Welcome to the third, and final, post in the Haunted Happenings series! If you’ve ever been to Salem during Halloween, you know that they host Haunted Happenings every year, but it can be pretty damn chaotic. As a local, I actually avoid Salem like the plague from about the last week of September until the first week of November. Anytime I’ve tried to go in during October, I spend an hour looking for parking before giving up and going home. And while I’m not here to giving you parking tips (there really aren’t any, there are no secret spots, but there are eight thousand lots), this three-week series will feature three of my favorite things:
places, food, and drink
This week, we’re chatting about some of my favorite restaurants. They range from Indian to desserts to Mexican to vegetarian and everything in between, so there should be something for everyone! These will be separated by whatever kind of category they fall under, and then listed alphabetically.
Howling Wolf Taqueria
Location: Next to Walgreens on New Derby St
Cost: mainstream, not bad
If you want a burrito the size of your forearm, look no further. Howling Wolf is one of my most-visited restaurants in Salem, no matter the occasion. The wait is usually pretty long, but the service is phenomenal, and the food is out of this world. They have a full bar that you can start a tab at while you’re waiting (I’m serious, sometimes it’s an hour or longer, especially during the busy season, but it’s so worth it), and then it’s time to settle in to the most addictive chips I’ve had. Make sure you get the queso because damn. They have every kind of Mexican food you could want–burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos, chimichangas, and all of it is big enough to put you into a food coma. Also, the veggies they put into their vegetable burrito are not just pepper & onions–we’re talking broccoli, carrots, multiple types of onion, peppers. It’s a big selection, and it’s wonderful.
Location: Central St, near the Cheese Shop
Cost: fairly cheap, actually
I’ve only been to Kokeshi once, but I’m going back if only for the aesthetic. It’s a wild conglomeration of things–paper trees and origami, weird light fixtures and Mr. T, and so many nooks and crannies that you’d probably get lost if you weren’t paying attention. They’re a noodles & soup place with lots of options for everyone in your party, and lots of spice levels. Plus, they have one bowl that contains ingredients local to Salem farms!
Koto Grill & Sushi
Location: Washington St, a few down from the Bewitched statue
Cost: it’s sushi, so
This is a bit like one of those dark Asian restaurants where you’re a little unsure, but I’ve sat by the window, and I promise you, the food is legit. This is the only sushi I’ve tried in Salem, and it’s pretty good! They have a ton of options, and it was easy to figure out a bunch to share with others.
Passage to India
Location: Washington St, smack in the middle of the intersection, across the street from the BoA plaza
Cost: fairly cheap, actually, particularly if you’re doing it right and getting a million dishes
It’s been so long since I was last here, and it’s a tragedy! I love Passage to India so much, and I’d go there once a week if I could. It’s run entirely by people of Indian heritage, and all of the food is very culturally accurate. The aloo ghobi is my favorite no matter where I go, and it’s exceptional here. Watch out for the sauces as they can get pretty spicy, but as long as you’ve got some delicious, hot naan, you’re all set.
Location: downtown Danvers, plaza after Brother’s on Maple St
Cost: the most reasonable on this list
Okay, yes, Sawasdee is in Danvers, but sometimes, you’ve spent all day in Salem experiencing the Halloween activities, and you just want to step back for a second. That, and there aren’t any Thai places in Salem that I’m over the moon about enough to mention, but Sawasdee knows me by my order, that’s how often I go. They’ve got the best Thai food I’ve tried in New England, and I’ve tried a lot of places, the service is amazing, and their Tom Yum will knock your head off.
Location: Essex St, next to Life Alive
Cost: it’s very boutique dessert, so a little on the expensive side
To be fair, I’ve only ever gotten macarons here, but they have a pretty extensive macaron selection, so I can’t help it. Their other desserts look decadent, though, and someday, I swear I’m going to give one of them a try. The shop itself is super bright and very well organized, though a bit on the warm side sometimes.
Location: Derby St, across from the new park
Cost: this is more expensive for pizza, but that’s because it’s all local
Yo, watch out for this tomato sauce, it’s too legit to quit. They make it in-house, and it’s probably just crushed tomatoes, but it is out of this world. It’s wood-fire pizza, and you get to watch them make it right in front of you. Their toppings are weird as heck, and though they just changed their menu, my favorite was the poached egg and roasted cauliflower. I know, but it blew my mind. They burn the crust a little, but it’s still so fluffy and delicious.
Location: Derby St, across from Central St
Cost: very reasonable
Flatbread has a few different locations around New England, though I’ve only been to this one and the one in North Conway. They have the same vibe–tomato can lights, earthy wooden tables, menus decorated by kids, and a brick oven shaped like an igloo. Their herb & spice base is to die for, and because I’m a simple peasant, I like the Salem Community, which is just caramelized onions and mushrooms. I know it sounds weird, and my dad balked the first time, but it’s incredible, particularly when you add their massive pepperoni on. It’s got such a homey feel to it, and there’s a bowling alley attached!
Sea Level Oyster Bar
Location: Pickering Wharf
Cost: probably expensive, depending on what you get
I’ve only been here once, but it was excellent, and my brother has gone several times since. He’s a big fan of oysters, and he seems to love them from here, so if that’s your jam, give this place a shot. I do remember that they had brown paper tablecloths, which was super fun, and the fish was to die for. It’s also literally on the water, so it’s got the exact right feel you want for a seafood spot.
Location: Church St
Cost: expensive, this is kind of fancy
The only restaurant that’s not near downtown Salem, but sometimes it’s nice to get away from the hubbub. I only go here on special occasions, which used to always mean my birthday, but I haven’t been in a while. Their lobster bisque is delicious, and I’ve never had a bad piece of fish. It’s a little out of the way if you’re enjoying the chaos of Halloween proper, but it’s quiet, fine dining, and it’s like a breath of fresh air.
Location: literally behind the Bewitched statue
Cost: super cheap
I am a recent Gulu convert! I’m not sure why I never went in, but I finally did, and guys, let me tell you about their Barcelona sandwich. I sub the turkey with cucumbers, and wowowowowowow, it’s so good. They do artisan sandwiches, coffee, and beer. The vibe is awesome–it’s got high ceilings, old wooden walls, and little cafe-style seating spread out. I’m pretty sure they do live music and other super cool events, and there’s even some outdoor seating during warmer weather.
Life Alive Organic Cafe
Location: Essex St, across from the YMCA
Cost: also super cheap
Easily my most-visited and most-loved of everything on this list is Life Alive. In a previous post in this series, I mentioned that my Saturday is usually Life Alive, Coven’s, and Jolie, almost always in that order. I finish up teaching yoga and head straight into Salem for some of the most delicious food ever. I’m going to shameless plug my Instagram again (personal and books) because I drop pictures of Life Alive’s killer bowls every once in a while. They’re a vegetarian & vegan cafe, and their bowls are just a bunch of amazing tasting things tossed together with amazing dressings and made to look beautiful and colorful and just YUM. I’ve never tried their salads or wraps, but I’m sure they’re excellent, and I can definitely stand behind their smoothies. Every bowl is my favorite at any given time, but the Elvis smoothie is out of this world good.
And that is a wrap on the Haunted Happening series! I hope you enjoyed learning about my favorite places, drink, and food in Salem, and I hope this helped you plan some of your outings during Halloween!