What’s your local fave place to eat?

What’s your local fave place to eat?

New York foodie Ed Levine was just waxing poetic about local faves, those places you go for authentic local food and he highlights a candidate in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, called Oxford Creamery.

Meanwhile, last night I watched the latest episode of Alton Brown’s show “Feasting on Asphalt 2: The River Run,” in which he stopped at a local roadhouse in Illinois for some ridiculously inexpensive, high quality food.

That got me to thinking about my local faves, although I think I need to define what that is. Launching from Levine’s springboard, I will advance the completely arbitrary definition of a local fave as a local place that serves good, home-style food at a low cost and where you’ll find primarily local folks being served by a (generally) happy and welcoming staff. Even better if it’s not a place that’s ever been written up in a bestselling book about food and restaurants, featured in a magazine’s “best-of”, or lauded in a TV show.

The no-chains rule eliminates the first one that comes to mind for me: Kelly’s Roast Beef. Kelly’s is a Boston tradition, starting with a single outlet on Revere Beach, selling, well, roast beef, but ironically more famous for the fried clams. But over the past decade or so, they’ve opened up several quite slick locations around Boston, so I have to eliminate them from my list.

On the other hand, the Clam Box in Ipswich would qualify, except I’m pretty sure they’ve been featured in plenty of best-of books and magazines. Likewise for Woodman’s in Essex. No, I think I have to get even more local.

And I think I need to add another qualification and this is bound to be controversial: a local fave needs to serve more than one meal, and perhaps must serve breakfast. Arbitrary, maybe, but I think that it’s a sign that the establishment is truly a part of the local fabric because it meets a variety of needs.

So who does make the list? In Salem, I think Red’s fits the bill. Yes, yes, I know, Red’s has won “Best of Boston” and similar awards on a consistent basis, but you have to go there to see why it must be included. The place opens at an ungodly hour, like 5 am or something, to serve early rising workers or outdoorsmen. It has counter service. The menu is a slice of Americana, serving all the comfort food you can imagine and nothing exotic. While tourists come in, it’s a place that locals frequent. And it’s been there forever.

Moving outside of Salem, I would also nominate Chute’s in Windham, Maine. My mom and my sister live in Windham and whenever we’re up there, we stop at Chute’s after Sunday Mass. It’s a small, local place with friendly waitresses who call you hon’ and serve fresh-baked muffins and pies and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. And it’s not going to be featured in any travel magazines.

So am I off-base? Should the definition of “local fave” be expanded? Am I being too picky and parochial? What’s your local fave?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli