Eating our way through a busy first day in New England

Considering the only real sleep we got Friday night was on the flight from Phoenix to Boston, we stayed quite busy yesterday.

After waiting what seemed like forever for our checked bags, we took the airport shuttle bus to the rental car center, which didn’t exist last time I rented a car at Boston Logan. Getting our rental car from Avis, a Subaru Forester, was no trouble at all. However, shortly after leaving the airport, a sensor indicated we were low on windshield washer fluid. Low was an understatement. We stopped later at an AutoZone to pick up a gallon of washer fluid, and the car took nearly all of it. If that’s the only issue we have, I’ll be happy.

Our first stop, just a few miles from the airport, was at a Dunkin Donuts for a pre-breakfast. I grew up — or maybe I grew out — on Dunkin Donuts, and I’m consistently disappointed with the donuts in the Dunkin Donuts stores in Arizona. However, this one in Revere hit the mark. The donuts were what I remembered from my younger days, and they knew exactly what coffee “reglah” meant.

The Agawam Diner in Rowley, Massachusetts.
The Agawam Diner in Rowley, Massachusetts.

Our next stop was at the somewhat famous Agawam Diner in Rowley, an old-school greasy spoon in the town where Kathryn grew up. The place was packed, and everyone seemed to know everyone else, except us, of course. We kept breakfast light, since we knew we’d be eating a lot as the day went on. We both ordered the house-made corned beef hash and eggs, hers poached, mine scrambled. It hit the spot.

Ring's Island in Salisbury, Massachusetts, viewed from the Town Dock.
Ring’s Island in Salisbury, Massachusetts, viewed from the Town Dock.

After breakfast, we drove about ten miles north to Salisbury, where I grew up. We drove around town for a short time, getting out for a stroll at the town pier for some pictures of the old fishing village at Ring’s Island. The weather has been colder than Phoenix, for sure, but not entirely unpleasant. It was mostly sunny everywhere we went.

Next, we drove to Amesbury to meet up with my cousin Jeffrey and his wife Lena and the kids. It turned out his in-laws were there as well. They were getting ready to head up to Maine in the early afternoon, but we all drove to Salisbury Beach for some recreation first.

Tripoli's Pizza on Broadway in Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts.
Tripoli’s Pizza on Broadway in Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts.

The beach is looking pretty rough after the Nor’easter that hit a few weeks ago, but many businesses were open. The beach has changed a lot since I was a kid. One entire block of rundown buildings has been razed and replaced with a boardwalk. We spent a half-hour or so at Joe’s Playland, enjoying the old-school arcade games. I got the high score on Ms. Pac-Man, but only because I was the first one to play since the last time the power was out. We all played some skee-ball too, and between us we accumulated enough tickets to get the older daughter a stuffed cow as a prize. The younger daughter was simply satisfied not to have mislaid her binky.

Classic beach pizza from Tripoli's in Salisbury, Massachusetts.
Classic beach pizza from Tripoli’s in Salisbury, Massachusetts. (Photo by KG7NRB.)

After the arcade games, we strolled out to the beach for a while, then Jeffrey, Kathryn, and I decided it wasn’t a trip to Salisbury Beach without some beach pizza. Beach pizza is only pizza in some academic sense of the word. It has bread, sauce, and cheese, and it’s baked. It’s made in large, rectangular pans and served in square slices. Some people have a preference for corners, sides, or middle slices, depending on how much crust they like, but I’m personally indifferent. The sauce is what distinguishes the various beach pizza purveyors. Christie’s and Tripoli are the Macy’s and Gimbels of the Salisbury Beach pizza trade, and any long-time local has his favorite. I, since childhood, have been on the Tripoli’s team. The sauce is a little sweeter. Kathryn and I each got a slice there. Jeffrey got a slice at Christie’s because the line was shorter. Rookie.

New England roast beef sandwich at Jasmine's in Seabrook, New Hampshire.
New England roast beef sandwich at Jasmine’s in Seabrook, New Hampshire.

Having decided our slices of beach pizza were merely appetizers, after saying goodbye to our cousins, we drove just over the New Hampshire border to Seabrook for what Kathryn claims is the best roast beef sandwich in the world. In general, there’s nothing like a New England roast beef sandwich, even though it’s about as simple as it gets — freshly sliced, rare roast beef on a buttered, lightly toasted roll, with optional mayonnaise or sauce. And, to Kathryn’s credit, the roast beef at Jasmine’s in Seabrook did not disappoint. I like my roast beef sandwiches a little simpler than Kathryn, so my only complaint was that I let her talk me into trying the roast beef with mayo and sauce, but otherwise it was outstanding. If time allows, I may get another one with just a thin layer of mayo and salt and pepper.

Hampton Inn in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
Hampton Inn in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

We had called our hotel in the morning about getting an early check-in, but they told us the best they could do was 1 pm. So we showed up shortly after 1 at the Hampton Inn in Amesbury, and they were able to check us in right away, which was great because we were still operating on a few hours of airplane sleep, which is probably the worst kind of sleep. Most of the hotels I’ve stayed in around this area have been borderline dumps geared to the sleazy summer tourist crowd, but the Hampton Inn here is pleasantly clean and comfortable. We settled in, closed the blinds, and crashed for a couple hours.

Mill run in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
Mill run in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

We were supposed to meet a high school classmate and her husband for drinks and dinner in Downtown Amesbury, but when the classmate canceled, we decided to go ourselves. The Ale House was on my list of places to try even before Kathryn made plans with the classmate, so that’s where we went. Walking through the old mill area of Amesbury was a thrill for those of us who live in Phoenix, since we got to see more flowing water in ten minutes than we see in a year in Arizona. The beer selection at the Ale House was interesting. I like all sorts of beer, but to be honest, most of the beers on the menu called to a more sophisticated palette than mine. The food was solid, especially the Belgian-style frites, but I’m not in a hurry to go back.

The Ale House in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
The Ale House in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

After dinner, we had a last-minute change of plans. Two of Kathryn’s cousins got in touch and were available in the evening, so we dropped our leftovers off at the hotel and drove to Ipswich. We had a great time visiting the cousins, spending several hours catching up. The downside was a drive back to Amesbury in the dark, on narrow, winding roads with which we are no longer familiar.

Newburyport Pale Ale.
Newburyport Pale Ale.

After returning to the hotel, now close to 11 pm, knowing we had to be up early for a 7:30 am Easter Mass, I had a nightcap of some local beer, a Newburyport Pale Ale. Of the four different beers I had yesterday, this was my favorite by a wide margin, and I didn’t need a Ph.D. in zymology to enjoy it. We bought the six-pack at a local supermarket just after dinner, which was interesting in itself because, when I was growing up here, you couldn’t buy beer in supermarkets in Massachusetts. Apparently a few things have changed here since then. But not much.

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