Whether you are craving Persian street food, a Thai noodle bowl, classic New England clam chowder, or even a taste of the North End on the North Shore, Newburyport covers all the bases. The streets of the city’s charming historic downtown, just steps from a waterfront made for strolling, are lined with dining options that run the gamut from playful to elegant. Here’s a sampling.
Enjoy a birds-eye view of the waterfront from the second-floor deck of this spot serving up classic New England fare, from steak tips to baked haddock, not to mention a creative sushi menu. With dozens of wines by the glass and 40 beers on tap, there’s a drink to pair with everything on the large menu. Don’t miss the sailboat-turned-bar anchored on the first floor, with the mast reaching up to the second.
40 Merrimac St., 978-499-8811, blackcowrestaurants.com
The upscale American cuisine here —think burgers, crab cakes, lemon basil scallops and brick-grilled chicken—has been pleasing patrons for more than a decade. Even the salads are thoughtful—try the Loretta, topped with pecans, dried cranberries and a honey-white balsamic vinaigrette. The hard-working, friendly staff will make you feel like a regular from the moment you walk in. Sundays at Loretta are for unwinding with a jazz lunch.
15 Pleasant St., 978-463-0000, lorettarestaurant.com
A giant oval-shaped bar takes center stage at this spot serving elevated takes on classic American cuisine. Whether you fancy wood-fired pizza, steak frites, or fish tacos, this spot has you covered for dinner—but the menu shines at brunch, with breakfast pizza, breakfast nachos and a Bloody Mary bar that offers everything from bacon and cheese to pickled vegetables and extra hot sauce.
31 Water St., 978-358-8501, thepoyntnewburyport.com
Brown Sugar by the Sea
Live music with your Pad See Ew? Absolutely. The centerpiece baby grand piano in this stylish spot routinely serenades guests while they dine on a roster of BONS-winning Thai favorites from Massaman curry to pad Thai. A clever lunchtime-only option tucks some of these dishes into a flatbread wrap for on-the-go dining down by the waterfront or wherever else you find yourself.
75 Water St., 978-499-8424, brownsugarbythesea.com
Posh velvety couches, cushioned with tactile pillows, beckon from in front of roaring fireplaces. Background music evokes the Jazz Age, with interpretations of Louis Armstrong and Cole Porter standards wafting through the air, while chandeliers adorned with white feathers gently stir overhead. With a 1920s-era supper club vibe, complete with live music and classic cocktails, Joy Nest transports diners to another time and place, fed by Asian-inspired dumplings, rice and noodle dishes, and Thai street food like Sai Ua—a southern Thai herb sausage—and Moo Ping – a dish of thin-sliced pork, marinated in soy, oyster sauce, cilantro stems and garlic, then brushed with coconut cream.
50 Water St., 978-572-1615, thejoynestrestaurant.com
Menu mainstays like the Chinese chicken salad, house-made crab rangoons and the Thai fries—house-cut potato, Thai chili sauce, scallion cream, carrot, cilantro, peanut—not to mention the OG Vegetable tacos –are luscious and indulgent. But keep coming back to this lively, intimate spot, where surf videos are on the flat screens and vinyl is on the turntable, for the surprises that pop up frequently, from a Caribbean fish fry to rotating takes on a burger, which might be a classic patty melt or Cubano-style with tasso ham and mojo sauce. The team behind the bar are magicians, whether you order something off their frequently changing menu or ask them to whip up a mocktail.
27 State St., 978-572-1242, paddleinnsurf.com
Chef and owner Luca Onofri’s soulful renditions of classic Italian dishes, from the light, moist meatballs to the hearty, rich Bolognese, let quality ingredients and scratch preparations shine through. Other stars include the Tuna Arrabiata, and Mimmo’s Steak, a 16-ounce wet aged sirloin cooked sous-vide to the ideal temperature, then seared to a perfect crust. Pair it with something from the compact yet growing wine list that emphasizes Italian classics striking that narrow balance between quality and price. The brick-lined space is warm and welcoming, with dark wood, exposed brick and a mix of Italian pop and classic Frank Sinatra in the background. Finish off with a Tiramisu martini – one of the house specialty drinks.
