Posted: August 31st, 2012 | Author: JR | Filed under: Rockport, Seafood, The Lobster Pool | Tags: alfresco dining, BYOB, Lobster, ocean view, outdoor dining, S'mores | No Comments »
Please don’t ask us why we didn’t visit the The Lobster Pool in Rockport before now—we have absolutely no excuse. Having lived on the North Shore for so many years, we’re kicking ourselves for having neglected this gem. We had a magical evening there last weekend, and we plan to return soon.
There was a real party atmosphere when we arrived, with people eagerly queuing up to order and many guests already enjoying their food and the sunset over the water at the picnic tables just outside. The menu is large, with favorites like fried clams and scallops next to lobster rolls and swordfish specials. We found everything reasonably priced, fresh, well made, and delicious.
The fisherman’s platter is enormous—enough to feed three people. We went with the mini version ($19), which was more than enough for one. The seafood had a light, slightly sweet batter and tasted fresh. The haddock got the same treatment and was flaky and delicious ($15). The lobster roll was full of meat, not too heavily dressed, and the roll was properly grilled ($17 with fries). The fish cake dinner was a great deal at $8: two large cakes very crisp outside and tender inside, a generous serving of beans that weren’t overly sweet, and freshly made cole slaw. The thin, crisp onion rings (you must get these, $7) and the blueberry pie ($4) disappeared quickly as well.
As though the food and the incredible view weren’t enough, The Lobster Pool is BYOB with no corkage fee, so you can drink just what you want at liquor-store prices. There’s an interesting outside raw bar that’s worth visiting, complete with lobster tails ($8 each and cooked to perfection). To further gild the lily, on weekends, there is a campfire and free s’mores. You cook your own marshmallow over an ingenious pipe sticking out of the fire (no engulfing your treat in flames, no worries about burns) and place it right onto a waiting chocolate/graham cracker sandwich.
One thing to keep in mind, especially on a weekend night, is that the restaurant’s kitchen is fairly small, everything is cooked to order, and demand is high. With waits up to 45 minutes for food, it’s best not to arrive starving. You could also call ahead for a take-out order to transport to the outside tables. Also keep in mind that the restaurant is not in downtown Rockport; you’ll need a car to reach its Folly Cove location, about halfway between Rockport and Lanesville.
The Lobster Pool
329 Granite St, Rockport
Posted: August 28th, 2012 | Author: KN | Filed under: American, Drinks, Maggie's Farm, Middleton, Seafood | Tags: Blood Orange Margarita, Cody Brewing Co., Serenitee Restaurant Group, Sunshine Daydream, Sushi, Tater Tots | No Comments »
We recently headed out Rt. 114 to Middleton to check out the newest member of Mark McDonough and Jeff Cala’s Serenitee Restaurant Group. Maggie’s Farm (named after the Dylan song) took over the space next to Sol Bean Café most recently occupied by Rock’s Tavern and opened in May.
Things were hopping on a Saturday night, and we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations after 7:00, so unless you head over early, you may find yourself in the same boat, though spending time at the large, pleasant bar isn’t a problem.
The celebrity-populated mural on the rear wall is fun, making it seem as though Jerry Garcia and Pee Wee Herman are jockeying with you for a seat at the bar. Other than that, the obviously music- and farm-inspired décor is a bit more sparse than some of Serenitee’s other establishments and features more TV screens than we like while dining.
The brews on tap include several local offerings, including Cody Sunshine Daydream, a Belgian gold ale brewed specially for Serenitee. Perusing the cocktail menu, we decided to try the Blood Orange Margarita, made with Sauza Gold Tequila, Cointreau, fresh sour mix, and a blood orange puree ($10). It was nicely tart and refreshing, with a decent pour of tequila.
The menu, as expected, features a mix of seafood, grilled entrees, and Serenitee’s trademark sushi. It also includes vegan and gluten-free offerings, which are clearly marked. Speaking of gluten free, once seated at our table, we decided to try the tater tots ($9) for a starter. Not the pre-fab frozen nuggets you’ve come to expect, these were a decadent surprise. Creamy, cheesy, slightly chunky mashed potatoes that had been deep fried and were served with a chive bacon sour cream sauce, they quickly disappeared.
The entrees we sampled were large and hearty. The meatloaf, made from both beef and pork, came as thick tender slabs served with cheddar mashed potatoes, garlic broccoli, and copious mushroom gravy ($19). The lamb shank really exceeded expectations. Savory, garlicky, and falling off the bone, it was served with a tasty summer veggie ratatouille on a bed of creamy polenta ($20).
