With its prime waterfront location and cute boutiques (hello, J Mode and Roost and Company), Salem has become so much more than ground zero for the witch-tourism industry. The town's many culinary offerings, including new seafood restaurant Sea Level Oyster Bar and a soon-to-open specialty cheese shop, keep gastronomes satisfied. The Peabody Essex Museum, meanwhile, is a must-visit for culture vultures. MA
For a port city, Boston is surprisingly lean on fantastic waterfront dining. Thankfully, Legal Sea Foods’ Titanic-size flagship offers prime views from lower-level patios and a swinging third-floor rooftop lounge that kisses the space where sky and ocean meet. (A retractable roof and glass walls assist in iffy weather.) Head here to soak up the sun, slurp down oysters, and smell that salty air. 270 Northern Ave. , Boston, MA legalseafoods.com.
It’s hardly a secret that Jody Adams’s Cambridge institution has mastered high-end Italian fare. But the strength of the vast, separate bar menuwith bites like duck-pâté bruschetta and pan-roasted broccoli, and larger plates like rigatoni Bolognesemight be the biggest secret in Harvard Square. Swing by on Mondays between 5:30 and 7 p.m., when oysters are a buck a shuck. One Bennett St., Cambridge, MA 2138, rialto- restaurant.com.
So a pearl may be nothing more than a grain of sand that managed to irritate an oyster. The finished product is way more likely to soothe than aggravate. Shreve, Crump & Low has one of the largest selections of Mikimoto pearls in New England, including the South Sea collection of creamy white and black pearls studded with diamonds and precious gems. 330 Boylston St., Boston, MA .
The better the food, the flirtier we feel. And chef Frank McClelland's tasting menu really revs our engines. With choices from white asparagus and oyster salad to decadent poached lobster and a selection of handcrafted cheeses, we guarantee just a few bites will have your date absolutely enamored, too. Impeccable service in the hushed dining room helps seal the deal, ensuring lovebirds a happy ending. 774 Boylston St., Boston, MA 2199, lespalier.com.
Abandon all hope of squeezing into that teeny bikini after a feast at Captain Frosty's, the pocket-size clam shack that's been plying Mayflower and Corporation beachgoers and their overtaxed arteries with fried seafood of every strip—clams, scallops, oysters, shrimp—for more than 30 years. Hungry bathers who are reluctant to watch their love handles grow in real time can don their street clothes and dine at the shack's indoor tables or brick-patio benches. 219 Rte. 6A, Dennis, MA 2638, captainfrosty.com.
Mashpee's New Seabury is one of the Cape's toniest communities, brimming with quaint shops, picture-perfect lawns, and crushed-seashell pathways. The Raw Bar, which dispenses cheap beer beneath bare-breasted mermaid memorabilia, is the one place locals and visitors can really let their hair down. And they do—over platters of raw oysters, littlenecks, and heralded lobster rolls. The latter are technically big enough to share, but if you're like us, you'll want to savor every bite of your own. 252 Shore Dr., Mashpee, MA 2649, therawbar.com.
Just as hot dogs are a Fenway favorite, it would be silly to skip clams on Cape Cod. And among the dozens of small shacks, Arnold's remains a standout. This quality-conscious spot now has a dining room and screened-in patio—as well as lengthy lines (it's worth the wait, though). Prepare to get messy while scarfing Wellfleet oysters, lobster rolls, and, of course, the famous Arnold's fried clams. 3580 State Hwy. (Rte. 6), Eastham, MA arnoldsrestaurant.com/.
Patrick Shea, son of the couple behind Essex icon Shea's Riverside, has New England seafood in his blood. So much so, in fact, that he decided to open his own riverfront restaurant, C. K. Pearl, right next door to his parents' joint. Now in its second year, the younger Shea's spot offers a more modern but no less delicious take on the local haul with live music, $1 oyster nights, and a lobster sandwich that rivals Dad's. 112 Main St., Essex, MA 01929, ckpearl.com.
Ipswich may be best known for its clams, but this recently opened gastropub celebrates other local exportsnamely, rum (the North Shore’s own Privateer and Folly Cove); beer (Ipswich Oatmeal Stout); and salt (we loved the smoked cherrywood version that came sprinkled atop olive oil). The rustic-cozy dining room brings in hordes of neighborhood types, who come for the grilled oysters, the fish and chips, and, of course, the quirky rum-based cocktails every day of the week. One Market St., Ipswich, MA 1938, saltkitchenandrumbar.com.
Don't let the corporate, almost chainlike interior keep you away: This spot's the real deal. Slurp fresh, cold oysters at the rowdy raw bar, or sit down at a table and dip into Turner's expansive menu. The fried platters come out heaping and hot, and the lobster rolls—the true measure of any seafood shack—come stuffed with sweet claw-meat chunks and only the lightest swipe of mayo. 506 Main St., Melrose, MA 2176, turners-seafood.com.
If the location in Menemsha's western cove feels a bit desolate, rest assured: The Bite's bright blue picnic tables will beckon like a desert oasis. You'll quickly find yourself tearing through brown paper bags turned translucent with grease to get at overflowing cartons of oysters, clams, zucchini, and shrimp delicately fried to a flavorful crisp. Grab a cup of the creamy quahog chowder to complete what might be the quintessential summer meal. 29 Basin Rd., Chilmark, MA 2535, thebitemenemsha.com.
Visiting Gargoyles only on date night (yes, the lighting flatters; true, the velvet cascades) is like eating oysters only to boost your mojo. Both should be enjoyed, and often, on their own merits—nooky prospects be damned. Wash away the workday with a silky but strong cocktail (we love the summer-in-a-glass Backyard), and refuel for tomorrow with chef Jason Santos's seasonally inspired fare. And, if you must, flirt at the dish sitting at the next table. Somerville, MA 2144,
Who knew a gas station could be so appealingly reborn as a restaurant? And yet, all of Brookline seems to be angling for a seat at this new bistro. Its classic French dishes teem with fresh, local seafood and sustainably raised ingredients (the mussels escargot and house-made gnocchi are particular coups). Bonus points for the occasional $1 oyster specials and first-rate desserts. 455 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 2446, cognacbistro.com.