Friday, April 3, 2015

Harbor Cafe is a Detour Worth Taking

harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer amero

harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer ameroMy new agency gig has a totally different focus and client base than the B2C luxury and hospitality work I've been into for most of my career. My days are spent working some very cool clients with much bigger marketing budgets, but with no focus on sustenance, at least not yet.  I love, love, love my job but I do miss setting up wine dinners and blogger nights and designing menus and creating loyalty programs just a little bit. 

So  I was particularly interested in the opportunity to do some promotion and design work for this amazing local breakfast and lunch spot that suffered a devastating blow exactly one day before opening. This one is totally my kind of project.

harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer ameroHere's the unfortunate situation, and the motivation for this article (that and some of the best food I have ever eaten, seriously).  Harbor Cafe in Danvers, MA opened on December 5.  On December 4 the bridge that passes by the venue's door, under repair when the property was being prepared to open, was deemed dangerous and abruptly and completely closed for months with a promise to be partially open in  6 months, with another 4
years to be fully functioning. The closure has erased all drive-by traffic to the tune of 40,000 cars weekly for a projected four years. Harbor Cafe's customer base vanished with the road, before their doors had even opened.  

Now, that may have crushed many owners and caused them to cut and run, but what's unique about Harbor Cafe, aside from incredible scratch cooking and baking, is it's owner and her ability to overcome difficulties again and again. 
harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer amero

You see, owner Ariana Musabelli's story is a colorful one, one that always lands her on her feet, in the kitchen, making bread, and cannolli.

Originally from Albania, Ariana was an optician in Europe. Arriving in America 22 years ago, she first needed to learn the language in order to practice in her field of optometry. Upon mastering the language, another road block appeared. Medical law required that she go back to school for optometry before practicing in the United States. So back to college she went, for a repeat degree in optometry, which she completed. Ariana isn't intimidated by obstacles.
harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer amero

And speaking of obstacles, and the fruits of a good personal challenge, one of Ariana's biggest disappointments upon arriving in the US, aside from the language and the obstacles of re-entering the work force was the processed cuisine. "Everything tasted different. I couldn't find food that tasted real. So I started making my own yogurt and my own bread".

A need to recreate the flavors of home inspired Ariana's culinary education and planted the seed for her path to today. "I'm self taught. It's just me and the books."

harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer ameroAnd after moving back and forth in and out of optics and a brief stint in real estate, opening and selling 2 other successful north shore eateries, Ariana has
given in to her love of cooking and found her home at the Harbor Cafe in Danvers, MA. 

Harbor Cafe is a once-and-regular situation. You eat here once, you become a regular. The food is so flavorful, the dishes just so meticulously balanced that the same items served elsewhere will be a let down. And so, you'll be back.  

Ariana spends endless hours baking homemade breads and sweets to compliment her
harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer ameroscrumptious breakfast and lunch offerings all made with the freshest ingredients. Her love of food and of serving her regulars is infectious and her warmth as palpable in her greeting as in her culinary creations, "I love my regulars. And once they come in they become regulars. Harbor Cafe is like coming home"

From comfort food to healthy choices, you can't miss when you eat here. My favorites are the veggie panini and the panini Genovese, there's just something about the homemade pesto and the melty buffalo mozzarella that tastes like happiness. The Chicken Parmesan is another go-to dish and serves enough to guarantee leftovers which is always a win in my book.
harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer amero

And speaking of size, be sure to ask for a box if you DO get full, because Harbor  Cafe also offers gelato, cannolli, homemade donuts and all sorts of other scratch baked sweet treats, and you definitely want to save room for dessert.

So I'd like to introduce my readers to Harbor Cafe, a culinary gem in the world of lunch counter simplicity. It's a bit of a circuitous trip, with the Liberty Street Bridge under construction, but I assure you, it is worth making your way. We manage to incorporate it into somebody's errands almost weekly to have a reason to run from Saugus to Danvers to grab lunch for the team. Ariana loves making beautiful food. We love eating it. The drive is just an extra 10 minutes to get hungry.

The Yelp reviews are some of the most consistently exuberantly positive I've ever seen. Even the coffee is the best around according to commuters who felt strongly enough about good java to yelp that. Everything at Harbor Cafe is THAT GOOD.

harbor cafe danvers on 90 seconds and velvet by jennifer ameroAriana sums it up best, that undeniably special taste that comes from food made with soul and heart, "Making good food takes time. But it is worth it. I love it. I love making people happy. That's my pleasure."

Harbor Cafe is located at 
125 Liberty St, Danvers, MA 01923 
Hours: Mon-Sat 6-3PM and Sunday 6-2PM
Website by Jake Haynes at Maximum Media

Their brand new website
(by Jake Haynes at Maximum Media)

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