Archive for category Inexpensive Dining
Looking for very good, fresh, yet inexpensive food in a homey setting in the Upper Cape region? Look no further than the Sagamore Inn. It’s an off-season favorite of locals, and a time-honored tradition for summer folk.
Let us cut to the chase on this one. Gina ordered the veal parmesan ($14.99) and a few minutes later, we heard a distinct pounding noise from the kitchen. “There’s your veal,” whispered the Big Dog. Joanne, our charming and efficient bartender, confirmed when she emerged with our soups. How often does that happen? We’re pretty sure that in most kitchens, the pounding happens in the morning, or maybe even the previous night, or more likely, at Sysco a month before the veal was shipped in frozen vacuum-packed portions.
Previously, the Big Dog ordered a bowl of the soup of the day ($6.99) — zuppa toscana — and asked for two spoons. Joanne suggested that she just bring us two cups of the soup for the price of a bowl. How often does that happen? The soup, which came with a basket of warm bread made for the Sagamore Inn by a bakery in New Bedford, was chock-full of big sausage chunks, potatoes, kale and added vegetables in a thin cream sauce.
The tender veal came topped with a thick layer of mozzarella and a side of spaghetti with meat sauce. It was delicious. Gina also got the house salad ($7.99) which contained a whole bunch of vegetables: romaine, red cabbage, red onion, chopped red peppers, celery, carrots, and more. It’s a house salad, and the house dressing is a thick and tangy balsamic vinaigrette which comes on the side.
The Big Dog ordered the Sagamore Angus Burger with cheese ($11.99). It came with a side of cole slaw which had a pleasant fruitiness which we suspect was from a tiny bit of pineapple juice or something similar. It, and the burger, were both very good.
Gina ordered an Irony cabernet from Napa Valley ($12) and the Big Dog enjoyed a Ketel One and soda ($10).
The bar is pleasant and comfortable, if a bit chilly at lunchtime on this snowy Friday. The dining area offers warm and comfortable private booths. The whole vibe is very homey, and we can imagine regular visitors to our beloved Upper Cape region believing that their summer vacation or fall excursion is not complete without a stop at the Sagamore Inn.
1131 Sandwich Road, Bourne
We discovered another great spot for authentic Portuguese food in New Bedford recently, but we admit that we almost passed it up.
Alianca sits on a corner at the edge of a gritty residential neighborhood, across from a vacant lot in one direction and a boarded-up package store in another. The exterior looks startlingly different from the portrayal on its snazzy, professional website. Dare to open the door (during our visit, its sign was flipped around to display “CLOSED”) and you’ll feel like you stumbled upon a private party to which you were not invited. The regulars look up, and when you sit at the odd little bar, you’ll feel like you’ve taken someone else’s seat. A soap opera is playing loudly on a giant TV. You’ll realize that you’re the only people, patrons or staff, not speaking Portuguese. If that makes you uncomfortable, this is definitely not the place for you.
But get past all that, and you will be glad you did, because you’re in for a feast of Portuguese specialties, very large portions at reasonable prices, with flavors designed to appeal to the region’s large population of Portuguese, Azorean, and Cape Verdean emigres, and not watered down for American tastes.
Let us tell you about the wine first, because that was fun. Alianca offers some Portuguese wines – their reds are still the great value that Spanish reds were a decade ago – by the glass, half bottle, or bottle. We ordered half bottles ($9 apiece) of two red blends, each featuring aragonez, the Portuguese name for the tempranillo grape. We’ll be watching for these wines, Monte Velho and JP Azeitao, the latter of which had a higher percentage of syrah and thus was preferred by the Big Dog. We don’t pretend to be wine experts but these tasted good, and seemed to be an excellent value.
The Big Dog started with a generous cup of Portuguese soup ($3). It was your typical kale soup, but so much richer and heartier than what you get at some places.
Gina ordered a “pork steak” with a garlic sauce that made it “Alianca style” ($12.95). The meltingly tender pork came topped with a fried egg and slice of vinegar red pepper and a fistful of whole garlic cloves. The flavorful sauce was delicious when scooped up with the side of rice or the crusty bread that came with the meal. It even made the mixed vegetable side seem special. Where we would normally each take home half our lunch entrees, it was quickly apparent that this outstanding dish was not going to make it home.
The Big Dog ordered the Portuguese burger ($10.95), a special that day. It came with a fried egg and slices of either mild chourico or spicy linguica, and yummy crisp french fries. The burger was excellent, and the half we took home was tasty when reheated.
We really enjoyed our food, and importantly, we felt like the waitstaff and someone who came out from the kitchen to check on us were glad that we did. Where at first we felt like we were in a private party to which we were not invited, we left feeling like honored guests.
98 Cove Street, New Bedford, MA
Without a doubt, this odd little roadside pub dished up one of the best meals we’ve had in recent months. Rich flavors, top-notch ingredients, a great balance of traditional and innovative dishes – Pub 6T5 had it all.
So let’s focus on the food.
