Best of New England: Massachusetts
Seafood : Upscale
ISLAND CREEK OYSTER BAR
Some places are just right for producing certain kinds of edibles — the right soil, the right temperature, the right weather. It turns out Massachusetts’ Duxbury Bay has the perfect tides for oyster farming, as Island Creek Oyster Company’s fresh and briny shellfish have masterfully shown. They’re shucked daily at the company’s happening new restaurant, which also showcases seafood dishes created by chef Jeremy Sewall that are as fresh in concept as in ingredients — for example, pan-roasted monkfish in lobster broth with white-bean ragout and fennel. // 500 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-532-5300, islandcreekoysterbar.com.
The Cape does fried seafood really, really well. Beyond that…dining in the area can be hit-or-miss. Loire Valley expat Frederic Feufeu reels it in with authentic French bistro fare the likes of which the Cape has never seen: cassoulet with duck confit; poached foie gras au torchon; escargot in garlic butter. // 10 Market St., Mashpee, 508-539-7907, bleurestaurant.com.
GRILL 23 & BAR
Let the newcomers show off their newfangled steakhouse specialties; people who really love steak will always return to Boston’s exemplar of the genre. Here you’ll find dry-aged, bone-in chops and tenderloins that drip with flavor in each juicy bite. The vibe — gold rails, leather banquettes, white-coated waiters — is classic without seeming clubby. // 161 Berkeley St., Boston, 617-542-2255, grill23.com.
THE BLACK SHEEP
Everyone knows a great sandwich starts with the bread, and the bakers at this perennial favorite of hungry college students come in early in the morning to bake theirs from scratch. From there, sandwichistas overfill them with the best deli cuts and grilled meats in classic combinations — Black Forest ham and Brie; grilled chicken and guacamole — to create the centerpiece for any fantastic Pioneer Valley picnic. And for vegetarians and vegans, the deli has plenty of options without meat, too. // 79 Main St., Amherst, 413-253-3442, blacksheepdeli.com.
We’re not saying the views from the dining room of this grand 19th-century Italianate palazzo make the food taste better. But there’s something about sitting in the glassed-in portico with a view of the sun setting over lake and mountains that perhaps makes diners better appreciate both their meal as well as the company with whom they share it. An eight-course tasting allows couples to linger over an old-world European menu of foie gras and venison, along with a first-rate wine list and service as attentive as at the finest Parisian hotel. // 11 Hawthorne Rd., Lenox, 413-637-0610, wheatleigh.com.
HOT DOG ANNIE’S
It’s hard to place the exact ingredients that make up the house signature sauce — an addictive barbecue-onion mixture that has led generations to this off-the-beaten-track hot dog stand with its siren call. What is clear is that it tastes damn good on a hot dog, especially on the small and skinny, slightly crunchy ones grilled up without ceremony at this shack behind Worcester’s airport. Order three dogs for less than five bucks, and ask for some extra sauce to take home. // 244 Paxton St., Leicester, 508-892-9059.
Drinks : At Sunset
THE CHART ROOM
Sure, it’s a scene out of a Vineyard Vines catalog, but the views of the setting sun from the Chart Room’s lawn mercifully eclipse all the beautiful people in their Nantucket reds (and make it worth the wait for a gin and tonic). Grab an Adirondack chair and while away the afternoon watching boats motor into the marina. You’ll be glad you got there early. // One Shipyard Ln., Cataumet, 508-563-5350, chartroomcataumet.com.
The lines are long, the seating is sparse, and forget about finding a parking space at this Vineyard clam shack outside the fishing village of Menemsha. But trust us, it’ll all be worth it when you slurp up the bellies here, which have just the right balance between oil and crunch. Take a cartonful down to the dock on a summer day, and you won’t need much else. // 29 Basin Rd., Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard, 508-645-9239, thebitemenemsha.com.
Seafood : Casual
THE BLACK EDDY
There’s simply no better place to take in a sunset than the deck of the Eddy — preferably with a PBR or a ’gansett in hand, and a bowl of smoky clam chowder or the signature stuffed clams on the table. And when the blues are running in Nantucket Sound, you can forget about ordering anything else. Everything is freshly sourced and cooked with minimum pretension, making the meals here the stuff of vacation memories. // One Bridge Rd., Westport, 508-636-6500, thebackeddy.com.
Unless you’ve spent some time really exploring Napa, you’re not likely to recognize many of the 500-plus bottles on American Seasons’ wine list. Which suits us just fine. Sommelier Orla Murphy-LaScola does the homework for us: She spends the off-season traveling out West, meeting with small-production winemakers — Dumol, Pax, Araujo, Owen Roe — and developing rare partnerships that allow her to secure wines not often served on the East Coast. Her finds are sublime — as is the fare that accompanies them. // 80 center St., Nantucket, 508-228-7111, americanseasons.com.