Salem Food Digest (Road Trip) Cheeburger Cheeburger - A New Burger Just Over The Line

A reach for burger relevance in Vinnin Square

By The  BaldOne

Less than a mile past Dead Mans Curve on Loring Avenue sits a border. You can't see the map line drawn across the street, it appears only on the map itself. Across that line exists another town know to locals as Swamp-skit, or Swamp-scott. There is often discussion as to which pronunciation is correct.

The BaldOne says Swamp-skit.

On the left just over that line in the Marshalls strip mall sits a burger joint called Cheeburger Cheeburger.  It has been there since last May. I cannot explain the spelling game being played here, perhaps on your first visit you can ask about it. Maybe it was a typo that some marketing type found clever.

The motif is that of a 1950's diner. Lots of color and tile accentuate the place. Neon shakes  are on the wall alongside cut-outs of Elvis, Marilyn, James Dean, and The Three Stooges. As is to be expected the Stooges cut-out features Jerome "Curly" Howard. After all of these years poor Shemp still can't get any love, not even in a burger joint.

Walking in with my good friend SBJ (Sits-By-Josh) we were greeted by Sarah and offered the table of our choice. There were two tables already taken. We chose one right in the middle of the floor.

The menu has some variety. The burgers run from 1/4 of a pound at just under $6 to a full pound at just under $11. If you eat the one-pounder they'll post your photo on the wall. There is also a two-pound burger available for those who dare. The toppings are numerous, to include a choice of cheeses and are free.  They include pepperoni, pineapple, or roasted green chili peppers.

Chicken, Salmon, Turkey, and Veggie options are also available as are wraps, melts, and a 10-inch hot dog.

SBJ chose the regular burger, medium-well with american cheese, onion and mayo on a kaiser roll. My selection was the one-pound burger, medium-rare with cheddar jack cheese, onion and pickle on a kaiser roll with chipotle mayo on the side. SBJ and I opted to split a small order of the fresh-cut, house breaded onion rings mixed with french fries.

My medium-rare request prompted a conversation with the manager. He explained to us that there is a corporate policy prohibiting any temperature under medium. I stressed my objection to that, as did another customer at a nearby table. The manager is trying to get that policy changed and  asked that I go on-line to the company web site and give them the benefit of my years of burger eating wisdom.

When our burgers arrived I declined the offer to compete in the "5-minute Challenge". It is always my preference to enjoy my food. Scarfing down a full pound of red meat in five minutes or less is not my idea of enjoyment.

We both enjoyed our burgers very much. They were cooked properly. Mine was much closer to medium-rare than I had expected after my conversation with the manager. The rolls were fresh, the meat very juicy without being drippy and sloppy. There was a savory flavor to the meat that did not scream out salt, salt, salt.

The onion rings were excellent with the french fries being cooked to a good brown color with no sogginess to them.

The beef is angus, with no additives, no antibiotics, and no added hormones. It is supplied by the National Beef Company using a proprietary handling program called Naturewell.

We did not try any of the shakes, but they are considered a house speciality.

The Salem Food Digest proclaims Cheeburger Cheeburger the best burger just over that imaginary line on the southern side of the Salem map. 

We will go back because we like to see if consistency is there. Impressing us once is easy, twice maybe not, and the third time's the charm.


Cheeburger Cheeburger
Vinnin Square Plaza, 435 Paradise Road, Swampscott, MA 01907
Phone:(781) 842-2110



Salem Food DIgest -Olde Main Street Pub - Tim Caldwell Brings His A-Game

Food, drink, and night life return to an old spot

By The BaldOne

Over the last twenty years Salem has seen it share of chefs, cooks, and other assorted food preparation professionals. We have seen burgers and steaks, fish and chips, soups and pastas, and even an occult themed sandwich or two. Cooks have come and gone, moved from here to there, and on occasion disappeared never to be seen again. Michael Frechette anyone?

Tim Caldwell has been here through all of it. Twenty years ago he toiled over the range at the original Dodge Street Bar & Grill. Some of you may remember that place. Bob Berzofsky and his family ran a great place with wonderful food and the best regular line-up of musical acts on the north shore.

Later Tim created at McSwiggin's, which preceded the Old Spot at the corner of Essex Street and Hawthorne Boulevard. Both venues were tremendously popular with the local crowd.

Most recently he was the chef at the new Grapevine, an ill fated venture despite the best efforts of those involved.

