The spirits aren’t just behind the bar.
At some Boston-area restaurants and bars, the spirits aren’t just behind the bar—at least, not if you believe the spooky tales that abound in historic eateries in and around the city. Now that we’re well into New England’s spookiest season, make your next dinner reservation at one of these restaurants where (fingers crossed!) your server may not be the only figure paying a table-side visit.
Brick & Ash
Rumor has it that—back in ye olde New England-maritime days, when lonely seafarers quested for companionship in each harbor—the Newburyport building that now houses the restaurant Brick & Ash was a brothel. “Lucinda” is the name given to one of the bustle-skirt-swishing professionals who plied her trade there and, if lore is to be believed, met an untimely death due to a fall down a staircase. According to Brick & Ash employees (as well as the Food Network, which dubbed the place the most haunted restaurant in Massachusetts), Lucinda continues to make herself known by blinking the lights, opening and closing doors, toppling glasses by the bar, and other general acts of harmless tomfoolery. An apparition of a sea captain has also been sighted in the building; one of Lucinda’s former paramours, perhaps? Regardless, it’s worth taking an October day-trip to Newburyport’s quaint downtown, where you can refuel here with great American comfort food like a meat loaf patty melt, Nashville-style spicy fried chicken, or gravy-covered poutine. Or, hydrate in the outdoor beer garden with a “Lucinda” cocktail: a sweetened gin-and-tonic with lime and fresh basil.
10 Center St., Newburyport, 978-255-2642, brickandash.com.
On a typical October weekend, Rockafellas feels like the Halloween party out of Hocus Pocus: Revelers surround the decorated bar, tossing back pumpkin beers while a live band is probably playing “Thriller” or “Monster Mash.” Obviously, the scene is a bit more sedate during COVID-19, but a different kind of spirited energy remains in the historic building, which had previous lives as a church meetinghouse, pioneering department store, and bank. The most frequently cited specters are a grumpy, black-suited minister and the “Blue Lady”—so named for the color of her dress—who was either murdered in smuggler tunnels beneath the building or died unexpectedly inside the bank’s vault, depending on which story you believe. (Today there’s a single table for two inside said vault.) We can at least confirm the presence of a spacious patio and wide-ranging eats, from burgers to steaks to pastas to seafood specialties like a lemon aioli-tossed lobster roll. And there are copious cocktails, including the Devil’s Margarita, made with hellfire-hot ghost pepper tequila and a red-wine floater, and the Lady in Blue, a combo of rum, blue curacao, and pineapple juice.
231 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-2411, rockafellasofsalem.com.
The Sun Tavern
This lovely little upscale-casual restaurant inside a New England country home, which recently added outdoor seating in its garden, does not shy away from its haunted reputation. In fact, it’s alluded to right on the website, and its various owners have spoken publicly about their spectral encounters, from sightings of shadowy figures to sensations of touch by unseen hands (including, perhaps, one helpful ghost who may or may not have performed the Heimlich on a guest). The Sun Tavern even displays the framed death certificate of Lysander Walker, the home’s former hermit-owner who shot himself in the living room; it’s said that his spirit is joined by those of two little girls who subsequently died of scarlet fever on the property. The paranormal activity is so great, mysteriously activated alarms have wound up calling police to the place—you, however, need only swing by for the top chops (like lamb with mint pesto, or steak with a blue-cheese potato cake); fine seafood, such as peppercorn-crusted salmon; or other excellent entrees, including roasted and confit duck with blueberry compote.
500 Congress St., Duxbury, 781-837-1027, suntavernrestaurant.com.
Regardless of whether you’re intrigued by haunted happenings, Turner’s Seafood warrants a visit as one of the best restaurants in Salem. That said, it’s even better if you like a side of spooky stuff with your baked stuffed shrimp or lobster pie—because historic Lyceum Hall, which houses the restaurant, is supposedly constructed on the former site of Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard. Bishop, for those who fail to recall their Salem Witch Trials history, was the first accused person to be hanged in 1692. Now, “they” say, besides all the expected mysterious footfalls and things that go bump in the night, whiffs of apple can be detected in the dining room whenever Bishop is lingering nearby (hence the apple whiskey-based cocktail that bears her name). Of course, there’s no shortage of other prominent figures who have walked the Lyceum’s hallowed halls over the years, including Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Alexander Graham Bell, who made the first public demonstration of the telephone here. So who knows who else might be responsible for activity strong enough to bait investigators from the hit Syfy network show Ghost Hunters.
43 Church St., Salem, 978-745-7665, turners-seafood.com.
The Wayside Inn
Sorry, Chris Evans: Jerusha Howe might actually be the most famous (infamous?) native of Sudbury, Mass. After all, long before Captain America came out, locals have passed down the story of Howe, the “belle of Sudbury” who died in 1842 in the centuries-old inn her family operated; she died of a broken heart, it is said, after her beloved never returned from a journey at sea. Although the Wayside Inn is best known as the setting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn, Howe’s purported haunting also precedes the reputation of the place—her forlorn piano-playing can supposedly still be heard throughout the inn (especially room 9, her former bedroom) and its restaurant, which serves up classic Yankee fare like lobster casserole with sherry and cracker-crumb stuffing, pulled pork shepherd’s pie, and prime rib au jus.
72 Wayside Inn Rd., Sudbury, 978-443-1776, wayside.org.
Unsurprisingly, one of the country’s oldest taverns is supposedly home to some of the nation’s oldest spirits. Named for Dr. Joseph Warren, who was killed in the nearby Battle of Bunker Hill, this colonial-feeling watering hole was a popular meetup for revolutionaries—including Paul Revere, who received his midnight-ride instructions from Warren. Powdered-wig wearers have been spotted in spectral form, as has a woman in Victorian garb (maybe one of the mourners from George Washington’s funeral speech, which was given here). Today, you’ll find fine pub grub like beer steamed pastrami sandwiches, creamy lobster bisque, bison burgers with bourbon-BBQ sauce, and more.
2 Pleasant St., Charlestown, 617-241-8142, warrentavern.com.