It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon at the start of summer, and we’re on Cape Cod. We’re in a lovely restaurant recently opened by a highly regarded restaurant group. We’re about to enjoy some delicious food and wine at reasonable prices. We battled some significant traffic to get here.
And we are alone.
Regular readers will recall that Gina and the Big Dog deliberately avoid restaurants at typical meal times, preferring a late lunch as a way to avoid the lax service and unpleasant atmosphere that peak times can bring. We braved Bucatino at 12:30 anyway, mostly because we happened to be in the North Falmouth neighborhood. And inexplicably, we were the only ones there.
It’s a wine bar, so we started with wine. Larissa, our pleasant bartender, offered a taste of anything on the menu. We shared samples of a California Cabernet Franc, “Writer’s Block” (on special for $10), and a Barbera, “Marchisi di Barolo” ($9), and quickly ordered one of each.
We started with an order of the steamed mussels ($12), imagining multiple courses to follow. Its arrival coincided with that of a house-baked bread basket with olive breads, red pepper breads, and some plain rolls, all of which augmented the grilled bread slice that came with the mussels for dipping in the rich buttery sauce. The mussels were briny and clean, and the tasty breads went well with the sauce.
The expansive lunch menu included two intriguing-sounding soups, so again we ordered one of each (cups for $5). The one called Vongole e Fagioli (clams and beans) is a creamy delight that will not disappoint purists looking for clam chowder. The “escarole and white bean” is a classic presentation in a thick, creamy tomato stock. We enjoyed both.
When we arrived, we envisioned salads, sandwiches, and pasta entrees as sides. We would order grilled pizzas, we imagined, and perhaps share a panini.
But no, we were sated with the soups and mussels, and those dishes carried us hours into the evening, when we told a friend about our wonderful experience at Bucatini. “I heard it was expensive,” the friend said. We shared that our delicious, inventive, filling lunch totaled $22 for food: truly a bargain for a lovely restaurant on a beautiful Friday afternoon at the start of summer on Cape Cod.
Bucatino Restaurant and Wine Bar
7 Nathan Ellis Highway, North Falmouth, MA
When we visited Fishers Pub for a late lunch recently, the restaurant had been open for five days. Our expectations were not high, especially when we pulled into a packed parking lot. Surely a brand-new restaurant could not accommodate a crowd of this size.
But we quickly realized that while this location, the site of the former Shooters, was brand-new, little else was. Some of the staff and customers may have been transplants from the pub owner’s other Middleboro hotspot, Harry’s Bar and Grille. We were handed a menu that was Harry’s “and then some,” our cheerful bartender, Kim, said.
Sure, there were challenges to work out. We sat under an air conditioning vent and an employee spent much of our visit trying to regulate the temperature. But we can’t think of any other hints that this place hadn’t been open for years.
Like Harry’s, Fisher’s has an airplane theme. It looks like a big hangar from the outside. Dishes have cute airplane names. The walls are adorned with air travel paraphernalia.
But what really struck us about the restaurant design was how it seems, at the front of the house at least, to reflect how restaurants really function. Behind the spacious U-shaped bar, there is enough space for two bartenders to pass, even with plates and buckets of ice. Takeout ordering and pickup has a dedicated area. A quiet dining room is separated completely from what is likely to be an animated bar. If you’re in the industry, you’ll be jealous.
Our food was really good, reasonably priced, and served professionally.
We started with a Harrier Jet Combo ($11.99), selecting from several choices three of Harry’s famous chicken wings and a third of a rack of ribs. The ribs were somewhat dry and the Big Dog didn’t care for the barbecue sauce, while the wings — we always get the garlic parmesan version — were their usual delicious selves. The plate alone fulfilled our recommended daily requirement of protein.
But we didn’t stop there.
The Big Dog selected a cheeseburger salad ($12.99), a cheeseburger patty slapped on top of a serviceable green salad with a yummy hunk of garlic bread. The dish was good, and held up surprisingly well six hours later when we had the considerable leftovers for dinner.
