Enzo Makes Northern Italian Even Better With Local Ingredients

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Enzo, Italian, Newburyport, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 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
(978) 462-1801
www.enzo-restaurant.com

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Flavor and Passion Come Through at Swampscott’s G Bar

Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, G Bar and Kitchen, Mediterranean, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Imagine a friend asks you to his house for dinner, and that friend happens to be a chef who whips up some amazing dishes with perfect flavor balance. With its intimate dining room, open kitchen, and terrific food, that was pretty close to our experience at G Bar and Kitchen in Swampscott last week.

We were warmly greeted when we walked in and seated at a cushy banquet. The room holds only about 15 tables, with bar seats for about 10 more, and the décor was clearly chosen for sound baffling and comfort as much as style. We ordered Stella Artois ($5.50) and a glass of pinot gris ($10) and happily snacked on fresh focaccia and delicious green olive spread.

For starters, we shared an order of spring rolls ($8) and a caesar salad (which the waitress split for us without being asked). The rolls were crispy without a hint of grease, and the flavor was great: a combination of cool mint, spicy ginger and chili, and baby bok choy. The salad was a huge hit, crisp romaine and arugula with lots of focaccia croutons and a dressing that managed to be light, creamy, and pungent all at once ($7).

We went for one of the entrée specials that night ($28). The dayboat seafood was swordfish, and it did taste amazingly fresh. It had a slight crust on the outside and a tender inside and was seasoned perfectly. It was accompanied by tender asparagus and two eggplant rollatini filled with goat cheese that would make a great entrée themselves.

The beef short ribs were equally good in their uber-comfort-food way, especially accompanied by savory parmesan-romano risotto ($25).

We were a bit too full for dessert, but we read they are made onsite, so that gives us a perfect excuse to return to try more of Chef Brackman’s thoughtful cuisine and warm hospitality.

G Bar and Kitchen
256 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 596-2228
www.grestaurant.com

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More Than Just Lobsters on Marblehead’s Little Harbor

Posted: January 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Marblehead, Marblehead Lobster Company, Seafood | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

We’ve been taking some time off over the holidays, so you haven’t heard much from us here at the Dish. The new year is upon us and we are back in action, hoping everyone enjoyed their holidays, vacations, families, and friends. We certainly did!

Due to a crazy few weeks, we decided to stay in on New Year’s Eve to relax and re-charge. While we love all the deals and hoopla offered by area venues, home-cooked food, cheap booze, and sleep are also things we’re quite fond of.

To usher in 2011, we decided to throw a couple of lobsters in the pot, and we clearly weren’t the only ones with that idea. Things were hopping when we arrived at Marblehead Lobster Co. A small, family-owned place that’s been around for years, Marblehead Lobster sits right on Little Harbor, affording terrific views as you park. (If you’re not familiar with the area, be careful not to overshoot it. The drive is at the curve in the road where Orne Street leads into Beacon Street, and it’s easy to miss that right turn.)

In fact, you can see the view here in a video by Katy Elliott, who must have arrived there minutes after we left. Sorry we missed her!

We picked up a couple of healthy looking medium-sized crustaceans at $8 per pound (chickens were $6/lb and selects $10/lb), and instead of heading out the door, lingered to ogle the other food stuffs available in the tiny shop. We had no idea they offered prepared foods, and on special that day were lobster quiche and a lobster bisque that was described as being “a lighter version, but still containing all of the good stuff.” The gentleman in front of us in line had called to order a couple of baked stuffed lobsters. The 1½ lb lobsters were stuffed and ready to be heated, a bargain at $10 each.

Of course, we ended up leaving with more than we came in for. The man of the house opted for some gorgeous Wellfleet oysters (.95 ea.), which they kindly shucked for a mere additional dollar and offered to us in a tray full of ice. When asked about the plastic container, we were told, “Just bring it back when you’re done.”

We also brought home some seafood-stuffed mushrooms to pop in the oven. Nine white mushroom caps generously topped with a stuffing containing crab, shrimp, and scallops as well as plenty of buttery crumbs were a deal for just under $5. And man, were they tasty–we plan to serve them the next time we have dinner guests.

Although we’ve been buying lobsters at this spot for years, we’d never really taken the time to see what else was available or to chat with the staff. Having discovered their tasty non-lobster offerings and been reminded of the great service, we’ll make it a point to return to Marblehead Lobster more often.

