NEWBURY – On Plum Island in Newbury, just steps from the beach and the Atlantic Ocean, is a little seaside shack you might not even notice. It is a house, converted into a restaurant called Mad Martha’s, which customers can’t get enough of.
“It’s not your typical breakfast,” one assured.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted,” said another.
“The food here is so, so unique.”
The women who own the place are pretty unique too. Kendall Bowie and Kyree Gerson are the dynamic duo behind Mad Martha’s. Ever since they bought this breakfast and lunch spot about five years ago, they have made it their mission that customers in the 36-seat dining room are always comfortable.
“From the outside it is a home. When you walk inside, there’s paintings on the wall, there’s people laughing, it’s noisy, in a good way. It’s full of energy and a lot of excitement,” Kyree described. “It’s a lot more personality than what most people expect for breakfast.”
The food here is a lot more interesting than your standard breakfast fare. Take, for example, the Caramelized Banana French Toast.
“Caramelized Banana French Toast is made of our thick Portuguese sweet bread,” Kendall began. “We batter it in Special K, which gives it a nice crunch. We then pan sear bananas and brown sugar and butter, and drizzle it right over the top. It’s by far one of our most popular items.”
There is a plate of home fries smothered in bacon, onion, and cheddar; a bowl of fruit almost too pretty to eat; homemade hash topped with eggs and horseradish sauce; a classic breakfast sandwich kicked up with a crab cake; and specials like a gourmet egg sandwich with prosciutto, fig jam, arugula, and gorgonzola.
“We take shaved prosciutto and put it right on the flat top and crisp it up as you would a bacon, and then there’s a nice peppery arugula on top, the fig jam which is kind of sticky, and that’s intended to hold it all together,” Kyree explained.
A meal at Mad Martha’s is a bit of an interactive dining experience. While Kendall works the front of the house, Kyree commands the open kitchen, where Kendall’s brother Drew helps out, in full view of the customers.
“It is as open as it gets. The dishes get washed here. The food gets prepped here. The food gets cooked here. The food comes through the front door a lot of times when our deliveries are running late,” Kyree said. “It is as open as you can imagine.”
Not only is the kitchen open, it is also quite small. That can be a struggle, Kyree said, but also provides a show.
“It’s interesting to hear the customer prospective. They often say it looks like we’re orchestrating a ballet. We just kind of know to stay behind you and get around to whatever we need. Certainly bump into each other, but we’ve gotten pretty good at it.”
Be forewarned; it is cramped quarters in the dining room too.
“It’s very intimate,” Kendall said. “The tables are really tightly put together, so we’re cruising in between them. There’s a lot of interaction with the customers, joking and laughing, and it’s just a very comfortable vibe.”
In fact, customers are so comfortable here, they often don’t even order for themselves. Instead, they just ask for something called Legal Eggs, which allows Kyree and Drew to serve up whatever they want.
“It’s just kind of a surprise,” Kyree said. “It originated as a scramble, but in the last few years people have taken a little creative liberty and we created a monster. Now it’s just become, ‘try to wow me more than you did last Tuesday.’”
If you are a pancake fan, the ones are Mad Martha’s are not to be missed. Though a standard circular stack is great, it is only the beginning, because Drew and Kyree also enjoy creating edible art, using pancake batter as their medium.
“Drew and Kyree are experts on the grill with pancakes,” Kendall boasted. “So they do whale pancakes, crab pancakes. It really makes kid’s days, and it’s nice to see the parents really enjoy it as well.”
Of course, there is not always time to make the pancakes so intricate, because Mad Martha’s can get very busy, but even when there’s a wait for a table, customers don’t seem to mind.
“When we run a long wait on the weekends, people are encouraged to take a cup of coffee, head down the beach access path, take a stroll on the beach,” Kendall said. “Often I take people’s phone numbers. I’ll text them when their table is available, and just really take it all in. It’s an experience when you come here. It’s not just about breakfast. It’s about the whole thing.”
You can find Mad Martha’s at 51 Northern Boulevard on Plum Island, and online at madmarthasislandcafe.com.
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