Salem’s first rooftop bar touts strong drink, simple food and stellar views

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Shelley A. Sackett

Salem has no shortage of special summer attractions and activities.

From recreating at Salem Willows Park and Winter Island to enjoying the Essex Street Fair and Jazz and Soul, Salem Maritime and Salem Arts Festivals, there seems to be something happening every day guaranteed to suit almost every taste and age.

And, as of last month, those who crave a lively seasonal bar with a 360-degree view perched atop a snazzy new downtown hotel can have their specific summertime itch scratched too, with the opening of Salem’s first rooftop bar, aptly and simply named “The Roof.”

Casual high-top tables and plush banquette seating lend the bar a trendy, urban air that suits the slick retro décor of the hotel below. Although The Roof can accommodate 85 guests seated and an additional 150 more standing, its 18-seat rectangular bar fills quickly, especially on balmy, clear summer evenings and weekends.

Offering a casual menu of Mexican small plates and views of downtown Salem (and a sliver of a glimpse of the harbor), The Roof is above Salem’s newest hotel, The Hotel Salem, at 209 Essex Street. Its wood-paneled exterior walls, turquoise and lime green color scheme and live greenery produce the feeling of a hip, vibrant and modern outdoor space.

Glass barricades provide safety without compromising the views and a seasonal heating system will keep patrons toasty as summer fades to fall and Salem’s notoriously busy Halloween season. A retractable awning creates shade over the bar area.

Executive Chef Justin Perdue has created a menu of traditional and composed oysters, ceviche, six taco dishes and three inventive guacamole preparations designed for sharing. Recent standouts include Pork Belly Guacamole, Marinated Flank Steak Tacos with dates, pickled mushrooms and farmer’s cheese, and Roasted Eggplant Tacos.

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The small plates complement The Roof’s cocktail program that boasts three rotating seasonal cocktails on tap, fresh house-made frozen Frosé (frozen rosé), sangria and the usual craft beers and wine by the glass and bottle.

 

So far, the Frosé and various guacamole offerings have been the most popular items. To keep up with the volume, The Roof plans to buy another Frosé machine. As for guacamole, “we can go through 50-60 avocados on a busy day!” Perdue exclaimed.

He admits that managing The Roof’s wait list has been difficult. “During peak times we can have a wait list of almost two hours and hundreds of people. Once people get up there, they are happy and enjoy the atmosphere, but we’re still working to find a balance between turning tables quickly and inviting people to lounge around and relax,” he said. “It’s a fortunate position to be in.”

Nonetheless, Perdue said overall response to the rooftop bar has been strong and positive. “We have been busy since day one. When we opened in June, the amount of people who immediately went out of their way to visit really blew us away,” he said.

Although The Roof has no special events planned for this summer, Perdue said he looks forward to exploring different programs in seasons to come. He also plans to add more tables and chairs to accommodate more guests and “hopefully bring the waitlist down.”

In the meantime, those anxious to check out Salem’s first rooftop bar are advised to come early and bring plenty of patience.

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