Marblehead Lobster Co.
Beacon & Orne Streets, Marblehead
(781) 631-0787

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Beyond the View: Red Rock Bistro’s New Menu

Posted: December 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Seafood, Swampscott | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

While most of us love a gorgeous ocean view, a seaside restaurant doesn’t always mean a great meal. There’s always that nagging question: was the food as good as the view? Joe Guarino, the new head chef at Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott, is taking on that challenge with gusto. Together with owner Paul Petersiel, Guarino has revamped the menu, re-thought the wine list, and lowered prices overall.

The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily, along with a Sunday jazz brunch from 10:30 to 3:00. The new menu has a Mediterranean influence but covers a broad range of tastes. The wine list features 40 wines by the glass, with most around $8. We enjoyed the two cocktails we tried: a refreshing Cool as Cuke with Hendricks, St Germain, cucumber, mint, and lime ($11) and a grown-up version of a lime ricky ($9.50).

While we usually visit restaurants anonymously, in this case we were invited to meet Petersiel and Guarino and sample some items on the new menu. Although Guarino took over as head chef in August, the restaurant hasn’t promoted that fact until now to let him get his sea legs, so to speak.

We applaud that approach, which seems to have paid off, as we enjoyed many of the dishes we tried, including the duck confit egg rolls (crispy with a great flavor, $9), the short rib bomb (spicy chipotle mayo, chorizo, and pepperjack, $8), and the bucatini with clams (wonderfully garlicky and spice, with perfectly cooked pasta for $16). We liked the flatbread pizza with shrimp, which was richly flavored and crispy, and a great value at $13. We also recommend the highly addictive peanut butter and banana ice cream cake ($8).

While we ate, we learned that Guarino grew up in East Boston and previously worked in the kitchens of Boston’s Church, The Butcher Shop, and Bonfire and was a sous chef a few years ago at Red Rock. We also heard Petersiel’s tale of buying the restaurant (then called Dale’s) in 1999 on a whim after The Barnacle in Marblehead refused to serve him a lobster roll late one afternoon.

Since the large bar is well lit and welcoming at night, and the restaurant’s views are extraordinary any time, we hope Guarino continues to give the North Shore crowd consistent, quality food at reasonable prices. We look forward to trying brunch, which features standards like omelettes, french toast, and bagels with lox along with more unusual choices like lobster eggs benedict and short rib hash with poached eggs and rosemary aioli.

We may also stop in for bar snacks and live music (Thursday through Saturday nights) or for a Tuesday tasting (December Dec 21 is Piper Heidsieck champagne with oysters and caviar for $35; February 8 is USA craft beers for $25).

Red Rock Bistro
141 Humphrey St, Swampscott
(781) 595-1414
www.redrockbistro.com

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Letting Out Your Good Girl at Hale Street

Posted: November 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Hale Street Tavern, Seafood | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Let’s face it, if your significant other is a guy who favors burgers and steak tips when he dines out, you find yourself staring at a lot of salads or poorly cooked fish if you’re trying to eat healthy. Often, those are the only wholesome options at pub-style restaurants, which was why I was elated by my meal last weekend at Hale Street Tavern.

Of course, the delicious pomegranate martini ($10) might have had something to do with it. Okay, it’s possible there were two. Pomegranate juice, pomegranate liqueur, and vodka, that delicate ice float on top—so good.

My dining companion enjoyed his beverage, too (Stella Artois on tap, $5), along with a large bowl of scallop chowder ($7). I went with the hot girl sushi roll, featuring spicy tuna, salmon, escolar (white tuna), and jalapeño salsa ($12). I’ve eaten lots of sushi, and this was the best spicy tuna I’ve had. There was tons of it in each piece, and it had just the right amount of heat, no extra wasabi needed.

I was equally happy with my entrée, sesame crested salmon with sake ginger glaze, sticky rice, and green/yellow squash cooked just right ($20). I ordered the salmon rare, and it was outstanding. Meltingly tender with an absolutely delicious, very delicate crust. The sticky rice was also great, and something you don’t see often on restaurant menus.

Not surprisingly, my dining companion enjoyed his half-pound burger with cheese ($10, and there’s a full-pound version for $15) and hand-cut fries. Since I was being so virtuous with my meal, I felt justified stealing a few fries. I’ve gotta say, they were worth the calories.