Gina ordered the roast beef dinner ($15.99), and admitted doing so just to get the day’s vegetable, hearty slices of cooked carrots. They did not disappoint, nor did the mashed potatoes with delicious gravy. The serving of beef seemed like it might have been an opening-week error, as it was easily enough for three meals.
Gina also loved the sweet cakelike cornbread that came with her roast beef. The Big Dog claimed indifference but somehow managed to eat half of it.
Fisher’s Pub is located in an underserved area, with plenty of options to the north, but no restaurants for eight-plus miles to the south. At 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, every seat in the bar was taken, most by pairs or trios of guys who’d likely spent the week framing a garage together, or laying a flagstone patio. When they’re working north of Middleboro or out Route 18 they’ll continue to go to Harry’s, but when work takes them closer to the Cape, they’ll get off 495 at Exit 3 and drive a mile north on Route 28 to Fisher’s. Either location will feel like home.
360 Wareham Street, Middleboro
We stopped recently for lunch in one of New England’s most vibrant cities, a place shaped by a beautiful working waterfront, historic sites, unique and world-renowned museums, and a thriving cultural scene. Boston? Providence? Portsmouth? Portland?
Nope, New Bedford. And if you haven’t been there recently, you need to visit.
Here’s a good reason: the Moby Dick Brewing Co., an authentic brewpub which recently opened on Union Street, one block from the Route 18 artery, and two from the state pier in one direction, and the famed New Bedford Whaling Museum in another. The food is delicious, the service excellent, and the space is a thoughtfully restored old building.
But let’s talk about the beer. Park on the South Water Street side and walk up and you’ll see the beermaking equipment, smartly separated from the restaurant so the odor doesn’t permeate. We had the good sense to do a flight of four each, so we could sample each of the seven beers on offer that day, five weeks after the restaurant opened. The range and variety of beers was remarkable, from a pale yellow unfiltered wheat to a frothy and nearly black Irish stout. Name any mass-produced beer, and the bar staff will match you up to a Moby Dick brew. Gina, not a beer drinker, liked the amber Ishm-Ale, and the Big Dog enjoyed the hoppy Sailors’ Delirium, a double IPA. All of the beers were good, though, and it was just a matter of personal preference.
A tray of four five-ounce pours is just $10, which felt like a very good value. And non-beer-drinkers shouldn’t feel left out — they have an excellent wine list, and we spotted some very special liquors on the shelf above the bar.
The lunch menu is short but wide-ranging, with a little bit of exotica balancing out the standards, and the dinner menu is as well. (The website, we notice, does not include prices, but don’t be alarmed — we noted prices to be on the low side of reasonable.)
Gina started with a sweet potato and apple soup ($5), a thick and spicy blend topped with toasted sesame seeds. The Big Dog chose the salt cod chowder ($6), a very good twist on the standard chowder.
We split the marinated beet salad ($10): thick slices of beets that were likely roasted, then arrayed over what they call a whipped ricotta, mixed with shallots, which would have been outstanding on toast. The whole thing was topped with chopped cashews and microgreens and looked as good as it tasted.
But the star of the show for us was crispy fried fish sandwich ($12). A buttery bun was piled high with pickles, tartar sauce, lettuce, and a giant pouf of fried fish. If you’ve sworn off French fries, these need to be the ones for which you make an exception. The whole thing was a messy, high calorie treat, plenty for two.
We think that a well-designed space can really enhance the experience of dining out, and the Moby Dick vibe is truly outstanding. Every detail, from the beam over the bar from which bulbs dangle, to the iron pipe toilet paper dispenser in the restroom, to the subway tile behind the bar, celebrates the history of the building, and the oversized windows are a textbook tactic for enlivening a city block while connecting the people inside with the world beyond.
Combined with the great food, delicious beer, and good service, Moby Dick Brewing Co. offered a great special occasion experience, and the reasonable prices make it a sensible regular spot for a meal. We look forward to returning.
Moby Dick Brewing Co.
