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Speculation has been rampant ever since Opus announced it was ending a nearly decade-long run on Washington Street in Salem with a New Years Eve bash. Much loved for its sushi, cocktails, and live performances, the BONS winner, which took multiple prizes for its drinks and sushi over the years, was ready for reinvention, say sources at Serenitee Restaurant Group, which operates the space.

“It was time for a new chapter,” says Jeff Cala, CEO of Serenitee, which operates eateries across the North Shore. “Opus was created with a distinctive point of view, but we have evolved. Salem has evolved. It was time for something different, something more inclusive and tailored to what the community has asked for.”

The new concept, Dire Wolf Tavern, is slated to open next week, with a saloon feel featuring exposed brick and stenciled walls, and a menu that skips from burgers and pulled pork to green curry tofu. The vibe is heavy on comfort food – there’s an entire section of the menu devoted to hushpuppies and fries (hello, poutine!). Rumor is those hushpuppies, served with cayenne honey, are already a staff favorite. Other standouts include Salem Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Hell Night Pasta, and a Thai Banana Split (don’t worry – we’ll get more intel on that intriguing offering).

“We wanted to put together a menu that has something for everyone – that has always been our mission,” Cala says. “We want to make Dire Wolf Tavern an easy choice when you’re having that age-old debate over what is for dinner.”

Dire Sling cocktail

Never fear, sushi lovers – one thing that is remaining is the extensive and beloved sushi list. But even that is getting some new additions, like the Crazy King Roll and a vegetarian Shiitake Roll.

Weekly happenings will include brunch on Sunday; Kids Eat Free on Monday; Buy One, Get One 1/2 Off Sushi Tuesday; 50 Cent Wing Wednesday; and $1 Oyster Thursday. While the live music is on pause for now, there are plans to highlight local acoustic artists, especially on the patio when the weather is warmer.

Like at Opus, the bar is still an important part of the experience. “Restaurants have two hearts: the kitchen and the bar,” the rep says. “Many of our guests love to dine at the bar; it provides an easy, social atmosphere and we want to ensure guests have that opportunity at Dire Wolf Tavern.”

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