Think of New England food and a few key ingredients will come to mind: corn, molasses, seafood, maple syrup, blueberries. Yes, cranberries, too, but few restaurants specialize in them. And no, apples aren’t native to our shores (only crabapples). The others, often in combination, are the cornerstones of classic New England dishes such as johnnycakes […]
By Kathy Gunst and Amy Traverso
Nov 24 2014
Think of New England food and a few key ingredients will come to mind: corn, molasses, seafood, maple syrup, blueberries. Yes, cranberries, too, but few restaurants specialize in them. And no, apples aren’t native to our shores (only crabapples). The others, often in combination, are the cornerstones of classic New England dishes such as johnnycakes with maple syrup, Indian pudding, chowder, brown bread, and blueberry pie. Here are five restaurants that make the most of them.
Where: Parker’s Maple Barn
Why: Can you find maple elsewhere? Of course. Can you find it in a setting so unabashedly New Hampshire? Unlikely. Parker’s makes its home in a late-1800s building and still makes its syrup using a wood-fired evaporator. You’ll find maple candies, maple sugar, maple samplers.
Don’t Miss: The “Parker’s Maple Barn Special”: two pancakes, two eggs, two strips of bacon, ham, home fries, toast, and yes, 100 percent pure New Hampshire maple syrup. —Ian Aldrich
Parker’s Maple Barn, 1316 Brookline Road, Mason, NH. 800-832-2308, 603-878-2308; parkersmaplebarn.com
Where: Bob’s Clam Hut
Why: Driving north on Route 1 into Maine, Bob’s is one of the first places you see. More to the point, it’s one of the first places you smell: the hunger-inducing aroma of saltwater and fried seafood. Since 1956, Bob’s has been the spot for fried local seafood.
Don’t Miss: The clam chowder, with generous amounts of briny bivalves, tender potatoes, and a hint of thyme, is spot-on; also the fried clams, which are never greasy. The lobster rolls are piled high, served traditional-style with mayo on a grilled hot-dog roll, or warm, either plain or with butter. —Kathy Gunst
Bob’s Clam Hut,315 U.S. Route 1, Kittery, ME. 207-439-4233; bobsclamhut.com
Where: Durgin Park
Why: With its famously surly waitstaff and a menu of turkey dinner, potted beef, broiled “schrod,” and other stalwart fare, Durgin Park boasts more classic New England dishes than any other restaurant in the region. Plus, it traces its lineage back to pre-Revolutionary days.
Don’t Miss: Though we may have lost much of our taste for molasses, once the primary sweetener of its day, Durgin Park keeps the tradition alive. For the real flavor of New England, you can’t beat the brown bread, baked beans (plump and sweet), and Indian pudding. —A. T.
Durgin Park,340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, 4 South Market St., Boston, MA. 617-227-2038; arkrestaurants.com/durgin_park
Where: The Commons Lunch
Why: The grinding of corn into cornmeal predates the Pilgrims. And many of the classic New England corn dishes—johnnycakes, hasty pudding, cornbread—are really Native foods adapted by the English settlers. Today, Rhode Island gristmills like Gray’s, Carpenter’s, and Kenyon’s still grind local whitecap flint corn, and the nearby Little Compton Diner still serves up johnnycakes using local meal.
Don’t Miss: The johnnycakes are light and lacy, not the thicker style you’ll find in the West Bay area. Purists enjoy them with butter alone, but we won’t judge you for adding maple syrup. —K. G.
The Commons Lunch, 48 Commons Way, Little Compton, RI. 401-635-4388
Where: Moody’s Diner
Why: There are many great blueberry muffins, pies, and cobblers to be found all over New England, but Moody’s blueberry muffins and pies—made with tiny, sweet, wild lowbush berries from local barrens—are two dishes that every New Englander must try at least once in life. Wild blueberries are a Maine specialty, and Moody’s berry confections are simply sublime.
Don’t Miss: The pie and muffins, of course. Moody’s is also home to an excellent rendition of another New England classic: Grape-Nut pudding. —A. T.
Moody’s Diner, 1885 Atlantic Highway, Waldoboro, ME. 207-832-7785; moodysdiner.com