Everyone in the Pool

Posted: August 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Rockport, Seafood, The Lobster Pool | Tags: , , , , , | 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
(978) 546-7808
www.lobsterpoolrestaurant.com

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Local Takes on New Meaning at The Market in Annisquam

Posted: June 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Gloucester, Steakhouse, The Market | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

You couldn’t get much farther apart than Berkeley, California and Annisquam, Mass, but these two towns do have something important in common—a love of fresh, local food. And now, they have something else tying them together: The Market Restaurant, owned by Annisquam native Amelia O’Reilly and Berkeley’s Nico Monday.

Both recently moved back to the North Shore after more than five years cooking at Northern California’s famous Chez Panisse. They brought Monday’s brother, Oliver, with them to oversee the purchase of local produce and seafood.

It’s no coincidence that O’Reilly and the Mondays arrived in May to set up their new restaurant. For one thing, the idea is to take advantage of the abundance of the New England summer—lobster and other seafood, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and people not wanting to turn on their stoves. For another, their restaurant license is seasonal (until October 15), although O’Reilly says they may hold cooking classes or offer catering out of the space during the winter.

The restaurant’s space is small and casual but charming, with eight indoor tables and six outdoors, overlooking picturesque Lobster Cove. Starting June 4, dinner will be served nightly except Wednesdays; the menu will feature three entrees, three salads, and one or two desserts. For now, dinner service is BYOB, but a beer and wine license is in the works.

The menu will change nightly depending on what seafood and produce are freshest and will include options like fish stew, fried scallops with homemade onion rings, and a vegetarian option. O’Reilly says they plan to serve meat only if it comes from a local, organic source.

Starting June 5, breakfast will be served, starting with fritter-like sour cream donuts at 7:00 and full entrees at 7:30. Expect to see hearty fisherman’s fare like fishcakes, beans, and anadama bread (a local favorite flavored with molasses and cornmeal). On June 21, a picnic-style lunch service will begin with items like lobster rolls and fried fish sandwiches, perfect for taking to an outside table, the beach, or a boat.

We were invited to attend the restaurant’s grand opening this weekend, where we sampled crispy brandade, lobster paella with aioli, and rocket salad with shaved fennel. Everything we ate was delicious—perfectly cooked and seasoned—a successful tying together of the traditional (brandade are fritters made with salt cod), the local, and the gourmet. The paella looked marvelous and tasted even better, with large chunks of lobster, mussels, clams, saffron flavored risotto, and the addictive aioli.

It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of these three food lovers and their passion for local products. Seafood comes from Cape Ann Fresh Catch and other local purveyors and may, one day, simply arrive at the restaurant’s dock. Bread baskets will be filled by Salem’s A&J King, hot dog rolls are from Virgilio’s in Gloucester, and Oliver has posted a Google map showing North Shore farms that will supply the restaurant’s produce.

Some greens won’t have to travel even that far—lettuce and herbs are already growing at O’Reilly’s mother’s house in nearby Lanesville. We can’t help but think that Alice Waters would approve.

The Market Restaurant
33 River Rd, Lobster Cove, Gloucester
(978) 282-0700
www.themarketrestaurant.com

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Newburyport’s Port Tavern Aims for Comfort

Posted: September 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Casual/Pub Food, Newburyport, Port Tavern | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

On our recent trip to Newburyport to visit the farmer’s market, we decided to stop at Port Tavern for a late lunch. This is just our kind of place—lots of comfort food selections, an excellent burger, and a comfortable atmosphere. Our visit was marred by poor service, but we’ll assume that’s not the norm, as others in the restaurant appeared well tended to.

We thoroughly enjoyed the fish and chips ($13), which had a generous portion of fish and steak fries that were crisp on the outside and creamy inside. We also liked the shepard’s pie ($12), which had robust beef flavor and a creamy potato topping.

The aforementioned burger ($9) was juicy and had great charred flavor, a good bun, and fresh lettuce/tomato on the side. Sandwich orders come with a choice of 10 sides, including garlic mashed potatoes and onion rings. We went with the baked potato, but it came completely plain, which was odd. (We weren’t asked about toppings when we ordered, and none came on the side).

We also ordered the white truffle mac and cheese, which turned out to be gemelli in a terrific, cheesy/earthy sauce. But the parmesan breadcrumb crust on the menu description somehow turned into a few crushed crackers sprinkled on top.

We liked the fact that diners are given lots of choices, including those sides (which you can order on their own for $3) and four types of bread for panini sandwiches like the grilled chicken and pear ($8). We didn’t like paying $2.50 for coffee or waiting more than 45 minutes for our food.

We’re guessing our waitress forgot to put in our order since nearby diners received their food in reasonable time and she ignored us the entire time we waited, refusing to meet our hungry gazes. All that was needed was an apology and a basket of bread, but neither were forthcoming.

