By Tom Donaldson
Atlantic News, Thursday, March 21, 1995
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]
[Atlantic News Photo by Tom Donaldson]
HAMPTON -- Rich with ocean artifacts, The Old Salt Eating and Drinking Place, Ocean Boulevard, Hampton Beach, is a year round institution for its customers. In the beach season, Old Salt is jammed full of vacationers day and night, seven days a week. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily during the "season" and the entertainment is usually seven days a week. Matt and Howard entertainers have been at Old Salt for over five years now and they delight all of the customers with everything from rock music, to Irish and folk sing-along.
When the summer ends, Joe Higgins, owner of the Old Salt, says, "We are always glad to see our off season customers return." And return they do, when the restaurant is not packed with vacationers, the regulars are there - and, in fact, there is usually a short wait for a table on Friday and Saturday nights. There are always specials and the local diners flock in for Friday night lobster and all-you-can-eat fish fry. Customers consume several hundred pounds of fish on Fridays. Some customers claim that the moderately priced local lobster is the best they have eaten. For the non-seafood folks (they couldn't be New Englanders!), there are several steaks and prime rib at moderate prices.
While Joe is the owner/manager, the restaurant is a family affair. Joe's mother, Nancy, also manages; his wife, Kathy, works with the wait staff; sister Kathy runs the bar; and brother Mike is in charge of the kitchen - and his wife comes in four or five nights a week. "Almost all of our wait staff has been with us a long time and is known to the customers," said Joe. "When a chair is broken or repair needs to be done, I do it; that is one reason we have been so successful."
Customers who return time and again, never fail to be fascinated by the seacoast village model on the back wall of the restaurant. It is handmade, and was put together with wooden dowels and the many small items that the family has collected over the years. The other fascination is the two 135-gallon fish tanks, one salt water and one fresh, full of exotic coral and beautiful fish. All of the coral has been collected by owner Joe Higgins, on diving expeditions in the islands.
In each of the eight years that Higgins has owned the restaurant, he has made improvements. This past summer, Joe's office was removed from the back dining room and a window and extra tables were added. The kitchen was painted, the floor was coated with epoxy, and more storage room was added. "Our business has improved each year," says Joe. "We aren't one of the places who close down in the fall and open in the summer, regardless of the conditions in the place," he concluded.
[Atlantic News Photo by McGee]