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Good Dining on the North Shore

I just posted to a very old post about the Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott and it got me thinking. What are the good restaurants in the Salem,Beverly and Marblehead area? For brunch or regular pm dining. I'm sick of driving to Boston and I think the staff at Pellana are sick of seeing me there twice a week. Good food and a decent wine list shouldn't be that hard to find right?

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  1. If you're willing to trek to Ispwich, try Cafe Zabaglione on Central St., Ithaki for Mediterannean, both have excellent food with good wine lists. If you go a little farther in Gloucester, try Franklin Cafe on Main St., La Tratorria on Main or Duckworth on E. Main St. All need reservations.

    1. Focaccia in Wilmington is great if you don't mind a short drive to Wilmington. I live in downtown Salem and it takes less than 30 minutes to get there. They have a relaxed atmosphere, delicious food (from complex regional Italian cuisine to pizza) and a very accommodating waitstaff. The prices are quite reasonable for lunch or dinner. They also have a separate lounge area with weekly live music.
      In Salem I would highly recommend either the Tavern or Nathaniel's, both located in the lower level of the Hawthorne Hotel. Nathaniel's is more of a fine dining experience, while the Tavern leans more toward sophisticated comfort food. A lot of the Tavern meals are basic favorites with small tweaks--- like chicken fingers with a real honey mustard or maple mustard, or a burger served on a gourmet multigrain roll. They also serve various pasta dishes and other entrees. They have daily soup selections (the cream of tomato is amazing) as well as "burger of the day" selections-- Kobe beef, ostrich, buffalo, salmon, etc. Their salads are always fresh and have lots of flavor to them. No bagged salad here! There is a small bar and lots of tables with comfy armchairs and couches at some tables. The fireplace and bookshelves make the room so cozy. And they are open late for a restaurant outside of Boston. It is one of my favorite places to dine in Salem.
      Strega in Salem is also quite good. They serve Italian food "with a twist" and the decor is beautiful. They are known for their martinis but they also have a good selection of white and red wines.

      1. If you are stuck on the North Shore, Chianti Café in Beverly, MA is viable option.

        1 Reply
        1. re: joebelt

          Also don't forget Wild Horse Cafe in Beverly. Always a favorite.

        2. I have never been, but I have two friends - both restaurant and wine industry professionals - who are absolutely gaga over Tryst in Beverly (no relation to Tryst in Arlington.) And when I say gaga, that's an understatement.

          4 Replies
          1. re: almansa

            I also recommend Tryst. They're quite popular - we tried to get in last Friday night without a reservation, and were turned away because they were fully booked.

            Having been rebuffed by Tryst, we had to go to a back-up plan.

            I was not happy with Soma the last time we were there (over a year ago), but we decided to peek at them, anyhow. The place was almost completely empty. There were about a dozen people sitting at the bar, but the dining room had only three people at one table. An empty restaurant at 7 PM on a Friday night suggests I'm not the only person unhappy with Soma. I have to assume they won't last much longer.

            We ended up at Mandrake, which was about 2/3 full. We haven't been there since the chef change. It's certainly a less ambitious, more mainstream menu than when they first opened. There still were several items that caught my eye. My wife and I both had their "Mandrake Mac" - shell fish with macaroni and a gouda cheese sauce. I loved it, but my wife was less enthused. Portions were enormous - we could have easily split a single order.

            And when we left, we noticed that Kame, the sushi place a few doors down, was packed. We weren't in the mood for sushi, but people seem to speak well of them.

            1. re: srgoodman

              It is easy to miss, but there is an excellent Mexican restaurant in Beverly on lower Cabot Street -- Cielito Lindo. It's a couple from Veracruz, and while they do have some Tex/Mex stuff stuck in on the back page of the menu, most of it is much more authentic dishes. Really worth a visit.

            2. re: almansa

              I am not a "gaga-er" however, I too thought this was one of the best meals of 2007 and in fact just emailed a dc about going there for dinner in a few weeks. I haven't been in over a year so I am happy to hear it is still good. I loved the atmosphere, and the food was FANTASTIC better than any I've had in Boston as of late.

              1. re: 4chowpups

                The Franklin is sublime and a hidden gem. I just went there a few weekends ago with DH, and was transported to heaven by the garlic grilled calamari with baby white beans. Pan seared cod for dinner, amazing. However, sad choice of desserts. :(

            3. The Franklin: Boston food, Gloucester prices. Can't beat it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: resipsaloquitor

                I agree love the franklin! Also in Salem the new wharf 62 has been getting good reviews and a new place in swampscott is soon to open the G bar.

                1. re: Diski

                  Where is GBar opening?

                  And interesting, I've read nothing but bad reviews on Wharf62.

              2. There are a few places in Marblehead that are pretty decent. Flynnies on the Avenue offers a relaxed atmosphere with casual dining. Jack Tar's has just recently changed chefs and has been very tasty the few times I have been there.

                1. Kame in Beverly is trash. Rude waitstaff, stale rice, extra chewy nori...fish itself was ok on it's own, but portion is junk per roll. I guess I am spoiled from some great sushi joints in so. fla. Avoid, avoid, avoid. I felt like I was eating at a 7-11...all that was missing was the slurpee...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bostonchowterrier

                    I must step in and defend Kame. Sorry to hear you had what sounds like a terrible experience.

                    We have been to Kame many, many times and it remains near the top of our sushi list even with the long drive we have to get there. We find the fish to be consistently excellent, the presentation interesting and the staff to be not only good but very friendly, bordering on entertaining...if you like to sit at the sushi bar, which we certainly do.

                    They do get a good amount of praise on this board and their customers seem very regular and pretty sophisticated in their ordering. If you haven't tried it, be warned by the previous post but perhaps give it a try and decide for yourself.

                    1. re: merrvally

                      add me to the list of Kame lovers.

                      i hardly ever order Maki at any Sushi joint but Kame has done some really great special order hand rolls.

                      i usually forego the menu and let the Sushi Chefs make what they feel is freshest and best. i've yet to be disappointed. one memorable thing was a puree of mountain potato (think tapioca pudding) with chunks or maguro tuna that had been seasoned similar to Poke Tuna. so good.

                      1. re: merrvally

                        I have been eating out so much lately!

                        Hubby and I usually go to Jack Tar's every other week. We sit at the bar. Love the atmosphere.

                        The martinis are terrific and their food is always delicious and consistent.

                        The owners Emily and her husband are always there. Scott is the chef.

                        Fantastic people.

                        Jack Tar Restaurant
                        126 Washington St Ste 2, Marblehead, MA 01945

                    2. Beverly has some fabulous places including Wildhorse (amazing martinis), Soma, Tryst, and Cielito Lindo (great mexican place)
                      Salem- Finz, 62 on the Wharf, and In a Pigs eye has a great brunch and even better bloody marys.
                      Swampscott- monday nights at Red Rock with the $1 oysters, sliders, grilled shrimp skewers are my favorite