Northshore Magazine

May / June 2015

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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Page 207 of 244

205 Point's menu has remained virtu- ally unchanged for decades—from Flavin's original recipe for clam chowder to the lack of fried food— although that's not for lack of trying. A few years back, Flavin's daughter, Mercedes, came to work at the res- taurant with her husband, Michelin- starred chef Paolo Laboa, and tried to modify the menu. "It was anarchy," recalls Flavin. "I got phone calls, I got letters…. People were so used to coming in, they didn't even look at the menu, they just ordered." After three or four months, he says, things weren't going well, so they changed everything back—even the bread. Bill Nichelmann understands the weight of tradition all too well. He and his wife, Nicole, now run The Grog, the legendary pub in New- buryport opened by his father-in- law, Richard Simkins, in 1970. With 400 seats—more than four times the number at Halibut Point, Nichel- mann has a bit more leeway with the menu, but he still wants to stay true to his father-in-law's vision and the vibe of the space, which has been a tavern nearly continuously since just after the Civil War. The low ceilings, dark paneled walls, and wood-burning fire- place all speak to another century, enlivened by original Art Deco posters advertising bitters and 1950s movies that hang alongside striking plaster-cast hand-painted fish Nichelmann bought from "a random hippie" years ago. The clientele is equally eclectic—local families with small children, young people, senior citizens, and tourists pack the booths, enjoying a varied menu ranging from classic burgers and chowder to standout crab cakes and a sweet potato burrito that has been on offer for more than 15 years. Blue-collar workers, lawyers, neighbors, and employees from area restaurants all rub shoulders at the bar, taking their regular seats every afternoon at 3 p.m. to meet up with friends. The famed live mu- sic scene attracts a host of artists, including legends from across the country who have been playing at Parker Wheeler's Blues Party every Sunday night for 24 years. Over the brutal winter, Nichel- mann remained open daily, so as not to disappoint neighbors who arrived on skis, snowshoes, and fat- tired bikes for a little camaraderie and some hot food. Tweaking a menu with such a long history and maintaining consistent high-quality food is a balancing act. The Grog has always sold casual American food, with an emphasis on fresh seafood and a few quirks, like the Mexican section with its terrific fish tacos—a hold- over from when the upstairs space was a Mexican restaurant. The menu changes every six months, but not much, and the top-notch chefs show off their skills with spe- cials and an elegant catering menu. "We want to generate excite- Clockwise from left, owner Dennis Flavin; Halibut Point's pub interior is loaded with memorabilia; Halibut Point's soup of the day.

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