SALEM — One new restaurant sells lobster rolls packed with meat while another offers mouth-watering fried chicken sandwiches with an egg on top.
These are just some of the new foodie offerings on the North Shore.
In April, Lobstah on a Roll opened in the location of the former Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches on Lafayette Street in Salem.
Also in April, Flip the Bird, which specializes in those mouth-watering fried chicken sandwiches, opened on Cabot Street in the Gloucester Crossing neighborhood of Beverly.
Here is a look at these and some other changes in the North Shore restaurant scene:
Flip the Bird is a small mostly take-out joint with mostly stool seating that has seen lines out the door for its offerings including its signature OG Southern fried chicken sandwich, which features buttermilk ranch dressing and half-sour pickles.
It's the sandwich that inspired the owners of Marino's Cafe, chef Anthony Marino and Victoria "Torie" Farnsworth, a couple who live in Beverly, to open their second restaurant concept.
Marnio's Cafe is now in its 11th year. The couple opened the cafe on Rantoul Street, but when the building they were in was bought by Beverly Bootstraps, they found a new location at 100 Cummings Center about four years ago.
They also run Marino's Cafe Break Room in another suite in the bustling office complex on Elliott Street. The couple also owned the former Lime Rickey's on Devereux Beach in Marblehead from 2013 to 2016.
They came up with the OG chicken sandwich as a way to generate business on Fridays when the business park would empty out. They sold it on just one day a week: "fried chicken Friday." They would sell 150 to 200 in one day.
It was such a hit, they realized they could theme a restaurant around it. Thus, the idea for Flip the Bird was hatched.
The menu is simple. There are five types of fried chicken sandwiches served on a buttered potato roll, including the OG ($7), the spicy Angry Bird ($8.50) and the Nashville Hot ($8), which is dipped in a spicy oil then fried. Sides include baby back ribs, fries, buttermilk biscuits, mac and cheese and a "watermelon cuke salad."
Farnsworth said everything is made from scratch. The plan to start offering beer and wine, soon.
They have been so busy, they have not been taking phone orders.
"We haven't turned our phone lines on," Farnsworth said. "It's all walk-in."
While the name is a little edgy, and the logo consists of a chicken is sticking its behind at you, Flip the Bird comes from a menu style that means you can order any sandwich with an egg on top.
"Only like a million times," said customer Ann Grant, who lives across the street. "It's like my favorite place, now. The best chicken I have ever had."
On a roll
Lobstah on a Roll is a new venture owned by Joe Marcus, David Spinney and head chef Kenny Dupree.
On May 28, Mayor Kim Driscoll and Salem Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rinus Oosthoek helped cut the ribbon on what is the eatery's second location. It's first restaurant at 537 Columbus Ave. in Boston opened in November 2017.
"It took off immediately," said Marcus, who said they ran out of ingredients the first few days they were open. The Boston location has since become a tourist destination, he said.
At the beginning of April, Lobstah on a Roll opened at 135 Lafayette St., and the hope is that this location will draw from all over the North Shore.
Marcus said the restaurant is unique in that it focuses on lobster rolls, lobster bisque, craft sandwiches and breakfast sandwiches. It's all made from scratch except the bread.
This is a special challah roll baked especially for Lobstah on a Roll, Marcus said. Challah is a braided bread made for Jewish special occasions, holidays and Friday night Shabbat prayers.
While many restaurants on the North Shore feature lobster rolls, few feature it as the main course, though there is a similarly named eatery and food truck Joe's on a Roll at 61 Federal St. in Beverly, that also features lobster rolls.
Marcus said the reason his business partners and he looked at coming to the North Shore was they were getting calls from here and so they figured there was demand.
One of their clients is the Archdiocese of Boston, Marcus said, which redeveloped the former site of St. Joseph's Church into a mixed use affordable apartment building with some retail spaces on the ground floor. Marcus said the former Jimmy John's space had been vacant for almost two years.
When he and his business partners saw they liked it right away.
