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Boston Restaurant Blog >> 2007 archives >> June, 2007 >> blog entry

Boston Restaurant Blog -- June, 2007

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Food Trip to Lawrence, Lowell, and Merrimac

Last year, a friend of mine and I did a memorable food trip to Connecticut, hitting some of the greatest roadside dining spots I have ever been to. And earlier this year, we did a short trip to south of Boston that was also an interesting food trip. Well, yesterday, my friend and I decided to do a food trip to the Merrimack Valley, including Lawrence, Lowell, and Merrimac.

photo of Napoli Pizza, Lawrence, Massachusetts We started the trip off by grabbing a couple of slices of Sicilian pizza at Napoli, a tiny pizza place on Common Street in Lawrence's "Little Italy." Now I had been to Napoli many times over the past few years, but my friend hadn't, and he was greatly impressed by these incredibly cheap ($1.25) squares of pizza. And while I like the pizza at Tripoli Bakery (which is across the street) a little better, Napoli certainly holds its own, with a sauce that is slightly less sweet than that at Tripoli, but nearly as delicious.

Our first meal done (at 11:15 AM, by the way), we drove across the Merrimack River to Sal's Pizza on Merrimack Street. I won't get into details, as we have a feature on Sal's, but I will say that the pizza was as good as ever, which is to say, very, very good stuff indeed.

photo of Lawton's, Lawrence, MassachusettsAfter Sal's Pizza, we drove across town to Lawton's, a rickety old hot dog stand on Canal Street that sits precariously on a sidewalk overlooking the canal in Lawrence's historic district. And when I say it sits on the sidewalk, I do mean it literally SITS on it; in the middle of the place, right where people place their orders, sits a fire hydrant (no joke). We walked past the hydrant and ordered a couple of hot dogs. The folks behind the counter cook the dogs in a rectangular tin that is filled with oil, and it appears that they add some secret ingredients to the oil as the hot dogs cook. And while the dogs are not technically "rippers," they do come close to bursting open in the oil. We grabbed our orders and took them back to the car. The result? Perhaps one of the top 2 or 3 hot dogs either of us have had anywhere.

photo of Skip's Snack Bar, Merrimac, Massachusetts Leaving Lawrence, we knew that it would be tough to top Lawton's, but Skip's Snack Bar on Route 110 in Merrimac came mighty close. As we pulled into Skip's, the first thing we noticed was the cheesy but oddly appealing neon sign announcing that we had indeed arrived at Skip's. Once inside the place, we ordered burgers and fries, grabbed a table in the rather Spartan dining room, and proceeded to have the type of griddled burgers that most snack bars can only dream about making. These burgers were high quality meat, and had just the right amount of grease to make them absolutely delicious. The curly fries were also excellent, though some were a bit undercooked. After we finished, I wanted to grab an ice cream there, but somehow had the willpower to resist, knowing that we still had more food to eat before the day was done.

photo of Elliot's Famous Hot Dogs, Lowell, MassachusettsWe were hoping that after the terrific meals at Lawton's and Skip's, our streak would continue in Lowell. But alas, it wasn't quite mean to be, as Elliot's Famous Hot Dogs on Elliot Street was a bit of a disappointment. The steamed hot dogs at Elliot's were decent enough, but mine had a slightly sickly yellowish tinge to it, and the cheese within the bun was not melted at all. Plus, the fact that we drove for about 35 minutes in order to spend 45 seconds downing a basic hot dog seemed, well, ridiculous in retrospect. On the up side, however, the woman behind the counter was as nice as could be, and the local character at this sad-looking place on a side street near downtown Lowell was something that I won't soon forget.

Elliot's was to be the last stop of the trip, but we decided to do something that probably would cause many folks to scratch their heads; we went back to Lawton's for more hot dogs. In fact, the women behind the counter literally did scratch their heads when they saw us again, but if you have ever had a hot dog at this place, it's not so difficult to explain our rather rash decision. Lawton's was indeed the overall winner on this trip, and will soon be featured on Boston's Hidden Restaurants, so stay tuned...

Related Blog Entries: hot dogs, Lawrence restaurants, Lowell restaurants, pizza places, road trips

C.S. said:
I definitely love Skip's. They have the best fries and burgers...NO ONE can top! I wish I lived closer, but I'd probably end up going everyday! I must admit, the staff is really friendly too. It just has an overall great atmosphere!
Posted on 5/5/08
MH said:
I couldn't agree more about Skip's!!! I live over an hour away, but make the trip weekly during the open season (they are closed Nov-April). The burgers are addictive, and I dream of them all winter long! Also, they have a great car show every other Saturday during the summer. It's worth the trip!
Posted on 5/23/08
at said:
Lawtons hotdogs are orgasmic... It's a must go if you're in the area!!!
Posted on 2/23/09
AWS said:
I live in Florida now, but when I was a Lot Younger, a trip to Lawtons for a dog was a requirement... Let me see, they were .10 cents each, three for a quarter... I had to order them with onions, top and bottom and celery salt... As far as I was concerned that was the only way to eat them... Still get them when I get a chance to get back up north... Enjoy!!! They Are One of the Simple Pleasures Of Life!!!
Posted on 6/2/09
Jack Cahill said:
My dad directed traffic on the corner, and always brought home the dogs, (steamed rolls were the best). I can smell them now. Keep the stand, we don't need the canal. Jack, Hernando, FL.
Posted on 7/25/09
ash said:
Elliots is by far the best, you guys have no idea.
Posted on 7/29/09
beva said:
I would suggest giving Elliots another shot. The Garsides own it again and they are as good as ever again. I will agree about Lawtons, man are they good!
Posted on 10/27/09
BStanky said:
You need to give Elliot's another try. Your review was done in 2007, after the store had gone through an ownership change or two, and who let the business go to waste when it ultimately closed.
Well in the summer of 2009, one of the long time owners took the business back over and reopened to the delight of all us Elliots lovers, bringing back the old Elliots formula.
You need not get anything else but three or four "all around" dogs, some fries or rings and a soda, and you'll soon be in Elliot's heaven.
Posted on 3/1/10
PattiM said:
I grew up in Lawrence MA and it is so funny but you just named off every one of my favorite places to eat since 1958!
Every one of these are awesome!
Posted on 8/16/12

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