EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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April 22, 2008

At 'boutique' restaurants, the cuisine is unique

Diners looking for a change of pace from cookie-cutter chain restaurants can turn to small, independent, local eateries — often called boutique restaurants — that offer distinctive menus, often ethnic.

"I think people are doing that; we definitely have the client base that continues to come in and visit us," said Tina Rimal, co-owner of The Hot Nepali, offering Nepalese cuisine at 42 Merrimack St. in Haverhill. "People are looking for good food, a good deal and some light entertainment."

And the best of the boutique eateries are finding that their unique atmosphere and cuisine can help them ride out a slow economy.

"Overall, we're doing well," said Joseph Najjar, owner of Mazaj, a Lebanese restaurant at 5 Ayers Village Road in Methuen. "People still go out and eat. They have to go out."

Here are some of the local boutique restaurants:

r The Black Water Grill, 43 Pelham Road, Salem, N.H.: Casual dining paired with fabulous food and a warm decor make for a unique dining experience. The seafood and pasta dishes always win rave reviews, and their Banana Berries Foster is legendary.

r Evenfall, Route 125, Haverhill: The eclectic restaurant with a reputation for its martinis recently started its "Roasting Hot Sundays" — a family-style dinner format featuring two roasted meats, three side dishes and salad.

r Marabu Cafe, 22 Union St., Lawrence: Sit outside this restaurant in its wonderful flower garden surrounded by bamboo torches and it won't be difficult to see why its so popular. Local favorites on the menu include a signature salad and crab cakes.

r AntiquiTeas Tea Room, Route 28, Londonderry, N.H.: At this cozy eatery, tea is served by the pot — enclosed in a beautiful tea cozy. It's a great place to savor your food, and perhaps browse a gift shop afterward.

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