Warm lighting blankets the rustic interior of Riverside Lounge, creating a relaxing retreat for enjoying a draft beer, cocktail, or full meal. The flickering flames of the fireplace invite couples to cozy up beside it as they share portions of lightly battered calamari and lobster mac and cheese. The bar, meanwhile, blends chic woodwork with brick walls and an inviting atmosphere where patrons can relax and sip one of 17 draft beers, a seasonal wine, or a pitcher of white or red sangria. A collection of sports-showing TVs decorates the bar like wreaths on a door, while outside the view offers the natural splendor of the Powwow River Waterfall, which flows adjacent to the lounge’s canopied tables and violin-playing sparrows.
For more than 25 years, the maritime enthusiasts at The Lighthouse Preservation Society have worked to maintain the endangered lighthouses of the United States, some more than 200 years old. Their efforts have sponsored National Lighthouse Day, helped create the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act and the National Lighthouse Museum, and raised nearly $6 million toward more than 160 lighthouse-restoration projects. Day to day, they lead lighthouse tours and present lighthouse-related presentations, gather historic documents and artifacts, and manufacture replica replacement parts.
They also ignite lighthouse-centered enthusiasm through special events and private dining at the Newburyport Lighthouse. Lauded by Yankee Magazine, the intimate multicourse meals pair sea- and land-focused dishes with views of the town harbor and historic waterfront buildings. The small circular room, nestled at the top of the lighthouse, surrounds diners with padded benches and panoramic windows.
Many restaurateurs are groomed for their career path from infancy, growing up in kitchens where they bonded with family over lovingly prepared meals. Not Mario Herrera. He entered into the restaurant industry out of necessity, not nostalgia, tackling dishes by the sink-full as he earned money to put himself through college. And though he took the job for financial reasons, he soon found himself falling in love with it, unexpectedly nourished by the smiles of well-fed patrons. Mario began taking on different positions in the restaurant, serving meals and pouring cocktails until he learned the ins and outs of the entire process. Eventually he opened his own place, The Red Iguana, and he does everything he can to make the place feel like a second home for his staff, guests, and talking cartoon plates.
It's only natural: you'd almost have to live there to get through the menu's extensive selection of hearty Mexican dishes. There's a mix of tacos, burritos, and fajitas, of course, but it's his own creations that set the place apart. Unique appetizers play on traditional favorites, such as mole chicken wings or grilled-veggie nachos. The entrees—which are conveniently categorized by protein or veggie—include pork tenderloin with adobo sauce and grilled chicken topped with chorizo and pineapple. The camaron al mojo de ajo is a perennial favorite, a spread of shrimp sauteed with wine and garlic, all served atop rice and avocado salad.
At Breakers Restaurant & Bar, executive chef John Adams presents a tempting menu that's steeped in local traditions of fresh seafood, North Atlantic lobster, and fine chops. Admire ocean views through the dining room's oversized windows while sharing a steamy bowl of mussels, bulked up by garlic-infused white wine and buttery artisan bread ($9). The Beach Special sandwich embodies New England fare, topping a brioche bun with enough Sam Adams–battered haddock to fill an average-sized boat shoe ($11), as does the Maine lobster pie, delighting palates with a multi-textured mix of freshly shelled meat, sherry cream sauce, and a cracker-crumb topper ($25). Those with ocean-restrictive diets may peruse Chef Adams's turf menu, where he adorns Ocean Boulevard steak tips with bourbon steak sauce and beer-breaded onion rings instead of mermaid tears ($17).
Floor-to-ceiling windows frame crashing ocean waves on the Hampton Beach sands at Breakers Restaurant & Bar. Local fishermen pluck many of the catches that end up in Executive Chef Derek Kucharski's kitchen from those waters, from the Maine lobster meat in his lobster rolls to the local haddock in his Sam Adams fish ‘n’ chips. Beyond seafood, his dinners may include slow-roasted barbecue pulled pork sandwiched in a buttermilk biscuit, and butternut ravioli flavored with dollops of maple-syrup cream.
Along with lunches and breakfast on select days of the week, dinnertime feasts unfold amid custom millwork, a raised stone-hearth fireplace, and a granite-topped bar that wraps around the entire dining area. The space—situated in the 1912-built Ashworth by the Sea hotel—also includes a recently enlarged dance floor, which fills with dancing masses each Friday and Saturday night when DJs spin classic tunes and rousing ol’ sea shanties.
Plum Island Beachcoma reopened in 2011 after a seven-year hiatus to serve American favorites in a laid-back, beach-themed setting and continue a tradition as a local hangout that stretches back to the 1950s. Surrounded by bright yellow walls and beach paraphernalia, diners watch sports on flat-screen TVs and dig into lobster-salad sandwiches with sliced avocado and 8-ounce Angus-beef burgers. The beachy vibe is carried on in entrees such as fish tacos and coconut-crusted chicken, made with ingredients plucked from Hawaii's fabled coconut-chicken trees.
The chefs at Essex Street Grille fill their menu with dishes ranging from fish to tempura shrimp and Jamaican pork tenderloin. They place these delectables on white plates and send them out into a dining room in which red walls surround patrons and contrast the shifting images of a big-screen TV. Bartenders add their own color to the scene by mixing dessert martinis with Godiva chocolate liqueur and Bailey's Irish cream. On Friday nights, a DJ blends tunes by diverse artists such as the Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, and a family of whales.