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

J Quick Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Share

The Line on Hooked

Posted: May 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Casual/Pub Food, Hooked, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When the eye-catching blue and yellow Coming Soon signs appeared in the windows of 114 Pleasant St. in Marblehead last week, locals were impressed. Although the new restaurant, Hooked, won’t open until June, it’s already got a website with a sample menu and a twitter feed to boot.

“Oh,” you might say, “A seafood restaurant in a shore town, how (yawn) exciting.” But the truth is, with its family-friendly combination of casual restaurant and take-out, Hooked’s unique approach may just be what some are looking for, especially as it will be open for lunch.

I stopped by today and chatted with partners Ben Rhodes and Rafe Hershfield about their new venture. Rhodes, a well-known Marblehead native, owns the building and for many years ran the Super Sub that Hooked is replacing. He was ready for something new, and long discussions with the enthusiastic Hirschfield gave birth to this concept.

The space will feature about 32 seats in a combination of counter, high-top tables, and regular tables. Diners will order at the counter, their meals will be brought to them, and they’ll bus their own tables as they depart. A step above the familiar red-and-white checked paper baskets, the food will be served on china with flatware, and a selection of beer and wine will be served.

Hershfield promises the fried offerings will be fresh, not frozen, with generous portions at highly competitive prices. Clam strip fans will be intrigued—the jumbo refers not to the portion but to the size of the clams.

Unlike the standard clam shack, Hooked’s menu will include plenty of fresh fish (locally sourced when possible) as grilled and baked options, with items like swordfish kabobs over salad for healthy or gluten-free choices. Less-common sandwiches like crab cake sliders and fish tacos will also make an appearance, and the guys hinted at a few more menu surprises they have up their sleeves.

Everything will be available for take-out, which is sure to please summer beachgoers and boaters. The interior is getting a complete overhaul, including a brand-new kitchen, and they plan to open in mid to late June. Rhodes says farther down the line, they are looking at turning the adjacent driveway into a patio with outdoor seating, something of which Marblehead has surprisingly little.

The restaurant’s website quips “Once you try it you’ll be ‘Hooked’!” and after my visit today, I’m looking forward to returning to see if it’s true.

Edit 7.20.10: You can read about our first visit to Hooked here: A First Look at Hooked, Marblehead’s Newest Seafood Eatery

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

Share

Bringing the North End to the North Shore

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Italian, Marblehead, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Today is the grand opening of Il Mercato, a unique Italian market in Marblehead. The brainchild of Donna Oliviero, who owns Caffe Italia, the market is located in what was the restaurant’s secondary dining area.

Oliviero has been planning the opening for almost a year, and she’s created a destination market by combining foods imported from Italy with take-home entrées and breads made fresh on premises.

The imported foods include olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, packaged almond and ladyfinger cookies (for making tiramisu), panettone, bags of dried oregano still on the stem, and soda in flavors like pear and apricot. There’s also a selection of imported dried pasta in large shapes not usually seen in the states.

A deli case contains prosciutto, mushrooms, anchovies, fresh mozzarella, and a large bowl of colorful olives. On top are arancini (rice balls), hot stuffed cherry peppers, and cannoli shells in two sizes ready to be filled.

Nearby is a selection of fresh-frozen pastas like fusilli, gnocchi, agnololotti, ravioli, manicotti from Original Gourmet Creation in Somerville. Oliviero’s tomato, bolognese, and pesto sauces are available to go with them, as are fresh-frozen porcini mushrooms.

In addition to selling the restaurant’s famous rolls and foccacia, the store carries Italian baguettes, multigrain ciabatta, and olive loaves. Two panini sandwiches are available each day: mozzarella/tomato/olive oil and the daily special. A selection of prepared dinners like lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, and meatballs are available to take home.

Oliviero is offering a huge variety of catering options, from antipasto trays and Italian cookies to entrees like chicken marsala and rolatini eggplant in sizes to designed to feed anywhere from 10 to 25 people. There is also a chef’s table that can be booked for between six and 14 people every night but Monday. The menu is designed with Oliviero to suit your party, starting with appetizer, entrée, salad, and two jugs of wine for $30 per person.

