Nothing "whets" an appetite quite like time on the water, and if you happen to be cruising, sailing or fishing along the coast of Massachusetts, we've got your fix in the form of these nine terrific dock-and-dine restaurants. Bon appetite!
The historic port of Salem is best known for witches, but it's also packed with restaurants, among them the boater friendly Finz Seafood & Grill. Owner George Carey launched Finz in 2001 at its current location on Pickering Wharf, in the heart of the Salem waterfront, and has kept the place fresh and popular over the years.
The dining focus is squarely on seafood, although Finz also serves some delicious meat, chicken and vegetarian dishes. The atmosphere is upscale yet not too fancy, with tasteful artwork and big windows affording views of the water. Outside tables are also available, or you can dine at the bar.
Finz serves an amazing variety of dishes, including fried oysters, fish tacos, burgers, pan- seared scallops, gourmet hamburgers and crispy haddock burritos -- all of it delicious. The bartenders also make some great cocktails and maintain an extensive wine list, keeping the place hopping after hours.
When arriving by boat, make your way into the channel behind Derby Wharf to Pickering Wharf Marina. Head down the channel leading to the South River and look for an open space along the floating docks to starboard in front of the restaurant. Hail Pickering Wharf Marina (VHF 9) to see about tie-up space and hourly rates. Another option is to grab a mooring in the harbor and catch a ride to the restaurant via the Salem Water Taxi (978-745-6070). This will give you more time to explore Salem after or before you eat. Another option is docking at Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina, less than a 12 mile walk to Finz, offering 110 slips for vessels up to 65 feet.
While navigating the mouth of the mighty Merrimack River can be challenging, finding sustenance inside the river isn't. After docking, boaters can walk just next door to Michael's Harborside, a lively restaurant and bar overlooking the river.
Michael's specializes in seafood, including sushi, fish and lobster, but also offers pasta, steak, chicken, salads, sandwiches and vegetarian dishes. It also has raw-bar items and creative apps such as sunflower scallops, truffled tots and crispy fried pickles. Dine inside or outside while you watch the boats cruise past.
Hilton's Marina can accommodate vessels up to 100 feet and offers shower and restroom facilities, fuel, WiFi, ice delivery to boats along with a maintenance facility and secured docks. The marina also offers 15% off food purchases at Michael's Harborside as a Cruising Club Member!
Although Boston offers a taste of urban boating at its best, dock-and-dine restaurants are hard to come by. One exception is the Barking Crab, tucked away on the Fort Point Channel in South Boston and adjacent to the Federal Courthouse (where Whitey Bolger was recently tried). This popular "seafood shack," now in its 21st year of operation, offers open-air dining on picnic tables beneath a tent, as well as limited indoor seating. It's a fun, loud, kid-friendly place -- and the food is good, too.
The menu features pan-seared scallops, grilled yellowfin tuna, mahi and swordfish, lobster, baked haddock, snow crab legs, fried clams and other seafood favorites. Non-fish eaters can choose from a range of sandwiches, soups and salads. The bar features a host of local micro-brews and wines.
There is one caveat to dining at "The Crab": The dock is only accessible to vessels that can clear the North Avenue bridge (vertical clearance 7 feet MHW) so be careful of the tide or you might end up staying for longer than you planned. Also, dock space is limited, so calling ahead is a good idea, especially on weekends. For transient dockage stop at Boston Yacht Haven located less than a mile north on Boston's historic Commercial Wharf or at Constitution Marina located right on the Freedom Trail.
Just south of Boston, but still part of Boston Harbor, is the historic city of Quincy, home to Marina Bay on Boston Harbor -- the largest marina in the Northeast. The complex features a half-dozen eateries, among them Waterclub, overlooking the docks at Marina Bay and affording excellent views of the Boston skyline and the sunset. The restaurant serves all manner of appetizers, sandwiches, fish tacos, burgers and the like as well as a wide selection of mixed drinks.
As its name implies, the Waterclub is a loud and lively place, especially on summer evenings. It features an indoor and outdoor nightclub with dancing and live entertainment. Large-screen TVs on the patio bar make this a great place to catch the game or watch the boats coming and going from the marina.
Marina Bay on Boston Harbor offers 10 cents off per gallon of fuel to Cruising Club Members.
Hyannis needs no introduction among cruisers, and neither does this popular waterfront restaurant and bar at Hyannis Marina (to port as you enter the inner harbor). The lively Trader Ed's rocks in summer, when it features live music and indoor and outdoor seating on the water and by the pool (a special pass is required to use the pool).
