HAVERHILL — The Route 125 strip near the Plaistow line is well known for its many restaurants. Now even more eateries are planned for this busy area, including one with a cult-like following.
Not only are new restaurants moving in, but one longtime establishment has undergone a major remodeling, including the installation of a patio for outdoor dining.
A new 110 Grill is poised to open in August at 1175 Plaistow Road, opposite the McDonald's restaurant, while a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Five Guys was planned for Friday morning at 89 Plaistow Road, which is opposite Uno Pizzeria and Grill and adjacent to the Haffner's gas and car wash.
"This is our second restaurant zone in the city and it's booming," said Mayor James Fiorentini. "We are thrilled to have Five Guys as our newest addition, and we love the upgrades to Mr. Mike's, including the outdoor seating, which is a great addition that really spruces up the front of the restaurant."
City officials say there's a chance that other new restaurants might be part of the Five Guys complex, but that no plans have been approved yet.
Five Guys, a worldwide restaurant chain based in Virginia, is known for its burgers, which are made to order using fresh ground beef.
This trendy burger chain with a cult-like following is also known for its french fries, which are fresh cut daily and cooked in pure peanut oil, according to the company's website. Step into any Five Guys and you'll encounter sacks of potatoes and a sign indicating where they were grown.
William Pillsbury, the city's economic and development director, said Five Guys received its approvals from the city, including foundation permits.
"There's machinery and equipment up there so we anticipate they will begin construction immediately," he said.
"This is a continued positive investment environment that developers are responding to," Pillsbury added.
Pillsbury said the concentration of restaurants along Main Street and Plaistow Road can be attributed to the type of zoning and a high traffic volume.
"With the 110 Grill and now the Five Guys, the city welcomes commercial investment as it contributes to jobs and taxes," he said, noting that the 110 Grill and Five Guys are being built on some of the last remaining commercial locations available along that stretch of Route 125.
He said another restaurant, a roast beef business, plans to open at the Haffner's store next to the gas station and car wash.
"The opportunity to see different types of restaurants is always exciting, as it allows our residents and others in the area to have different types of dining experiences," Pillsbury said.
In an effort to keep up with the times, the popular Mr. Mike's Restaurant at 1149 Main St. underwent the biggest renovation project in its 42-year history.
"We remodeled the entire restaurant," said owner Mike Difeo. "And we added a patio on the front, with outdoor dining."
Other changes include the addition of 10 more taps for craft beers, bringing the total to 16. Difeo said he rotates his craft beers weekly.
"People love trying out new beers, which seems to be the rave right now," he said. "We also added more flat screen TVs as we have a large sports crowd at the bar. And when we remodeled our dining room, we added more windows to bring in more natural light."
Difeo says the addition of new restaurants to this stretch of Route 125 will draw new business to the area.
"Business draws business," he said. "I think the new 110 Grill will bring more people to the area, and hopefully they'll notice Mr. Mike's as we're at a much lower price point. And maybe our customers will try them out."
The 110 Grill in Haverhill is currently hiring on-site for servers, bartenders, hosts, line cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers and other positions.
Difeo doesn't see other restaurants as being his competition.
"It's not a big rivalry," Difeo said. "A variety of restaurants brings a wider diversity of people coming to this area. They might think they want a steak but end up wanting a veal cutlet or a pizza at Mr. Mike's, as we're known for our Italian as well as our seafood."
Just over the Plaistow line is newcomer Moe's Southwest Grill at 5 Plaistow Road.
The Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce took part in the restaurant's grand opening this week. Moe's caters to meat lovers and vegetarians from kids to adults, chamber officials said.
Haverhill's downtown restaurant scene is poised to welcome a new restaurant as well.
Pillsbury said the Hidden Pig plans to open at the site of the former Blue Finn Grille at 128 Washington St. The business advertises on Facebook that it specializes in "burgers, beer and bacon."
"We don't have that particular genre of cooking in the downtown," Pillsbury said. "It's a good reuse of the space and the more diversity you have makes it easier for the downtown to become a dining destination. This is what diversity brings you."
He said the owners of the Hidden Pig have not applied for permits or a liquor license yet.