I dine out for work quite a bit.
Rarely do I bring my spawn with me, though—save the time I dragged Peter to a few tiki bars before he started day care.
Andy is now too picky, and Peter’s most adventurous cuisine is sweet potato puree.
That said, when I wrote about Adea’s Mediterranean Kitchen opening in Salem a few months ago, my editor thought it would be nice to bring my kids and report back with an informal review. It’s the area’s first kosher restaurant, and owner David Winer, formerly a chef in Israel, is a dad himself. So I packed my intrepid crew, husband in tow, and we headed north to Salem. Andy, separated from his iPad and He-Men for a few precious hours, thought I was a witch indeed.
So here’s the deal: There is no atmosphere. There are six tables and a few stools against two counters. No pictures on the walls, save for a few black-and-white sketches, including one of a dog with red laser-beam eyes, which hypnotized Andy. There are a few little scooters in the back of the restaurant, the perfect vehicle for pint-sized guests to bulldoze larger customers’ feet. (Apologies to the guy in the thick glasses and the hoodie who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.) Yes, there are high chairs. No, there aren’t changing tables, but the bathrooms are big enough to apply an efficient diaper on a mat. Street parking isn’t too bad.
Order from a counter, either off a laminated menu or from a roster of chalkboard specials. Everything is vegetarian and kosher, and most items are vegan and gluten-free.
We went on a Sunday, so there was shakshuka (eggs poached in stewed tomato sauce), a weekend special. Also on special: lentil veggie soup with squash, carrots, fennel and spinach; couscous salad with avocado, green onion, tomato, carrots, radishes, herbs and mixed greens; and hot hummus with fava beans. The most comprehensive way to try the regular menu is via an Adea’s sampler with hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, falafel and a pita.
My husband and Andy opted for the falafel sandwich with a hefty side of fries (another daily special). My husband loved the pita’s texture: chewy, vaguely crisp at the edges, and light. The six or so falafel balls were excellent, too, light and fluffy where so many are leaden and over-fried. They were drizzled with a bit of tahini and offset by Israeli salad, lending a bit of crunch. Unlike lesser, soggier pitas, this one held its own.
Andy was a harsher critic. Poor child had never tried falafel before. The texture alarmed him, and he was put off by the tahini. Nonetheless, the fries were “good” and he “really liked the bun.” (That would be the pita.)
I opted for the lentil soup special, generously accompanied by a side of rice, perfect for sopping it all up. The consistency was porridge-like and the bowl was big, with several chunks of squash and carrot, and some earthy strands of spinach. It was rich and flavorful, just the thing if you have a pleasant illness, though the advertised fennel was undetectable. The Israeli salad would brighten any Instagram feed: finely chopped tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, purple cabbage, chickpeas and geometrically drizzled tahini. I was able to down about a quarter of it. Portions are big!
We got bottled Poland Spring, but there were several varieties of soda in a cooler, plus coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, and a house-blend herbal tea.
For dessert, Andy requested chocolate bonbons, another special.
The service is sweet but a tad slow, and the cashier wasn’t sure if they were available, despite their chalkboard status. Someone in the back quickly corrected her, and we were assured that our bonbons would arrive forthwith.
I pictured warm, sticky balls of goo. Instead we got something resembling Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins rolled in coconut. Oh, well: Andy ate two of the four, then returned to his scooter. My husband polished off another.
All in all, a very pleasant place, and kosher, so it fills a niche. Prices were very fair (well under $10) and there were plenty of other boisterous families to drown out Peter’s whinnying. I’d go back to try the baba ghanoush and the grape leaves, and I’ll probably stick to one entree next time (I ended up taking most of my salad to go).
That said, Andy will probably stick to pizza and chicken nuggets for the time being.
“Three out of four stars,” said my husband.
“Pretty good. Um, what else do you want me to say?” asked Andy.
“Waaaahhh!” added Peter.
In sum, a successful outing. And to the guy whose feet were crushed by Andy’s rogue scooter: Falafel on us next time.