Gloucester’s Fort Square: Familiar Faces at Breakfast

Posted: February 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Cafe, Fort Square Café, Fort Square Cafe, Gloucester | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The ever-so-charming Joey C. of Good Morning Gloucester steered us to Fort Square Café last weekend when we were looking for a casual place for breakfast. Not surprisingly, he was right on the money. With great food, local specialties, and counter staff that greets you like a long-lost sibling, this place is right up our alley.

2262010bThe breakfast menu at tiny Fort Square is extensive and served all day. It includes eggs, omelets, and pancakes served with various breakfast meats and choice of hash browns or home fries. We tried two specials that day and loved them both. Crispy french toast ($5.50) was coated in crushed Honey Bunches of Oats and perfectly cooked. A side of bacon was crispy and flavorful. The tasty Portugese scramble with peppers, onions, and chorizo, home fries, and toast is $8.50, but we guarantee you won’t need another meal that day.

We also sampled mudiga steak, a local favorite consisting of thin slices of beef that have been breaded and fried. For fisherman, or those who like to eat breakfast like one, the steak is served with eggs, hash browns, and a toasted roll. Those not quite as adventurous might enjoy it more for lunch. We saw a steak sandwich with roasted peppers and melted provolone go by that looked delicious. Many other sandwiches are available for lunch ($4.50 to $6), and we’re hoping to return to check out the chowder.

Fort Square Café
29 Commercial St, Gloucester
(978) 281-3100
No Web site, open Mon-Sat 7:00 to 3:00, Sun 7:00 to 1:00
Fort Square Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Lunch With a View at Madfish Grille

Posted: September 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Gloucester, Madfish Grille, Seafood | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

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We were in the mood for a relaxing lunch by the water, and Madfish Grille offered both a stunning view and an interesting menu. We found a lot to like at this Rocky Neck spot, including a funky seaside décor, delicious sweet potato fries, and a variety of sandwiches to choose from. There were a few drawbacks, but on a sunny day overlooking Gloucester Harbor, we’re willing to forgive quite a bit.

A large step up from many seafood restaurants in the area, Madfish’s appetizer menu includes PEI mussels, potstickers, and a braised short-rib quesadilla. We decided to share one of the day’s specials, iron seared U-10 scallops with roasted cipollini onions, rendered bacon, and a maple butter sauce ($12).

They were perfectly cooked with that great balance of savory bacon and sweet sauce, making us wish there were more than two on the plate. To be fair, our waitress told us there were only two or three per plate, but four scallops for a $12 shared appetizer is really not too much to ask.

The lunch menu runs the gamut from pizza to burgers, cuban sandwich to fish and chips ($8 to $19). We went with the crab and avocado BLT ($10), which was good but not great; could have used more avocado and a better roll. The grilled eggplant sandwich with spinach, tomato, fresh, mozzarella, and balsamic spread ($8) was delicious except for the roll, which again was too sweet and too soft. As mentioned, the sweet potato fries were hot, crispy, and plentiful.

Service was a mixed bag: friendly and never rushed but lacking some basic niceties like plates for our appetizer and an offer to wrap the remains of our sandwich. All in all, Madfish is a spot worth knowing about, and we’re thinking of returning to sample a few of the more pub-like items, maybe on a night when a band is playing in the outdoor bar.

Madfish Grille
77 Rocky Neck Avenue, Gloucester
(978) 281-4554
www.madfishgrille.com

Madfish Grille on Urbanspoon

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Quick Trip to the Azores

Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Azorean, Gloucester, Portuguese, Seafood | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

If your travel budget is looking as slim as ours this year, consider taking a culinary trip to the Azores. On a recent frigid Saturday night, our spirits were lifted by the warm atmosphere and out-of-the-ordinary cuisine at The Azorean in Gloucester.

We began with cocktails, including a very tart version of sangria featuring passion fruit liquor (passion fruit is a popular local item in the Azores, located about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal).

The accompanying cheese platter ($7) fell flat, with flavorless black olives and none of the selections piquing our fancy. The marinated pork spread was interesting, though, spiced with cinnamon and vinegar. And we thoroughly enjoyed the owners mix, a good-sized bowl of garlic shrimp and fried calamari ($13). The batter on the squid was pleasingly light, and the spicy garlic sauce in the bottom of the bowl had wonderful flavor.

