Thursday, July 13, 2017

What I've Been Eating - New England Eats


For nearly a month, I was in my hometown area of Western Massachusetts to prepare for my July 1st wedding. While I was home, I sampled a variety of New England cuisine. Some old favorites, and a bunch of new ones. Here's what I was eating for the month of June!

I arrived in my beloved New England at 1am and was shuttled immediately to South Kingston, Rhode Island to perform with my troupe in the first ever Ocean State Improv Festival. Although Rhode Island is a bit far from my home in Western Massachusetts, I was excited to show my troupemates the pretty New England beaches and have them sample what GOOD seafood really tastes like. For a few of them, it was their first visit to my part of the country!

Unfortunately, we didn't sit down for dinner at too many places--lack of time/$, and the allure of a full kitchen in our lovely AirBnb kept the dinners out at a minimum. However, we did rent bikes and take a trip to Monahans Clam Shack. They recently received a spot on a Buzzfeed list, which they proudly displayed in their window. 

190 Ocean Rd, Narragansett, RI 

I was a little skeptical at first, because they grilled the INSIDE of the lobster roll. Weird. But on the first bite, I was hooked. The meat was fresh and so so flavorful. While it was a traditional cold may roll (Maine style, my fave), the mix tasted almost buttery. A hint of garlic. It was all perfect and I devoured it. Paired with a New England clam chowder and a few stolen clam fritters, this was the perfect welcome back to the seashore.

The Lobster Shanty
25 Front St, Salem, MA

Everyone has a favorite place and time in their life, when they were young and free and not quite dragged down into the adult-ness of everything. For me, it was my years in Boston. For my husband (wow, so fun but still so weird to say!) it was when he lived in Salem. When we had to take the trek to the airport to pick up a friend who was visiting for the wedding, we made sure to stop by the town made famous for witches to stop at Cory's old hangout and former job: the Lobster Shanty.

The Shanty, as it's lovingly called by locals, has the best and most resonably priced lobster in the city. It's also sort-of famous (on a Diners Drive-Ins and Dives episode) for its Lobster Martini. Yes, it's a martini with lobster juice and an ENORMOUS claw. I almost wished I hadn't ordered a full lobster for myself (almost...) because this claw was pretty much a lunch in and of itself.

The rest of the drinks are great, totally boozy and worth the Boston-esque prices. The lobster was fresh, full of meat, and perfectly accompanied by butter. It's a small shack in the middle of an artists' center, but the expanded deck makes for lovely outside dining during the summer months, with a bit more room to stretch out and enjoy a cocktail.

95 Main St, Easthampton, MA

I can't believe I lived in Western Massachusetts for years and never visited Coco. Unmi Abkin, head chef, was nominated this year for a James Beard award. And after visiting Coco for a "snack" and a drink, I certainly know why. As with most Western Mass restaurants, the season dictates the menu, so it's always changing. The small list of offerings is inspired by all sorts of cuisine--when I was there it looked like it was heavily Asian-inspired with maybe a bit of French.

I ended up getting an expertly crafted cocktail as well as this fried chicken dish that was absolutely to die for. The chicken was moist, the skin was crispy, and the flavor was incredible. The potatoes underneath were piping hot. The slaw was a cool addition and packed with flavor, and I would have eaten that too if I hadn't filled up on the other two. We also had some delicious desserts after our meal. I will surely be back the next time I'm in my hometown!

8 Old South Street, Northampton, Massachusetts

I can't have a trip home without at least one stop at my childhood favorite. Fun fact: the owners' daughter was one of my college roommates! The ice cream shop recently went through a remodel, giving it plenty of kitchen space for a brand new kosher bakery, where they can bake their famous No-Moo® cookies, as well as other allergy-friendly treats.