10 South Water Street, New Bedford
Seafood dining in Buzzards Bay recently became quite complicated. As we understand it, the chef at standby Eastwind Lobster left, for good reasons, to start his own restaurant, which he calls Eastwind Seafood… on what is essentially the same street in the same town. Like the original, it’s on the rotary, just a different one. Like the original, it has a seafood market.
It was ironic, then, that one recent Saturday afternoon, we went to Eastwind Seafood looking for boiled lobster and they didn’t have any. We left happy, however, having had a very good lunch and tried something new. We’ve been there several times and enjoyed every visit.
Eastwind Seafood, as any local will tell you, is the one behind Way Ho, the Chinese restaurant on the Bourne rotary. They have a small bar which is a fine place for a meal. We started with a Casillero del Diablo cabernet ($8, the price for which you can frequently find a retail bottle of this charming Chilean), and our second glass came courtesy of our one fellow bar patron (whose Sambuca, also $8, was on us).
Bartender Brenda learned, on our behalf, that Chef would prepare the fried skate wing special as an appetizer for us ($11.99) so we could try it. We’d always heard of skate as a cheap substitute for scallops and also as a great sustainable seafood choice. Gina found it salty, and the Big Dog didn’t care for the slightly stringy texture, but we were glad we had tried it. We observed that pretty much anything is delicious if served with good tartar sauce, as it was. Despite our reservations, we polished off the entire large portion.
So no boiled lobster, but Gina was able to get a lobster roll ($17.99 that day). It was perfect: big chunks of lobster meat tossed with mayonnaise andb a leaf or two of lettuce on a buttery toasted bun. Better yet, they cheerfully substituted green beans for the French fries that normally come alongside.
The Big Dog ordered the two-way combo with fried shrimp and oysters ($17.99). The oversized portion got a rare “delicious” rating from the Dog.
The other Eastwind has a better view, but we really enjoyed our visit to Eastwind Seafood. The atmosphere is pleasant, and the food and service were both worth a visit.
304 Main Street, Buzzards Bay
A. The kind of people who got the right seats.
Let us explain. We weren’t all that hungry on a recent visit to Woods Hole, so we decided to stop at the bustling Quicks Hole Tavern on a blustery Friday night for just a glass of wine and light snack. The first floor level was jam-packed, and we made our way up to the second floor where the only two seats available were at the chef’s table, a four-stool bar facing the cooking activity.
Gina ordered a Terra Grande Portuguese blend ($8) and the Big Dog selected a Familia malbec ($9). Both were good wines we hadn’t tried before.
As we perused the menu, waitstaff serving both floors, and likely the floor above us too, dashed in beside us to pick up orders. And 90 percent of them were burgers, even though there was no mention of burgers on our menu. Burgers on plates, burgers in boxes, veggie burgers with Harvarti, burgers with salads, burgers with little tin cups of crispy fries, etc., etc. — they all went flying by.
We finally asked, and learned that burgers could only be ordered on the first floor of the restaurant. We briefly contemplated calling in an order to go from our seat next to the spot where they were dispensed, but we opted instead for an appetizer they call “pig candy” ($9) four slices of pork belly on a sweet potato puree. They were awesome.
But back to our review.
We watched as the four men in the kitchen braised lamb shanks, grilled steaks, sauteed juliennes of vegetables, pan-roasted chickens, and fried, then filled, little homemade donuts they put in a paper bags. We watched them test beef for doneness with a finger (a trick the Big Dog swears by). We watched them navigate the tiny space with nary a bump, criss-crossing paths as if they had done the dance a hundred times before.
Interestingly, we also watched as the line of cars waiting to board the Martha’s Vineyard ferry started to move, and the anxiety level among the waitstaff increased palpably. Not so the kitchen staff. If the customer wanted chicken on his kale salad AND wanted to make the ferry, he should have ordered three minutes earlier. The customer knew that too, and shook off the waitstaff apologies as he grabbed his bag of takeout.
Quicks Hole offers an ever-changing charcuterie and cheese board, with three choices for $17, five for $22, and seven for $26. The choices looked interesting on the blackboard, and the board of three we saw looked like a generous serving for two people with all its accompaniments. We’ll likely try that on our next visit.