25 State St., 978-255-4660, carminenewburyport.com
Owner John Santaniello’s roots are in southern Italy, just outside of Naples, and his menu hews closely to authentic interpretations of regional dishes like Genovese pasta – a traditional Neapolitan dish of penne topped with a ragu of braised beef, caramelized onion and pecorino cheese, and classic pizza prepared in a state-of-the-art oven imported from Italy. The décor transports diners to a sleek European trattoria, with subway tile, stylish seating and excellent people watching year-round on Market Square.
35 Market Square, Newburyport, 978-358-7741, veraristorante.com
Owner Reza Rahmani immigrated from Iran as a child and draws upon his family’s recipes to craft contemporary shared plates rooted in Persian food. Like the “Street Fries,” featuring shawarma-style strips of rib eye steak, dotted with parmesan cheese and drizzled with a tzatziki-style sauce on top of a pile of crispy fries, and the Imperial Orb hummus — rich and slightly sweet, blended with goat cheese, walnuts and a pomegranate reduction and served with house-made bread. The three-story space is intimate and welcoming, with live music weekly. Explore the BONS-winning list of innovative cocktails, which changes with the seasons, or ask for a classic.
38 State St., 978-255-3322, bar-25.com
With a long comfortable bar, elegant ocean vibes and a carefully curated wine, beer and cocktail list, slurping bivalves doesn’t get much better than this at this temple to all things sea and meat. Except when Brine offers their $2 oyster happy hour. It moves around (at press time it was Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.), so check their socials for the details. The sleek space, done in subtle shades of gray, blue and white, with a mix of high tops and stylish rattan seating, offers hip music and a buzzy vibe. Ask for a table by the window to people watch as you canoodle over your raw bar selections –we’d suggest the Power Tower, which comes with some of everything. Impress your date by ordering the caviar-topped burrata: creamy, salty, sexy and very sharable. With an extensive and unique wine by the glass program, it’s fun to each get a glass of something different and debate the merits.
17 State St., 978-358-8479, brineoyster.com
Chef Jennifer Normant, who appeared on the TV show “Hell’s Kitchen” twice, puts a fun spin on casual cuisine, like popcorn shrimp served with actual popcorn and Cool Ranch tacos, while deftly handling New England favorites like stuffed lobster and fried clams. Right in Waterfront Park, this spot has two of the nicest outdoor patios in town – choose to sit in back for serene river views, or out front for unmatched people watching. Don’t miss the thoughtful selection of local beers.
1 Market Square, 978-462-8862, sealevelnewburyport.com
Tuscan Sea Grill
A beautifully appointed four-season deck with Merrimack River views provides the backdrop for sleek seating along a rail looking toward the harbor, along with comfy couches and tables, while a clear roof and railings mean there’s a great view from every seat. But if you prefer to sit inside, the cozy interior offers similar vistas. Feast on a menu spanning from lobster pizza to linguini alla vongole – a neat mix of seaside classics and Italian specialties. Whether you are drowning your sorrows or celebrating, this spot’s stellar Champagne selection fills the bill, as do the wide range of locally produced beers and spirits. 38 Rear Merrimac St., www.tuscanseagrillbar.com, 978-465-2211
Mission Oak Grill
This church turned Brazilian-inflected steakhouse is really two restaurants in one. Feeling cozy? The lights are low, the wood is dark and the lighting is intimate in the sunken main dining room, where you can settle into a plush banquette and let the outside world fade away, dining on steak and seafood classics. Or join the lively bar scene for a perfectly chilled martini and a half-price bar menu at happy hour every day but Saturday.
26 Green St., 978-463-9009, missionoakgrill.com