Where to Eat and Drink in Salem, MA
Go for the ghouls, stay for the very good food.
While Salem, Massachussetts will be forever famous for its 1692 witch trials—and the associated spooky attractions that always make the streets quite crowded this time of year—its culinary scene is starting to become an attraction unto itself. Here are the beverage spots, bakeries, and restaurants to check out next time you're in town.
When the mid-century modern Hotel Salem opened recently, it had a draw for locals, too: Salem’s first-ever roof deck, with views of the harbor, church steeples, and historic rooftops for miles around. Open at least through the end of October (request a blanket from a host if you get chilly), the open-air lounge keeps the warm weather vibes going with a mostly Mexican-inspired food and drink menu, including margaritas and tacos. In colder months, retreat downstairs for a double burger from the open-concept lunch and dinner bar, Counter.
With its flashy atmosphere (graffiti-lined walls, more than a dozen colorful paper umbrellas hanging from the rafters) and bold Asian street food menu, Kokeshi is nothing if not vibrant. Head here for surprising starters like an octopus hot dog sprinkled with daikon slaw and comforting bowls of rice noodles and ramen, including the Colonel Sanders, topped with fried chicken. If you’re more in the mood for pizza, take note that the owners also serve perfectly crispy-chewy Neapolitan pies at their other spot, Bambolina.
A circa-1818 former savings bank found new life recently when chef-owner Matt O’Neil oversaw its thoughtful renovation into a gleaming restaurant space. Rustic touches like exposed original brick, a wall of repurposed deposit boxes, and a long, wooden communal table sit alongside more polished elements, including a sweeping open kitchen with a custom wood-fire grill and a dramatic, oversized chandelier over the bar. The menu has a new-New England vibe, with seasonal, locally sourced sides like cornbread and succotash, and hearty mains like a Berkshire pork chop with marinated peaches.
Long before “plant-based” was a buzz-phrase and juice bars were popping up by the minute in downtowns everywhere, Life Alive was spreading its version of veggie love in the Boston area in the form of nutrient-packed smoothies, salads, and grain bowls (try the Goddess, with ginger shoyu sauce and sprouted legumes). Now four shops strong, including an outpost in Salem, this casual, organic cafe serves up the type of clean eats you’d expect to find at pricey yoga retreat.
When you need a break from the witch museums and haunted graveyard tours, retreat to Far from the Tree’s decidedly more mellow taproom. Pull up a stool in the rustic indoor space or perch on a picnic table on the patio outside, and sample hard ciders that run the gamut from off-dry heritage blends and Citra-hopped versions to out-there creations such as the limited edition Ecotoplasm, a bright green sipper spiked with jalapeno and green pepper out just in time for Halloween.
Not that we’re recommending it, but if you insist on drinking by the bootfull, these are the kind of beers you want to reach for. This ahead-of-the-curve session brewer specializes in low-abv German and Czech-style lagers and ales, like the signature “session IPA” Left of the Dial and even more quaffable pale ale Zwickel. In between rounds of Skee-Ball in the taproom, also check out Notch’s Voll Projekt, the a new foray into full-strength brews.
Master makers of all things crusty and buttery, artisan bakers Jackie and Andy King have earned themselves cult culinary status in this city—one croissant at a time. Stop by their original location or recently opened second bakery for a flaky apple tart or cinnamon bun, then fill your arms with as many rustic loaves of sourdough and baguettes as you can possibly tote home.
French-born and clasically-trained pastry chef Dimitri Vallier makes some of the best treats in town—apparent by one glance at his picture-perfect pastry case. His elegant sweets, including Paris-brest eclairs and triangles of caramel mousse with poached pears are simply transportive. The only sign you’re still in Salem? Alongside more traditional almond and rose macarons, you'll also find orange and black ones, too.