But watching the professionalism of the kitchen staff, we’re certain we’ll enjoy any selection from any of the restaurant’s menus. We look forward to returning.
6 Luscombe Ave., Woods Hole, MA
In a clean, decorative jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine about one part each of clean fresh cranberries, unflavored vodka, and granulated sugar.* We used a cup of each and put them in a quart jar with a clamp lid. Add one tablespooon whole cloves for each cup of cranberries.
To give an extra boost of clove flavor, simmer some cloves in vodka for 20 minutes and add that to the jar.
Seal the jar and shake it gently, inverting it so the sugar begins to dissolve. Sit the jar on a counter and give it a shake every day or two. After a week, the sugar will completely dissolve and the liquid will begin to redden.
The cranberry liqueur will be ready to use in about a month.
We put about an ounce of liqueur in a champagne flute, added a cube or two of ice, and poured soda water over. Add a few cranberries (but not cloves) for garnish. If you like unsweetened cranberries, you’ll like these. The vodka itself absorbs the color but not the taste of the berries.
*We made our first batches for Thanksgiving: one with your standard commercial sugar, one with organic cane sugar, and one with the mixture simmered together before bottling. The only difference we could detect was that the simmered batch turned red right away.
For Christmas we’re trying a version that uses half the amount of cranberries and sugar. We’ll provide an update in about three weeks!
There are likely many great restaurants in Fall River, but we stumbled across one that we would recommend for any occasion: date night, snack while passing through, impressing clients or in-laws, lunch with Gramma (or Vovo), drinks with the gang, or, as in our case, to celebrate the Big Dog’s upcoming birthday.
On a recent mid-week, mid-afternoon visit to the usually busy Sagres, we were lucky enough to be served by a bartender, Raquel, who was willing and able to guide us through the choices on the menu… and some choices only available to those in the know. We emphasize that at regular mealtimes, waits are long, parking is scarce, and the experience at Sagres will be very different from ours. You know we always recommend late lunch/early dinner if you really want to enjoy the food, and our experience at Sagres should show why.
We struggled with the wine list for a bit, then Raquel stepped in with a taste of the house Portuguese red (not to be confused with any of the house American reds). It’s Parras Vinhos 2014 Castelo do Sulco Reserva Red, and subsequent research (89 Wine Enthusiast points) suggest it’s a steal at $25 a bottle.
We each chose one of the soups available for $4 for a hearty bowl. The Big Dog’s Caldo Verde was a creamy potato broth with kale and slices of linguica. Gina’s Sopa Portuguesa was a hearty blend of chopped vegetables in a tomato broth. We liked them both, and particularly enjoyed the Portuguese “pop” rolls that came alongside.
The Big Dog ordered one of a half dozen lunch specials: Peixe Racheado, fresh cod with a shellfish stuffing, served with the day’s vegetables, rice, and a couple of boiled potatoes ($21). The generous serving of cod was outstanding; the blend of broccoli, carrots, and green beans perfectly cooked; and the potatoes and rice were very good. Both of us liked the taste of the stuffing but were put off by the goopy texture, and we were kind of surprised by the lack of discernible seafood in it.
Gina was unable to decide on an entree, and once again Raquel was there to help, telling us that not only was the shrimp mozambique available as a dinner, but we could do half shrimp and half scallops. Sold, at $19. Gina’s selection came with the vegetables and a good green salad, tossed with oil and vinegar. It was a yummy, spicy take on mozambique sauce, and while the shellfish were a tad overcooked, anyone who enjoys mozambique sauce will love this dish.
As if all this wasn’t enough, we split a delicious Três Delicioso ($7), a new offering, known only to Raquel, featuring a layer of custard, a layer of chocolate mousse, a layer of whipped cream, and a coating of cocoa. Raquel brought us a takeout container for what we couldn’t finish, to tuck in the bag with the rest of our take-away, but we blasted through this enjoyable dessert, leaving only a pile of ashes where the decorative mini-trifle bowl had been. (Not entirely true, but we were unstoppable.)