The market’s grand opening is today from 11:00 to 6:00, with a ribbon cutting at 4:00. Permanent hours are 11:00 to 6:00 Monday through Saturday.

Il Mercato / Caffe Italia
10 School St, Marblehead
(781) 631-5700
www.caffeitaliarestaurant.com/home_marblehead.html

Share

A Taste of Bliss

Posted: January 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Beverly, Bliss Gourmet Takeout, Cafe, Deli, Marketplace | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Earlier this week, we happened to be driving though Beverly Farms around lunchtime and decided to stop in to check out Bliss Gourmet Takeout on a whim.

The small storefront was warm, welcoming, and filled with enchanting aromas. There were gorgeous looking baked goods, a deli case with a variety of all-natural prepared foods made that day, a blackboard with sandwich specials, and a refrigerated case with specialty items, many locally produced. Coffees, soups, and salads round out the store’s repertoire.

The sandwiches, which run about $7 are made with Iggy’s bread and sounded enticing, with choices like caprese with prociutto or pork tenderloin with rosemary aoli on ficelle. Knowing we were going to splurge on treats, we went with a piece of the savory bread pudding. It was wonderfully moist and eggy, with browned crispy bits, mushrooms, and a hint of sage.

The baked goods we tried were even tastier. The chocolate cupcake ($1.75) was lush, with rich ganache frosting that wasn’t overly sweet, and the coffee macaroon (the almond meringue variety) half dipped in chocolate was excellent, with the mocha flavor adding depth and the dark chocolate luxurious.

While the prices are not certainly not low, the quality and freshness of the foods and the obvious care with which they are prepared make us wish Bliss was our neighborhood take-out place.

Bliss
36 West Street, Beverly Farms
(978) 922-6612
blisstakeout.com

Share

Exploring Cambodian Flavors at Floating Rock

Posted: May 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Asian, Floating Rock, Revere | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

float1Edited: May 1, 2010

Floating Rock in Revere has closed, and opened at a new location at 485 Mass Ave in Cambridge. Their website isn’t up at this time, but you can find them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cambridge-MA/The-Floating-Rock-Restaurant/137014088221

The next time you’re up for a little food adventure, we’ve got the perfect place. On the recommendation of folks from the Boston Chowhound board, we recently had lunch at Floating Rock in Revere, which serves Cambodian food. From the outside, it looks like a hole in the wall, but the interior is nicer than that, the service is friendly, and the food is both delicious and a bit exotic.

We started with tiger’s tears, a spicy beef salad that was raved about on Chow, and we can see why. Marinated thin slices of beef, sliced red and green bell peppers, onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and lime juice—a party in your mouth. There were crunchy bits we couldn’t identify, but our server told us they were ground up roasted rice. We also tried the squid salad: tender chunks, not quite as spicy, a wonderful citrus punch, and also delicious.

For main courses, we had a Cambodian pad thai, white rice, and a chicken stir fry. The latter was listed only as Spicy Chicken on the menu, but our waitress told us it was a curry stir fry and thought it was a good choice. She was right. The right amount of heat, wonderful curry flavor, tender meat, and crisp-tender bell peppers. My favorite dish of the visit.

squidsalad1She also recommended the Cambodian pad thai, which is nothing like the traditional but has interesting flavors. The noodles were pasta rather than rice, and they were served on top of bean sprouts, surrounded by hard-boiled egg wedges, and topped with dried bonito flakes (looks like sawdust, tastes like salty shrimp). The sauce was salty and sweet at the same time, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

For those who like to cook Asian dishes at home, there is an Asian market across the street (and another next door that was closed the day we were there) with everything from 15 types of rice noodles and shrimp paste to fresh produce and strange-sounding Thai candy.

Floating Rock is a few blocks from the Revere Beach stop on the Blue Line. If you commute to Boston on 1A, when you’re at the Wonderland rotary, you’re less than five minutes away. Their closing time reportedly varies though, so if you’re looking to take home dinner make sure to call ahead. If you go or have already been, please recommend your favorite dishes in the comments—we definitely plan to return.

Floating Rock
144 Shirley Avenue, Revere
(781) 286-2554

Share