From the meticulously kept facilities and professional, friendly staff to the authentic 19th century decor, The Tavern at the Harbor Light Inn is a nod to a largely bygone era of elegance and sophistication accompanying food and drink.
The Tavern's highlights include a thoughtfully selected wine list, cordials, domestic and imported bottled beer and a scrumptiously enticing assortment of local seafood favorites like New England clam chowder, crab cakes and spicy shrimp and corn chowder.
The Tavern is the newest addition to the historic Harbor Light Inn, which is considered by the New York Times to be "one of the top 10 most romantic inns in America." With 20 rooms in total, the Inn itself consists of 2 Federalist style homes dating back to the early 1700s now combined to form one of Marblehead's most pristine and historic places of business. Prior to opening the Tavern in 2008, local owners Peter and Suzanne Conway planned on crafting a pub that differentiated itself from other area bars, but also complemented the history and elegance of the Inn.
"The Tavern is unlike any other bar in Marblehead. This is where you come for a romantic evening with someone close to you or to catch up with dear friends over a glass of wine and a light snack," said Peter Conway. "The Tavern also establishes the Inn as a destination spot. When staying at the Inn, you have everything you need right here. That's the type of experience we wanted to provide our guests," added Suzanne Conway.
If visiting the Tavern on a Friday or Saturday evening, you will not find yourself surrounded by college students from Salem State or in the midst of a singles scene. What you will find is a warm and eclectic mix of Marblehead locals, Inn guests from the world-over and Bostonians seeking an evening away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Marblehead is a mere 18 miles north of Boston proper. The staff of the Tavern is also worth noting. Rarely have I had the pleasure of conversing with such a friendly and knowledgeable bartender. One word of caution about regular bartender extraordinaire Ron; the charismatic former Broadway singer may burst into song at a moment's notice if the mood strikes him. Luckily, he has a great voice.
I've talked about the old world charm, the amenities and the staff, so I suppose a potential customer might like to know how the food and drink fared. Peter Conway recommended the sautéed crab cakes over greens accompanied by a glass of Silver Palm cabernet sauvignon. I'm here to tell you that the crab cakes were fantastic, and my pick for the best in Marblehead. They were served lightly browned on the outside and delicate, soft and flavorful on the inside. Many restaurants, let alone pubs, will serve you crudely heated or panini-pressed crab cakes. The Tavern took the time to sautee them in olive oil over an open flame – without a doubt worth the $11.
The accompanying home-made remoulade sauce was tangy with a surprising kick to it, but creamy enough to satiate the most savory of tastes. The Silver Palm was exceptional and the price was just right at $10 a glass or $34 for the bottle. On a service note, considering the relatively small staff and quality of the food preparation, my order came out in a quite reasonable time-frame.
Truth be told, this is one of Marblehead's best kept secrets, and a secret that I'm fairly certain won't be kept for long. You will find no other such establishment in the area that offers such a first-rate, sophisticated experience. Make it a point to stop in on your next trip to Marblehead, you won't regret it.
Be sure to tell them Greg sent you…