A consistent eclectic theme pervades Alchemy Café & Bistro, from the spacious restaurant's mismatched fabrics and assorted furnishings to each of the menus’ diverse selection of contemporary American cuisine. That eclectic culinary motif has served the eatery so well that Northshore Magazine awarded Alchemy the distinction of best tapas in the area. In the kitchen, the chefs are selective about the ingredients they use in each brunch and dinner dish. They meld these hormone- and antibiotic-free meats into entrees such as smoked confit pork belly tacos and scallop fritto misto. Designed for sharing amongst guests, the menu includes flavor-filled half-sized entrées and sharing platters, including one with steamed mussels fennel, white wine, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, house cut frites, and tarragon aioli. Patrons can dine in one Alchemy's many themed rooms, such as "The Cave" and "The Mafia Table."
The upscale casual environment, with colorful painting on exposed brick walls and leather couches surrounding candlelit coffee tables, also sees guests enjoying organic salads and tofu bites, which can be paired with a 2-4 cup pot of French-pressed coffee or one of several options from a locally-produced cocktail list. Alchemy also encourages guests to enjoy an after-dinner drink of bourbon, whiskey, or absinthe, or indulge with a dessert of maple bread pudding and flourless chocolate torte. Alchemy also contains several gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly options.
Though it overlooks Gloucester Harbor, where fishermen haul in the restaurant's supply of fresh fish and lobster, the dining room of Latitude 43 feels like it's underwater. The hull of a 36-foot Coast Guard rescue boat hangs overhead, a 16-foot iron-and-glass octopus sculpture wrought by a local iron artist dangles above the sushi bar, and a harbor mural painted by local artists enlivens the walls. The aromas of coastal cuisine waft through the oceanic interior, signaling the arrival of dishes such as grilled local swordfish, more than 17 sushi rolls, and a host of non-seafood entrees that can be prepared in gluten-free or vegetarians versions. Latitude 43 has won 'Best Sushi' by Northshore Magazine three years running, and their menu includes dishes such as Jeff's clam chowder ($4/$6), grilled swordfish with a red-wine-mushroom glaze ($24), and a signature sushi roll with tempura tuna, wasabi, goat cheese, and enoki mushrooms wrapped with a daikon radish ($18).
Because a strong ecosystem produces healthy fish, Latitude 43's restaurateurs do their part to ensure earth's well-being with their green facility. Recycled materials compose the tiles in the kitchen and around the sushi bar, and the deck's sunshades heat the dishwasher's hot water while shading guests from the sun’s deadly laser beams. An oceanfront patio hosts feasts in the summertime, while a fireplace made from locally sourced granite keeps diners cozy in the winter.
In the center of Minglewood Tavern's acoustic space, a bar constructed from 180-year-old barn siding rises from the ground, with posts made from the dried trunks and branches of trees holding various drink glasses overhead. Bartenders swipe those glasses to fill orders of one of the 20 beers on tap, which rotate monthly, or to mix up one of their signature cocktails. As cold sips of icy drinks chill gullets, hot entrees such as hearth oven–baked pizzas or bacon-wrapped entrees travel from the kitchen to weathered wooden tabletops, arriving just in time to catch the end of a set from one of the live bands that plays Wednesday through Saturday or a rare glimpse at the one band that plays Wednesday through Saturday.
When the stage and mics stand silent, high-definition and projection-screen TVs pick up the slack, beaming sports games across the retrofitted bar. Each weekday night boasts its own food special, such as Monday's all-you-can-eat ribs and Wednesday's all-you-can-eat sushi.
La Trattoria & Pizzeria's dining room reflects its chefs' philosophy on food. The rustic yellow-orange walls, framed paintings, and cozy lighting cultivate a homey atmosphere, setting the stage for their menu of traditional Sicilian comfort food. Their appetizers come as elegantly simple as garlic bread with fresh mozzarella, romano, and spices, or blend a few distinct flavors, as with the grilled scallops wrapped in prosciutto. Entree highlights include the pasta a la trattoria—red sauce blended with pine nuts, raisins, cauliflower, sardines, and wild-mountain fennel—and the Sfincone pizza—a Sicilian-style pizza with sauteed onions, seasoned bread crumbs, and romano cheese—which makes Italian grandmothers all over the world so, so very proud.
Nestled near the shoreline that juts into the Atlantic’s waters at Cape Ann, The Fish Shack nets a menu of fresh seafood soups, baskets, entrees, and lobster, hauled in by their neighbor and parent company Roy Moore Lobster Co. Traditional chowders brace bellies for autumnal chills and baseball blues, with thick and creamy new england clam chowder or thin and milky haddock chowder stepping up to the plate ($4.95/cup). For more substantial hungers, enlist the aid of a fried-sole-fish sandwich with fries or coleslaw ($8.95) or a 7-ounce shrimp basket with fries ($11.95). To create a local favorite dish, chefs crumble a crunchy Ritz-cracker crust on top of fresh scallops before baking them and drizzling them with a provençal sauce, a motley infusion of garlic, butter, and capers ($17.95). With regular fresh catches, The Fish Shack prices its lobster daily, serving the crustacean boiled, casseroled, scampied, standardized tested, and rolled.
Periwinkles Restaurant & Bar is steeped in shipbuilding culture, from its views of boats passing by on the Essex River, to the hanging gas lanterns that light the dining room, to the local sea-centric artwork displayed at the onsite gallery. The theme is fitting, since Periwinkles sits on land that was a wooden shipbuilding hub for nearly 300 years. The building itself fits right into the nautical theme, with its weathered clapboard siding and bright, whitewashed interior.
Diners can enjoy the picturesque river views two ways. They can grab a seat inside the dining room, which is lined on two sides by large picture windows. Or they can venture out to the wooden deck for a waterfront dining experience, and people-watch as clammers, kayakers, and boaters dock right outside.
Customers might first visit for the views, but it's the food that keeps them coming back. Periwinkles' clam chowder is a 14-time winner of the Essex Clamfest, and the only chowder to have ever won the People's Choice and Judges' Choice awards in the same year. All the seafood is local, never shipped in from one of the moon's seas, and includes seasonal specials such as lobster and swordfish. Diners can start meals with the warm salad, which eschews traditional greens for sautéed veggies, chicken, pine nuts, and grilled shrimp. Beyond seafood, the menu features grilled steak tips served with mashed potatoes, or chicken breast and ziti tossed in a light chicken-parmesan broth.