The restaurant's appetizers include raw-bar items, crab cakes, coconut shrimp, chili wings, salads and stuffed quahogs, while entrees include swordfish, blackened mahi and steak tips. On the lighter side, there are sandwiches, burgers, lobster rolls and fried fish and grilled cheese.
Short-term dockage can usually be arranged through Hyannis Marina. Another option is to anchor in Lewis Bay and dinghy to the marina.
Boaters cruising through Nantucket Sound are well advised to take time out to explore the scenic Bass River, which separates the towns of West Dennis and Yarmouth. Along the way, be sure to grab a bite or slake your thirst at the Summer Shanty, at Bass River Marina. True to its name, the Shanty is the quintessential, laidback dock-and-dine spot -- the type of place that has become rare in New England.
The restaurant offers free dockage, space permitting, and both indoor and outdoor seating on the patio and the covered porch overlooking the marina docks on the beautiful Bass River, just a few miles from Nantucket Sound. You can also relax with a cocktail or appetizer in the Adirondack chairs arranged on the front lawn -- a popular sunset hangout.
The atmosphere is mellow and casual, with soft reggae music playing in the background. Live entertainment is the norm on weekend nights. The food is excellent, too, and includes lobster rolls, fish-and-chips, burgers, tuna salad sandwiches, stuffed quahogs and more. The salads are large and fresh, and the French fries are cooked to perfection. Entree prices range from $12 to $20; sandwiches are in the $10 range.
Note that the restaurant is located just north of the Rte. 28 fixed bridge, which has a clearance of 15 feet MHW.
Fans of idyllic Menemsha Harbor on Martha's Vineyard are no doubt familiar with Larsen's Fish Market. Yes, this long-established enterprise sells fresh off-the-boat fish and shellfish, but Larsen's also serves lobster rolls, boiled lobster, steamed clams and mussels, stuffed quahogs, chowder and raw-bar items, all of which can be enjoyed outside on picnic tables overlooking the harbor and its small fleet of working vessels. It's a simple, laidback, authentic place -- just like Menemsha itself.
Boaters can usually find space along the bulkhead, in one of the town-managed transient slips, or on a mooring, but check in with the harbormaster first (508-645-2846). Another option is to anchor in Vineyard Sound, dinghy to the beach and walk the short distance to Larsen's. No matter how you get there, it's worth the effort. In fact, you might fall in love with Menemsha and never leave.
First opened in 1966 and occupying a former Jersey Central railroad barge, the Chart Room is a Buzzards Bay boating institution on Red Brook Harbor in Cataumet. Located at Kingman Yacht Center, the Chart Room is a busy place with long waits the norm, especially on weekends. However, most patrons don't seem to mind, as it affords them ample time to enjoy a cocktail outside and soak in the sunset behind Bassetts Island. The restaurant serves a wide range of appetizers, seafood, steaks, sandwiches and entrees, but the broiled swordfish is a house specialty.
Tie up along the facing docks at Kingman, if space is available. If there's no room, hail the KYC staff on VHF 71 and they can usually find a spot for you on the fuel dock, in an open slip or on a mooring. From a mooring you can either dinghy to the KYC dinghy dock or hop on the launch.
For boaters on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a trip to the Back Eddy on the Westport River is a real treat. Opened in 1999 by celebrated Boston chef Chris Schlesinger, this open, airy restaurant serves mid-upscale cuisine featuring entrees such as wood-grilled Japanese-style ahi tuna, wood-grilled swordfish, fried clams, ovenroasted cod loin, lobster rigatoni and fried New Bedford sea scallops. Interesting apps include the roasted corn and clam chowder, the Back Eddy signature stuffed clams, native steamers, smoked Maine mussels "from hell," and hand-picked lobster sliders. For sides, you can't go wrong with the honkey fries and Eddy slaw.
Be forewarned that the Back Eddy is a busy place in summer, but you can hang out on the restaurant's pier and enjoy a beer, glass of wine or cocktail from the outdoor bar while you wait for a table. The sunsets from this vantage point are spectacular.
Dockage at the Eddy is limited, but boats up to 25 feet or so can tuck in at the end of the pier. Call the restaurant ahead of time to see about available dock space. For overnight dockage stop at F.L. Tripp & Sons, just west of The Back Eddy on the Westport River.