New England dining >>> Best New England dining

Best of New England 2002-2003 (Dining)

Our first "Best-Worst" column drew tremendous response. This time, we will focus on just the "best" in New England. We are always looking for reader's feedback, so if you agree or disagree with some of the selections below or would like to add your own, please Write us!

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Best seafood: Dolphin Seafood Natick, Mass. -- Natick, a commercial Boston suburb not near the ocean, isn't exactly your quaint New England coastal town bursting with great seafood restaurants and fine views. Somehow, the Dolphin Seafood restaurant landed here and what a catch it is, offering perhaps the best -- and most plentiful -- seafood in New England. We've been to many renowned Maine seafood establishments that can't even hold a candle to the fresh, incredibly delicious seafood served at this gem in the suburbs.

Best steak: Barker Tavern, Scituate, Mass. It's not a steak house, just a fine restaurant that does everything right -- most notably steak. The elitist steak houses in Boston and Providence might claim superiority, but the Barker Tavern rises above them all. Try the fabulous filet mignon, and you'll fully understand our reasoning.

Best romantic spot: Kennebunk Inn, Kennebunk, Maine. This quaint inn built in 1799 has a wonderfully understated dining room with dim lighting, soft tones, candlelight and an old world atmosphere that makes you want to hold hands through the night and gaze into each other's eyes. The food is that spectacular, too, with innovative seafood, vegetable, and meat offerings.

Best view: The Sea and Surf, York Beach, Maine. Clear views of the expansive, stunning New England Long Sand Beach (Atlantic Ocean) and the famed Nubble Lighthouse make for some incredible views. The food is well above average; stick with the seafood specials.




Best neighborhood restaurant: The Newbridge Cafe, Chelsea, Mass. No one will ever top the Newbridge. The steak tips have to be sampled to be believed.

Best pizza: Sicilia's, Providence, R.I. It takes about as long as Providence rush hour traffic to get your order, but there's a reason: everything is fresh here, whether it's the unparalleled thin crust or scrumptious thick pizza. Located in the Italian flavored Federal Hill section, Sicilia's stand out against some noteworthy competition.

Best Italian restaurant: Al Dente, Boston. Perhaps the best representation of Italian food in Boston's North End, Al Dente lives up to its "authentic Italian cuisine" billing. Drawing from from all regions of Italy, the chef has a mastery of concocting incredibly fresh Italian fare. A must when visiting New England.

Best eclectic fare: Darby's, Belfast, Maine. From Pad Thai to Mexican fare to great crab cakes, Darby's covers all bases in a funky, old storefront, given life by excellent food and Grateful Dead type waitresses.

Best surprise: The Colonel's Restuarant. Located behind its really good bakery, this hidden dining room offers lobster and other seafood dishes as good as any in Maine. Save some room for the excellent moon pies when exiting to the bakery.

Best representation of New England: Longfellow's Wayside Inn. Quaint, lovely and historical, the Wayside Inn has waitresses dressed in colonial outfits. The Yankee fare is outstanding, the home is a great representation of New England colonial architecture, and the grounds are shaded and village green-like. The overall experience is pure New England. If you want to fall in love with New England. come here.

Best diner: Tilt'n Diner, Tilton, N.H. Someone in this retro 50s diner knows how to make real macaroni and cheese. Enough said.

Best breakfast: Parker's Maple Barn, Mason, N.H.: The Parker's special pulls out all the stops with eggs, pancakes, hash browns, bacon, etc. Its cholesterol levels are higher than the surrounding mountains, but it's also irresistable. The charming maple barn atmosphere makes the food that much better.

Best lunch: Vello's, Westwood, Mass. Finally, a lunch place that doesn't skimp, gives you flexbility on how you want the sandwiches prepared, and boasts help that actually cares about their work. Everything is delicious. We can't wait to try their breakfast and soon to be expanded dinner menu.

Best mid-priced restaurant: Ivanhoe, West Springfield, Mass. The atmosphere is casual, but the decor is quite elegant with its split level, chandeliered dining room. All steak, seafood and chicken dishes are done consistently well. The waitstaff is highly professional. The desserts never disappoint. Might we add that they have a humongous salad bar with just about every food known to humankind?

Best "fun": Spruce Pond Creamery, Franklin, Mass. Organic pizzas and salads that are delicious. The ice cream selection is enormous and of great homemade quality. Multi-colored fan lights, a super friendly owner, a pond view (Spruce Pond, we assume) and some great classic rock playing in the background make this a great place to meet friends or take out the children.

Best clam chowder: Cape Neddick Lobster Pound, Cape Neddick, Maine: Wonderful tangy flavor and plenty of clams in a semi thick base.. It's not a classic Maine clam chowder, but its taste makes it a stand out.

Best brunch: Colonial Inn, Concord, Mass. You won't find any lukewarm, Swanson's TV dinner-like food here. This is the anti -watery eggs, anti-overcooked bacon place. Instead you will be introduced to breakfast foods cooked perfectly, fresh fruit ,and chicken and seafood dinners, expertly prepared. Henry David Thoreau used to live in the Annex of this charming inn. Even he would have liked the food here, although that silly isolationist would have probably demanded delivery service to Walden Pond.

Best place to stop on a rainy night: The Beef Barn, North Smithfield, R.I. Relaxed, phony barn with a very nice waitstaff and truly great hamburgers and fries.. It's a very comfortable, warm place, perhaps a notch above a coffee shop/diner setting. The kids will love it.

Best Thai restaurant: Sweet Chili's, Arlington, Mass. Everything is fresh here except the waitstaff. Some Thai restaurants have recently rested upon their laurels. That's not the case with Sweet Chili's which continues to offer the best representations of vegetables, meat and seafood.

Best Chinese restaurant: Jade Garden, Arlington, Mass. It's friendly, the food is excellent, and the atmopshere free of MSG, gaudy water fountains, Tiki Gods and paper mache dragons that plague so many Chinese restaurants.

Best lobster: The Docksider, Northeast Harbor, Maine. Brought in fresh every day, this is the "Real McCoy" in a Downeast seaside setting.

Best expensive meal: Silk's, Tyngsboro, Mass. In this small town resides perhaps the best French restaurant in New England. The atmosphere is set within a sophisticated estate setting, the service is very friendly and knowledgeable, and the French food...Go there as soon as you can. If you don't have an impending special event, make one up so you can sample the out-of-this-world-fare.

Best cheap meal: The Stockpot, Portsmouth, N.H. Great sandwiches, excellent light dinners and a nice river view highlight this high quality casual dining spot.

Best Greek food: Demo's, Watertown, Mass. You don't go for the atmosphere. You go for the delicious baked lamb, rice pilaf and other great Greek offerings at this long time favorite with a stellar reputation.

Best deli: Rein's, Vernon, Conn. The closest to New York deli quality that you'll find in New England. Great matzoh soup and wisecracking waitresses add to the authenticity.

Do you have a favorite or least favorite? Write us!



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