One member of our party did go for the sushi, which was super fresh. The spicy roll ($10) is offered with a choice of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, or crab, and indecision led us to ask if the order could be made up of some of each. Our server checked with the sushi bar and happily reported it wasn’t a problem.
There was no way we had room for dessert, so that will have to await further investigation. The flow of the dining space space is slightly awkward and parking limited, but the attentive service and enjoyable meal definitely warrant a return trip.
119 South Main Street, Middleton
Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: KN | Filed under: American, Casual/Pub Food, Choate Bridge Pub, Ipswich, Seafood | Tags: Beer, burgers, free popcorn, pit barbeque | No Comments »
After spending hours doing yardwork on Saturday, we were in the mood for relaxation: laughing over a few beers, hearty sustenance, and a laid-back atmosphere. We found ourselves at the Choate Bridge Pub in Ipswich, which filled the bill perfectly.
Long a favorite hangout for Ipswich locals, the pub is named for the adjacent historic bridge, one of the oldest stone-arch bridges in the country.
The restaurant’s configuration, divided between a bar and dining room is a bit odd to navigate, with three entrances but no obvious hostess station to inquire about seating. The large bar was packed and pretty loud, so we opted for the dining room. The atmosphere is typically pubby, with friendly waitresses, wooden booths, menus printed on the paper placemats, and specials scrawled on a chalkboard.
Taking advantage of the free popcorn machine, we munched fresh, hot popcorn while sipping our drinks and perusing the menu. We started off with a buffalo calamari appetizer special that was fine but unspectacular ($11.95). The squid weren’t particularly tender, but this at least helped them from being overwhelmed by the buffalo sauce, and the portion was plenty for four people.
For entrees, two of our party decided on the haddock special, ($11.95) which was a deep-fried bonanza that included both onion rings and fries. The fish portions were generous and the fillets were tender, fresh, and lightly breaded.
I opted for the deluxe pub burger ordered medium rare ($8.95 accompanied by french fries. For $7.50, the regular pub burger comes with chips). It was served on an onion roll with lettuce, tomato, and pickles and done perfectly—a tasty grilled char on the outside but lightly pink and juicy in the middle. Really, it was a damn good burger I would order again without question.
Aside from burgers, Choate Bridge is known for their pit barbeque plates, and the last member of our group went for the lamb tips plate served with choice of starch and vegetable/salad ($14.95). The meat was tender and flavorful, grilled with a house-made sauce and once again, the portion quite generous.
If you’re headed back from the beach this summer and looking for a change from the ubiquitous clam shacks, try stopping into Choate Bridge to see what they’ve got on the grill. It’s not fancy, but neither are the prices or their attitude.
Choate Bridge Pub
3 South Main Street, Ipswich
Posted: January 18th, 2012 | Author: JR | Filed under: Gloucester, Latitude 43, Seafood | Tags: clam chowder, Fish and Chips, Lat 43, Seafood, Sushi | No Comments »
We had a diverse group last weekend, with some craving sushi and others leaning toward fried food. Luckily, we thought of Gloucester’s Latitude 43, which perfectly filled the bill. Overall, we had a terrific meal with a welcoming atmosphere, attentive service, and the freshest of seafood.
There were a couple of missteps, including the mussels appetizer ($12), which we found quite bland. Go for the calamari instead; we had them Asian style and quickly finished the generous, crispy portion ($9). The bacon clam chowder was also outstanding: thick and smoky with a perfect amount of clams ($6). With our appetizers we sampled one of the bar’s specialties, an apple old fashioned that was tart and refreshing ($9).
The restaurant’s sushi menu features a huge selection of specialty rolls, and several of us chose these over an entrée. The dragon roll, with shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, and fresh water eel, was an unbeatable combination of textures ($15), and the titanic roll was also well received (spicy tuna, salmon, yellow tail, albacore tuna, escolar, and shishito peppers, $16). The Lat 43 roll was good but didn’t hit the heights of the others (tempura tuna, wasabi goat cheese, avocado, enoki mushrooms, tobiko, and mango wrapped with daikon radish, $18). We also sampled the maguru nigiri (tuna), which was meltingly tender and delicious ($7).
The fish and chips entrée was perfectly cooked and seasoned, with crisp, salty fries and a sweetened tartar sauce that was addictive ($18). The corn and lobster tortelloni was not as successful. The lobster was succulent and plentiful, but the pasta was slightly undercooked, and the filling had an unpleasant mealy texture ($21).
It’s hard to go wrong with a flourless chocolate cake, and this one did not disappoint, with vanilla ice cream, a caramel crunch, and plenty of oozy chocolate to go around ($6).
