Every town has that one restaurant with a true sense of local flavor and camaraderie attached to it. In Marblehead, this restaurant is the seafood favorite called The Barnacle.
True to its name, The Barnacle is attached to the great rocks of the Marblehead shoreline perched out of the scenic inlet near Fort Sewall. The décor and food offerings at The Barnacle are classic New England through and through. Consistency and quality are what The Barnacle are known for, and this is not a bad thing.
For locals and tourists alike, The Barnacle is a draw. For locals, the restaurant presents a friendly watering hole with regulars galore, not unlike a rustic version of the popular television show "Cheers."
If you ever have the chance to visit the bar on any two given occasions, I all but guarantee that you'll see a familiar face. For the tourists, how can you go wrong with such attractions as "Wednesday Lobster Night" and "The Barnacle's Famous Clam Chowder?" All the while, the restaurant offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the iconic Marblehead lighthouse.
The Barnacle features peer pressure at its worst, as everyone around you in the smallish, yet cozy dining room is devouring some of delicious fried delicacy. Take my recommendation and go fried. Eat a salad tomorrow. If you go the fried route, you have some choices, namely haddock, shrimp, scallops or clams. Of these, I recommend the haddock or the clams, as both are very fresh and sourced from local waters.
On my latest trip with some friends, I was in a particularly indecisive mood on which variety of fried breading covered food I wanted to ingest. Luckily The Barnacle offers the Seafood Platter. This is an innocent name for a dish consisting of roughly two pounds of fried clams, shrimp, haddock and scallops dumped on top of a pile of golden french fries. And it is fantastic.
It is a meal not for the meek, but for those who love their seafood and are not concerned about their waist line for a day. The haddock is fresh and tender, just the way you'd expect. The clams are just the right amount chewy and savory. The scallops are large and flavorful and the shrimp are good-sized and tasty. The only non-fried fare you'll receive on this monster plate is the cole slaw and ketchup on the side.
I can also attest to The Barnacle's clam chowder and lobster. On another recent visit, I ordered their famous clam chowder and a whole lobster during one of their Wednesday lobster nights. This is New England and everyone does clam chowder, especially in Marblehead, and with this competition, the chowder at The Barnacle does hold its own. The chowder is thick, full of delicious local clams and seasoned just right. The lobster is also as you'd expect – steamed, moist, delicate and delicious with a side of rich butter to top it off.
Overall, The Barnacle is a flavorful local seafood shack that has great fried seafood, strong drinks, a rip-roaring attitude and an amazing view.
Entrees and platters range from $12 to $22, with soups and appetizers about $6 to $13. The service is great overall, and expect to make a few friends with some locals while you're there. If you're visiting Marblehead, The Barnacle is a great place to start for your New England fix. If you're a local, I've probably already seen you there.