is halfway between rockport and somerville so it would help to know which kind of places you want.. eg. high end, casual, gourmet, earlybird geriatric, hip, chic, jazz or quiet? etc.. Some decent comfy places, although not too chowhoundish include Toscana, Sylvan Street early birds, Continental early bird (food has been better than it used to be, esp. like popovers), Century House(the tavern), Calitri's, Sushi Island jazz weekend nites, Portobello, Molise, Not Your Average Joes is very convenient for you both Its a chain with somewhat creative slightly upscale chain food, decent pizza but the birthday deal is great. Sign up on line, or probably in restaurant for free dinner AND dessert and it isnt the cheapest meal thats free. Its whatever you want. Good creme brulee cheesecake with fresh berries

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: chompie

                              I would avoid the Continental, it's horrible.

                              I used to go there years ago, and hadn't been for about 10 years. Then, last Mother's Day a small group of us went, blech, blech.
                              I would prefer Legal's before the Continetal. And I have heard some great things about Gavins, and some not so great.

                              I do like the Lyceum Grille in Salem though, and the Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott.

                              1. re: chompie

                                Thanks for all of the posts! We are actually quite open, and since this is a common dilemma for all dining occassions with my in-laws (birthdays, get togethers, nights with a Thai penchant, etc), any and all suggestions would probably work for some occassion or another.