My favorite Herrell's items are the hot fudge sundaes (their hot fudge is hands-down the best in the world) with a banana or Almond Joy ice cream base, or a simple kiddie cone with Burnt Butter & Sugar and sprinkles. Their ice cream is thick, creamy, sweet, and amazing, and the offerings are always so varied it's nearly impossible to pick which one to try! I especially appreciate that if I'm being conscious of my tummy troubles they have a wide variety of allergy-friendly offerings, or if I'm watching my waistline I can still partake in sorbets, sugar-free, or low fat options.

Do NOT visit Northampton without stopping here!!

7 Old S St, Northampton, MA

Batchlorette Party, Take 2: for my second batchlorette party, we started at Osaka. Now that my beloved Zen has departed downtown, Osaka is my new go-to for local sushi. And of course, when I saw Lobster Tempura on the sushi menu, I had to partake.

In addition to excellent sushi, it's Northampton's only Hibachi restaurant. I got steak and shrimp as my main meal, and they were cooked with all the silly finesse of a hibachi chef. Because we were a batchlorette party, we got free sake shots--squirted across the table into our mouths, making an enormous mess.

Plus, the boozy scorpion bowls make this a must-go for any bar-hopping party. We had a great dinner to start off a night of fun before I tied the knot!

Captain Jack's
232 Northampton St, Easthampton, MA

Another "why have I never been here before?" place only a stone's throw from my parents' house. Captain Jack's is everyone's suggestion for the best lobster roll in town. It hits all my parameters: butter toasted roll, Maine style lobster salad, just a bit of lettuce for crunch, and a little bit of flavor. I was hoping for a little bit more flavor in the mix but Captain Jack's wants the lobster to shine on its own, and I respect that.

The shoestring fries were incredible as well. After this monster of a lobster roll--I am pretty sure 1.5 whole lobsters are in that thing--I only had room for a few. Their clam chowder was exactly what I was craving, and a perfect side to the enormous roll. Overall, I think their roll is probably the best in the area, though fresher finds are found closer to the seashore.

Various locations across New England

I really hate how the calorie counts are on all the menus these days. It makes it reeeeally hard to enjoy this childhood favorite. Thankfully, I couldn't finish this whole Munchie Mania appetizer, otherwise I probably couldn't eat anything else for a whole week.

I'm not sure why I continue to go back to Friendly's each time I'm home--probably pure nostalgia. The food is thick, greasy, and a total diet-destroyer, but comforting in its own way. The milkshakes are the best for a chain type place, and the ice cream, while not a thick and creamy and wonderful as a roadside creamy, is good enough in one of their signature sundaes.

Friendly's is a Western Mass tradition, and I do love it, even if I'm overly critical. They avoided going out of business a few years ago, and I was happy for that. If nothing else it brings back memories of lunch with my Nana, and late nights with friends after play practice downing french fries and free water.


Oh man just please say no to this lobster roll. McDonald's, what are you doing? This roll pops up every decade or so to wreak havoc on unsuspecting New Englanders who really should know better.

I did try this back in the early 2000s when it first came out and it was AWFUL, and now it's basically OKAY, so they've upped their game a bit with a better roll and lettuce. But still... bland, lacking freshness, and too pricey for what it is. Skip it and find yourself a better roll literally anywhere else. Cheap, better options would be D'Angelo's (surprisingly good!), or 99 Restaurant.

Do you live far from home? What are your favorite places to eat when you visit?


  1. Coco is soooo good! The menu does rotate seasonally, but that fried chicken is always on there. If you ever happen to be back in the area on a Sunday, they do a pop up lunch with a friend chicken sandwich that is also 💯

  2. Ohhh good! I will definitely be back to try it again :) And if their fried chicken sandwich is anything like the meal, I'm sure it's great!

  3. Oh lord, Ashley, I'm DROOLING. I'm marking off all of the close by ones for Jeff's next day off!

    1. Doooo it! :D If this is Susi, as I am guessing it is, I hear Gypsy Apple up by you guys is fantasticcccc.

    2. IT IS. SO GOOD. We went for our anniversary! (Yes, it's me, this is my fandom handle.)