The Old Salt Eating and Drinking Place: A Hampton Landmark

A Hampton Landmark

By Mike Bisceglia

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, May 11, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene.]
The family has managed to keep the Old Salt Restaurant, Hampton landmark, a fresh and delightful experience for each and every patron on each and every visit.
The Old Salt's lunchtime motley crew (R-L): Brad Durbin, Michelle O'Brien, Gladys Mitchell, Judy Perkins, Maureen Mazurkiewicz, Samatha Bowley, Chris, Mondello, Mike Higgins, Jane Lee, Sarah Powers, Joe Higgins, Katie DiComes, and Cris Barnes.

It takes a certain kind of magic to keep love strong and vital for over a quarter century. The Higgins family still has it, and it shows. The family has managed to keep the Old Salt Restaurant, a Hampton landmark, a fresh and delightful experience for each and every patron on each and every visit.

The original Old Salt, meaning "Old Sailor", was a guesthouse on J Street at Hampton Beach. Nancy Higgins, the proprietor, purchased and named the establishment in 1976. Originally from Southborough, Massachusetts, Nancy and her family spent numerous summers at Hampton Beach before deciding to call Hampton home.

In 1986, Nancy purchased the Corona House, a small restaurant located at 83 Ocean Boulevard. She promptly renamed the establishment The Old Salt Eating & Drinking Place. The Higgins family greatly improved the establishment, and the restaurant quickly gained a reputation for great food and a comfortable atmosphere. On June 16, 1999, tragedy struck. A fire started on the building next door and quickly claimed the Old Salt and numerous other businesses. Some 200 firemen from 23 communities were called in to fight the inferno. Fortunately, no lives were lost, but the fire brought an abrupt end to The Old Salt. . . at least for the moment. The family immediately rebounded, and opened for business in the Whale's Tale, located in the Hampton Beach Casino Complex, only two weeks later.

On February 21, 2001, the family purchased Lamie's Inn, located in downtown Hampton. Lamie's, originally a home built in 1740, was the perfect setting for the new Old Salt. On March 28, 2001, the restaurant opened for business. The nautical theme of the restaurant and bar area, coupled with the colonial décor of the Inn, was the perfect match.

Over the years, Lamie's Inn and the Old Salt Restaurant have attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world. Locals and celebrities have found the Higgins family hospitality to be genuinely warm and inviting.

"We do all that we can to make our guests feel comfortable and welcome," said now-owner, Mike Higgins. "I can often be found visiting our patrons at their tables. Their smiles are genuine, and I know they are certainly pleased with the service they receive here."

Nancy Higgins passed away three years ago, but the tradition of providing true hospitality and quality food and beverages still live on with Mike and his wife Liz, brother Joe and his wife Karen, and sister Kathi Taylor. Nancy's grandchildren, Tanya, Katrina, Morgan, Karsan, Jake, Andre, and Garrett are training for the future.

"We want to provide all who visit here with a terrific experience," said Kathi, "but we can't do it alone. There are 90 people on our regular staff, and it grows to over 120 during the summers. We really believe that our staff is our family. They do all they can to make our guests feel as though they have been invited to a special occasion in their honor."

"I really love it here," said Tatiana Tureatca. "I came from Russia in 2005. I became an American citizen and began working here immediately. Mike and the rest of the Higgins family know I don't return to visit my family in Russia very often, so I have become part of the family here. All of us who work here are family!"

Ellen Cyr, a waitress of 10 years from Newmarket, knows she is appreciated. "The Higgins family values us. All of us here feel it. They recognize the service we provide, and they let us know. Do I love it here? You bet!"

"I've been at the Old Salt for seven years," said Pam Saulnier. "I just know I love everything about the Old Salt. Certainly, the Higgins family is tremendous, but the customers are just top-notch. They love the all-you-can-eat fish and chips, our anniversary specials, Sunday brunch, and even our own canned clam chowder. This is a home to me. This is family."

"This anniversary is a special occasion for us," said Mike. "It's not everyday that a business can celebrate 25 years in existence. And, with today's economy, that speaks volumes. We do have some special anniversary festivities being planned. There will be more information coming out on those events soon."

The Old Salt. . . come for the food and feel the magic!

Tatiana Tureatca feels she is a part of the Old Salt family.
Pam Saulnier finds the Old Salt very accommodating ... a perfect place to work.
Ellen Cyr, a 10-year veteran of the Old Salt, enjoys the atmosphere and camaraderie.