Now Tim and partner Kiernan O'Neill have found the means to return that notable corner to Salem relevance. They have assembled an able and amiable staff who are quite enthusiastic in this new endeavor.

The BaldOne was solo on this bold venture through our snowbound streets. I selected a Notch Pils from the tap in the spirit of keeping it local. Soon after taking the first sip Chris Lohring himself, the owner and creative force behind Notch Brewing came in and said hello. What fine locally produced beer do you suppose was his choice?

The appetizers are a good mix of this and that. Smoked Gouda & Goat Cheese Fritters, Fried Lollipop Kale, Sirloin Hash with spicy grilled shrimp, and Sicilian Meatballs all demand attention.

I had to start with Korean Style Duck Wings with Kimchi. The four wings were plated well with a small portion of kimchi in the center. I am difficult to please when it comes to kimchi, having spent some time in Korea in the days of yore. The mild fermentation punched up with a nice blend of spices made for a pleasant experience. My next trip may require a small bowl in order to have the full experience.

The wings….. oh the wings. The skin was crispy with a light panko breading and the meat was moist, full of flavor, coming off of the bone with little effort. Given the opportunity there is no doubt I would have eaten ten or twelve of them with little or no effort.

It took a moment to decide on an entree. The choices are intriguing. Venison Stroganoff, Crab Stuffed Sole, Tarragon Fettuccini, Braised Short Ribs, Beer Battered Local Haddock, and The Chicken O'Brady, all beckoned my discerning eye and primed appetite.

An order was placed for the All Natural Half Chicken with house mashed potatoes and crispy onions.

The chicken looked appetizing as it sat on top of the potatoes, with the crisp, breaded onion layered on top, and some crisp sautéed green beens placed along side the chicken.

Tender skin and moist meat welcomed me. The spices did not overwhelm the chicken flavor but complimented it well. Initially I used a knife and fork in order to appear cultured. As I got closer to bone it was, "to hell with refinement" as fingers and teeth began to work together.

A clean plate, stacked in the style of a former server were all that remained.

The service at the bar by the lovely and alluring Stephanie was just as I expected and deserved. 

Look at your calendar and find the time to drop by The Olde Main Street Pub. Try their offerings for yourself and be sure to tell Tim that the BaldOne from Salem Food Digest sent you.


Olde Main Street Pub

121 Essex Street 

Salem MA. 01970

(978) 594-8188

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Salem Food Digest - East Sakura - Hiding In Plain Sight

Affordable fare for the family

By The BaldOne

Far up the road in Salem that leads to points south sits a small strip mall known as 400 Highland Place. To many this spot is an afterthought, easily missed on the way to Wal-Mart. In this little retail space there are three places to get some eats.

Today we deal with the East Sakura Sushi & Chinese Buffet  (once the Manadarin Buffet) which is situated in the corner of the L-shaped complex.

As you walk in you may be quite surprised by the size of the space. The buffet area is quite large with multiple rows of counters holding a vast array of selections including soups, salads,  basic noodle dishes, a variety of meat, fish, shell fish, and even sushi. There is even a carving station featuring some American style meats.

The large dining room sits to the right of the buffet stations. At the front of the room, to the left of the door is a fully stocked bar of fifteen or so seats and a smaller dining room complete with large screen TV's.

If a buffet is not your thing there is a full menu available with table service which includes freshly prepared sushi created at the bar.

We, the indomitable Julia From Lynn and yours truly decided the buffet was our target. We each ordered a tall Sapporo Beer and plotted our attack. 

We followed the one tried and true rule of buffet eating. If something looks like it's been out too long, stay away from it. Dried edges on anything, or serving utensils caked with product should always be avoided. We really didn't see any of that and noticed that they were swapping some trays out the whole time we were there. Cleanliness seems to be the rule.

We started with some sushi and were pleasantly surprised. Sushi rolls and maki were both available on the buffet line. Freshness was not an issue as we waded into rolls of shrimp, eel, and tuna. Even without the fancy plating provided at the bar we found the offerings to be worth our while.

The main run throughout the buffet took a few minutes due to the amount of choices. I returned with a heaping plate of noodles, veggies, meat and fish to include clams in the shell. Julia came back with eclectic fare that included seaweed salad, yang chow fried rice, mapo tofu, and wonton soup.

Being who I am I couldn't resist a second run through the buffet. The time I went with some of the basics like egg foo yung, peking ravioli, and the chicken wings.

