There are few places on the North Shore where you can get a perfectly cooked 14-ounce New York strip steak that was aged in-house for two months for under $30. To get that steak in a luscious mushroom sauce with an indulgent side of mashed potatoes, prepared by a chef who has worked in one of the best restaurants in the world, the list falls to just a single option: Superfine Food in Newburyport.
Overseen by chef/owner Matthew Gaudet (whose pedigree includes a “best new chef” nod in 2013 from Food & Wine magazine and a stint at Eleven Madison Park in New York) and partners Chris Robins and Paul Emmett, the third outpost of the North Shore mini-chain hews close to the mission of the Marblehead and Manchester Superfine Food locations—chef-driven casual family cuisine, but with expanded offerings to suit the larger space.
The menu still features popular favorites from the other two spots, but with some augmented sharing plates and a section of full entrees. Avocado toast is familiar to diners at Superfine’s other locations. In Newburyport, it’s ricotta toast—with the cheese coming from Wolf Meadow Farms in Amesbury—topped with a blend of fresh peas and mint, with a cured egg yolk shaved over the top. Another new shared plate is the PEI mussels, served in a rich, creamy mixture of crème fraiche and apple cider vinegar, with a few slices of rustic toasted bread. The sauce is so good, no one will judge you if you lick your plate.
And that’s one of the nicest parts of Superfine. The food is uncompromisingly fresh, carefully sourced, creative, and scratch-made, while the vibe is welcoming and casual. Bring the kids; the space has oversized booths, a Nintendo game system in the back, and a buzzy soundtrack that can mask the occasional squabble—not to mention a cool kids’ menu priced at just $6.
For adults, the dinner menu features a mix of Superfine favorites (we’re looking at you, rib dinner) alongside that tasty steak, as well as fish options like a line-caught seared tuna served atop a bed of delicious lemony couscous dotted with tomatoes and olives. There is only one chicken dish, but it’s a popular showstopper that has become a Superfine staple. The so-called Crunchy Fried Chicken does not overpromise; it’s brined, so it’s moist and juicy, with a crust so crisp you can hear a bite from the next table (almost).
The beverage list is equally high-quality and uncomplicated. A straightforward selection of wines and cocktails are all priced at just $9 each, and the beer list is a nice sampling of mostly local craft brews. Pizza, topped with Wolf Meadow mozzarella, will be available at the bar after 8 p.m., when a loungy feel overtakes the space.
Superfine is housed in the space that was formerly 17 State, and before that, Fowle’s newsstand for more than a century. The owners took that history to heart, keeping the iconic neon sign, despite the fact that it features cigars and the city no longer licenses the sale of tobacco products.
And while pulling off layers of old framing, the contractor came across some antique wallpaper and halted demo to preserve it. That wall, complete with patched holes where it wasn’t salvageable, testifies to the history of the building, giving the space a timeless quality.
Don’t miss the art in the back. The owners worked with the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center to source some cool original images, including promotional materials for the 1937 Disney movie Snow White from Fowle’s and wallpaper that was custom-made from vintage copies of the Newburyport Daily News—fun to browse while sipping a cocktail or awaiting dessert.
There’s only one sweet item on the menu at a time, as part of a rotation, but they all reflect simple childhood delights with big upgrades. For example, the S’mores Cup features a deep chocolate mousse topped with torched Marshmallow Fluff and a graham cracker crumble. It’s big enough to share, but you might want it all to yourself.