Whether you’re craving fried food, sushi, a warm bowl of chowder, or just need to please a crowd, Latitude 43 is a great choice.
25 Rogers St, Gloucester
Posted: September 23rd, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: Asian, Fuji Sushi, Peabody, Seafood | Tags: Japanese, Sushi | No Comments »
Fuji Sushi, located in a small strip mall on Route 1, does not look impressive from the outside. But we had heard good things, and their website proclaims they serve the best sushi on the North Shore, so we headed in to see for ourselves.
Ironically, it was the sushi that disappointed. There is a large selection of cooked and special maki rolls, and we sampled two that were quite good. The money brain roll featured spicy tuna and avocado and was deep fried ($8.25); the mango salsa shrimp roll was a great, fresh-tasting combination, with wafer thin slices of mango curved around the outside ($9.95). But the two traditional items we ordered from the sushi bar were very poor quality. The tuna sushi (two pieces for $5.25) was almost inedible, with large veins of sinew running though it, and the eel avocado roll was far too mushy ($5.25).
We fared better with our entrees. The vegetable don (rice bowl) was piping hot and full of wonderful flavors. At $10.95, it is also a terrific value. The shrimp yakisoba was also very good, with plentiful shrimp and smoky noodles ($11.95). We also sampled the house salad with delicious ginger dressing ($2.95) and the steamed shumai, which were small and not very flavorful ($4.25),
If you are looking for inexpensive Japanese food and prefer “crazy” maki rolls over traditional sushi, you can do well at Fuji. Other sushi lovers will want to look elsewhere.
136 Newbury Street, Peabody
Posted: August 15th, 2011 | Author: KN | Filed under: News, Seafood | Tags: Escapes North, Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, NBCVB, North of Boston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, North of Boston Seafood Trail, Sue Ann Pearson | 1 Comment »
The North Shore has always been known for its seafood. From Gloucester’s docks to Marblehead’s lobster boats, people have historically headed up the coast for the freshest fish, crispiest fried clams, and most luscious lobster. In fact, there are so many options, it can sometimes be difficult navigating them all. Until now.
The North of Boston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (NBCVB) has just launched a free iPhone app to “Help ‘Lobsta’ lovers and clambake connoisseurs to find their fill North of Boston.” Funded by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, the app is based on the Seafood Trail originally listed on the cultural tourism website Escapes North.
“People are hungry for instant info in the palm of their hands. We are thrilled to provide an easy way to learn about all that Essex County has to offer in terms of food and fun,” said NBCVB Executive Director Sue Ann Pearson. “It not only helps promote Massachusetts as a premiere travel destination, but also highlights the many wonderful culinary options to explore in the North of Boston area. Visitors and locals can download the Seafood Trail app to discover where to eat, what to do, and other tasty tidbits.”
And did we mention they provide an easy link to a certain local food blog? All kidding aside, we are very excited to be a part of the project because it fits so well with our mission—to promote the food scene on the North Shore.
One of our most frequently asked questions is where to find good seafood. And to answer that question we always need ask a few of our own. Where do you want to eat? What kind of seafood are you looking for? What kind of atmosphere? Now you can peruse all the options right there on your phone.
What’s cool is that the app not only lists restaurants by town, but also has mapping, GPS locations, direct links to the restaurant websites, and an easy click-to-call function. The eateries listed run the gamut from clam shacks to more upscale options, and it notes nearly beaches and parks to round out your coastal day trip. NVCVB plans to continue developing the app and adding more information, so if you’re looking for seafood North of Boston, download before you hit the road!
You can find the app here at Escapes North.
Posted: June 29th, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: Asian, Maki Sushi, Peabody, Seafood | Tags: California roll, nigiri, Sushi | No Comments »
They say good things come in small packages, and that’s definitely the case at Maki Sushi in Peabody. Behind this unassuming storefront on Main Street is a pleasant space with a large menu of traditional and creative sushi.
We had heard good things about Maki Sushi, which opened less than a year ago and does not yet have a liquor license (it’s in the works for the near future, we’re told). It did not disappoint, with fresh offerings and attentive service.
We started with the avocado salad, which featured wafer-thin slices of perfectly ripe avocado, crisp romaine, and a delicious ginger dressing ($6). We also tried the wasabi shumai, five lightly fried dumplings packed with that wonderful horseradish heat ($6).
For our main course, we mixed up the traditional and the modern. The salmon nigiri was good sized and tender ($5). The California roll with snow crab was generous, tender, and flavorful ($8). The eel roll was the only one we tried that we wouldn’t recommend—a bit skimpy on the eel and not enough sweet sauce ($7).