Faced with a large and interesting menu, we decided that we’d choose some appetizers and entrees and plan on boxing if we were overwhelmed. We sat at the bar hoping that some other dishes would come out before we ordered to give us inspiration, but our fellow bar patrons were focused on pizza. Looked good, but that was not our jam on this particular Wednesday.
So Gina ordered the soup of the day ($4.99): fish stew, and two spoons. The Big Dog ordered the caprese salad ($12.99) and two forks. The salad was really good, with pesto dressing and shredded basil leaves, and hearty slices of tomato and mozzarella.
The fish stew, on the other hand, was outstanding. It was the kind of dish you talk about years later: a great big bowl with a flavorful tomato base, a bit spicy, big chunks of fish, and vegetables. It tasted like fish, but not fishy fish. Where we’d been side-eying our fellow patrons’ pizzas, now all eyes were upon our soup, and some asked what we’d ordered and got their own.
From the regular menu, Gina ordered the quinoa grain bowl ($11.99), mostly because she’d never seen anything like that on a menu in a setting like this. It was delicious quinoa and rice tossed with grilled corn and pico de gallo drizzled with an avocado poblano cream sauce. We got the sense that most people add grilled chicken but it was great without.
The Big Dog ordered the cacoila sandwich ($9.99), subbing a very good green salad for the fries that normally come with it. The sandwich was pretty simple: the traditional Portuguese pork served unadorned on a Portuguese pop roll. Like your vavo makes… except a hundred times better. A thousand. The roll was perfectly puffy, the pork meltingly tender, the sauce rich. As we pushed the grain bowl aside (it was excellent the next day) and devoured this sandwich, we decided to order another to go.
But then we got waylaid by the bread pudding ($6.99). We rarely order dessert, but this caramelly, ice-creamy, whipped-creamy beauty was a worthy splurge. As on several other dishes, the menu attributes this one to someone in the kitchen named Fatima.
So, yes, the food was spectacular. The service was distracted. The wine choices were limited and one mixed drink tasted like City water. The decor was part fraternal hall, part insurance agency office, part dive bar, part exotic high-end restaurant. The whole thing is one big room, and if the crowd on this Wednesday afternoon was any indication – all commercial scallop fishermen from different boats who were fascinating to eavesdrop on – Vavo better be prepared for some salty language.
Despite all that, we would see this as a future special occasion restaurant, a favored place to go when we are celebrating. We’re not much into fancy linens or valet service or other trappings of high-end dining, but the food here is so distinctive that the experience is sure to be memorable.
736 Ashley Boulevard
For Gina and the Big Dog, Bailey’s was our safe go-to spot during the pandemic, and our favorite destination for an afternoon beverage or a reliable lunch in the ensuing months. It’s our Cheers: Everybody knows our (real) name.
So imagine our surprise when we realized we have never posted a Chow review of Bailey’s. We set out to rectify that on a recent Thursday night.
Bartender Dylan, who is professional and personable, mixed the Big Dog’s favorite Ketel One and soda ($8) and poured Gina a serviceable Woodbridge Cabernet ($8.50). He brought us a shrimp cocktail ($14.95) as we perused the menu (again). The four oversized shrimp are always fresh and crisp, served in a cool aluminum martini glass with house-made cocktail sauce.
We followed that up with a crock of French onion soup ($6.95), for which Dylan brought us two spoons. It may not be a traditional preparation, but it’s hot and cheesy, loaded with plump onions, and great on a cool evening.
The Big Dog ordered a special: chicken Picatta ($18.95). The lightly battered chicken cutlets come bathed in a lemony garlic butter tossed with capers and sliced mushrooms. His dinner came with a big house salad.
Gina ordered her favorite: baked salmon. The lunch portion is huge, and the dinner portion ($24.95) is easily three meals worth of fish. It’s topped with Bailey’s extraordinary seafood bisque as a sauce, so in addition to the tender, juicy, thick slab of salmon, you get a kind of Newburg-ish sauce loaded with tiny Maine shrimp, scallops, and some lobster. For her two sides, Gina chose mashed potatoes (they are red potatoes with the skin on, which some love and others do not) and steamed broccoli.
We prefer dining at the bar, here and everywhere, but Bailey’s offers several comfortable options, including booths by the gas fire in the pub, and a traditional dining room, along with an overflow space used for functions.
Another particularly welcome characteristic of Bailey’s: owner Diana is almost always there to greet you at the front door, and her husband Rich is almost always in the kitchen. They’ve created a team of loyal and capable staffers that is likely the envy of Southcoast restaurant owners.
Bailey’s Surf & Turf
3056 Cranberry Highway
East Wareham, MA
Take it from Gina and the Big Dog: very often, good food and excellent value can come from a place where you’d least expect it.
Barrett’s Alehouse is a great example of this. First impression: it’s on the highway, it’s enormous, it’s furnished and lit like a Motel Six, it’s lined with giant TVs. Worse, it’s got a whole sidecar space filled with supersized electronic games that would delight your adolescents.