Sagres is a white-tablecloth restaurant in a blue-collar neighborhood. Its decor is beautiful, food excellent, and, if our experience was any indication, its service is beyond outstanding. We will gladly return.
177 Columbia Street, Fall River
A. The kind of person who wants a seat at the fabulous new restaurant at the Sandwich Marina.
Gina and the Big Dog planned a lunch visit to Fishermen’s View, only to find that this beautiful new spot at the Cape Cod Bay end of the Cape Cod Canal didn’t open until 3 p.m. We enlisted reinforcements for another day and concluded that a mid-afternoon visit would be the best approach, given the many somewhat agitated comments online about long waits for dinner.
The four of us were seated on the deck overlooking the marina. We saw no land mass on the horizon there but knew the next stop was Orleans on the Cape, and after that, somewhere in Portugal. The view of boat traffic on an early fall afternoon was entertaining and relaxing.
The restaurant is family owned and operated, and co-exists in its sleek new space with a fish market. We felt like we learned everything we needed to know about the business during our first visit, when we sat at the crowded bar, marveled at the view, ordered a glass of wine and insisted that’s all we wanted, and we were still treated to a basket of the restaurant’s outstanding herby cornbread with sweet butter.
During our more recent visit with friends, the cornbread was back, and once again set the tone for what was to come. We all loved it.
After the bread, we started with a half dozen Wellfleet oysters ($2.50 each) for the gentlemen and a buffalo cauliflower appetizer ($8) for the table. The former were perfectly shucked and served with a trio of sauces. The latter was a linear arrangement of cauliflower florets that were deep fried and tossed in the familiar chicken wing sauce, then garnished with a Great Hill Blue cheese dressing and carrot ribbons. It’s a tasty, classy, somewhat healthy twist on the traditional bar snack, and a pretty hearty serving for the price.
The Big Dog ordered a burger ($11) with guacamole ($2) and chose potato salad from the extensive list of sides. It was good, but with its two angus patties, onion, “yellow cheese,” and puffy bun, it was just too tall to be easily eaten.
Gina can’t pass up a beet salad, so ordered this one ($11) with a Jonah crab “cocktail” topper ($9). She later likened it to a Twinkie, with a delicious muddled kale in lieu of creamy filling, and crunchy quinoa in lieu of yellow cake. And smokey roasted corn, and crisp pepitas, swirls of pickled onions, and sweet chunks of red beets, all topped with cotija cheese. The crabmeat came naked in a mound on the side. Don’t order this expecting a light meal — it was hearty and filling.
Our friends made their choice from the short but varied list of entrees: the pan-roasted halibut ($28) (shown), whose pancetta and red pepper sauce added a smokey flavor; and the skirt steak ($22), arriving as rare as hoped for, atop a fig risotto.
Gina and the Big Dog opted for a bottle of Josh cabernet ($34), while our friends enjoyed a pinot noir and a sidecar, whose amber color warmed our table.
Our server, who was personable but not to the point of introducing herself, was professional and capable. The food was very good to excellent, the venue comfortable yet sleek, the view was unparalleled, and for all that, the prices were surprisingly reasonable. We look forward to returning in the off-season, when we might be able to enjoy dinner at dinnertime.
20 Freezer Road, Sandwich
There was nothing typical about our recent first visit to Cabby Shack on the bustling Plymouth waterfront. A light drizzle kept the crowds away, and we were treated to some really good fare.
We opted for seats at the third-floor outdoor bar, whose tiki top offered sufficient protection from the mist and whose railing offered a bird’s eye view of the harbor’s construction projects and boating activity. From our vantage point, we were able to watch cranes attending to a pier reconstruction and boat ramp project. Bartender Earl poured the Big Dog a 16-ounce Mayflower IPA ($5.75) and Gina a Quara Malbec ($7.50) in plastic cups, and we were content to sit and watch.
The Cabby Shack menu is full of the New England staples that a tourist from America’s Heartland would expect to find in America’s Hometown — let them go back west thinking that a basket of fries doused with chowda ($8.99) is a thing — but there were plenty of options for locals or visitors whose clam-o-meter has been tipped.
