This is Part 10 of my Bermuda trip report series. Two weeks ago, I covered our roughly half day exploring historic Salem. With our visit stretching from about 10:30 in the morning until around 3 in the afternoon, we needed to find a place for lunch, and while my wife was enjoying a half hour with a psychic witch, I headed over to the Salem Regional Visitor Center to get some maps, and also get some ideas of where to eat. Right on one of the maps I picked up was an ad for The Lobster Shanty, a place I had briefly checked out before we left home (my wife loves seafood, and what better place to get some than coastal Massachusetts). It was an easy walk from where we were, so we headed on over.
For a primer on our entire trip, head over to my Bermuda trip report introduction and index.
The Lobster Shanty
- 25 Front Street, Salem, MA
- Summer Hours: M,W,Th Noon-10 P.M.; Fri-Sat Noon-11 P.M.; Sun Noon-9 P.M.; Tuesday 5-10 P.M.; Bar until 12:30 A.M. everyday except Tuesday. Hours vary by season. Closed January 15th-April 1st.
- Price – $15-25 per person, no alcohol
- Directions – there is a parking lot at the corner of Front and Lafayette Streets, about a block from the restaurant. If coming from IH-95/Highway 128, take the exit for State Highway 114 and follow it to Salem, where it becomes Summer Street, then will bend left onto Norman Street. Continue straight at the intersection with Washington Street (you are now on New Derby Street), turn left on Lafayette Street, then turn left into the lot. Or you can continue straight a couple more blocks, and park in the parking garage at the corner with Congress Street.
The Lobster Shanty doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it’s rather cozy on the inside (I couldn’t get a clear shot of the other half of the inside, but there’s only about half a dozen tables). From what I’ve been told, they do put more tables outside during the summer tourist season.
These are usually my favorite kinds of places on vacation, though, because the food is usually delicious. Indeed, the Shanty has been featured on Food Networks Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, though ironically enough, Guy Fieri had pulled pork and marinated steak here, and not lobster. Seafood, and especially, fresh lobstah, is the specialty here, though the menu also features a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and yes, BBQ.
Being within shouting distance of Boston, I started off with a local favorite, New England clam chowder. My wife went with the fried calamari.
I had some rather uninspiring clam chowder on our cruise, but this chowder was 100% delicious. Thick, creamy, made with fresh local clams, and a healthy dose of bacon. Let’s face it, everything tastes better with bacon. I’d rank this chowder up there with the best of them. I’ve said before that I’m not a big calamari fan, though I tried a piece of my wife’s. It wasn’t bad. The lemon garlic aioli had a bit of kick to it.
We were really torn on what to do for the main course. We really wanted to have some lobstah, but with a 5 1/2 hour drive awaiting us after we finished up in Salem, I didn’t want to order too much food, and plus, whole lobsters are messy, and I didn’t exactly want to drive 300+ miles with hands smelling like lobster. So we compromised with ourselves and ordered a lobster roll with fries instead.
I ordered mine traditional style (shown above), which means chilled with lemon mayo and diced celery. My wife had hers “Connecticut style”, which means warm meat tossed in sweet butter. Both are served on a buttered, toasted roll. I’ve only had a lobster roll one time, at Dakota’s in Dallas. Dakota’s is a fine restaurant, but I wasn’t at all impressed with the lobster roll. Turns out I just needed to try one in its native habitat, because like the clam chowder before it, the roll was delicious. The crunchy, flaky roll is nice, but what really makes this work is the 6 ounces of fresh Maine lobster meat – sweet, juicy, and a little bit of tang from the lemon mayo. And no having to mess with the shell to get to the meat. It’s actually an excellent “right-sized” dish if you want lobster, but don’t want to stuff yourself silly. I didn’t try my wife’s warm version, but she ate the whole thing, so I have to assume it was tasty. The fries were the thick and chewy version. These weren’t bad; it was obvious they were made fresh, and they weren’t too greasy. I didn’t feel like a beached whale after lunch, a good thing since we had a fairly long drive ahead of us.
With the long drive ahead of us, I didn’t get a beer or a cocktail, but the Shanty is perhaps most famous for its specialty drink, the Lobstertini. As the name implies, it’s a martini infused with lobster essence, and garnished with a chilled lobster claw. File that under…bizarre. Truth be told, I probably would have gotten one if I didn’t have to drive afterwards, just to say that I did.
Since it was only May, the crowd was pretty sparse, even at the height of lunch hour on a Friday in the small dining room. Our waitress was friendly, more than happy to help out a couple of obvious non-locals by answering our questions about the menu, and she kept our sodas topped up. We were in and out in about an hour. The Shanty hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and this place looks like it would be a fun place to enjoy some, if live music is your thing.
Rating: the first restaurant upon which I will bestow 5 stars (granted, I’ve only reviewed maybe a dozen restaurants so far). A must visit place if your travels bring you to Salem.