The number of special rolls on the menu is impressive. We tried the double tuna roll, a definite winner with spicy tuna, cucumber, and scallions in a roll topped with a piece of tuna ($10). The lobster roll was also terrific, with lots of tempura lobster, mango, avocado, and a delicious sauce ($14).
We were too full for dessert, but we may save room for the mochi ice cream or the banana wontons next time. We might even venture outside the sushi bar to try a bento box, which includes rice, soup, salad, gyoza, cream cheese dumpling, vegetables, and a four-piece California roll ($16 for beef teriyaki).
43 Main St, Peabody
Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Mandrake, Seafood | Tags: bar snacks, blog off, Good Morning Gloucester, Joey Ciaramitaro, Patrick Ryan, Seafood | 22 Comments »
The thing about Joey C. (seen here sporting his new geek chic glasses) is that it’s virtually impossible to say no to him. Which is how we found ourselves at Mandrake last Thursday night eating, drinking, carousing, and wearing paper bags over our heads.
A few weeks prior, Joey C. (Ciaramitaro) and Patrick Ryan of Good Morning Gloucester fame had challenged us to a blog-off in which we’d meet on neutral ground (i.e., not Gloucester), dine together, and post about our experiences on the same day. The post that gets the most comments ensures bragging rights as the most awesome North Shore blog.
It was not our usual anonymous meal, that’s for sure. But despite the paper bags (a humorous nod to our standard under-the-radar dining) and Joey’s antics (he befriended everyone in the place and set up his tripod anywhere he pleased), we had a great time, and the food was right up our alley.
We started with the hummus and tapenade plate, accompanied by soft pita ($7). It was good, but totally eclipsed by the calamari, which were very tender and accompanied by a delicious aioli ($10), and the crab cakes, which were good sized, flavorful, and exceptionally light ($14). The only cocktail we tried was the Islander, which tasted like summer in a glass ($8).
Our entrees were all good, with a couple of standouts. The steak tips were cooked to our requested medium rare and accompanied by a huge amount of garlic mashed potatoes ($18). The baked scallops had great flavor, and the scallops were moist ($17). The horseradish and dijon crusted salmon was perfectly cooked and sitting on lyonnais potatoes, a nice change from the usual ($19).
The yellowfin tuna was very tender and fresh, perfect with just a sear on the outside. The sides were spot on in flavor: a salty seaweed salad and a bright asian coleslaw ($19). The best of the night was the seafood mac and cheese, which managed to be rich but not heavy. The cream sauce was delicious, the portion was huge, and the seafood was not overcooked ($24).
Thanks to Joey’s gregariousness, we were treated to dessert—a huge plate of fried dough topped with cookie dough ice cream, whipped cream, and caramel sauce. It sounds like carnival junk food run amok, but it was actually a unique indulgence that quickly disappeared.
We had been to Mandrake only for cocktails and bar snacks, and we’re glad we got a chance to return for dinner. The decor is cozy, the service is extremely friendly (and not just to Joey, we observed), and the atmosphere is the relaxed kind we tend to gravitate to.
We had a boatload of fun that night, and want to thank the staff for putting up with us. Of course, we could never seriously compete with Joey and Patrick, who get hundreds of hits a day due to their loving coverage of all things Gloucester, not to mention the photos of albino lobsters and LOLseagullz, but let’s give them a run for their money. Whether you’ve been to Mandrake or not, if you’re a loyal North Shore Dish fan, please comment on this post so we can show the boys of GMG that not only are we good sports, but we know what great local blogging is all about.
And no, we weren’t kidding about the paper bags, Joey’s got the evidence.
252 Cabot St, Beverly
Posted: April 6th, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Great Escape, Italian, Salem, Seafood | Tags: Salem Jail | 7 Comments »
Salem has so many new restaurants that we are having trouble keeping up. Last Sunday night, we stopped into Great Escape for dinner, curious to check out this unusual space—the site of a jail built in 1813.
The décor is indeed wonderful, with a high ceiling, a gorgeous stone floor, and whimsical jail-related art. Unfortunately, other than the dessert, the food was a disappointment. The menu is well written and has a good selection of appetizers, salads, pasta, seafood, and more. But the kitchen is having some obvious issues with ingredient quality and technique.
We started with a caprese salad ($10) and the eggplant tower ($10). The salad was an unappetizing plate of watery tomatoes sandwiching flavorless mozzarella. There was a good-tasting balsamic glaze, but it wasn’t enough to save the dish. I realize it’s not tomato season, but I’ve been buying hothouse tomatoes at Stop & Shop that were far better than these. The eggplant tower had flavor, but the eggplant was too thick, the prosciutto should have been cut instead of put in as a slab, and it was literally drowned in sauce.
