Are you hungry? Get ready for some fabulous pictures and restaurant picks in the heart of New England and beyond. Included in this guide are Boston, Somerville, and Newton in the Boston area, Portsmouth and Hampton NH, Kittery Maine, and Lenox Massachusetts. We also include a few eateries in Rockport and Gloucester on the way north to the NH coast and Route 1.
We returned to Gloucester’s Rocky Neck to venture down memory lane (see our journey many years ago which was explored by bike). Honestly, if you compare the photos, you’ll see plenty of similarities: the quirkiness of the shops, the creative flare of the artists’ exterior studio facades, the vibrant flowers in front of the stained-colored buildings and galleries. The weathered look from chipped paint on front houses, bikes, boats and cafe doors. It was much quieter than I remembered.
A traditional hot spot is The Salted Cod which combines their love of food and drink with art.
Rocky Neck isn’t all there is to Gloucester. There are several quaint neighborhoods including a few shopping areas which I love to stroll. Who doesn’t love cafes, antique stores and old fashioned boutiques in New England? If you don’t, then I’d argue you might not gel with New England. After all, it’s the connection to all things ancient (at least by American standards) that bring people to the Northeast. Since Anthony and I grew up here, it was like going home. The home we grew up knowing through its unique smells, tastes and sights. For example, if you want to have tea with teddy bears, you can in Gloucester.
A stone’s throw from Gloucester lies Rockport, and it tends to be tradition to visit whenever I’m in the area. Maybe the draw is Rockport’s familiar toffee and ice cream shops, or the pewter store I know so well. Or perhaps its the countless fun times I’ve had along its pedestrian walkway and the dozens of lobsters I’ve eaten there, inside and out. One of the most infamous picturesque views in New England can be found in Rockport although some Maine natives might argue with me on that one.
Rockport probably isn’t the best place to get lobster in the area, mostly because it’s more expensive than heading a little further north along Route 1. There are plenty of places to get seafood, either sitting down or grabbing a cup of New England creamy chowder to go. At the very end of Bearskin Neck (#68 to be precise), you’ll find My Place by the Sea and it didn’t look like it changed at all since the last time we went there for a very romantic meal on the deck roughly eight years ago. We were planning to repeat the experience but it was closed, so we went to Fleur Cuisine Harborside on the wharf instead. The ambiance was lovely; however, the food was only good, not great and the service was bit of a disappointment.
A walk through the historical district and Quincy Market was a great way to spend our final afternoon.
Below are some of the delights in the Food Court. Okay, so I got carried away by a l’il dessert color.
Then we headed to the North End for dinner and coffee, starting at Naples-influenced Ristorante Saraceno, perfect for Anthony’s heritage and preference for Italian dishes. It’s a staple — not the best Italian food in the world, but it’s GOOD and the ambiance is epic.
Then there’s Francesca’s along the same main drag and only a stone’s throw from Seraceno.
Although locals may argue that there are other cafes that trump the cappuccino at Caffe Vittoria, it remains one of my favorite spots, largely because of the memories of my youth. All those late nights drinking coffee there after long work nights. And to top it off, very little has changed about the place. In other words, it is as I remembered it. The ambiance. The tables, chairs, coffee, desserts, lighting — all of it.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to indulge your inner child and relive the tastes, smells and experiences of yesteryear just because. Thankfully our friends indulged us every step of the way.
Although I wrote earlier that so many things felt similar walking on old roads, stopping in shops of old and re-visiting favorite restaurants and cafes, it wasn’t the same, largely because I’m not the same. That said, it brought me great joy to drink and dine again in some of my old neighborhoods. Somerville’s Dali is still alive and kicking. This Spanish Tapas Bar was the perfect spot to gather twenty or so old friends from my time living in the area.
While the tapas are still heavenly, it’s the ambiance that brings me back again and again. And they still deliver on that unique old-world experience fifteen years later.
New Hampshire’s Coast
There’s plenty to also see inland, which include great hikes and weekend getaways, but we just love the coast. This past trip only allowed for southern New Hampshire adventures; however, we used to drive up Route 1 often from Boston, spending time in all the towns along the coast and we did the same for much of Maine as well.
Like Maine, there’s plenty of lobster shacks along the coast but the trendier town of Portsmouth not only offers modern culinary spots to dine but has great architecture. Further south just over the Massachusetts border is Newburyport where I spent a lot of time in my thirties. We stayed with friends in Hampton and went out to dinner nightly, visiting their favorite eateries—what a treat. Scroll below for a few of those experiences.
During the day, we spent out time walking the beaches (and collecting seaweed, rocks and shells for my various art projects as I always do when I travel). In and around Hampton, you can dine in or purchase clams, oysters, lobster, crab and other seafood to cook at home.
In and Around Hampton NH
There’s not much to this artsy little town just over the Maine border, but we went primary to drink and eat. And look at art of course. It’s a lovely stroll down the main drag; however, and there are some wonderful walks and hikes nearby. Be sure to scroll down for our favorite picks from Kittery: Anneke Jans and The Wallingford Dram.
If you want a more casual experience simply to get your “lobster fix” in southern NH, a few options include Brown’s Lobster Pound (we had one picnic table style before heading out of town) and Markey’s Lobster Pool, both in Seabrook, Al’s Seafood in North Hampton, Smitty’s State Pier Lobster Pound in Hampton, Ray’s Seafood in Rye and Lobster Boat Restaurant in Litchfield, the latter of which is a known spot for old-school seafood and pasta.