The entrée selection is varied, with a large number of beef, chicken, and pork dishes, along with more than 10 seafood selections. Not all of our dinners were a success, but we can recommend the seafood casserole ($17), the monkfish in lobster sauce ($18), and the grilled codfish ($19), which came with whole smashed potatoes and delicious fish stuffing. Unless you are a true salt lover, we suggest staying away from dishes based on salt cod, which has been salted, dried, and reconstituted.

We’re a fan of green wine, a Portuguese specialty, and were disappointed that they were out of the $22 bottle we selected. Although we were perfectly happy with the crisp white our server suggested as an alternative ($30), do try the slightly effervescent vino verde if it’s available.

The restaurant was also out of the chocolate mousse, which leads us to believe it’s good. We did try the chocolate layer cake (rich ganache but nothing fantastic) and the pineapple coconut tart with chocolate crust—an interesting flavor combination and not overly sweet.

Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, and the ochre walls, European-style tiles, and old-world paintings helped us forget this tough New England winter for a few hours. The restaurant area emptied out fairly early, but the good-sized bar has tables as well and seemed like an excellent place to send your taste buds on a mini vacation.

Azorean
33 Washington Street, Gloucester
(978) 283-5500
www.azoreanrestaurant.com

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The Lunch Counter: Halibut Point

Posted: December 18th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Gloucester, Halibut Point, The Lunch Counter | Tags: , | No Comments »

Lunch Guy strayed out of his comfort zone recently: a trip to Gloucester landed him at Halibut Point, where he happily slurped up their famous Italian fish chowder. A bit more than he usually spends for lunch, but it was quick, delicious, and accompanied by fresh scala bread. We’re glad to hear this long-time Gloucester gem is as good as ever.

Halibut Point
289 Main Street, Gloucester
(978) 281-1900

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A Fish Called Walu

Posted: November 10th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Agave Mexican Bistro, Beverly, Cielito Lindo, Mexican, Newburyport | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

There you are, minding your own business, when it hits—that undeniable craving for warm tortilla chips and a salty margarita. True, there aren’t a huge number of places on the North Shore to indulge your need for Mexican comfort food, but we’ve scoped out two that are definitely worth a visit.

For a welcoming atmosphere, fantastic guacamole, and that comfort-food factor, you can’t beat Cielito Lindo on Rantoul Street in Beverly. Always busy on weekend nights, you will nevertheless be greeted with a smile by the mustachioed host, and before you know it, you’ll be seated in the cozy room digging into a rustic bowl full of avocado heaven ($7.50).

On a recent visit, we enjoyed a delicious bowl of posole in addition to the fresh-made guac. The posole was a special that night and featured red chile, white beans, chicken, and cilantro. For entrees, we had skirt steak fajitas, tilapia in a spicy cream sauce, fish tacos, and mayan style pork enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce. All were reasonably priced, freshly made, and well received.

We sipped our way through a pitcher of margaritas that was, sadly, lacking in the tequila department. Our suggestion—go with the sangria and consider a burrito ($6.95). We saw one go by that was the size of a football. Be sure to nod enthusiastically each time the host  comes by to check on you (we’re assuming he’s one of the owners)—you want to be assured of that warm greeting when you return.

For a slightly more upscale meal—and a seafood treat you would not have expected—check out Agavé Mexican Bistro on State Street in Newburyport. Again, you’ll find a wait on weekend nights, but a buzzing coaster and a drink at the inviting downstairs bar will help with that.

At one of the two dining floors above, you’ll be greeted by a colorful décor, white tablecloths, and the noise of tipsy diners. Do try the margaritas here; the restaurant is, after all, named for the plant that provides us with tequila. There are several gussied up versions, but you won’t go wrong with the basic, which has just the right amount of lime. Tequila connoisseurs may want to try a new brand straight up—the restaurant boasts more than 60.

The menu at Agavé is large and varied, and we’ve never tried anything that wasn’t well prepared and delicious. But the star of the show is walu, a fish we’ve never seen elsewhere (Agavé imports it from Hawaii) and worth raving about. It’s a firm, buttery fish that tastes almost like lobster—$23.95 at dinner with vegetable, mashed potatoes, and house-made mango salsa.

Unfortunately, between the chips, ’ritas, and walu, we’re always too full for dessert. But the menu includes churros served with chocolate and cajeta caramel syrup ($5.00), a treat we’re determined to save room for one of these times.

Cielito Lindo
150 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-4657
www.cielitolindogrill.com

Agavé Mexican Bistro
50 State Street, Newburyport
(978) 499-0428
www.agavemexicanbistro.com

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