Let me be succinct, for the price, which varies from weekday lunches at $8.99 to Sunday dinners at $15.99 there is nor better deal in Salem. Children's pricing is an even better deal and there are some time frames where the youngest ones can eat free.

The Salem Food Digest formally declares the East Sakura the best family deal in Salem.

East Sakura

400 Highland Ave.,

Salem, MA 01970

Phone: 978-740-0306


Salem Food Digest - An Opus Sunday Brunch

Bloody Mary's And Spicy Sushi

by The BaldOne

In a town full of breakfast options a Sunday Brunch can be a difficult road for a restaurant to travel. A liquor license can tilt the field to favor one place over another. If  the brunch is to truly succeed however, a Salem restaurant must really separate itself from the competition.

Opus has been offering brunch for some time now and we recently decided that the time had come to formally give their offerings try. The Digest's recruited it's good friend the lovely and vivacious Marilyn to assist us. Marilyn is no slouch. She brings with her almost twenty years experience serving tables and tending bars in many a north shore and Boston establishment.

Both of us had been to Opus before but Marilyn had never experienced the brunch. My past brunch visits had been positive although I had not been impressed by the Bloody Mary's. At the time according to the bar tenders that there was no "house" concoction, they were left to create their own which led to some inconsistency and disappointment.

The menu is expansive and includes regular breakfast items, salads, and a nice selection of sushi. The drink menu is creative and takes advantage of the current trend of infusing whiskies and vodka in house.

While perusing the food menu we both ordered Custom Bloody Mary's made with the House Infused Jalapeño Lemon Zest and the Black Pepper Vodka. The drinks were a little darker red than expected, quite zesty, and featured whole peppercorns. I found it to be quite tasty once I discarded the cocktail straw and drank straight from the glass. The peppercorns made using the straw rather difficult. Marilyn was not enamored of hers and I had to step up to finish it for her.

We selected four items to order so as to hit a cross section of the offerings. The Knife & Fork Caesar Salad, The Mezza Platter, plus the Spicy Salmon Roll, and the Firecracker with salmon from the sushi list.

The salad consisted of whole baby romaine hearts with a parmesan crumble crostini, and a creamy caesar dressing. The romaine was fresh and crispy and we found the crostini to be excellent. The dressing was somewhat bland, but that may have been the result of there just not being enough. An extra drizzle or two would have been nice.

On to the Mezza Platter consisting of house cured olives, spicy green chili feta, lemon garlic hummus, and a warm romesco sauce with crispy pita chips. The olives were cured well and quite tasty. If my olive knowledge is accurate there were green, brown, and black olives in the mix. We both agreed that the warm romesco sauce was the highlight of the plate. The feta and the hummus were good but did not stand out. The the romesco prevailed. We were a little disappointed to discover that the "crispy" pita was not crispy at all, just cut fresh and put on the platter.

The sushi was plated well, but without any real flair. Our Firecracker came with scallion, tempura flakes, and Vietnamese chili sauce. The  spicy salmon roll came with cucumber. We wasted none of it and overall gave the sushi a positive result. Considering that there are now three places for sushi on Washington Street, and a couple of other good places  over the bridge in Beverly and up the road in Peabody, creativity may rule. I see a sushi showdown in the Digest's near future.

Opus fed us well for just about $80. The decor is unique for Salem and the brunch was satisfactory overall.

That's how Marilyn and I feel, but it is up to you to make up your own mind. Drop in to Opus on a Sunday soon even if just to try the Bruleed Grapefruit and let us know what you think.


Opus Salem

87 Washington Street

Salem MA 01970

Salem Food Digest - Breaking “Good” In The Burger Business – A & B Finds It’s Way To A Better Burger

By TheBaldOne


Some time ago we ventured to a new burger joint that had claimed the old Salem Jail space from another restaurant which had escaped into obscurity. At the time it seemed as if they weren’t really sure about what it is that they wanted to do.

We resolved to return at a later date. Sometimes new restaurants need a little time to find their footing.

That later date arrived and we ventured once more to the building that once housed Albert DeSalvo, the presumed and no longer burger-eating Boston Strangler.

In this case the old adage, “good things come to those who wait” proved true. A & B Burger has found their way. One of the good things is that a small sit-down bar has been added.