My lobster order before and after.
While I had to succumb to two roadside lobster meals, we also wanted to try a few elegant and tasteful dining spots and our local friends Gail and Steve were the perfect hosts.
First, we ventured to Black Trumpet in Portsmouth which offers a seasonal, eclectic menu, with plenty of gluten free, vegetarian, vegan and nut free options to boot. They have a fabulous Cheese and Charcuterie Plate or delicious Shrimp Ceviche Tostada with Cucumber-Nasturtium Pico to kick off your meal. Anthony and I had to try the Tea-Smoked Duck Breast with Beet-Noodle Seaweed Salad and Black Garlic Nigella Emulsion, which was to die for.
Main course options include a Brandade crusted Halibut with Succotash, Swiss Chard, Marinated Tomatoes and Zucchini Sauce, a Soy-Brined Iberico Pork Loin with Buckwheat Noodles, Bok Choy, Umeboshi Plum Puree and Tempura Scallions and a Pan-Fried Zucchini Feta Cake with Mushrooms, Local Greens, Beet Yogurt and Orange Blossom Honey. (Note the Asian influence)
Desserts were equally divine, with Chocolate and Cherry Clafoutis and Spiced Mascarpone and Cherry Syrup, and White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Shaved Enna Chocolate and Nilla Water Crumbs. And how about this one? Sweetheart Beet and Plum Swiss Roll with Mascarpone Buttercream and Maple Creme Anglaise. Can you say Heavenly three times after a few cocktails and any of these to-die-for sweets?
For cocktails, a must visit is a unique gem in Kittery Maine called The Wallingford Dram.
Let’s just say that every one of their cocktails had us at hello. Unusual mixes include the following (too amazing not to post in detail):
- A Fist in the Mouth of Time: Bourbon, Smoke, Fernet, Coffee Brandy, Bitters, Lavender
- We Are Still Us: Buttered Hay Washed Brandy, Black Pepper, Cumin and Orange Curacao with Egg White and Lemon
- Victims of Late Success: Bourbon, Aperol, Mango, Pine, Preserved Lemon, Coco Blast, Nogori Sake (yes, really), Seltzer and Mint
- Jupiter Jazz: Jalapeno-infused Mezcal, Amaro Montenegro, Passionfruit, Lemon, Orgeat, Szechuan Peppercorns
- By Witchcraft: Cranberry Infused Gin, Dry Curacao, Lime, Cassia, Creme De Violette (perfect for the region)
- Tankgirl: Tequila, Aperol, Cherry Heering, Lemon, Orgeat, Pineapple and African Birdseye Chili
- High Priestess: Raspberry-Hisbiscus Gin, Blackberry, Lime, Dry Curacao, Chocolate Bitters and Egg White (gotta love the name)
- Dame Shrub: Gin, Rosemary Pear Shrub, Lemon, Ginger, Main Hemlock, Seltzer
- A Secret Garden Highball: Earl Grey Tea Vodka, House Bitter Lemon Soda
- Boat Cowboy: Tequila, Boubon, Allspice Dram, Pineapple Gomme, Birds Eye Chilli and Bitters
- Northsea Lineman: Rye with Islay Scotch, Maraschino, Pune e Mes, Bitters and Salt
- Leatherman: Bourbon, Carpano Antica, Lapsang Souchong Liqueur and Bitters (Anthony had two – hey, we weren’t driving)
- Something for Timmy: Olive Oil Washed Bourbon, Green Chartreuse and Bitters
- Eddy and the Bridge: Strawberries, Peychaud’s Bitters, Pineapple Gomme, Tequila, Guajilo Pepper, Lemon, Seltzer and Thai Basil
Okay, I could go on. But you get the idea. Highly creative, diverse and unusual. We could have sat there all night.
Also in Kittery Maine is Anneke Jans, which is also an unusual find for the area. Also in Wallingford Square (start your night with cocktails at The Walllingford Dram and then walk over to Anneke Jans for dinner. They offer European-influenced American dinners, small plates & drinks in a snazzy, cosmopolitan setting.
We started off with Oysters and Mussels because who could you not if they’re on the menu? The chef prepares their Maine mussels with bacon, onions, white wine, cream, and Great Hill Blue Cheese. Yum, right?
Other scrumptious bites at this magical spot include Lobster Salad with Green Corn Relish and Avocado Mousse, Grilled Scallops with Succatosh, Sweet Corn Soubise, Citrus and Leeks, their Scottish Salmon with Mango Quinoa Salad, Shiitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy and Miso Ginger Glaze, and Steak Frites with Romesco.
Lenox Massachusetts is a fun place to stop if you’re heading to upstate New York. Be sure to stop by the traditional and ever-so historical Red Lion Inn. Sit on the porch, order some biscuits, a cheese plate and a massive pot of tea. We browsed in some of the cute shops along the main drag of Lenox for an hour or so before grabbing some drinks and meeting an old friend.
Also on the way is Coxsackie New York. There’s not much there, but a nice stop is Yanni’s Restaurant along the river for lunch, where I managed to catch up with an old high school friend.
Be sure to check out two recent articles on just food in the area: Top Boston Foodie Picks by Category. And for other things to do, see my New England Favorite Spots article which includes the foodie picks from this piece as well.