Our entrées weren’t much better. We tried the papardelle dish with seafood and mushrooms ($19). The pasta and the mushroom reduction were fine, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly, but the scallops were rubbery, and the sauce had some grit (presumably from the seafood). The steak tips ($16) came with flavorful broccoli rabe, but the meat was not good quality, with some pieces quite chewy.
Surprisingly, our last course was great. The coffee was very good, and the tiramisu was plenty for two and very well done, with delicious sweet cream and great mocha flavor. The service was also commendable, although I was served the wrong wine. I wondered why my pinot gris lacked flavor until the bill came and I saw I’d been served pinot grigio.
There were few patrons dining the night we were there, so we’re guessing word has gotten around that the food is lacking, and we’re sorry to have to confirm it. We hope a revamp is in the works because a great spot like this deserves cuisine that matches it.
50 St Peter St, Salem
Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Author: JR | Filed under: American, Enzo, Italian, Newburyport, Seafood | Tags: Dave Reilly, Kellie Brook Farm, Local, Mary Reilly, Norther Italian, Ryan & Wood Distilleries, The Tannery Marketplace | No Comments »
Chef and owner Mary Reilly
New restaurants are always exciting, and our visit to Enzo Restaurant in Newburyport last week was especially so. We met the owners, Dave and Mary Reilly, shortly after we started North Shore Dish. At the time, Mary was a personal chef and taught specialty cooking classes. She and Dave had dreamed of owning a restaurant for years, and last week it came to fruition.
We were invited to the restaurant’s soft opening for friends and family. The restaurant opens to the public tonight. Obviously, we’re not presenting our normal review here as we did not dine anonymously. But the food at Enzo is spectacular, and although we’re not unbiased, we stand behind the recommendations here.
Light and tender fritto misto
The idea behind Enzo is an interesting one: Northern Italian cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients and a nod to New England traditions. It’s a twist we hadn’t experienced before, and it makes for some great combinations.
We started with an order of house-made potato chips with caramelized onion dip ($5). The chips are large and crisp, perfect for dipping in the savory onion and white bean mixture. We had dip left over, and our waitress offered to bring some bread so we could continue happily dipping. We also sampled the fritto misto, in this case made with Rhode Island squid and tiny Maine shrimp, served with garlic mayo and fried lemon slices ($10). It was exceptionally light for a fried dish, and the squid was more tender than usual.
The Caldwell Smash
To round out our fried-food extravaganza, we nibbled on breaded olives stuffed with herbed cheese ($5) and declared them the perfect bar snack. We also tried two of the house cocktails, both made with spirits from Gloucester’s Ryan and Wood Distillery. The Caldwell Smash combines Folly Cove rum, allspice, dram, apricot brandy, lemon, honey syrup, and mint in a refreshing balance of sweet and tart ($10). The Cane Nebbioso features Beauport vodka, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, and Ramazzotti liqueur ($9).
The emphasis that Mary puts on using top-quality ingredients and making as much as possible in-house came through even more clearly in our entrées. The bread for the pork sausage sandwich was a house-made stecca roll, and the sausage is from New Hampshire’s Kellie Brook Farm. It was accompanied by garlicky greens and house-made chips ($14).
Indian pudding with zabaglione ice cream, bacon brittle & bourbon syrup
Fresh bread showed up again in the chicken under a brick ($21), this time in the form of big cubes of foccacia in an unconventional stuffing. The chicken was moist inside with very crispy skin, and the half-bird serving allowed us to enjoy it for lunch the next day.
We tried two traditional Italian dishes, and both were outstanding. The risotto was cooked in red wine for an unbelievable flavor, and the poached egg on top added a further touch of richness ($16). The filled pasta called pansotti was so good we kept eating long after we should have stopped—the cheese filling was flavorful, the walnut pesto was creamy, and the pasta was almost paper thin ($18).
The New England side of the restaurant’s equation gets a bit more play after dinner. All desserts are made in-house, and they are worth the indulgence. Mary has taken the childhood favorite of many, Indian pudding, to a new level with zabaglione ice cream, bacon brittle, and bourbon syrup ($7).
Chocolate addicts can get their fix with the chocolate tart featuring thick caramel and dark chocolate ganache. But the surprise favorite was the lemon posset, an impossibly silky, very tart pudding served with softly whipped cream ($6) that we hope never goes off the menu.
Enzo Restaurant & Bar
50 Water Street, Tannery Marketplace, Newburyport