Recently, while cat-sitting my geriatric cat, Husband and I decided to explore dining options on the North Shore. Being forced to weekend in the hinterlands of Topsfield, we settled on Salem.
Based on Yelp reviews, we decided to try Wharf 62, a trendy restaurant on Pickering Wharf. I called ahead for reservations. They said they were booked, but if we got there soon, there were seats at the bar. By the time we arrived, even the bar was packed. The wait for a table was at least 45 minutes, so we left in search of an option with a shorter wait time.
Salem, home of the fabulous Peabody Essex Museum, has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Salem’s efforts to bring people to town for something other than palm readings and witch trial reenactments have paid off. There are now a number of non-occult offerings. When I was in college interning at the PEM, the shops were full of cheap incense and witchy t-shirts. The restaurants featured fried foods and sandwiches. Those unique cultural offerings have hardly gone away, but they are now joined by a number of boutiques and restaurants offering a variety of options.
A quick Google search took us down the pier to Finz, a local seafood restaurant. There was a 20 minute wait, but we were given a buzzer and directed to the bar area. The bar was full of comfortable sofas in addition to the high tops and bar stools throughout.
The service in the bar was mediocre; when I asked for a glass of wine and the first two I chose from their menu were not available. We then had to wait about 10 minutes for my glass of wine and Husband’s lemonade.
We waited less than the promised 20 minutes, a pleasant surprise.
The dining area was unremarkable. Banquettes lined the walls and were supplemented by small tables and wooden chairs. The tabletops were vaguely sticky, so I was glad for the paper placemats. The ambiance was very lively and the lighting was low without being dark. We were seated away from the windows, but being at the end of the pier, I am sure there are many lovely ocean views.
The worst thing about the dining area was how cramped it was. The tables were so close together I had a hard time getting into my seat. Going sideways, my legs brushed up against the tables on either side. Even our waiter commented that he had a hard time providing service to us because of the cramped area.
This proximity ruined the meal for me, as the party next to us was super obnoxious. I think the ladies of the party must have lost their senses of smell and hearing. They had both bathed in a cheap perfume so strong that I nearly choked when they first sat down. They kept pushing their purses against me and the man with them spent the whole meal screaming about his investment accounts and living in Manhattan.
While the seating was horrible, the menu was great. I mentioned my gluten allergy to our waiter and he immediately brought over a gluten-free menu with at least a dozen options on it. Their gluten-free menu is not on their website.
My meal was delicious. The tuna was perfectly seared and still pink on the inside. The sesame seeds were perfectly toasted. The rice was well-cooked and topped with buffalo sauce and shreds of seaweed. I particularly loved the wasabi crème sauce. The meal was a nice blend of salty and hot without being overwhelming. Husband loved his ravioli. He said it was rich and creamy. The portions were appropriate, large enough to be satisfying without being overwhelming.
I would have loved to try one of the gluten-free dessert options, but the uncomfortable dining area left us with an overwhelming desire to leave and pick up something on the way home.
If I do go back to Finz, I think I would be more interested in grabbing some take-out and sitting on one of the benches along the pier.
I give Finz 5 stars for their food quality and gluten-free menu.