We sat at the bar, and the service was friendly and attentive. For a Sunday night there was a pretty good crowd, but the vibe was low-key and friendly. Other nights have advantages at Hale Street as well, including a sushi prix fixe for $19 on Mondays, burger mania on Tuesdays, 35-cent wings on Wednesdays, and prime rib for $17 on Thursdays. By the way, there are several cooked-fish sushi options for the those that don’t do raw, as well as an oyster selection that changes weekly according to what’s freshest.

Hale Street Tavern
717 Hale St, Beverly Farms
(978) 922-9232
www.hale-street.com

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An Ode to Dube’s Fried Shrimp

Posted: October 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Dube's Seafood, Salem, Seafood | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Every summer, the local media publish their annual stories on the best ice cream, beaches, and fried clams in New England. Pilgrimages are made to Ipswich and Essex, and the merits of their clam shacks hotly debated.

While I eat and enjoy clams, you’ll notice my artery-threatening seafood of choice is shrimp. And the best fried shrimp on the North Shore is found at Dube’s Seafood in Salem, hands down.

The Pelletier family has run Dube’s (pronounced Doobies) since 1961, when they bought what at one time was a take-out stand from the original Dube. The interior décor likely hasn’t changed much in the past half-century. We’re talking old school here; red vinyl banquettes, laminate tables, wood-paneled walls, and a long low bar. It’s tiny and dive-y but quite comfortable, and the staff is terrifically friendly.

Clichéd as it sounds, for me, Dube’s isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a family tradition. My dad inevitably sees someone he knows there. Whenever one of my siblings comes back to the area to visit, a dinner there is imperative. Whenever a new seafood place opens, Dube’s is the standard to which they are compared.

When we stopped in for dinner last weekend, I realized that I’ve been eating there for something like 30 years. And I have to admit, I always order the same thing—the fried shrimp.  Dube’s menu offers weekly specials in addition to a wide variety of baked, grilled, and fried fish, but somehow when the waitress appears with her pen poised, it’s gotta be the shrimp.

We ordered cocktails, which are incredibly well priced. They run the gamut from old standards like my dirty martini ($5.25) to newer, seasonal creations like the pumpkin martini on offer that night ($6).

The obligatory starter is always the famed onion rings ($6 for small, $8 for large), which are medium cut and not too heavily breaded. Then the hot, succulent, golden entree plate arrives stacked high. I counted 17 shrimp piled on the mound of fries ($14.95). The coating is light and crisp, and the seafood moist and incredibly fresh tasting.

Not having grown up with a fried shrimp obsession, my partner in crime debates his choice of entrée each visit. This time, he decided on a fish stew special. It was an impressive bowl, full of shrimp, scallops, haddock, and clams in a rich, satisfying broth, served with rice and fresh-cut veggies on the side ($10.95).

Far enough from the center of town in a mostly residential neighborhood, our waitress tells us that Dube’s doesn’t get the huge influx of tourists around Halloween that most of Salem does. “Unless they ask a local where to go for seafood, then they come here.” And that about sums it up. Locals in the know will tell you Dube’s is the place to go for the best fried seafood around.

Dube’s Seafood
317 Jefferson Ave, Salem
(978) 744-9531

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Windward Grille Chowder Wins People’s Choice Award at Essex Clam Fest

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Essex, Event, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The gals from Ipswich Clambake dish out samples of chowder

If you’re tired of watching those judges on TV taste all that delicious food prepared by chefs, Essex Clam Fest is the place for you. We had a great time on Saturday sampling eight chowders prepared by local restaurants and voting on our favorite.

The lines were long, but the weather was great, and there was plenty to evaluate as we waited for our next sample. Although there was no chowder we didn’t like at all, there were definitely standouts. The ones that didn’t wow us included Lobsta Land (too watery, too much herb flavor) and J.T. Farnham’s (too thin, too buttery, too much pepper).

In the middle were Shea’s Riverside (large clams but a bit too heavy and perhaps too much nutmeg), Emerson Inn (made with salt pork for great flavor, but it overwhelmed the seafood a bit), and Woodmans (good consistency, good flavor, but mushy pototoes).

Our favorites were Ipswich Clambake (creamy but not thick, large clams, lots of perfectly-cooked potatoes, very good flavor) and Windward Grille (great seafood taste, perfect consistency, large chunks of potatoes and clams).

Windward Grille was also the winner of the people’s choice award. Speaking of awards, Periwinkles won the judges award, and it was one of our least favorite samples, so we’re going to disqualify ourselves on that one. Our sample was very thick and tasted burned, so we’re guessing we got a bad batch.

