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Royal Orchid

Photo by Elise Donoghue

All the small touches add up to a big experience at this spot tucked into a plaza off Route 1. Staff seems genuinely glad to see you and will work hard to accommodate every guest, charming small children with paper roses on straws and reassuring adults with food allergies. The food is light, freshly prepared, and deeply flavored, from the enjoyably sweet and sour Tom Kha Gai soup to the slow-cooked Masaman curry. The dining room is serene, with a small waterfall and candlelight at dinner, and presentation is beautiful—no place makes lovelier carrot flowers.

303 Haverhill St., Rowley, 978-948-3676,



Brown Sugar by the Sea

“Love this place—it’s our ‘must stop’ spot whenever we swing down to Newburyport, even if only for a quick drink and appetizer. Fresh local ingredients, a menu that manages to be both traditional and creative, and an elegantly casual environment. The blue glass-flecked bar, warm colors, and street-side sunny windows are as welcoming in February as they are in July.” –Laurie

75 Water St. #501, Newburyport, 978-499-8424,