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During the heyday of the whaling industry, New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of the most notable cities on the American East Coast Coast, immortalized in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Today, the city is still known for its seafood cuisine, as well as the many Portuguese restaurants that are testament to the immigrants who settled here at the beginning of the nineteenth century. To experience New Bedford’s remarkable history and cuisine, try out these 10 unmissable restaurants.
The Waterfront Grille is the only restaurant in New Bedford that is truly on the waterfront. Overlooking the harbor, it is nautically themed and offers spectacular views over the local fishing trade, whether through the long indoor windows or from the outdoor patio which opens in summer. There is a separate sushi menu as well as a gluten-free menu, meaning this restaurant caters to every taste and dietary requirement, but the emphasis, as always, is on seafood. The lobster mac ‘n’ cheese is an unusual twist on a classic dish, while there is also baked scrod, fried clams and stuffed shrimp on the menu. The Waterfront Grille is a must-visit, not only for the excellent food, but for the experience of dining overlooking New Bedford’s historic harbor.
Waterfront Grille, 36 Homer’s Wharf, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-997-7010
Located in historic downtown New Bedford, Cork Wine and Tapas serves an eclectic range of tapas as well as larger entrees. Cork specializes in local seafood, emphasizing New Bedford’s historic status as one of the larger American ports, but there is also great vegetarian fare on offer here. There is indoor and outdoor seating on a cozy patio which provides views over the harbor. Each week Cork plays host to local musicians who add to the ambiance of the place. The restaurant itself is housed in an historic waterfront warehouse built at the height of the whaling industry by the Taber brothers to house nautical equipment. Since the decline of the industry, the building has changed hands, but is now restored to its original glory providing the perfect experience of local history over a meal of tapas.
Cork Wine and Tapas, 90 Front St, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-994-9463
Rose Alley Ale House, located in the historic old town, offers 40 types of draft beer and a wide range of American foods. From ribs to burgers, Rose Alley is a classic American joint, with 26 flavors of sauce at different levels of heat, from mild all the way up to ‘suicidal’. Chicken wings can be smothered in everything from Thai peanut to Jamaican Jerk. You can build your own burger from all the choices on offer while for entertainment Rose Alley often has local musicians or event nights. This is the taste of America for all those who want something different from the Portuguese and seafood specialties of the region.
Rose Alley Ale House, 94 Front St, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-858-5123
New Bedford first became home to a thriving Portuguese community in the first half of the nineteenth century, and today there are still a number of Portuguese restaurants which remind visitors of this history. Cotali Mar is one of the best Portuguese restaurants in the area, serving everything from classic calamari and sautéed shrimp to bacon wrapped scallops. The Portuguese kale soup is delicious while for dessert they offer a rich custard pudding as well as a gourmet turtle cheesecake. Although Cotali Mar is not in the best location, it is beautifully decorated inside and serves some of the best sangria in New Bedford.
Corali Mar, 1178 Acushnet Ave, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-990-0066
The novelty of The Boat restaurant is that part of it is constructed out of an actual boat; perhaps confusing, given that the restaurant is nowhere near the water. But this is definitely a restaurant worth sampling for those who want to feel as though they are embarking upon an actual sea voyage. Notably appropriate for a town famous as a port, it is worth waiting for a booth in the boat to become available rather than take more prosaic seating elsewhere in the restaurant. The Boat is certainly the right location for those wishing to experience something of New Bedford’s seafaring heritage.
The Boat, 945 Ashley Blvd, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-998-2411
Opened a few years ago, Destination Soups has quickly established itself as a neighborhood favorite. Keep an eye out for the day’s specials, which are chalked up on the board and served in the traditional way – in a hollowed out roll. This is a healthier option to some of the larger restaurants around the New Bedford area, although Destination Soups also do fantastic cupcakes and sweet breads. Located in the vicinity of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, it is ideal for a light lunch or early dinner, serving vegetarian and vegan options for those for whom the local seafood is off the menu.
Destination Soups, 141 Union St, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-991-7687
It has been claimed by some that Brick Pizzeria Napoletana serve the best pizza not only on the American East Coast, but this side of Italy. As the name suggests, the appeal of this Italian restaurant is their traditional brick pizza oven, which cooks everything from margherita to calzone to your own self-assembled pizza, decorated with a range of toppings. They also serve a fired flatbread, although in truth there is little else besides pizza on the menu. For dessert, their Nutella pizzetta are also delicious, for those not too full to sample them. Popular with the locals as well as those who have traveled from further afield, Brick Pizzeria is an American take on an Italian classic.
The number of Portuguese restaurants in the New Bedford area is pretty mind-boggling, but this multi-award winning restaurant has been voted the best of them all and is therefore worth singling out. For those who want only the best, Madeira Café is the place to come for an evening of Portuguese cuisine at extremely reasonable prices. Its cozy, family atmosphere has made it popular locally, hosting events and organizing evenings of entertainment for a number of regular customers. It offers an authentic Portuguese experience and something a little out of the way of the more tourist-friendly restaurants.
Madeira Cafe, 76 Church St, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-996-6200
The ‘dogs’ at the Dog House Restaurant are arguably the best hotdogs in town. Although the Dog House doesn’t offer a long, fancy list of toppings, what it does offer is all the classic foods one can expect in a truly traditional American diner. Whatever your preference, be it roast beef sandwiches or the ever-popular cheeseburger, this little, neighborhood establishment serves them all with style. The Dog House is family-owned and run since 1965 and continues to emphasize the same small-town feel that has been important to its success. The one drawback of this approach is that you must bring cash as they do not accept credit cards.
The Green Bean specializes in vegetarian and vegan dishes, but serves up a fantastic brunch for anyone interested in somewhere a little smaller and more local. Only a short distance from the waterfront and the New Bedford Whaling Museum it is ideally located and extremely popular. Their freshly baked goods are quick to disappear and come highly recommended. The decor, meanwhile, is vibrant and constantly changing due to the fact that the Green Bean exhibits the work of various local artists. They do run dedicated events to showcase certain work, but on the whole the cafe is an exciting exhibition of talent sourced from the New Bedford area.
The Green Bean, 740 Purchase St, New Bedford, MA, United States, +1 508-984-3300