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Best New England Restaurant

The winner and runners-up for Best Place to Dine in New England are...

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What is New England's ultimate dining experience? The finalists for this New England Travel Readers' Choice Award ranged from casual seafood spots to elegant and much-acclaimed dining destinations.

The winner and runners-up for Best Restaurant in New England are...

1. ***Winner*** Woodman's of Essex

Fried Clams at Woodman's of Essex
© 2007 Kim Knox Beckius
Woodman's of Essex is where fried clams were invented, and connoisseurs of clams know there's no better place than this Massachusetts North Shore eatery to feast on fried clams and tender whole bellies, too! Woodman's isn't fancy, but the seafood prepared here has wowed generations of customers. More than 50 members of the Woodman family still sustain the business, which traces its origins to Chubby Woodman's fateful decision to throw clams into his potato chip fryer in 1916. It's a true New England success story. And so is Woodman's victory in this hotly contested award category.

2. Salem Cross Inn

Salem Cross Inn
Photo courtesy of the Salem Cross Inn
The Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, is a fascinating place to dine and a quintessentially New England experience. The colonial structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to the only known operating Roasting Jack: a circa 1700 device for roasting beef, game and fowl over an open hearth. And baked goods are prepared in a 1699 beehive oven! Menus feature classic New England dishes, and diners in search of a truly memorable meal flock here for Fireplace Feasts on select dates in the winter and early spring.

3. White Barn Inn

Salmon Dish at White Barn Inn - Finest Restaurant in New England
© 2008 Kim Knox Beckius
If you haven't been to the White Barn Inn, my photo tour may convince you that dinner at this highly acclaimed Kennebunk Beach, Maine, restaurant should be on your bucket list. The elegantly rustic restaurant is one of only two Forbes 5-Star restaurants north of Manhattan and a AAA Five Diamond honoree for 20 straight years.

4. Simon Pearce Restaurant

Renowned Irish designer and craftsman Simon Pearce established his workshop in a restored woolen mill in Quechee, Vermont, in 1981. It's still a destination for shoppers who want to observe artisans at work and purchase Pearce's fine glassware, dinnerware and other beautiful creations. But the restaurant on-site has become an equally alluring draw. Chef Jerod Rockwell and his team prepare elegant fare with fresh local ingredients, and it is served on fine Simon Pearce china in a one-of-a-kind New England setting, overlooking a covered bridge and waterfall.

5. Petey's Summertime Seafood

Contrary to its name, Petey's Summertime Seafood is open year-round in Rye, New Hampshire, across the street from the beach. And yes, they have a helipad if you want to copter in for fresh seafood and salty air! Most folks drive, though, of course, to this popular eatery with an oceanview deck. At Petey's, they're proud that they catch their own lobsters, and other menu favorites include fried clams and sea scallops.

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