Essex Seafood is primarily a lobster pound, where you can buy them live or already boiled and ready to eat. Adjacent to the market and the big holding pens is a quiet dining room with a window to the kitchen. This is the order window, where you select from a straightforward menu of various-sized lobster dinners, as well as fried clams, scallops, and shrimp, plus chowder and corn on the cob. The lobsters are impeccably fresh; and the fried seafood plates are beautiful to behold: a layer of French fried potatoes, topped with a layer of onion rings, topped with a heap of your seafood of choice. Eat inside, at booths in the wood-paneled dining room that is decorated with charming nautical bric-a-brac, or choose a green-painted picnic table outdoors in back – a breezy retreat from Route 133 near the Essex-Gloucester town line.
Service is eat-in-the-rough, and everything is cooked to order, so you may have a wait if you get a good-size lobster, or even a fried haddock plate. This is an excellent opportunity to dip into a bowl of clam chowder: buttery and creamy, but not at all artificially thickened, and redolent of the perfect ocean ‘n’ oink harmony of chopped clams and a salt-pork base. Also take the opportunity while waiting to help yourself to pickly tartar sauce, ketchup, and ice water – all available at a self-service bar at the back of the dining room.
You will have a simple meal; in our experience, a flawless meal: exactly why we like eating our way along Cape Ann.