The tasting cost $5 and began at 12:00. We got there just about that time to be sure we’d be able to participate, but the tasting was still going strong until it ended at 2:00. Several of the restaurants brought 40 gallons of chowder!

With our bellies full, we walked the rest of the event, which included pony rides and other children’s activities, a variety of craft booths, and live music.

We were glad to see the Ipswich Ale Tapmobile, which carries eight taps ($4 per pint). Although their Pumpkin Ale sounded festive, we opted for the Stonecat Hefeweizen, which was bright and refreshing. Both Captain Dusty’s and Down River had ice cream stands set up. Along with the usual flavors, Dusty’s was serving samples of “cold clam chowder,” a truly unique eating experience. By the way, they’re opening for one day in December with holiday flavors like pumpkin pie and egg nog: 12/4 from noon to 4:00 at the Manchester location only.

We love Dusty’s, but Down River is our absolute favorite, and they did not let us down. They were serving large portions in their delicious waffle cups for $3, and their caramel apple flavor is to die for.

So if you have a secret desire to be a food judge, mark your calendars for next year’s festival, and in the meantime, get yourself to Windward Grille for a bowl of outstanding chowder.

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J Quick Kitchen Lives Up to Its Name

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, J Quick Kitchen, Salem, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Editor’s Note 2/2/11: J Quick Kitchen has changed it’s name to Black Cow Express, but currently maintains the same menu.

Locals were all abuzz when the old KFC building on the Salem side of Vinnin Square started to undergo renovation this summer. The arches on the exterior had some believing that it was going to become a Taco Bell, but the truth was revealed when signs arrived declaring J Quick Kitchen, sandwiches and seafood. This entry into the fast casual arena was created by the owners of the Black Cow restaurants, and it opened this week.

We visited them twice and both times were impressed at how well they lived up to their name. Quick indeed: on the first visit, our food was served in five minutes, and on the return visit, a much larger order to go was handed over in six minutes. Everything was nicely packed and labeled, complete with sauces and plastic-ware—amazing.

The interior is bright, clean, and pleasant with funky lime green accents and large digital displays for menu boards. The abundant staff was perky and welcoming.

The menu features all the standard sandwich shop usual suspects, including a turkey club, a reuben, and burgers, along with fried seafood offerings. It’s clear, however, that J Quick Kitchen strives to offer quality beyond the local sub shop. They roast and carve their own meats, smoke their own pulled pork, and freshly prepare hand-cut french fries.

Our favorites were the J’s Chicken sandwich ($7.50) which featured a grilled chicken breast, hickory bacon, cheddar cheese, and BBQ mayo on a toasted kaiser roll, and the shrimp plate, which was super fresh, sparingly breaded, and a bargain compared to many local places at $12. We also liked the fries, which were thin and crispy. The coleslaw was a bit too soupy.

Another great taste was the house-smoked pulled pork sandwich ($7.50) with North Carolina BBQ sauce. It was unexpectedly savory and smoky and not swimming in sauce. The pressed rueben ($8) was tasty though a bit soggy, and the crispy haddock plate ($11.50) was respectable. The sandwiches are not huge, but they’re filling, and the seafood portions are generous.

We didn’t try the burger, but saw several people enjoying them. The folks down the street at Five Guys may be nervous about competition from the new kid on the block because they arrived en masse for lunch while we were there. (Before they sat down to eat, the manager greeted them warmly and even gave a few of them a kitchen tour.)

Although there are a couple of standard vegetarian options on the menu, a few more creative healthy choices would go a long way to woo those of us who love the fresh approach and convenience but hate the calories involved with most take out.

In an area already chock-full of chain restaurants and fast food, it looks like J Quick Kitchen is using service and quality to set it apart from the pack. We truly were pleasantly surprised by the experience, and while they may still be gauging their customer base, J Quick Kitchen is a fascinating addition to the square.

J Quick Kitchen
2 Paradise Road, Salem
(974) 744-3287
www.jquickkitchen.com

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Amesbury’s Neighborhood Bistro Offers Unique Flavors

Posted: August 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Amesbury, Bistro, Phat Cats Bistro, Seafood | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Amesbury is a bit off our beaten path, but we recently met up with some of our favorite local food bloggers for dinner, and it proved a great gathering location. We decided to check out Phat Cats Bistro on Market Street and were in very good company with Jane of Food and Fiction, Laura of The Two Palaverers and Mary of Cooking 4 the Week whom we thank for some of the photos.