The location is somewhat difficult to access no matter your mode of transportation. You would be well advised to park at the Museum Place Garage or in the Church Street Lot. The walk from either spot is a short one down St. Peter Street with a right hand turn onto the Bridge Street side of the old building.

The room was active when we arrived, with the din of activity, music, and conversation filling the dining room. There was no wait for our two-top, but larger parties were waiting about twenty minutes on average.

Two burgers were ordered, along with one side of Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper Fries. Jacqui ordered one of the adult milk shakes and I chose a Notch Session Pils. My burger choice was a “Hangover” Burger with an extra patty, which has American cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. Jacqui chose the “Black & Blue” Burger with bleu cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions.

First came the Notch beer and the “Tres Leche” milkshake made with Van Gogh Caramel Vodka, milk, and vanilla ice cream. We found it to be tasty, but we would both have rather seen a bigger glass. An adult milkshake should come in an adult size.

The fries were quite good. They were cooked properly, not soggy and not too crisp. They stood up to the bite and had a good flavor accentuated by the sea salt and cracked pepper.

Now we are onto the meat of the matter, the burgers.

The meat filled the bun and  was thick enough to cook to order. We were happy with that, skinny burgers are for fast food places. Medium rare should not be a matter of interpretation. They hit it just right. The meat was fresh and juicy. The buns were fresh and warm. It should be noted that they offer a gluten free bun option, a potato bun, or a lettuce wrap with a small up charge.

Just after we sat, the family next to us had their meals served. There were some issues with a dietary restriction and amends had to be made. Mom was a little stern and bordered on harsh in her demeanor but the staff handled a somewhat difficult situation very well. When all was said and done junior was happy.

Welcome to Salem A & B Burgers, you have found your stride and we at Salem Food Digest designate you as “The Best Jailhouse Burger In Essex County”.

We will be back, that “Mr. Butler” Burger is calling our name


SFD POL: Where do you go for your burger? ANSWER IN THE COMMENTS


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Salem Food Digest - KOTO Grill - Japanese Grill & Sushi Lounge

A Fresh Look For A Washington Street Tradition

By The BaldOne

90 Washington Street, across from City Hall is a spot that has housed a restaurant in one form or another going back to the 1970’s.

Those of you of a certain age will remember when Mike Purcell had a seafood and burger joint there. They did a fairly good business. Afterwards it morphed into a Burger King for a few years. Yes Virginia, there was a BK, and even a small McDonalds in downtown Salem. 

Where do you get sushi on the Northshore?
— Leave your answer in the comments

For a few years it was home to The Red Raven’s Havana, a spin-off of the unique Love Noodle on Congress Street.

More recently it has been home, under a few different ownerships to Bangkok Paradise, whose recent infamy overshadows what was once a solid and long-standing reputation.

The recent opening of Koto – Japanese Grill & Sushi Lounge has brought a long needed breath of fresh air to the local Asian Cuisine scene.

Visiting on a Thursday night we found a busy bar and a developing dining room crowd. The decor hasn’t changed. Some additional lighting and a karaoke set-up are the main changes. It’s a shame that a previous owner sanded all of the original artwork from the bar top.

A Sapporo beer was our selection to sip on as we parsed the menu. The selections are tight with some creative sushi and sashimi options. They offer white rice, brown rice, and  whole grain rice as sides.

We were offered a non-menu item called Spicy Tuna on Crispy Cracker. They are trying this offering out to see what people think of it. The taste was fresh and the texture perfect with the salted, crunchy cracker bringing a nice variation to the experience.

A small bowl of Miso Soup was served warm. It was good with a cloudy slightly salty broth, but we have had better.

Steamed Gyoza was next up. We selected the meat filled but they do offer a vegetable option. It was steamed perfectly and served warm. The dough was chewy but not tough, and the meat had a nice mellow spiciness.

If you really love your sushi and have a sense of daring and adventure, ask for the Chef’s Choice. He will choose five different items for you to include a sashimi. The presentation is basic, but attractive. To step it up a little the Sushi or Sashimi Deluxe look well worth the effort.

The highlight of the night was a Filet Mignon Carpaccio, strips of fresh raw filet served in a avipanca sauce with scallions and cucumber strips. If we had asked for that first, we may have ended up ordering a second round.

Koto Salem served us the best meal we have had since beginning this venture, they have earned,

The Salem Food Digest’s “We Can’t Wait To Go Back” designation.


KOTO Grill & Sushi Lounge

90 Washington Street 

Salem MA 01970