Between bad weather and Boston protests, we didn’t get to do everything we had hoped to do during our long weekend in New England, but I still had one of the most fun — and tasty! — trips I’ve had in awhile.
Our trip started and ended in Salem, Massachusetts — one of the cutest and most interesting little towns I’ve ever visited! It’s full of shops and historic charm. If you know anything about American history, you know Salem is infamous for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. I’m a history nerd and The Crucible is also one of my favorite plays that I’ve read, so I loved soaking up the chilling history at the witch trials memorial and visiting one of New England’s oldest graveyards.
Salem capitalizes on its wicked, “witchy” history with a lot of gimmicky shops and “museums” and other tourist traps that exploit the theme of witchcraft and the supernatural. Unsurprisingly, the town’s peak tourism season is in October. However, if you, like me, are not really into gimmicky stuff, there’s plenty else to see — and, more importantly, TO EAT!!
My mom pronounced me the official activities planner for this trip because I have a knack for finding good restaurants and fun activities and more or less planned out our entire trip with the help of Yelp, my guardian angel.
I’m definitely easily entertained because my favorite thing that we saw in Salem had to be a bunch of sticks. Stickwork was commissioned by the Peabody Essex Museum and created by artist Patrick Dougherty from truckloads of saplings. The stick houses have an almost eerie, mysterious vibe, and reminded me of Season 1 of True Detective. And witches.
So cool! Very art!
On the first day, we ate lunch at an elevated pizza place that I thought looked promising from its Yelp reviews and photos, and it did not let us down!
Here, we ate a deconstructed grilled caesar salad with white anchovies and ginormous croutons, and we added on grilled octopus, which was perfectly cooked and well worth the extra $4. I’m not really a connoisseur of salads nor do I really want to be because I find that they are more or less the same everywhere and rarely bother ordering salad unless it comes with the meal (or unless it’s a burrata because I’ll order burrata pretty much any time anywhere), but this was something altogether different. I’ve had the same caesar salad 50 times at 50 different restaurants, but this salad took the caesar to new heights and created something new and interesting.
The wood-fired pizza was great, with that blackened crust that I would sell my soul for. While perhaps not as crispy as I’d usually like, the Soppressata pizza made my day, and made me want to come back and try every other pizza on the menu! I was uncertain whether or not pizza would be good in Massachusetts but Bambolina won me over.
Salem Pedestrian Mall
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to the Peabody Essex Museum, which is full of art and history, but the shops surrounding the area on a charming, pedestrian-only brick-and-cobblestone street are definitely worth a visit!
Another spot worth checking out in Salem for some great views of the old harbor is Derby Wharf. Walk out to the historic Derby Wharf lighthouse, built in 1871, for some great ~viewz~.
Finz Seafood and Grill
You know they’re cool because they have a “z” tacked onto the end of their name! hahahahahaha but no, actually, we had some top notch seafood here. My boyfriend came up to visit for the final day of our trip and we had a lovely meal at Finz right on the water, with some fresh, tasty fish. I even got to try something totally new to me — fried oysters! I’ve had raw oysters before and avoided them ever since because I wasn’t a huge fan, but I think Finz may have converted me into an oyster loving gal after tasting these gooey morsels of oceany goodness. We also had a tuna tartare with avocado and mango that was very fresh and bright tasting and was devoured in the blink of an eye.
Our entrées were a tad less impressive but still very good. One of the entrées we had was a special of fresh halibut over a brown sugar bacon risotto with a green apple slaw. The halibut was very delicate and cooked well, and the sweet-and-salty brown sugar bacon was one of the best renditions of bacon I’ve had, but the two didn’t really make sense together, especially over a risotto that, while cooked well, had absolutely no flavor and was basically just glorified white rice with pieces of flavorful bacon hidden throughout. Each individual component was executed well but came of rather disjointed and incomplete as a dish together. The green apple slaw was nice and refreshing as well and added a great crunch with the halibut, but, again, didn’t make a whole lot of sense with the other components. The lobster mac and cheese was definitely insanely tasty, but was also ridiculously heavy. I wish I could have eaten more of it, but I was bursting at the seams!
Overall, I really, really liked this restaurant and would definitely visit again — just would have made a few minor tweaks on the menu!
Not Your Average Joe’s – So technically this is a chain and technically it wasn’t in Salem, but we got dinner at Not Your Average Joe’s the night after our big pizza lunch at Bambolina, and it instantly become one of my new favorite chain restaurants. Everything was prepared well, especially the tuna sashimi wontons (if I see the words “tuna”, “wonton”, and either “sashimi” or “tartare” on a menu anywhere, there is a 98% chance that I will have to order it), and I wouldn’t be mentioning this late dinner out at a nearby mall at all except for the fact that their table bread and dipping oil is the most glorious I have ever had at any restaurant ever and I probably could have eaten 6 baskets of it. I will return for more table bread, Joe’s. Mark my words.
Gloucester was one of the biggest disappointments-turned-successes of all time. We had purchased tickets for a Cape Ann whale watch. There are no words for how excited I was, and how disappointed I was when it was cancelled due to bad weather and rough seas. I bought a whale watching coat and everything. I have spent so many hours of my life watching nature documentaries, and I was so excited to finally see these majestic creatures out in the wild in their natural habitat.
Unfortunately, we did not get to go on a whale watch 😦 But I did fulfill my duties as Official Activities Director and found a cool place to check out — The Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester, built in 1832, which features a long stone breakwater offering breathtaking views of Gloucester Harbor. Walking along the breakwater was one of the coolest and most New England experiences of all time, and the rain and the wind that had thwarted our whale watch made the experience that much cooler. Also got to see some monstrous sea gulls that were the biggest I’ve seen in my entire life. Probably because they’re eating lots of yummy shellfish rather than parking lot trash like the sea gulls near me.
A trip to New England wouldn’t be complete without a proper lobsta dinner, right?! My mom and I got some amazing lobsters at Lobsta Land in Gloucester, MA, and a tasty bouillabaisse. This was my first bouillabaisse so I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but I really enjoyed the flavor-packed fish stew and it’s definitely something I’d order again.
And what would a special dinner be without a dessert?! I got a strawberry shortcake which I felt really clever for calling a “strawberry tallcake” because it was huge and my mom didn’t think I could eat the whole thing all by myself but I did hahahahaha
All in all, a fantastic trip with a lot of great experiences that I’m insanely thankful for! New England, get ready because I’ll be back to see more lighthouses and eat more food ASAP.