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


Seeking Comfort

Posted: March 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Garden City Pub | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Garden City Pub is not exactly a secret, but it’s something of a hidden gem, located behind a liquor store in North Beverly. It’s our number one choice for comfort food, and lest we be accused of keeping things from you, we’ve got to share. Just don’t all rush there next Saturday night or we’ll never get a table, ’k?

We had another great meal there last weekend, and the price was the perfect antidote to the week’s stockmarket plunge: $50 for a large, satisfying dinner for two with drinks.

Lunch Guy splurged on a Ketel One martini ($8.50), followed by french onion soup and eggplant parmesan. The soup ($4) had its priorities in order—lots of crunchy bread topped with melted cheese. Oh, and the soup was tasty, too. The entrée was a huge portion of very thin eggplant slices breaded perfectly ($13). Between the eggplant and the bowl of pasta it came with, Lunch Guy took half of it home—and believe me, that doesn’t happen often.

My entrée has got to be one of the best deals around. A large bowl of delicious lobster ravioli topped with creamy pasta sauce for $14. It came with a good-sized portion of fresh caesar salad for an additional $2.50. The ravioli are not house made as far as we could ascertain, but they were large, cooked perfectly, and filled with chunks of lobster. My cocktail was cranberry juice and house vodka, a 16-ounce glass for $5. It goes without saying we were too full to think about dessert.

Garden City is not the place for a quiet, romantic meal. It’s noisy and crowded most nights for dinner, and the large bar dominates the room. But the service is efficient and friendly, the steak fries (sampled on previous visits) are heavenly, and the drinks are generous. Let’s just say if this place were a little easier to see from Route 1A, getting a table would be nearly impossible.

Garden City Pub
21 Enon St, Beverly
(978) 922-9018


Did You Say Toad in the Hole?

Posted: November 25th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Old Spot, Salem | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

We knew we were in for a treat when the waitress placed a bottle of Heinz malt vinegar on the table after we ordered the sweet potato sizzler appetizer, on her recommendation.

Actually, we were pretty sure we were going to enjoy The Old Spot the moment we walked in. The gas fire on the pub side, the friendly barkeep, and the flirty pig decorations in the main restaurant were the first clues. The 16 beers on tap, juicy burgers, and an opportunity to order spotted dick cemented the deal.

Established almost three years ago across from the Hawthorne Hotel, The Old Spot is, the waitress told us, the owner’s version of a English pub. Traditional fare like ploughman’s lunch ($12), toad in the hole ($8), and fish and chips ($16), along with ½ liter beers, ensure the pub part is on target. The “version” we took to mean more sophisticated menu choices, including delicious seared scallops with butternut squash ravioli in a light cream sauce (a recent dinner special).

Five of us shared the sweet potato fries ($9), which were topped with bacon, cheddar, sour cream, and scallions. Good thing we are all well behaved, or there might have been some elbow-related injuries. The haddock sandwich, fish and chips, and burger were declared a success, although the fries could have been more crisp. The hit of the night was the very slow roasted pork with wow-wow sauce (a vinegar-laced brown sauce with Worcestershire and whole grain mustard). Despite its melt-in-your-mouth qualities, we couldn’t finish the generous serving.

The same can’t be said for the desserts ($6 each), portions of which were left in their bowls. The brownie sundae tried, unsuccessfully, to cover up for the desert-dryness of the brownie with ice cream and whipped cream. A similar fate befell the spotted dick, which turned out to be bread pudding with whiskey sauce. The lemon bars were the best of the lot, moist and flavorful.

In the end, we left sated and happy, with plans to return. The welcoming atmosphere, attentive service, and good pub fare won us over, not to mention our desire to sample some of the cocktails on offer. With names like thickety boo, nancy boy, and peach knickers, who can resist?

The Old Spot
121 Essex St, Salem
(978) 745-5656

Old Spot on Urbanspoon