We recommend giving this place a try when you’re in the area, just be aware that service may be spotty, so if you find yourself neglected, don’t hesitate to ask for the manager. (We chose not to since we keep a low profile when eating at a restaurant we plan to blog about.)

Port Tavern
84 State St, Newburyport
(978) 465-1006
www.theporttavern.com

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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

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Summer Lovin’: Outdoor Dining Season Begins

Posted: May 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bistro, Cafe, Casual/Pub Food, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

outdoor

The weather may not be cooperating just yet, but we’ve pulled out our tank tops and beach cover-ups and officially declared the start of the no-socks season.

To that end, we’ve got a round-up of the best al fresco dining we’ve found on the North Shore, followed by a list of several more we’re hoping to get to before Labor Day.

We’ve just begun compiling this list, so feel free to vote for your favorites from below or add any we might have overlooked. Please note that we’ve purposely left out clam shacks and beach-food places like Lime Rickey’s in Marblehead (we’ll have more coverage of lobster rolls, fried clams, and ice cream as the temperature rises) and a few places that have outdoor seating but may not meet our criteria for good food.

The Barnacle, Marblehead
It’s lunchtime on a sunny day, you’re sipping a bloody mary on the deck of the Barnacle and waiting for your fried clams—you’ve officially hit the seaside dining jackpot. The food at this unassuming pub is good, not great (stick with the chowder, the fried seafood, and the bloodys), but you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer view than Marblehead harbor in the summer, and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

Jack-Tar, Marblehead
The patio outside one of our favorite pubs is small but charming, and the food is both comforting and reasonably priced. We’re fond of the generous drinks, the $3 to $5 tapas, and the pizza with pancetta and blue cheese (a selection of pizzas is $5 from 5:00 to 7:00 every night).

The Landing at 7 Central, Manchester
The pubby front rooms at the Landing are great for cozying up in cold weather, but make your way all the way to the back, and you’ll be seated on the comfortable second-story porch. The menu is large and varied, featuring everything from burgers and caesar salad with salmon or steak tips to pepper encrusted duck. We recommend the lobster omelet for brunch.

The Landing, Marblehead
This Marblehead institution is right in the thick of the summer action at the town landing on Front Street. Sitting out on the deck overlooking the harbor you’re likely to see anything from lobster boats unloading their catch to campers returning on the ferry from Children’s Island. As you’d expect the menu offers many summer seafood favorites; ours are the lobster roll and the baked scrod.

Rockafellas, Salem
The place to see and be seen in Salem in the summer, Rockafellas’ entrees are reasonable (honey glazed salmon is $16, bourbon turkey tips are $15), and there are plenty of tapas for those just needing a little something with their cocktails, including quesadillas and catfish fingers. If the wait at Rockafellas is long, there are several options for outdoor dining nearby, including Gulu Gulu Café, Fresh Taste of Asia (best dumplings on the North Shore), and the Lobster Shanty.

The Farm, Essex
Whether you are heading back from the beach hungry or just looking to savor a cold brew on a summer night, a brand new patio with live music and weekly specials like their 35-cent wing night make this new addition to the Essex restaurant scene fun central.

Grapevine, Salem
Sumptuous food is the attraction at this Italian gem, starting with tuna carpaccio over crispy flatbread and proceeding to rigatoni with braised veal or perhaps oven roasted swordfish with lemon-caper sauce. With only eight tables in the outside garden, the atmosphere is romantic and the service is top-notch.

Can’t Wait to Try:

The Lobster Pool, Rockport
This seems to the favorite among foodies for casual outside dining in Rockport. The straightforward menu of seafood (and homemade pie) implies a no-fuss-no-muss attitude, and we’re looking forward to trying the lobster roll this summer.

My Place By the Sea, Rockport
We’ve been hearing good things about the food at this upscale restaurant for years. From the pictures we’ve seen of the outside deck, this is the place to be on a summer night with your sweetheart.

Madfish Grille, Gloucester
Rocky Neck is one of those places that always makes us feel happy, and the Madfish Grille looks like just what we’re in the mood for when eating outside in the summer. Margarita shrimp, crab BLT, panzanella salad, grilled lamb, scampi pizza—need we say more? (Ed. Our review 9/3/09)

Plum Island Grille, Newbury
Creative cuisine and a fabulous sunset: sign us up. This island retreat is at the top of our list to try—if anyone has been recently, please leave your menu recommendations in the comments. (Ed. Our review 11/13/09)

Michael’s Harborside, Newburyport
The Newburyport waterfront is always hopping in the summer, and Michael’s is right in the thick of things. The menu says their lobster roll is famous, we hear good things about their burgers, and the balsamic brown sugar short ribs sound intriguing.

Danversport Grille and Bistro, Danvers
Quite a few North Shore residents have pointed us toward this restaurant, part of the Danversport Yacht Club but open to the public. The menu tends to classic dishes like chicken oscar and prime rib, and the view overlooking the inlet’s docked boats looks spectacular.

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