The plan is to start serving lobster dinners, but they are waiting for the lobster tanks to be installed. The price for lobster rolls are market price.
One unique offering for parties is The Monstah, a 5-foot-long party roll that contains 22 pounds of lobster meat. It takes meat from more than 80 lobsters and it must be ordered at least three days in advance.
Here are some more highlights:
Downtown Peabody has attracted some new eateries, including La Siesta Restaurante, which sits several doors down from another Peabody Square mainstay, Brothers Restaurant and Deli.
The Nex Mex Thing has moved its authentic Mexican street food from its former location next to Brodie's Pub in Peabody Square to 77A Main St.
This location sits next to Granite Coast Brewing Owners Jeff Marquis of Marblehead and Rob Dunn of Lynn celebrated its long-awaited opening over Memorial Day Weekend. This is the second craft brewery in Peabody, following not far behind Essex County Brewing on Pulaski Street. Granite Coast is Peabody's first downtown brewery, and it occupies a space formerly occupied by Pat's Discount at 77 Main St.
One eatery that has been a long-time staple in downtown Peabody is Santoro's of Peabody. This restaurant sold about a month ago to Peabody resident Shawn Wedge, and he's promising not to make too many changes.
Wedge, whose family has been in the restaurant business for 30 years, said he does not plan to change any of the recipes. The eatery already enjoys a healthy catering business and it also features a takeout business with a casual menu of dinners, sandwiches, side orders and salads.
"Nothing's going to change," Wedge said. "It's just adding."
The changes include sprucing up the front of the house, extending hours and in the future, adding a delivery service.
Back in Salem, Casa Tequila has opened in the location of the former Murphy's Pub and it is serving up tacos, quesadillas and burritos. There's even a mariachi band.
The new patio sports tables with umbrellas, a large fountain and an arbor with columns and arches. The decor and cuisine is authentic Mexican, one of its owners says.
General Manager Carlo Gomez, who lives in Salem, said they started building out the restaurant in October, and it took about five months to complete. They opened on April 14.
It's the same concept as their other location, Casa Tequila in Seabrook, N.H.
Gomez said the first time he and his business partner came to Salem two years ago they fell in love with the city.
They spent more than a year planning the project, driving back and forth between Seabrook and Salem looking for the right location until they were able to purchase the former Murphy's location.
Another change at Salem's Pickering Wharf was the recent relocation of Finz Seafood and Grill to the former Victoria Station, which closed at the end of 2017. Shortly after Victoria Station closed, Finz owner George Carey announced Finz would be moving to 86 Wharf St., which is a larger space, after 17 years at nearby 76 Wharf St.
The new Finz location has since opened, and now there are plans for its former space.
Nahant resident George Markos, the owner of Brothers Deli in Lynn, plans to open Markos Taverna in mid-June. Markos said he has nothing but praise for Carey and his new landlord, the Rockett family.
"The location is great," Markos said. "It reminds me of the Mediterranean sea." Markos said he started his career in the restaurant business working for a burger restaurant named Big Ben's on North Street in 1975 when he first came to the country.
"I'm so happy to be back," he said. The concept for the restaurant will be steaks, grilled seafood and lamb chops with a Mediterranean and American theme. The menu will be short and uncomplicated.
There are also some changes to the menu at the two eateries at Hotel Essex, 209 Essex St. in Salem.
The popular The Roof rooftop bar and restaurant re-opened for its second season on May 3 with some new menu items.
Meanwhile, its earth-bound counterpart, Counter, at the front of Hotel Essex was "revamped" in March to give it more of a retro lunch counter feel, including the addition of hanging menu boards. Counter closed briefly for menu tasting and renovations, but it has since reopened on March 29 with expanded sandwich, soup and snack options, according to a press release.
Under Executive Chef Justin Perdue, Counter's lunch and dinner service has been replaced with "an approachable menu" and service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served from 7 to 11 a.m., and all-day menu featuring its signature Industry Burger starts at 11:30 a.m. Handmade pasta dishes will be offered after 5 p.m. from Wednesday through Sunday.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.