A harbor town for all seasons
There’s more here than just sea and sand
A conversation struck up among strangers at adjacent dining tables. Over dinner at Duckworth’s Bistrot in Gloucester, someone overheard my inquiry to the waiter about a tiny independent theater in nearby Rockport. “Oh, it’s definitely closed for the season,’’ a woman noted, before adding, “It gets a little sleepy around here, especially in winter.’’ Her companion nodded but then quipped, “Well, Gloucester isn’t as bad as Rockport. It’s like Transylvania over there after dark.’’ Duly noted. But even out of season, on a brisk gray day with the wind whipping off the harbor, Gloucester still offers plenty of refuge from the cold.
A 15-minute drive from Gloucester, Emerson Inn by the Sea (1 Cathedral Ave., Rockport, 978-546-6321, www.emersoninnbythesea.com) is a winter’s oasis with creaking wood floors and a handsome lobby that tempts you to curl up with a good book. Housed in a historic grand hotel, the 36 rooms are quaintly old-fashioned, many with canopy beds and windows staring out to sea. Closer to town, the Harborview Inn (71 Western Ave., 978-283-2277, www.harborviewinn.com) lives up to its name with beautiful vistas.
Duckworth’s Bistrot (197 East Main St., 978-282-4426, www.duckworthsbistrot.com) is often named when you ask locals for a restaurant suggestion (reservations strongly recommended). Sure enough, the cozy dining room is full of patrons who come here for reasonably priced bistro cuisine with a nod to its sur roundings: seafood stew, lobster and vegetable risotto, and ingredients sourced from local farms. Owners Ken and Nicole Duckworth are a big part of the charm: He’s the chef, and she makes the desserts and sometimes tends the bar. They also own Duckworth Beach Gourmet (24 Washington St., 978-282-1414, www.duckworthbeachgourmet.com), a sleek boutique selling high-end cheeses, crackers, wines, and tasty sandwiches ideal for a take-out lunch. On the weekends, expect a line at the door of Sugar Mags (112 Main St., 978-281-5310, www.sugarmags.com), but it’s worth the wait. A perennial favorite, this breakfast/lunch spot feels like a diner but serves a long list of creative fare, from hearty omelets (go for the Rocky Neck, stuffed with linguica and orange marmalade) to pineapple fritters. Townies also speak highly of the Saint Joseph sandwiches at Virgilio’s (29 Main St., 978-283-5295), an Italian bakery and deli that proudly advertises its “bread of the fishermen.’’ (The Portuguese sweet bread is top-notch.) There’s no shortage of mom-and-pop coffee shops in Gloucester, but the Pleasant Street Tea Co. (7 Pleasant St., 978-283-3933, www.udine4less.com/pleasantstreetteaco) stands out for its comfy couches, potent lattes, and cups of thick hot chocolate perfect to keep you warm as you stroll along Main Street.
DURING THE DAY
Ryan & Wood Inc. Distilleries (15 Great Republic Drive, 978-281-2282, www.ryanandwood.com) opened four years ago on the outskirts of town and now makes three fine spirits worth discovering, including a gin, vodka, and rum — all bearing names related to Gloucester landmarks and history. Co-owner Bob Ryan and his wife, Kathy, offer tours of their small warehouse, explaining everything from how they grind the grains to how they hand-bottle their products. Cape Ann Museum (27 Pleasant St., 978-283-0455, www.capeannmuseum.org) is a time capsule of the area’s artistic and cultural heritage, as is the nearby Bodin Historic Photo (82 Main St., 978-283-2524, www.bodinhistoricphoto.com), which sells interesting antique photographs. And Mystery Train Records (21 Main St., 978-281-8911, www.mysterytrainrecords.com) turns back time with its superb and sprawling selection of rare vinyl, used CDs, and all sorts of yesteryear treasures.
Cape Ann Community Cinema (21 Main St., 2d floor, 978-282-1988, www.capeanncinema.wordpress.com) tends to cater to art-house tastes, screening everything from current documentaries to indie films to “Wizard of Oz’’ singalongs. The Rhumb Line (40 Railroad Ave., 978-283-9732, www.therhumbline.com) is the ultimate neighborhood bar, the kind of place where someone calls out, “You just missed trivia!’’ as you enter. The no-frills haunt serves food and has live music most nights, from local funk bands to blues belters. For a more upscale experience, catch last call at the Franklin Cape Ann (118 Main St., 978-283-7888, www.franklincafe.com), an outpost of the popular South End restaurant that also has a location in South Boston. In Rockport, the Shalin Liu Performance Center (37 Main St., Rockport, 978-546-7391), an intimate arts space with superior acoustics, opened in June and has already rallied the community with year-round entertainment particularly strong on classical music.
James Reed can be reached at email@example.com.