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What to avoid in Rockport/Gloucester Area?

Hi - we'll be spending a weekend in Rockport towards the end of the month and it will be the first time I've been back there in 20+ years. I've pulled tons of good suggestions from the board but thought it might be easier to know if there's any place in particular we should avoid. We'll be looking for seafood, good hot dogs, good breakfasts, fun sandwiches, etc... and maybe one nicer dinner. Heard mixed things about My Place By the Sea - can anyone corroborate?

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  1. In general, I would avoid Rockport. Very touristy and devoid of interesting food. My Place By the Sea not bad, but nothing special. Gloucester is much more of a real place, with a nice art scene, but also a working waterfront and a downtown shopping area with funky charm that has a mix of local shopping and arts and crafts type shopping. Lots of good casual and fine dining options.

    1. Went to the Lobster Pool this weekend and it was only meh. The fried clams were good but the fried shrimp and the onion rings had a lousy, doughy, bland batter. Have had good meals at the Roy Moore restaurant and others like the Roy Moore fish market that also sells prepared food to go.

      1. From my experience last evening I would suggest that you avoid Latitude 43.

        1 Reply
        1. re: almansa

          2nd that, meh chow and total robbery.

        2. I've heard great things about Duckworth's in Gloucester, but haven't been there myself. I do like the Gloucester House -- very old school New England food. Nothing inventive/creative, but good boiled, broiled, fried seafood.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nomadgirl

            Second Duckworth's.
            Get a reservation! The place is very small.

          2. Been to MP many times, great views, small menu using fresh ingredients and local when possible and excellent flavors. The wine selection could use a upgrade and sometimes the wait staff can be a bit slow but, for me that's OK I'll soak up the view.

            1. Duckworth's Bistro is great.
              Japapeno's for very good Mexican
              Seaport Grille for good food, good bar, view of working waterfront
              Causeway Restaurant for home cooking, cheap, huge portions
              Farnhams or Essex Seafood for fried clams, etc.

              1. Avoid the Grand Cafe at the Emerson Inn. Mediocre food.

                My Place - only takes reservations the day of, at noon, phone or in person. Amateurish service and over ambitious menu. Poor price/quality ratio.

                1. Would anyone like to update this post for 2010 as we are planning to stay in the area soon. Knowing what to avoid this year would help alot.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: tastest

                    Well based on an experience last Thursday, AT ALL COSTS AVOID The Causeway. The worst excuse for Fried Seafood in memory. The Fried Clams were dreadful. The worst I've ever had. Wife and son had combos of Fried Clams/Fried Shrimp and Fried Fish. Daughter had Fried Fish and Chips. Unanimously awful in every way. I was SO disappointed $92.00 plus tip (wasn't the waitress' fault) later!

                    NEVER AGAIN!

                    1. re: tastest

                      The real food is in Gloucester and, in a different way, the road between Gloucester and Newburyport, aka Clam Shack Nirvana (the apex of which for most Hounds is the Clam Box in Ipswich for big bellied fried clams - but unless you get there when they open for lunch, bring a large serving of patience with you). Focusing on Rockport for food in this region is like focusing on South Street Seaport for the best eats in the lower half of Manhattan.

                      Btw, don't repeat the omission of almost all tourists to Rockport - don't just see the port itself, but take the drive along Route 127 along the northern side of Cape Ann between Rockport and Gloucester. It's less travelled and more characteristic of what is lovely. If you're a bit more adventurous, go explore Dogtown (bring bug repellent):


                      1. re: tastest

                        We eat at the Lobster Pool once a week and the food is always excellent. Great value, great view. Nothing else really comes close for the price.

                        Lobster Pool
                        329 Granite St, Rockport, MA 01966

                      2. I love visiting Rockport, but I never eat there. Really the only thing the spouse and I have, and only in the fall, is stopping at Helmuts strudel. A crisp October morning, piece of strudel, cup of coffee and sitting on Bear's Neck. Good way to start a fall day.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jjbourgeois

                          That strudel is fantastic. Get a whole one to go. I like the apple.

                          1. re: lergnom

                            The apple is great! But eating a whole one, got watch my calories and save room for other goodies.

                            1. re: jjbourgeois

                              My husband and I each get a piece of cherry, and then share a cheese. Really good. Now, if we could just get a good cup of coffee on Bearskin Neck...

                        2. I like My Place By the Sea, but you are indeed paying for the spectacular view. Reservation system is a pain for dinner. We go for lunch (less expensive and same great view).
                          I am not a big fan of Brackett's Oceanview Restaurant. Traditional, basic New England fare. Expensive for what you get and a place where your in-laws want to go for their 61st wedding anniversary (which is why we went there last month).
                          We've enjoyed Alchemy in Gloucester, but it's not (obviously) in Rockport!

                          1. Brackets in Rockport is good in my opinion. Fantastic view. Try the Schrod burger, fresh and delicious piece of fish. The mushroom appetizer was also very good. Friendly service, very professional, no rushing you out the door. Avoid the Burrito place in the art colony, really bad Tex Mex.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: drewinmrblhd

                              Brackett's is kind of funny; the menu looks like something from 1964 with the addition of a fish taco. They serve everything on individual plates, each sized to that portion - like an oblong for beans. They present a piece of fish and other mains alone on a plate with an inedibly piece of kale as decoration. The food is actually pretty good but blue hair.

                            2. My Place by the Sea is thoroughly mediocre, somewhat reminiscent of chain food. I am guessing people go strictly for the view. Not a good enough reason for me.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: kamac

                                Thanks everyone for the 2010 update. We are in the Cape Ann area for a week so will have lots of chances to try your recommendations.

                                1. re: tastest

                                  Ditto the Clam Box and Essex Seafood-very fresh and tasty. For a tad more upscale, try The Village Restaurant in Ipswich. Kind of old school but good value.