We started with chicken wings in a garlic parmesan sauce ($9.99). It was a simple dish, but one tasty enough to make us look forward to the rest of our lunch.
We love short ribs, and the Heartland visitors who skipped the Pratt-Rib Pannini ($13.99) because they can get that at home did themselves a huge disservice. The Big Dog’s giant triple-decker sandwich came with a layer of portobello and goat cheese on sourdough, all tricked out with some arrugula and carmelized onions. If you like thin, crispy fries, you will enjoy the ones that come with Cabby Shack sandwiches.
Gina chose a special, dubbed Salmon Homard ($22.99), a hunk of salmon topped with one of the restaurant’s signature lobster cakes. The salmon was grilled to crispy-juicy perfection. The lobster cake had a similar texture and color, with some visible chunks of lobster meat. Alongside was a dollop of delicious mashed potatoes, some asparagus, and a nondescript vegetable medley.
Overall, the food was very good and the view was entertaining: a rare combination.
30 Town Wharf, Plymouth
Under normal circumstances, we would never consider reviewing a restaurant that had been open for only three days. In the first few months, even restaurants like this, a duplicate of an existing successful operation, typically have a slew of issues to work through, from personnel conflicts to structural flaws.
This was not the case at Saga Steak House in the new Rosebrook Place complex off I-195/I-495. The decor is snappy, the service attentive, and the food very good. On Day Three. We would be doing you a disservice to withhold a review.
We arrived, frankly, thinking that we would just take a look around and have a beverage on our way home. We looked, and were very impressed at the sleek appearance. The front door opens into a six-seat bar and two high-tops. Beyond that sits a sushi bar. To the right, a dining room, and beyond that in the opposite corner, a hibachi grill room. The dining room and grill were separated by an enormous fish tank wall.
There were patrons in each of these four sections, and most of them were younger than what we’re accustomed to seeing, most heading back to the more raucous scene in the hibachi room. This was with no formal publicity, and at 8 at night. When word gets out, there will be lines.
The affable host, Peter, brought us two glasses of their one cabernet sauvignon, whose name escapes us. It was good, but not a good value at $9 for what appeared to be a scant 5-ounce pour.
One little snack, we vowed, and ordered a Kani Salad to split. It was a delightful tangle of julienned crab sticks (described as crabmeat on the menu) and cucumber, with a hint of mayonnaise and a scattering of tobiko, or flying fish roe ($6). We were hooked.
The beef asparagus appetizer ($8) also caught our eye. You’ve seen this dish as asparagus wrapped in proscuitto then roasted. With a sharp steak knife, these four little rolls would have been outstanding. With chopsticks, they were chewy (they needed tenderizing).
The three dozen or so “specialty rolls” range from $10 to $18 and offer theatrical descriptions for their multitude of ingredients. The “roll or hand roll” selections come at a lesser price and without the descriptions. Or, choose “Sushi and Sashimi A La Carte.” Or “Appetizer From Sushi Bar.” Or “Sushi Bar Entrees,” served with miso soup and salad. After one visit, we can be excused for failing to distinguish among these categories.
We skipped the “Hot Babe Roll” and “Sex on the Beach” and settled on the Rainbow Roll ($11) and Ninja Roll ($13). It was a good pairing from a presentation perspective; the Rainbow was beautifully composed, each topped with diagonally arranged layers of white fish, salmon, tuna, and avocado. The Ninja was more architectural, with spikes of shrimp tempura with a coating of eel emerging from a filling of lobster salad. The combined dish was delicious and beautiful.
As time goes on, we suspect there will be some tweaking with the volume of the background music. The bright lights up front and beverage cooler lights may be toned down. We would like to believe that the existing wineglasses will be replaced by some that are a bit larger. Some dishes may come with a steak knife, maybe a nice one.
But beyond needing those relatively minor adjustments, Saga Steak House appears to be in Year 2 form. We recommend going now, because it won’t be long before Saga is one of the region’s most popular dining destinations.
Saga Steak House
20 Rosebrook Place, Wareham