Salem has become a destination food city. Many credit Karen Scalia, founder and owner of Salem Food Tours, for helping make that happen. Her mantra is, “Eat local, shop local, support small business.” Introducing guests from near and far to Salem’s renowned restaurants and food and wine shops, she has become the culinary concierge of the Witch City.
As she celebrates the 10th anniversary of Salem Food Tours, we asked Scalia to share a few favorite bites (she has many!) and hidden gems. Here are just some of the highlights:
From the Sea
“We are lucky—we have such a wide range of seafood to choose from,” says Scalia.
You will find perfect fish & chips at Olde Main Street Pub and great cuts of tuna or swordfish with flavorful seasonal sauces at Finz. Ledger, a Reader’s Choice BONS winner for general excellence, and Settler are farm-to-table restaurants with ever-changing menus that always have fresh seafood options. And if you are a crab cake lover, stop by Brodie’s Seaport. You can’t go wrong with the lobster bisque at Turners Seafood, lobster casserole at The Lobster Shanty, and the oysters at Sea Level, Settler, or Ledger. And sushi lovers have found their city, with Finz, Koto, and Opus creating flavorful fresh rolls with their own unique styles.
Scalia agrees with the Northshore magazine Editors’ BONS selections when it comes to pizza. “At Bambolina, chef Tim and his team use an Acunto oven for a perfect Neapolitan style pizza that goes great with their amazing grilled Caesar salad,” says Scalia.
And at Flying Saucer Pizza Company, she raves about the pesto sauce base—which is nut free and delectable—on the wonderful beer crust with fresh, local toppings. Another great choice is Longboards for flatbreads, which Scalia tops with the yummy and addictive homemade giardiniera. Making pizza at home? Grab fresh mozzarella and the amazing Moliterno al Tartuffo to shave over the top at The Cheese Shop of Salem.
At BONS winner A&J King Bakery, Scalia looks forward to seasonal offerings using fruits from local farms. The Concord Grape Pie in fall is a must for her. Roseadela’s, a new bakery in Salem, also features seasonal fruits, notably in the much-loved house-made syrups and confits, which are a hit with tour guests. A bite of history? Gobble up Nathaniel’s Bread Pudding at the Hawthorne Hotel, served warm with chocolate and caramelized pear, bourbon caramel, and freshly whipped cream.
“The almond croissants at Caramel French Patisserie also have my heart, and Jodi Bee Bakes’ vegan and gluten-free options are full of wonderful flavor,” exclaims Scalia. “And I highly recommend stopping into Jolie Tea Company for high tea and the house-made French Madeleines.”
Baking at home? The Ceylon Cinnamon and Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend at Salem Spice are pantry perfection.
Thirsty? Scalia says the mixologists at both Ledger and Opus are terrific, and she suggests the Bloody Marys—or the famous Scary Mary, with homemade Bloody Mary mix, steak tip, half lobster, and blue cheese–stuffed olive—at Sea Level. For beers she once again agrees with the BONS selection of Gulu-Gulu Cafe, and is equally enthusiastic about the choice beer selection at Olde Main Street Pub. She advocates for all the Salem makers that have started in the past ten years: Far from the Tree, Deacon Giles Distillery, Notch, and East Regiment Beer Co. “Koto restaurant does a great job featuring locally made spirits in their cocktails, which pair wonderfully with their Asian cuisine,” Scalia adds. Another stop on her list is the new Marina Beer Garden at the Salem Waterfront Hotel.
Drinks to go? Head to Pamplemousse, where you can mix and match beer and cider for a custom six-pack. “They are also known for a wide selection of mead, a fermented honey wine that is very popular in the fall,” adds Scalia. “Wine enthusiasts will find a great selection at Salem Wine Imports, which hosts a wine tasting open to the public on Tuesday nights. And The Cheese Shop of Salem offers a monthly Wine Club.”
We Love Chocolate
According to Scalia, “There are not enough lifetimes to eat all the fantastic chocolate in Salem.”
Kakawa Chocolate House offers incredible sipping chocolates infused with flavors from rose to chili. Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie has prized turtles and fudge. Harbor Sweets offers its famous Sweet Sloops and so many other delectable treats. And Roseadela’s is great for house-made chocolate treats. New on the scene and getting rave reviews from Scalia’s guests is The Chocolate Pantry, which sources delicious artisan chocolates from Europe and the Middle East.
Scalia expects the food scene in Salem will continue to expand and grow. “With our dedicated and talented chefs, as well as delicious pop-ups and specialty shops, anchoring our food scene, there’s truly something for everyone in Salem.”
For more information on Salem Food Tours’ year-round public and private group tours, visit salemfoodtours.com