Ocean views and quaint port towns paired with straight-off-the-boat fish and seafood, as well as farm-to-table produce from the region’s family farms is what modern coastal New England dining is all about. Let’s take a tour, starting in Connecticut and ending in Maine.
L’Escale | Greenwich, Connecticut
L’Escale’s buckwheat crepes topped with organic sunnyside eggs — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
For a taste of the high life on Connecticut’s Gold Coast, head into L’Escale, a large, elegantly earthy spot by a marina in Greenwich Harbor on Long Island Sound. L’Escale spills onto a large waterside deck and, in turn, the terrace extends in front of an adjacent cozier bar and lounge lined with Louis Quinze-style chairs, perfect for chillier weather.
The menu includes steaks, seafood and healthy, thoroughly tasty vegan dishes such as an eggplant and squash tian with yellow pepper romesco. Open for lunch and breakfast, too, the buckwheat crepes sandwiched with gruyère and topped with organic sunny-side up eggs and salad greens are all about rising and shining.
The Shipwright’s Daughter | Mystic, Connecticut
Roasted beets with red watercress and green strawberries at The Shipwright’s Daughter — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
Located by Mystic’s Bascule Bridge, chef David Standridge embraces sustainability and local, seasonal produce on a menu that runs from cod chowder with house-made oyster crackers to a whopping house burger with shoestring onion fries.
But, not to be missed are Standridge’s roasted beets with red watercress and green strawberries sprinkled with tart house-made lemon powder, all atop creamy North Stonington Greek yogurt, as well as his roasted maitake mushrooms topped with roasted minced garlic and ginger, set on a cashew cream laced with hot chili oil and sultanas.
Boat House | Tiverton, Rhode Island
The Boat House’s key lime bar with fruit coulis — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
This gem tucked away on Mount Hope Bay has soothing water views; enjoy dining outside on the deck or alongside window-lined walls inside. The property extends to a pier and over grassy lawns where Adirondack chairs overlook the bay.
Guests can stroll or sit, both before or after enjoying one of two dozen local beers accompanied by chef Marissa Lo’s truly classic, creamy New England clam chowder; roasted salmon with carrot celeriac purée and lemon fennel compote; and unmissable key lime bar with fruit coulis.
Showfish and Scarpetta restaurants | Newport, Rhode Island
Showfish’s cauliflower steak chick peas topped with a lemony chimichurri — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
Famed for vermillion sunsets over the Newport Bridge, this really fun set-up sees sister restaurants Showfish and Scarpetta swapping in and out on the deck and chic main restaurant.
Besides perfectly prepared seafood and steaks, chef Melqui Corleto adds witty twists like the Hot and Cold Caesar – a deconstructed Caesar salad with roasted sprouting broccoli, brioche breadcrumbs and a crown of finely grated pecorino. Or try the cauliflower steak, a combo of grilled green, purple and white cauliflower resting on a creamy cauliflower purée with crispy curried chickpeas topped with a lemony chimichurri – an Argentinian steak sauce.
Alma Nove | Hingham, Massachusetts
Perfectly roasted salmon at Alma Nove in Hingham — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
The flagship restaurant of the Wahlberg Brothers’ food empire, so famously portrayed on TV, and named for family matriarch, the late Alma, is located on a yacht-lined marina on Boston’s South Shore. Dine al fresco marina-side, watching the ferry from Boston Harbor come and go (the ferry is a fun way of getting here), or eat while cozied up inside behind a wall of windows.
Despite overseeing the many Wahlburgers, chef Paul Wahlberg is hands-on with this Italian-inspired seafood restaurant. Enjoy local oysters, gnocchi with field mushrooms and crisped roast salmon with sweet whole heirloom carrots.
Woods Hill Pier 4 | Boston, Massachusetts
Wood’s Hill Pier 4’s asparagus à la plancha with rhubarb brown butter and popped quinoa — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
Situated on the Boston Harborwalk at the edge of the water, whether sitting outside on the patio or inside enveloped in windows, the restaurant’s view over the harbor is spectacular. This is true farm- and sea-to-table cookery, with many meat and vegetables culled from owner Kristin Canty’s own farm.
Though technically à la carte, chef Charlie Foster’s menu is really a four-course taste extravaganza with dishes like a leafy salad with poached pear, spiced walnuts and pecorino in a ginger-tarragon vinaigrette; asparagus à la plancha with rhubarb brown butter and popped quinoa; and a creamy-tangy coconut and lime tart.
Tonno | Gloucester, Massachusetts
A big meaty crab cake at Tonno — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
Set amongst the galleries and boutiques on narrow Main Street, near Gloucester’s historic harbor, Tonno occupies the street level space of a 19th-century merchant building. Inside, thick blocks of granite and brick are left exposed for a bold look to the cozy room.
The menu pairs chef and owner Anthony Caturano’s Italian heritage – say, a rich tagliatelle Bolognese and classic desserts such as a creamy tiramisu and crisp ricotta custard-filled cannoli – with the day’s fresh catches – big meaty crab cakes or zesty halibut ceviche topped with seasoned grapefruit.
Black Trumpet | Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire — Photo courtesy of Enna Grazier
Chef and owner Evan Mallett’s picturesque restaurant in the center of a town lined with 19th-century merchant buildings showcases this Slow Food alum’s relationship with local farmers and fishermen. As often as possible, he sources along the New Hampshire seacoast, the shortest of all the New England state’s coastlines.
Try Mallett’s spring paella with foraged fiddleheads and mushrooms, and his crispy tempura fried squash blossom stuffed with dandelion-laced chèvre, and topped off with golden beet pico and eye-catching sliced Chioggia beets. Follow it up with a decidedly un-local but heaven-sent dark chocolate and coconut mousse parfait with whipped cashew cream and cashew lady fingers.
Evo Kitchen + Bar | Portland, Maine
Evo Kitchen + Bar’s pan-roasted striped bass with a sweet-spiced pomegranate relish — Photo courtesy of Linda Laban
Set on narrow, winding Fore Street, just off the main bustling Old Port drag, Evo Kitchen + Bar is a bi-level, modern and slender space with windows peering out onto the street. Three-time “Chopped” winner, chef Matt Ginn – who also pulls double duty at Maine’s seasonal Chebeague Island Inn – pairs southern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors with Maine ingredients.
Ginn manages to be fearless and imaginative without controversy, perfectly pairing a delicately pan-roasted striped bass with a sweet-spiced pomegranate relish, and going dairy-free for a coconut milk panna cotta that’s every bit as creamy as a traditional version.