Phat Cats has been open for almost three years now and is run by husband and wife chefs Christina Johnson and Paul Eastman. They locally source as much of the produce and seafood they can, dependant on the season. The dining room is casual and comfortable, with warm tones, exposed brick, several chalkboards sporting specials, and a full bar along one wall. The cocktail list was fun, the wine list included some great picks, and our drinks were generously poured.

We started with several appetizers to share. The lobster rangoon was appealing, but the texture was unexpected. The filling was more liquid than traditional rangoons, and the tubular shape of the pastry made them a bit splurty ($9). The calamari was crisp and flavorful, accented nicely by the chipotle dipping sauce ($8). The haddock cake was light, moist, and savory ($8).

The entrées are varied, and several are offered as full or half portions. The seafood crepe was a surprise, as we envisioned a French style crepe with a cream sauce, but it was more Southwestern, with fresh corn, tomatoes, and spinach surrounding large bits of lobster and scallops. It was served with a bruleed savory corn pudding that was lovely ($16/22). The bistro steak, an herb crusted hangar steak ($18), was very tasty, and the surf and turf risotto (tenderloin beef tips and wild shrimp served over caramelized onion sausage risotto) was wonderfully complex and the favorite at the table ($24).

The veal saltimbocca special ($19) and the herb gnocchi gratin ($11/16) were less successful. Although obviously prepared with care from quality ingredients, the final product somehow lacked zip.

The junior member of our party was quite pleased with her mac and cheese, ordered with the optional shrimp. The pasta was firm and not overwhelmed by the rich cheese, and the shrimp were good-sized and moist. ($13/18)

Most of us were too sated for dessert, but we did try the homemade coconut pudding accompanied by a brownie. Both were excellent, the pudding rich and lightly sweet.

While not every entrée was spectacular, we enjoyed our visit overall, aided by the friendly, helpful staff and the unique flavor combinations on the menu.

Phat Cats Bistro
65A Market Street, Amesbury
(978) 388-2777
www.phatcatsbistro.com

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A First Look at Hooked, Marblehead’s Newest Seafood Eatery

Posted: July 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Hooked, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

When I visited Ben Rhodes and Rafe Hershfield back in May to find out about their new venture, Hooked Seafood and Grill, they explained their theory for the new eatery.

Similar to the fast-casual concept that’s all the rage, Hooked is a combination of restaurant and take-out, where the quality is better than fast food and less expensive than a sit-down restaurant. Like a standard clam shack, diners order at a counter and bus their own tables, but the meals are served on china by waitstaff, and beer and wine is available.

This Sunday it was too hot to cook, so we headed over to test the theory and the food. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea. The restaurant, which opened last weekend, was packed. All the tables were filled, and people were waiting in line for takeout. Luckily, we were able to snag a spot after a minute or two.

The space has been totally renovated and looks terrific, especially if you remember the erstwhile Super Sub. Hooked’s menu offers quite bit to choose from, including both grilled and fried seafood entrees. We placed our order at the counter, paid, and were given a number, and when our food was up, a waitress brought it to the table.

The daily special, a Long Island striped bass roasted with lemon and herbs, was terrific—moist and delicious ($11). The fried haddock plate offered quite a generous portion of both fish and onion rings that tasted fresh and weren’t greasy ($11). The grilled swordfish kabob was tasty, if a bit overcooked ($10); the breading on the fried shrimp was just a tad heavier than I generally like, but shrimp were large and flavorful ($15). The junior member of our party ordered a cheeseburger from the 1st Mate menu ($4.50 with a drink and fries), which received a double thumbs up.

Of the sides we ordered, the onion rings were the best; savory, thin and crunchy. The cole slaw tasted freshly made and although a bit heavy on the mayo had a nice zing from caraway seeds. The fries seemed to be lightly coated, but were tasty and crisp and disappeared from the table in a flash.

It’s clear Hooked is still refining it’s work flow, but it’s early days, and the staff were all friendly and helpful, so no doubt they’ll find their groove. The take-out business seemed to be booming, and in the small space customers waiting for their orders blocked the door and counter area. We found ourselves wondering if they could install a take-out window on the driveway side to alleviate the congestion.

We plan to return once the crowds abate a bit and look forward to trying their rendition of two of the most hotly debated summer foods on the North Shore: lobster rolls and fried clams.

Hooked Seafood & Grill
114 Pleasant St., Marblehead
781-631-8200
www.hookedmarblehead.com

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