Boston Restaurant Blog -- June, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
About three years ago, we went on a food-based road trip to the North Shore, hitting a couple of roast beef places, a hot dog joint, a diner, and a dive bar. A few days ago we revisited some of the area, focusing mainly on hot dogs, though we did get to a roast beef spot as well. All four places were quite impressive, though the last two frustrated us a bit when it came to service and atmosphere.
The first place we went to is technically not on the North Shore, but Fred's Franks in Wakefield was a stop on the way that we have been trying to get to for awhile. And what a stop it was, so much so that I will not write too much about it here since we may end up featuring this tiny outdoor hot dog stand shortly (as soon as we visit it at least one or two more times). What I can tell you is that the smoky-tasting dogs are tremendous here, the prices are dirt-cheap, and the views of Lake Quannapowitt are just icing on the cake. There will definitely be more to come soon on Fred's Franks, so check back here for updates over the coming weeks. (Ed note: A featured review of Fred's Franks has been posted. Here is the review: http://www.hiddenboston.com/FredsFranks.html)
You may have already read about our second stop, as it was so good that a featured review has already been written on the place. And yes, John's Roast Beef and Seafood may have a rather generic name, but this borderline upscale eatery on Western Avenue in Lynn simply blew us away with their lean, tender, and freshly-sliced roast beef. The pleasant atmosphere didn't hurt, either, and the help was friendly and professional. This isn't the type of place you would expect to find on this rather gritty road that cuts through the city, making it a very pleasant surprise, indeed. (If you would like to read our review on John's, please go to this link: http://www.hiddenboston.com/JohnsRoastBeef.html)
After leaving John's, we drove up Western Avenue into Salem, eventually crossing over into Beverly to our next stop, a new Chicago-style hot dog stand on Rantoul Street called The Scotty Dog. Upon pulling into the parking lot, a person who appeared to be the owner came out of the tiny structure with two menus and asked us if we wanted to dine in our car (yes, this place has carhop service). We declined, instead grabbing one of the several shaded picnic tables to the right of the hot dog stand. The menu at The Scotty Dog was very impressive, with a variety of options for both their premium natural casing Vienna hot dogs and their jumbo dogs that have less of a "snap." Toppings included everything from chili to cucumbers to peppers to sauerkraut to house-made relish, and much, much more. We ordered two dogs, then waited for a few minutes before another server brought over the food. Unfortunately, both orders were wrong, so we tried to flag down anyone who would look our way, finally letting one of them know that it was the wrong order; the correct order was brought to us about a minute later, and with it, a server who let us know about all the stress coming from the fact that that they were short of help that day. Perhaps confirming this point, during (and after) our meal, we heard at least two customers complain about either their orders or their food in general--it was tough to tell, but tempers were indeed flaring a bit. As for the hot dogs themselves? Well, they were absolutely wonderful, with both the regular hot dog and the jumbo dog being meaty and juicy, and the house-made relish being particularly delightful with a nearly perfect combination of sweetness and zestiness coming from it. The poppy seed buns were every bit as good, adding a subtle nutty flavor to it all, as well as some extra texture. Although these hot dogs were much different from the more traditional (for our area, anyway) dogs that we had at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, we both agreed that we enjoyed these at least as much, if not more. If the folks at The Scotty Dog can work the kinks out on the service end of things, this may be a place I'll be coming back to a lot, but I may decide to wait awhile to hear about the experiences that others have there first.
From Beverly, we wound our way down the coast through Salem, Marblehead, and Swampscott, where our final destination (Kell's Kreme/Popo's Hot Dogs on Humphrey Street) was. And this one was a highly anticipated spot, as the thought of a place specializing in both hot dogs and ice cream was indeed a tantalizing one. We arrived at Kell's Kreme/Popo's Hot Dogs around early to mid-afternoon, but because it was such a hot day--and because it is across the street from a beach--the place was pretty crowded. The setup was a bit strange, as the entrance door swung inward and there was little room between the door and the counter, so we couldn't even fit into the place until the people in front of us had finished ordering. We started with a couple of their Kosher dogs (they have several type of hot dogs, including natural casing, quarter pound dogs, and veggie dogs, as well as sweet Italian sausage), with one having Monterey Jack cheese on it and the other having bacon bits and cheese. We found a couple of stools along the counter, with one being right at the ice cream display bin, which meant that I had people looking over my shoulder for the entire time I was eating. The all-beef hot dogs were excellent, though, the bacon bits were fresh-tasting, and the grilled buns were buttery and delicious. On our way out, we got back in line (this time somehow staying inside the place) and ordered a couple of soft-serve ice creams that all three Kell's Kremes are known for (the other locations are at Revere Beach and the Square One Mall in Saugus), though I was tempted to try one of their "hard" ice creams, since they come from Richardson's. We didn't want to stay inside because the digs were just too tight, so we got into the car, turned on the air conditioning, and polished off the soft-serve in what seemed to be seconds (it was very fine). We then called it a day, leaving the North Shore before the beachgoers started clogging up the roads on their way out of the area.
All four spots that we went to on our recent North Shore food trip featured food that greatly satisfied, but the last two (The Scotty Dog and Kell's Kreme/Popo's) were not exactly what I'd call the most pleasant overall dining experiences. If The Scotty Dog can get their act together in the service department, they should be fine, and as for Kell's Kreme/Popo's? Well, I guess it's a matter of going there on a weekday or a day when the weather isn't so great, since it is so tiny inside. As for Fred's Franks and John's Roast Beef and Seafood, they definitely haven't seen the last of me--I can't wait to get back to both.
We've eaten at the Scotty Dog twice in the last couple of weeks and have had no issues with service, though neither time was busy (after 6 pm both times). Nice to be able to get Chicago-style dogs on the North Shore!
Posted on 6/20/11
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