The Boston area is central to early American history, so it's should come as no surprise that our region is full of eerie folklore and ghost stories — even in establishments where the only scientifically confirmed spirits are in cocktails. 'Tis the season for creepy tales, so we gathered up info on a handful of restaurants that are worth a visit for the dinner service alone, but also double as purported haunts. And we're not talking about the barflies.
Many stories surround Liberty Hotel, a high-end property inhabiting the former Charles Street Jail, where conditions were so poor that in 1973 the jail was declared unfit and in violation of prisoners' constitutional rights; it still took nearly 20 years to move the last inmate elsewhere. Confessed "Boston Strangler" Albert DeSalvo was among the those held here; we wonder if he's a spirit responsible for eerie activity like the sudden clanging of pots and pans that chef Alex Pineda of Scampo, Lydia Shire's on-site restaurant, has encountered. "I hightailed it out of there as fast as I could," recalls Pineda. "Since then, I try not to work in the kitchen by myself late at night.”
Must-try: Go for seasonally appropriate sugar pumpkin ravioli with burnt mini-marshmallows, sage and toasted pepitas.
215 Charles St.; 617-536-2100
Courtesy of Brian Samuels Photography/Turner's Seafood
Salem is a popular destination this time of year (check out our look at where to eat here), and this seafood favorite is actually a stop on several spooky walking tours. Why? Turner's is housed inside historic Lyceum Hall, where Alexander Bell made the first public demonstration of the telephone, but the building is supposedly built over the site where Bridget Bishop, the first person hanged in the 1692 witch trials, had an apple orchard. Creepy happenings, including unexplained whiffs of apple, have haunted the spot for years, and the space was even featured on the SyFy network's show “Ghost Hunters."
Must-try: Sip on The Bishop, an apple-based cocktail, while digging in to classic Newfoundland finnan haddie, haddock baked in a pearl onion au gratin sauce.
43 Church St.; 978-745-7665
The Sun Tavern
This cozy and character-filled restaurant in Duxbury hath no shame in its spectral associations; it even highlights tales of its supposed resident ghost on the menu. The building was originally constructed in 1741, but it was the 1928 suicide of former owner Lysander Walker that gave rise to its haunted reputation. Proprietors have told the press about strange goings-on, like the sound of banging pots and pans coming from the closed, empty kitchen. Police once responded to a 911 call placed from an unused upstairs pay phone; when they arrived, the only person in the building was the restaurant's confused owner, who claimed he never made that call.
Must-try: The bone-in 16 oz. cowboy ribeye, a rich cut topped with blue cheese, candied pecans and demi-glace, and served with mashed potatoes hiding sweet, soft garlic cloves.
500 Congress St., Duxbury; 781-837-1027
This Stanhope Street restaurant and nightspot is set in what used to be a carriage house and horse stable used by the Boston's elite blue-blood families. Its current proprietors say that paranormal phenomenon began during renovations, when mysterious shadows, sudden chills, crashing noises and apparitions of a man in a vintage gray suit started to spook the staff.
Must-try: The elevated bar fare, particularly duck confit sliders with balsamic onion and black pepper aioli.
33 Stanhope St.; 617-723-3131
As America's oldest continuously operating hotel, the Omni Parker House Hotel — birthplace of the Boston cream pie — obviously has a lot of history to it. There are plenty of happy memories, of course; for instance, it was at Table 40 in Parker's Restaurant where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier. But it's also one of Boston's most legendary haunted landmarks. The ghost of founder Harvey Parker and other bygone "guests" in period garb, as well as strange, orb-like glowing lights, have reportedly been glimpsed, and the elevator is known to frequently call itself to the third floor: where Charles Dickens lived when writing A Christmas Carol. Perhaps a tribute to Halloween would be more appropriate?
Must-try: Besides a slice of the famous pie that got its start here? Dive into iron skillet scallops with sweet pea puree, polenta and bacon.
60 School St.; 617-725-1600
The Ginger Man
How do you keep a specter satisfied? But them a round of beer, of course. According to Alex Silberstein, director of operations for the Ginger Man, a 90-draft craft beer paradise in Boston's Downtown, the property's paranormal activity has caused several staff members to separately report weird happenings — like unattended bottles moving when they were alone after-hours. The team tapped a medium to conduct a seance, and she said the spirit was named Sarah, a former employee of a liquor store that once inhabited the space. So for a weeks afterward, the Ginger Man staff left beer flights out in the basement as a neighborly offering.
Must-try: All that bier pairs well with a sausage platter of bratwurst and andouille, accompanied by accoutrement like potato salad, braised red cabbage and sauerkraut.
148 State St.; 617-936-4241
A haunted restaurant in Salem? Act surprised. The "Witch City" has many supposed haunts, but popular tavern Rockefellas is among the most notorious. It's home to the infamous "Blue Lady," supposedly the phantom of an employee who died when the building was Daniel Low & Co., a pioneering 1826-built department store. The building was also a church, which may explain sightings of a black-suited minister, and underground tunnels (now filled with concrete) once connected the site to other buildings around downtown Salem; some of them were used as part of the Underground Railroad, leading to ghostly rumors that unsuccessful escaped slaves were buried there.
Must-try: It's all about the comfort food, including one of our favorite buffalo chicken wraps in Salem.
231 Essex St., Salem; 978-745-2411
Courtesy of Brian Samuels Photography/PARK
PARK Restaurant & Bar
Owner Patrick Lee vouches that this Harvard Square entry from the Grafton Group (the team behind spots like Russell House Tavern and State Street Provisions), has eerie entities attached to it. It wouldn't exactly be surprising: PARK is housed inside a space that was once part of the Newtowne Market jail, where some accused New England witches were housed while awaiting trial in the 1600s. Reports of poltergeist activity have bedeviled the place ever since, and Lee recalls instances small (moved items and rearranged paperwork) and large — like liquor bottles sent crashing to the floor.
Must-try: The "trio of toasts" is on our list of must-try fall dishes.
59 JFK St., Cambridge; 617-491-9851
There's something paranormal at this poutine destination by Faneuil Hall, says co-owner Tanya Kropinicki. She claims she's among those who have seen a shadowy ghost in the space, now nicknamed "Larry." He sounds like a jokester with very particular taste in beer: Kropinicki says that when she arrives in the morning, Larry always moves the same bottle of Lagunitas beer from its position on a bar display; she replaces it in a different spot, to make sure the movement is unconnected to a structural quirk of the shelf. She also recalls receiving a phone call with no one on the line; when she Googled the caller ID number, it belonged to a funeral home.
Must-try: Besides the poutine, we love the kimchi fried chicken sandwich.
33 Union St.; 617-248-8835
Longfellow's Wayside Inn
This rustic restaurant in the suburb of Sudbury is famous for a few reasons. Open since 1716, it's the oldest operating inn in the country, was once owned by Henry Ford, and has counted Calvin Coolidge and Thomas Edison among its famous guests. It also inspired visitor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's book Takes of a Wayside Inn. Today's guests eat up the haunted lore that surrounds the space — especially rooms 9 and 10, the epicenter of activity. Those were the rooms occupied by Jerusha Howe, a heartbroken spinster and sister of the innkeeper, who died in 1842. It's said if you listen closely, you can still hear her mournful piano playing over the clink of forks and knives.
Must-try: The hearty New England cuisine has plenty of great surf, like an indulgent lobster casserole with sherry and cracker crust, and turf, including the 16-ounce "innkeeper's cut" of prime rib.
72 Wayside Inn Rd., Sudbury; 978-443-1776