                                  Clam Box
                                  789 Quincy Shore Dr, Quincy, MA 02170

                                  1. re: tastest

                                    Find The Market at Lobster Cove in the Annisquam neighborhood of Gloucester.
                                    Local woman learned to cook at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, met a man who also cooked there and they are in Gloucester for the summer putting out amazing meals every night but Wednesday.

                                    1. re: bgavin

                                      We had a very disappointing (and VERY overpriced) breakfast there on Father's Day. This was not long after they opened. Glad to hear that dinner is good. They may be overly ambitious being open for 3 meals a day.

                                  2. Roy Moore's Fish Shack is just okay. I prefer the tiny 'shack' a block away on Bearskin Neck for fresh seafood.

                                    For awesome breakfasts, I love Lee's.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                      So you prefer Roy Moore's over Roy Moore's? ;-)

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        Exactly :) His little shack is unpretentious and simple, the seafood fresh and delicious. It feels like the quintessential New England seafood experience.

                                        The seafood at the sit-down restaurant a block away? Eh.

                                    2. Sometime during your week there, you really should drive over to Ipswich and hit the Clambox. It is true that sometimes you have to wait a while, but sometimes not. It's worth it. I've eaten fried clams all up and down the New England coast, and these are the best.

                                      While you're in the area, a nice side trip is to drive out to the Crane Estate. Stop at nearby Russell Orchards, and maybe hit Crane Beach. This would make a worthwhile and fun day trip from Rockport.

                                      Russell Orchards
                                      143 Argilla Rd, Ipswich, MA 01938

                                      Ipswich, Ipswich, MA

                                      1. Sugar Magnolias is great for a breakfast that will kill lunch. Duckworths - in a word, GO!
                                        Avoid the Causeway and instead try the Blue Marlin in Essex for purely middlebrow seafood in a pubby atmosphere. in GLO Go to Virgilios bakery and get the Sou'Wester sandwich for lunch (not the day you chow at Sugar Mags) & make sure they load it up with that olive salad.

                                        Sugar Magnolias
                                        112 Main St, Gloucester, MA 01930

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsofatso

                                          Yah, can't beat Sugar Mag's, go there every week. Huge and tasty breakfasts. Haven't been to Causeway in a while but, have not been hearing good things, what's going on?

                                          1. re: treb

                                            Not sure about The Causeway. We had a horrible experience there recently. We had lunch there about 5 years ago and as I recall it was great. We went there a couple of weeks ago and everything was simply AWFUL. I swear the clams were not local and possibly from Maryland. They looked different than any clams I've had. The bellies were nasty. Other items were very greasy and tasteless. I was and still am VERY disappointed. Any others have this experience there recently? Back to J.T. Farnhams for me....a place we can RELY on time after time.

                                            1. re: sinned61

                                              Only place I'll go for clams, Clam Box, and onion rings.

                                              1. re: treb

                                                Treb, I feel the same way about Farnhams...the Causeway made my decision. Have gone to the Clam Box in Ipswich, liked it, but didn't LOVE it.....LOVE Farnhams EVERY TIME!

                                        2. I can't speak from personal experience, but I have a friend who sells excellent seafood wholesale, and he just recommended Lobsta Land to me. He said he was shocked that it was as good as it was - passed it a million times and never considered going in.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: almansa

                                            Yes, LOBSTA LAND does in deed have great breakfasts and a good bar/pub menu and some surprising items on the dinner menu. I has sushi there that was excellent as well as basics like fried clams and baked fish standards.

                                            1. re: almansa

                                              Here's a good reason to go, udine4less.com has a bogo for Lobsta Land.

                                            2. I've had amazingly sweet and delicious fried clams at a bar/restaurant very near the harbor, on the inland side of the main street, just about across from the fancy restaurant on the wharf. Can't remember the name. It has an unprepossessing outside, then when you walk in there are two raised booths with round tables, and a number of other booths and tables. (Can someone help me out here, please?) Anyway, the fried clams were terrific. Apparently, the owner gets them fresh each day right off the boat, and it showed. Food was otherwise unexceptional, but I have gone back several times just for those clams.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                Dear Somerville Old Timer --
                                                What town? Are you talking Gloucester or Rockport or Essex?
                                                I am sorry for loosing track of the thread.

                                                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                  Could this be Topside Grill & Pub in Glouc? I have never been inside or eaten there. They advertise a low price lobster dinner... like $14 or something like that.

                                                  Topside Grill
                                                  50 Rogers St, Gloucester, MA 01930

                                                    1. After spending 5 nights in Gloucester:
                                                      1) Best quality and freshest fish and chips @ Charlies Place, Gloucester- on a side road on our way to hotel, we found this gem.Amazing value. A family type place we loved.
                                                      2) Stone Soup in Essex was ok, kind of retro- super huge platter of fried clams on top of fried onion rings and fries. Platter so big I could only eat 1/4 of it.
                                                      3) Down River ice cream- excellent but why is everthing so huge in portion size.?Sizes are ridiculous , huge and no smaller sizes available., so that you feel sick after eating a cone.
                                                      4) Farnhams clams- easily the poorest quality, overbrowned, could not even tell if a clam was in the batter. Avoid unless you want to be fleeced for money.
                                                      5) Captain Carlos- nice ambiance for waterfront, food quality just ok. bar type place , good for groups
                                                      6) Virgillos- thanks everyone for this rec, super great sandwiches and pastries.

                                                      it is wise to warn visitors that many places take cash only. This was a new experience for us as travellers.

                                                      Martha's Stone Soup - CLOSED
                                                      517 Old Sandwich Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360

                                                      Captain Carlo's Restaurant
                                                      27 Harbor Loop, Gloucester, MA 01930