The joys of breakfast are many: crispy bacon, eggs Benedict, and an excuse to eat loads and loads of carbs, from toast smeared with butter to a tall stack of pancakes (only real maple syrup, please!). Enjoying a bottomless cup of coffee while perusing the latest issue of Northshore magazine promises to be a treat at these top breakfast spots.
Red’s Kitchen + Tavern
It’s all in the family at this blend of upscale casual meets classic diner. Owner John Drivas has operated historic sister restaurant Red’s Sandwich Shop in Salem for 32 years, and he brought the same cozy friendliness—and his kids to pitch in—when he opened Red’s Tavern seven years ago.
Portions are generous (a pancake is the size of a manhole cover), and they don’t skimp on quality either. The lobster in the lobster Benedict is cooked up fresh daily, and the Hollandaise sauce is made from scratch. For our money, the corned beef hash is the best around; order it extra-crispy, Benedict style for a real treat.
That dedication to quality also means day drinking is well rewarded. Mad mixologist (and John’s son) A.J. Drivas has come up with a whole menu of mimosas, from caramel apple to the “Manly,” which is made with vodka-infused fresh-squeezed O.J. There’s a veritable vodka vegetable garden in the Bloody Mary, which comes loaded with bacon, olives, shrimp, and even cheese. Don’t worry about the line—with 240 seats, it moves fast.
131 Newbury St. (Rte. 1 N), Peabody, 978.531.3773, redskitchenandtavern.com
Locals were wary when two sisters—Maura and Chris McCarthy—took over this decades-old staple of Gloucester mornings. But they needn’t have feared. While the McCarthy sisters have added their own touches, former owner Patty Philbrick is still in the kitchen making sure the omelets are as thin as crepes, with crispy veggies inside. Regulars start coming in at 6:05, pouring their own coffee and making themselves at home. They can choose from eight or nine types of bread, all baked in-house. The homey spot is also decorated with meaningful items. The folded flag, the paintings, and the photographs each tell a story—ask about anything. The small additions to the menu have been welcomed by locals; for example, there are fish cakes made from a Gloucester grandma’s handwritten recipe, and Chris’s husband has been studying to perfect a beignet recipe.
27 Washington St., Gloucester, 978.281.3378, twosistersma.com
Mad Martha’s Island Café
Even on the coldest, rainiest day, it’s always summer at Mad Martha’s. Owners Kendall Bowie and Kyree Gerson have infused the décor and the menu with sunshine, from the cheerful murals on the wall and the shelf of hot sauces to the friendly service. The Crabby Pattie, made with fresh crabmeat, egg, and cheese sandwiched on Bolo Levedos—a sweet Portuguese-style English muffin—is a favorite in the “Sammies” section. The menu includes all the breakfast classics, but the star attraction is the specials board, stacked with creative seasonal offerings.
51 Northern Blvd., Newburyport, 978.462.7707, madmarthasislandcafe.com
Country Brook Café
Kensington, New Hampshire
If you like your food local, you can’t do better than this charming spot just over the New Hampshire border. They get their eggs from Hidden Brook Farm, which is not even a mile away, and their maple syrup is produced just down the street as well. Inside, the light-filled space has a mix of booths, tables, and high-tops. Free coffee and tea are served on the porch to ease the pain of a possible weekend wait for a table—or you can order a mimosa at the bar. Hungry? Try the house-baked buttermilk cheddar biscuits, tall and fluffy and topped with poached eggs and rich Country Brook sausage gravy.
98 Amesbury Rd., Kensington, NH, 603.777.5111
Blue Canoe Café
Owner Stephanie Mahoney is up at 3 a.m. every day whipping up the beautiful selection of goodies on offer at this year-old café. Alongside classic blueberry muffins, you will find indulgent flavors like butterscotch and vanilla chip. Mahoney has been running cafes all over the North Shore for more than 30 years; she was known as the Kitchen Witch for more than 20 years in Salem. These days, she’s finally settled in her hometown, and offers a menu of breakfast sandwiches, smoothies, and 15 types of coffee daily. You know the java is the real deal, too—husband Mark Mahoney owns Atomic Coffee Roasters with his younger brother. Pair your coffee with a piece of quiche. Or you can just grab a fresh-baked ginger snap—we won’t tell.
14 School St., Marblehead, 781.631.6464, bluecanoemhd.com.