Subscribe Now

Anyplace with a whole section of the menu dedicated to fries and hushpuppies is serious about comfort food. And Dire Wolf, the new Salem restaurant in the former Opus space, does not disappoint. The hushpuppies are airy, crisp balls of deep-fried cornmeal goodness, served with a hot honey dipping sauce that lulls you with sweetness before smacking you with a hit of cayenne at the finish. Fries are available three ways—plain with salt, truffled, or make them a meal with a hearty poutine, awash in gravy and dotted with cheese curds.

But maybe you’re not in the mood for a deep-fried indulgence. Comfort can also come from a perfectly satisfying roasted sweet potato salad—a massive bowl full of farm greens, Brussels sprouts, feta, craisins—and even hushpuppy croutons for a lovely crunch. Dressed with a squash vinaigrette that might be familiar to Opus fans, it is a very happy meal for one, or sized for sharing. Want more protein? You can add chicken, salmon, tuna, or even steak tips to this or any other salad.

Roasted sweet potato salad

Eating what you like is really the idea behind Dire Wolf, which offers everything from barbecue and sushi to Italian and Mexican items. Parent company Serenitee Restaurant Group specializes in neighborhood go-tos around the North Shore that can serve vegetarians, carnivores, and even picky children—who, incidentally, eat free on Mondays at Dire Wolf—who might like the kids version of nachos. 

Grownups can have nachos, too—a generous trayful of sturdy chips topped with Monterey jack cheese, jalapeños, pico de gallo, cilantro crema, and guacamole. In keeping with the have-it-your-way theme, you can add pulled pork, roasted chicken, or “Big Chunk” chili, packed with smoked brisket.

Firecracker roll

Sushi lovers also have options well beyond the kiddie menu. The over-the-top sushi list that was beloved (and BONS-awarded) at Opus remains, with some new additions, like the Crazy King Roll, a delicious combination of generous chunks of lobster and cucumber, topped with salmon, shiso leaf, yuzu aioli, tempura flakes, and scallions. Old Opus favorites like the Yummy Roll, with tuna, avocado, and cucumber on the inside, and salmon, avocado, fried leeks, and white miso glaze on the outside, are still reliable, while vegetarians will be pleased by the new Shiitake Roll, topped with sweet chili.

For entrées, the menu skips from burgers and pulled pork to green curry tofu and several Italian options. The Hell Night Pasta lives up to its name—a spicy tomato sauce tossed with thick bucatini, topped with big chunks of Gloucester lobster, and dotted with crispy pork belly, melted leeks, and fennel. It’s a surprising combination, brought together by that sauce, spiked with Fresno chilies.

Hell Night Pasta

There are plans to highlight local acoustic artists at Dire Wolf, especially on the patio when the weather is warmer. The bar is an important part of the experience—running nearly the length of the space and done up like a Western saloon with exposed brick, faded wallpaper, and pressed tin. Specialty cocktails like Fizzing Up, a refreshing mix of tequila, blood orange, and prosecco, and the Cranberry Aperol Spritz, amped up with cranberry vodka, rely on fresh juices and house infusions to deliver bright flavors. And nondrinkers are supported with lush offerings like the Honey Herb Mule and the Prohibition Manhattan. Any of them would be a perfect accompaniment to a basket of hushpuppies—or whatever else you desire.

87 Washington St., Salem, MA, 978-744-9600,