LOWELL – Lately it seems that everything old is new again. At Bishop’s Legacy in downtown Lowell, that’s certainly the case, because they’re carrying on an eating institution that goes back decades.
“It was founded by my grandmother in 1949,” recounted owner Chuck Saba. “We were famous for our portions, the quality of food, but what we really did was we brought Eastern Mediterranean food into the marketplace.”
After serving famous politicians, celebrities, and tens of thousands of loyal customers, the original Bishop’s restaurant in Lawrence closed its doors in 2001. But the next generation remained hungry to serve their old family recipes, and thus Bishop’s Legacy was born.
Now in its new, much more casual form on Merrimack Street in Lowell, Bishop’s Legacy offers all of the old school charm of the original Bishop’s, but with some new twists.
“We’re not Bishop’s; times have changed. We’ve taken the best of our recipes and we put it in a very informal atmosphere where you can be comfortable,” Chuck said.
So they’ve ditched the white tablecloths for a more no-fills approach, with a comfortable dining room featuring a mural telling the Bishop’s tale, a bustling bar serving all of your favorite cocktails, and a busy to-go area where you can get their legendary Lebanese cuisine on the fly.
The menu is lined with many of the same dishes Chuck grew up on, along with some modern touches created by his son Joe. Take for example the Lebanese Nachos. Don’t know what to make of that? Don’t worry, Chuck wasn’t so sure at first either.
“For about a month he kept saying, ‘Dad, I want you to try this. I’m doing Lebanese Nachos.’ I’m going, ‘Lebanese Nachos? What’s a Lebanese Nacho?’ Right? Finally, I tried them and it knocked me right over. It was delicious.”
“We start with the house made pita chips, take a piece of kibbeh and crumble it. Next up is tomato, peppers, onion, cheese,” described Joe.
“And it’s layered,” Chuck continued. “Then we put a big dollop of sour cream on top of it. We put a topping of Buffalo Tarator sauce on there.”
The spicy spin on a Mediterranean sauce can also be found on the addictive chicken wings, and alongside Bishop’s piping hot Lamb and Cheese Spring Rolls.
“It’s ground lamb mixed with spices and cheddar cheese in there. And it’s rolled, deep fried, and again with that Buffalo Tartator on top. They’re delicious,” declared Chuck.
Just as delicious, but a lot more traditional, is Bishop’s Mezza platter, a tasty sampling of Eastern Mediterranean fare like grape leaves, stuffed cabbage, Syrian farmer’s cheese, plus hummus & baba ghanoush that’s perfect for dipping some of their signature housemade pita chips – which may be the family’s greatest culinary claim to fame.
“We invented the pita chip in 1986,” Chuck said. “Nobody had ever seen them before ever, ever. Other people have claimed that they invented it and whatever. But we invented it.”
And while they don’t claim to have invented the hamburger, they may have perfected it.
“The Bishop Burger is the biggest burger in Lowell,” Chuck stated. “It’s twelve ounces of fresh ground chuck, broiled the way you like it.”
For some of the original entrees that diehards know and love, there’s the Surf and Turf, featuring a skewer of tender sirloin alongside two succulent baked stuffed shrimp. Then there’s the Lobster Pie, loaded with lots of sweet meat in their signature walnut stuffing.
“In the lobster pie we use knuckles and claws only because it’s the sweetest, most tender portion of the lobster,” Chuck explained. “It’s loaded with the lobster meat and butter and other things. Then the crumbs of our stuffing are put on top and it’s baked in the oven.”
If you’re looking for the Lebanese fare this family is really known for, check out the Baked Kibbeh. It’s just one of the tasty components of a platter called The Dinner Assortment.
“Kibbeh is ground lamb, beef, and onion, with bulgur wheat and spices,” explained Chuck. “It’s a Lebanese meat loaf is basically what we tell people. It’s moist. It’s delicious.”
For dessert, you can get something sweet that combines a bit of the old and the new, like their tempting spin on Baked Alaska. Or, go all-in on Bishop’s latest invention, the Whoopie Pie Sundae with Candied Bacon.
“Sweet, salty, meaty, smoky at the same time,” Chuck said. “It’s just a crazy dessert. People are absolutely blown away by this.”
With high-end eats topping off in the mid-twenties, you’ll also be blown away by the prices.
You can find Bishop’s Legacy at 143 Merrimack Street in Lowell, and online at bishopslegacyrestaurant.com.
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