Turner’s Seafood At Salem’s Lyceum Hall

Turner's seafood

It was only a matter of time, I’ve been lucky so far but someday your number is eventually called. You guessed right…..

….I got selected for jury duty.

After so many years of not even getting the dreaded envelope in the mail, I assumed my misspent youth had made me ineligible. Nope, I guess I was just lucky. So on a cold winter day I made the morning trek to Salem (AKA the witch city) to sit for several hours until we were all dismissed…right in time for lunch!

In Salem you can’t walk two feet without stumbling into history: From the infamous witch trials, to the glory days of the China trade, the collections at PEM and much more. On this day, as I headed back toward the parking garage I decided to check out a highly regarded seafood restaurant: Turner’s Seafood located in the old Salem Lyceum Hall.

Salem Lyceum Hall

The Salem Lyceum Hall is where in 1877, Alexander Graham Bell first demonstrated the long-distance telephone call, contacting his assistant Watson in Boston. Even though I don’t believe Bell invented the telephone (it wasn’t Elisha Gray either, it was this guy), this event was the true start of modern telecommunications. Recently restored, the Lyceum is now home to Turner’s, which also has a few other locations, including a pretty good fish market in my hometown of Gloucester.

I was cold, I was hungry and although I’m trying to get back on the low FODMAP diet after the holidays, I felt I deserved something good without restrictions.

Turner's seafood lyceum hall interior

The interior was warm and cozy thanks to a roaring fire and remnants of Christmas decorations. I sat in the dining room next to the fire but before sitting I took a few shots of the interior including the small fish market at the main counter. Within a few minutes the place filled up for lunch and my beer was waiting.

First up on that chilly day was the lobster bisque, which was creamy, rich and packed with lobster flavor. I love a good bisque and I don’t get all caught up in how many lobster chunks are in my cup. I’ve had bisques loaded with lobster chunks that were almost flavorless, and I’ve had some that were completely strained and were intensely flavorful.

Turner's Lobster Bisque

Turner’s lobster bisque fell somewhere in the middle: lots of lobster flavor that was not dulled by the creaminess and I got bits of lobster meat in nearly every spoonful. It cost a little more than the clam chowder, but it was worth it.

As I was finishing the bisque my fried oyster po’ boy came out and it was a winner: A two-hander sandwich featuring a pile of fresh fried oysters, bacon, lettuce, tomato with spicy mayo on a nice soft, but lightly grilled sub roll.

First off, oysters and bacon are a match made in heaven, (maybe that’s why that old recipe is called “angels on horseback”) but what makes it even better is when the oysters are fresh. I’ve fried my share of oysters in local restaurants back in the day and while the quality was always high, they do lose something as the shift goes on. These must have been shucked shortly before I ordered because they literally popped with juicy, briny, oyster goodness.

Fried Oyster Po Boy

The po’ boy was excellent, but very rich. Thankfully Turner’s has a fresh and bright diced coleslaw with some crunch that helped cut the richness and let me continue with the sandwich. Oh and the fries were good too…

This lunch, honestly did a number on me. It was so good I kept eating past my new limit. One thing about radically changing your diet for 6 months is that when you do go back to old habits, sometimes you find your tolerances are lower. Last year I would have crushed that po’ boy, fries and slaw, along with at least another beer. Not now, I was struggling to breathe after finishing 3/4ths of the sandwich, most of the slaw and almost none of the fries. No regrets, but it was an eye opener.

At $30 (including tip) it was an expensive lunch, but prices are comparable to other establishments of the same quality. There was no sticker shock, I knew I was going to splurge a bit and frankly, I think I deserved it. Both the lunch and dinner menus have a range of items I want to come back and try, especially the various options for steamed mussels. I know I will be back, probably for dinner with the wife.

If you do go to Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall, as you sit there and fiddle with your fancy smart phone before your drink arrives, think about how far we’ve come since that fateful day back in 1877. I can only imagine what Alexander Graham Bell would think of our phones, but as a Scotsman, he’d probably stick around for Turner’s haddock. There are stories of the Lyceum being haunted, so maybe Bell does shows up after all…



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