There’s new dining options on the North Shore, although one has a familiar face behind it.
At the Northshore Mall in Peabody, Amigo’s Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar serves up homemade dishes crafted from original family recipes, while Hop + Grind specializes in ingredient-infused hand-ground burgers.
And on Enon Street in Beverly, REV Kitchen & Bar has transformed the spot previously home to Italian-inspired eatery Evviva Cucina, all with the same staff and management team.
Everything inside Amigo’s is authentically original, from the homemade tortilla chips to the savory burritos and even the decor.
Sahar Ata, 26, one of the restaurant’s four co-owners, says the spot is centered on family.
““Everything here is family owned and family built,” she said while walking through the space.
The new Mexican eatery opened this month at the Northshore Mall with signature menu items such as a ground-beef and melted cheese-stuffed Dorito Burrito, soft corn tortilla tacos and the classic Mexican Paella.
Passing through the busy kitchen, Amigo’s co-owner Lalo Vargas, 32, of Beverly, spoke of one of the most challenging dishes to make: the Egg Y Cochinita. Barbecued pork marinated and braised in citrus, achiote and garlic, the house specialty is topped with a fried egg and caramelized red onions and served with warm tortillas and a side of guacamole.
The 35-seat bar has eight TVs. The extensive drink menu features more than 20 kinds of margaritas made from organic agave nectar, and the house margarita is always on tap.
Vargas said Amigo’s will also serve breakfast daily, beginning at 8 a.m., and featuring American and Mexican style dishes.
Walking through the entryway, guests are first greeted with a colorful arrangement of Mexican tourist magazine covers, which Ata says they converted into wallpaper.
“Everything is hand-crafted,” she said while pointing to the tables, hostess desk and even the metal decor lining the restaurant, which were all rusted by hand. Much of the decorations, she says, were imported from Mexico.
For the walls, artist Justin Moreno created a large, colorfully painted mural and five larger-than-life portraits of famous Mexican icons — one being artist Frida Kahlo.
The menu includes the same five portraits, which Ata says Vargas’s roommate drew by hand. Featured prominently in the space is a large chalk wall, created local artist Anna Dugan, that showcases some of the signature margaritas.
“It’s taken a lot, but it’s all from our hearts,” Ata said with a smile.
A hop away
A few doors down in the mall is Hop + Grind, a scratch kitchen that opened in September and features a mix of hand-ground burgers and local craft beers.
Owner and chef Bobby Marcotte called the spot, with its eclectic look and relaxed atmosphere, a new take on craft-casual dining. He carried over the model from the original Hop + Grind in Durham, New Hampshire, which Marcotte opened with two business partners.
“We’re filling a niche that’s not in the area,” said Marcotte, 37. “No one really does a burger like we do.”
Everything at Hop + Grind is handmade, down to the sauces and sodas. All the prep work is done in the production room downstairs, where Marcotte’s team hand grinds chicken, beef and pork and infuses them with ingredients before they’re cooked.
For their signature dish, the Bomb Diggity, Marcotte says they grind Angus beef with peppers, onions and cheddar cheese before it’s finished off with more peppers, onions, mushrooms and salami. The menu also features creamy mac and cheese bowls or A Shore Thing, the restaurant’s take on a roast beef sandwich.
Marcotte said the most popular dish is the Parma Sutra — chicken ground with tomato, provolone, Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic and topped with homemade tomato sauce, basil, fried mozzarella and provolone.
The restaurant’s open seating design means customers walking in from the mall food court entrance will order their meals at the food truck counter inside, then take a seat at high top tables or on leather couches as they wait for their food. Or, they can sit at the bar and choose from 14 local craft beers on tap and other cocktails.
“Everyone’s going to be able to relate to something in the space,” Marcotte said while referencing the decor, like the 1950’s lunchboxes or the retro arcade games in the back.
The staff of 40 employees, he says, all have the same goal in mind: “To deliver hospitality in a cool setting.”
Marcotte has spent the last 24 years in the restaurant industry, where his dad got him a job working as a dishwasher when he was a teenager. He’s also the executive chef at The Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery in Raymond, New Hampshire.
“Everything about the kitchen environment spoke to me,” he said. “I never wanted to leave.”
Where rustic meets chic
After Evviva Cucina owner Nick Harron, 33, sold the restaurant brand over the summer, he opened REV Kitchen & Bar in the same spot on Enon Street in Beverly.
“Same people, new look,” Harron said.
With its red upholstered booths, colorful wall murals created by local artists and open kitchen design, the restaurant closed for one day to complete minor renovations before reopening for business on Sept. 4.
“It was an interesting ride,” added the owner of the re-branding experience. “It was uncharted territory and it worked out well.”
As for the new look and menu, Harron called the scratch kitchen a “revved up American kitchen and bar” that will allow customers to “customize the experience to what fits them.”
In addition to fresh salads, sandwiches and tacos, the menu includes the restaurant’s signature brick oven Neapolitan and traditional style pizzas. They’ve added appetizers and created four decadent milkshakes as well as a gluten-free and vegan options.
Those sitting around the 35-seat bar can have a taste of 16 local craft beers on tap, or choose from more than a dozen others.
One popular menu item, says Harron, is the REV Burger — a double-stacked Creekstone Farms beef burger topped with bacon, Gouda cheese, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions and a house-made steak sauce on a baked brioche bun. The fried Backyard BBQ Fries and the Nashville Hot Bird sandwich are also favorites.
“I like to see people happy and keep them coming back,” added Harron, who resides in North Reading. He says full-service dining allows him to interact with guests. “I grew up in the business,” he said, adding how he joined his father in the restaurant industry when he was a teenager.
A grand reopening and ribbon-cutting celebration for REV Kitchen & Bar is slated for Oct. 23. Motioning toward the walk-up counter in the back, Harron said curbside take-out will soon be available.
Staff writer Alyse Diamantides can be reached at 978-338-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.