Up on the wall near the bar is a well-worn chalkboard that reads “Buy a Drink for a Friend.” The sentiment says it all when it comes to the ambiance at Shea’s Riverside, located along the picturesque Essex River. Most visitors along Route 133 are searching for the town’s famous fried clam shack or perusing the quaint antique stores lining the road. It’s easy to overlook Shea’s unless you’re a local—or a lucky tourist.
Shea’s menu changes seasonally, utilizing fresh seafood and ingredients. From the after-work crowd to the throngs of visitors and tourists over the summer months, Shea’s manages to balance the casual (black pastrami panini, eight beers on tap) with the special (lobster and shrimp fettuccine, plus over a dozen specialty cocktails).
Prime seating is on a small deck overlooking the river, but the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows make almost every seat a treat. Skilled boaters can dock right up to the restaurant, though they’ll need to keep an eye on the tide from the bar. A nice touch on hot days are the frozen mugs for the beers, which include everything from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Ipswich Ale.
With the warm and inviting atmosphere around the sleek 20-seat wooden bar, it seems fitting that one of the most popular cocktails is called the Spa. The addition of cucumber to this mojito-inspired drink puts people in the mood for relaxation, making it a new favorite among customers, says bar manager Alyssa Walton.
The Spa starts with slices of fresh cucumber muddled with mint leaves, joined by a little simple syrup and lemon wedges. The addition of cucumber-flavored vodka keeps things light, while a spritz of soda water adds just the right amount of fizz. The resulting first sip is subtly sweet, with a pop of citrus, aromatic mint, and lingering crisp cucumber—think farmer’s market meets massage table. What more could you ask for in a cocktail? sheasriversideessex.com.
The Spa: 1 serving
1.5 oz. cucumber vodka
2 slices peeled cucumber
5 mint leaves
3 lemon wedges
1/4 oz. simple syrup
6 oz. Club soda
Muddle cucumber, lemon, mint, and simple syrup together in tall pint glass. Add ice and vodka, shake well. Finish with club soda. Serve with straw.