Welcome back to Food Crawls, a series in which Eater Boston staffers guide you (virtually) on various food (and booze) crawls in the Boston area.
When we go out, we often find ourselves wanting to try more than one restaurant or bar at a time — a drink and a snack here, another drink and perhaps a dessert there — and want to share our favorite multi-stop combinations with you. These crawls are meant to be relatively walkable, and the amount of food and drink is meant to correspond roughly to a couple of average appetites (so bring a friend), although your mileage may vary. Email us if there’s a particular theme, specific dish or drink, or neighborhood you’d like to see covered in a future installment.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but here goes it: Amesbury is cool now. I grew up in the small North Shore city in the early and mid-1990s when its government still functioned as a town and when Main Street still accommodated two-way traffic. Downtown hadn’t received its facelift — the beautiful old mill buildings that now house apartments and restaurants and businesses and a charter school were mostly rundown, their brick exteriors unadorned with the murals that now celebrate their rich histories. And unless the express purpose was to get punched in the nose by an on-edge townie drunk, setting foot in any of Amesbury’s downtown bars was a questionable life decision.
Oh, how 20 years changes a place.
Today, Amesbury’s downtown streets are dotted with hip restaurants (there’s a Trina’s Starlite Lounge there now), bistros with dollar oyster nights, and breweries with riverside beer gardens. Artists make use of the restored mill stock, and not one but two trendy cafes are slinging damn fine cups of coffee. (One of them even turns out an impressive kouign amann.)
And while Amesbury doesn’t have the maritime past of Newburyport or the witchy draw of Salem (though Amesbury native Susannah North Martin was indeed hung as a result of the Salem witch trials, and there’s a monument to the woman in town at the end of North Martin Road), it’s not short on history, either: Signatory of the Declaration of Independence Josiah Bartlett (ancestor to television president Jed Bartlett) was born there in 1729; Mary Baker Eddy began forming a nascent version of what would later become Christian Science while living at 277 Main St. between 1868 and 1870; renowned abolitionist and Fireside poet John Greenleaf Whittier called Amesbury home and is buried there; Robert Frost spent a summer there before attending Harvard (perhaps that’s where his path first diverged).
Point is, Amesbury has always had some stuff, and now it’s got even more stuff. Stuff you can eat and drink. (You can neither eat nor drink Whittier’s bones. Not legally or easily, anyway.) Instead of making the predictable North Shore trips to Newburyport, Salem, and Cape Ann this summer — to be clear, all of these places are beautiful and worth your time — drive a little farther up Rte. 95 to Amesbury. And when you do, patronize the following establishments.
- Total stops: 4
- Time spent sitting by a river: How long do you plan on being in Amesbury?
- Beers swilled: Get a hotel room, and play it by ear.
- Shockingly good treats snacked on so far from the city and in a town that most people don’t know exists: Trina’s and Phat Cats Bistro have a lot to offer, so it all depends on how hungry you are.
Beers at Brewery Silvaticus
9 Water St., Amesbury, MA 01913
The taproom at Brewery Silvaticus has been open since late last summer, specializing in brewing beers inspired by Belgian farmhouse ales and German lagers. Head its way for a pre-meal pint of saison or Kellerbier, and set a good base for future drinking by snacking on a pretzel.
More Beers at Barewolf Brewing
12 Oakland St., Amesbury, MA 01913
Barewolf Brewing is a quick walk from Silvaticus. Far enough to let the pretzel do its thing, but not so far that you’ll lose your buzz. Here, opt for the Quiet Desperation — it’s hazy and fruity and an exemplar of New England IPAs. (Its name also references a Pink Floyd lyric, which is inherently good.)
Oysters at Phat Cats Bistro
65A Market St., Amesbury, MA 01913
When Phat Cats Bistro opened on Market Street, it was one of the first fancy-ish restaurants to make a go of it in Amesbury. In the decade that’s followed, the town has transformed from a place that had no food to a place that people travel to to get good food.
Whether consciously or not, the success of Phat Cats has played its role in that transformation. Go here after drinking beers at the breweries, and get a dozen oysters (they’ll be from Duxbury or Wellfleet, most likely) and a glass of rosé. Sit at the cute, cozy, tiny little bar.
Anything at Trina’s Starlite Lounge
37 Main St., Amesbury, MA 01913
Like at the original Trina’s in Somerville, everything on the menu is delicious. (The brunch burger is especially so.) Unlike the Trina’s in Somerville, the Amesbury version has a back patio adjacent a waterfall flowing through a quaint mill yard. Ask the barman who looks like Jason Schwartzman for a dash of Aperol in your High Life, and luxuriate in the staff’s excellent taste in music.
And if you’re in Amesbury in the morning (because you got there early, or because you did the responsible thing and didn’t drive back to the city after all of that indulging), grab a coffee and a pastry at the Market Square Bakehouse or Ovedia. A couple of damn fine cups of coffee in a damn fine little city.