Beyond the Clam Shack – Fun Summer Foods
Summertime, and the eating is easy: backyard barbecues and cookouts on the beach; fresh berries, chilled watermelon and corn on the cob. Just as warm summer days invite us to follow a different daily rhythm, our taste buds search for something new and different.
Everyone has their favorite farm stand for ice cream and go-to sandwich shop, but here are some local options that might tempt you. Grab a bite after a beach day or plan an outing to a part of the Merrimack Valley you rarely visit. You might find a new summertime favorite.
[Please note that at the time of publication, the restaurants noted in this article were offering special services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please call or visit their websites for updates before heading out to any location.]
The Beach Plum
North Hampton, N.H.
Across the street from North Hampton State Beach, The Beach Plum is known for its “amazing lobster rolls.” New Hampshire Magazine said it’s “the best lobster roll in New Hampshire.” This locally-owned, beach-style restaurant with brightly colored hanging baskets was voted “Best of” by Taste of the Seacoast Magazine in 2011 and “Best of the Festival” at the 2011 Hampton Beach Seafood Festival. The restaurant, recently featured on the TV show “Phantom Gourmet,” has also won an award in the festival’s “chowder, stew or bisque” category.
Although seafood is its specialty, The Beach Plum also offers a wide variety of sandwiches and salads. Vegetarians will enjoy their egg salad, veggie patty sandwiches, corn chowder and soy hot dogs. Employee Jan Tsoronis says people become return customers “because of the quality of food. We’re next to the ocean, and it’s a friendly environment.”
Mad Martha’s Island Café
51 Northern Blvd.
Plum Island, Mass.
Casual beachside dining near popular Plum Island Beach makes Mad Martha’s a great addition to a beach day outing. Locals Kendall Bowie and Kyree Gerson have owned this cottage café since last September, and they offer a creative menu of “Sweets, Folds, Scrams, Egg Sammies, Must Haves and Little Sumthin’ Sumthin’s.” Customers rave about their caramelized banana French toast, and the lighthouse sammie on bolo levedo with egg, cheese, tomato, turkey bacon and avocado is a
best-seller. Continuing in the tradition of previous owners, Bowie and Gerson offer Portuguese sweet breads from a Fall River bakery. Gluten-free pancakes and waffles are available.
On Thursday nights, Mad Martha’s offers a four-course dinner from 6 to 8:30 p.m. (BYOB). How about a bloody mary bucket? They supply tomato juice, celery, lemon, lime, horseradish, clam juice, banana peppers and more for you to mix with your own alcohol.
“We made Mad Martha’s our own, but also honored traditions,” Bowie says. “We kept everything that made this place tick.”
12 School St.
Sisters Sharon Wimmer, Cathy Wimmer Chouinard and Leslie Wimmer Fowler opened the Rhythm Café in 2007 in a building that had served, in the past, as a bank and as a doughnut shop, but had stood vacant until the sisters renovated the space. Their seasonal menu features locally grown fruits and vegetables whenever possible, and they grow their own mint for mojitos.
The customer favorite on their varied menu is “chopped salad with couscous, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, corn, avocado, cukes, pine nuts, asiago and basil buttermilk dressing.” They make all their soups and salad dressings from scratch.
Fowler is the chief chef and creates the menu items. Wimmer is the wine expert, and Chouinard bakes all the desserts in-house. Her triple layer chocolate stout cake, made with a can of Guinness and ganache frosting, is “the most decadent chocolate cake you’ll ever taste,” she says. “It is always gone within 24 hours.”
The Rhythm Café displays the work of local artists and hosts occasional fun events, such as Kentucky Derby day this May, when guests sipped mint juleps and wore hats as they watched the race on television.