Restaurant Week in Salem: Tavern in the Square

Fried Snickers at Tavern in the Square

I’m sorry. I never intended for this to be a food blog. But when you’re technically “unemployed,” like I am, what else is there to do but eat? And write about? Obviously.

So last night I went to Tavern in the Square with my friend Susan. There are multiple Taverns in Squares in Massachusetts (Central Square, Porter Square, Allston… Square?) but we went to the one in Salem because it’s Restaurant Week in Salem. Taking a page out of Boston’s playbook, there are a handful of restaurants in Salem offering two or three-course prix fixe menus. We chose Tavern in the Square after reading the menu online. It sounded too good to pass up, and I knew exactly what I was going to order before we even got there.

I did call ahead seating in case it was crowded, the way Boston restaurants typically are during Restaurant Week, but it was an unnecessary gesture. There were about three other tables full. The bar was full. It was Trivia Night. I didn’t realize that until after we chose to sit on the dining room side. I totally would have played (and lost at) trivia.

I started with the parmesan risotto fritters which are as delicious as they sound. Little balls of creamy, cheesy rice, breaded and fried, served up on a plate of pink sauce and extra cheese. Susan and I both ordered them, and each of our plates came with four fritters. That’s really enough for a meal in itself. Normally I wouldn’t eat them all, especially knowing I had two more courses coming, but they were too yummy to leave behind.

Instead, I basically didn’t eat 75% of my main dish which was “Tuscan pasta,” penne tossed with artichoke hearts, broccoli, and, proportionately, too many green and yellow peppers. What little of it I actually ate was good, but honestly I should have could have skipped right to dessert.

There were two impossible-to-choose-between options on the Restaurant Week dessert menu: Butterfinger crème brulée and fried Snickers. Crème brulée is so decadent to begin with, I just didn’t think adding Butterfinger to it could possibly be considered anything but “too much” so I opted for the “lighter choice.” The Snickers wasn’t quite what I expected. Instead of being batter and fried, it was wrapped in a wonton shell, kind of like a Snickers bar egg roll. It was served warm, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. And a spoon. We should have been given a knife and fork. The dessert was very hard to break apart without gripping the spoon like a hammer and trying to muscle through the wonton shell. As the Snickers itself cooled and the nougat re-solidified, it also became a little difficult to chew! I’m thinking, ‘Fried Snickers: better in concept than execution.’ At least now I can hang my head in shame and check that one off my bucket list!

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