So when on a Thursday afternoon we bellied up to the Corian bar, our expectations were low. Street corn dip with corn chips ($11) to start? Sure, whatever.
But O-M-G, what a delightful appetizer. It’s a baking dish filled with corn kernels alongside corn chips. The corn is bathed in a cilantro cream with a sprinkling of queso fresco with a scoop of pico de gallo on top. But above all, it’s a baking dish full of corn, and it will make you wonder why more restaurants don’t feature cheesy, salty, delicious snacks whose primary ingredient is a vegetable.
To go with, The Big Dog had our attentive and capable bartender, Nicole, mix up some fancy margarita ($11) and he was happy with it. Gina ordered a serviceable William Hill cabernet ($10).
The Big Dog’s lunch entree was even better than the appetizer. He selected the Pork Schnitzel sandwich ($15), admitting that he just enjoyed saying “schnitzel.” (Try it!) The oversized portion of pork was lightly coated and fried, extending way beyond the pretzel bun, topped with a fistful of arugula, and slathered with a flavorful dijonnaise sauce with tons of garlic and capers. It was one of the best sandwiches we’ve encountered in a long time.
Gina chose miso salmon ($21). The salmon was a generous portion, perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was served atop a clump of bok choi, sliced sauteed mushrooms, and “steamed white rice” that we didn’t care for (we’re rice snobs).
On a Thursday mid-afternoon, the cavernous space seemed virtually empty. But we could easily imagine it packed with patrons on a Friday night, or a Sunday afternoon during football season.
And let us add a note about our server. Nicole had that rare balance: friendly, chatty, but not in our business; attentive but not clingy. Kudos to Barrett’s for either excellent training, or having an eye for good young bartender talent.
Barrett’s has three locations and we recently enjoyed lunch at the Fall River location. They definitely have found the recipe for culinary excellence in a fun sports bar setting.
674 West Center Street
West Bridgewater, MA
We could make a pretty good burger at home. We could pour a glass of wine to go with it. We could tune the TV to the Golf Channel. But sometimes we don’t want to do all that ourselves, and that’s when we go to a place like Boston Tavern: to get good food at reasonable prices, and be treated by staff like they are genuinely glad we stopped in. And maybe order something a residential kitchen could never easily produce.
The Boston Tavern is an odd hybrid. There are other restaurants with the same name and logo in Norwood and one of the Bridgewaters but it’s not clear how they are related. The one in Middleboro has the feel of a hometown restaurant, with a relaxed vibe and regulars greeting one another. Conversely, it has that kitschy decor that is so popular with the TGIF and Cracker Barrel types of chains. But upon closer inspection, it’s apparent that the kitsch has an unusual authenticity: a out-of-town design firm wouldn’t get the significance of the James Hook Lobster Co. or a sign promoting a Combat Zone “gentlemen’s lounge.” When they say Boston Tavern, they mean it.
We got a comfortable seat at the bar, and while our bartender never introduced herself (the slip said she was “88”), she was very attentive and accommodating.
We rarely order an appetizer, but we came up with a great new rule: if we review the menu and both of us have an eye on the same app, we’ll get it. Here, it was the fried calamari ($13), and that’s another thing our home kitchen will never produce. This version was outstanding! It was a generous portion of tender rings with a light, crisp batter, tossed with vinegar peppers and olives, and served with a marinara sauce.
The Big Dog ordered a horseradish burger special ($13) cooked medium well, and it was perfect, with a pink center, flavorful beef, delicious sauce, and outstanding crispy french fries.
Gina opted for the Famous Cornbread Croutons ($15): one-inch cubes of to-die-for crunchy cornbread that come with a giant salad topped with fajita spiced chicken. They call it Southwest Chicken Fajita Salad on the menu, but we can imagine circumstances where one might order the salad and only eat the croutons. Not to say the salad wasn’t very good, because it was, with crisp fresh vegetables topped by the chicken and a delicious corn salsa. The croutons reheat well in a toaster oven, but if you want to convince yourself they won’t (and eat them all in the car on the way home), we will totally back you up. We liked the house balsamic vinaigrette better than the honey dijon dressing that comes with the salad and which they gladly swap out for whatever you like.
Gina enjoyed a Josh Cabernet ($7.50), and the Big Dog opted for a fancy coffee-flavored drink special called The Big Chill ($9).
We found the Boston Tavern to be an extremely comfortable spot to hang out for an afternoon, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a low-key place to watch a game, gather with friends, and/or enjoy very good food.
Boston Tavern Middleboro
58 East Grove Street (Route 28), Middleboro
Here’s a classic sports bar with cavernous space and large TVs everywhere. With the Red Sox and the Bruins both doing well, it was a good afternoon to be surrounded by high-def.
The C&P diverges from the sports bar stereotype, however, with an adventurous menu of excellent food, and oddly, an appeal to young couples with toddlers.
Under normal circumstances, we might stop here after some retail therapy at the mall or the Home Depot. The Route 6 location is convenient to UMass-Dartmouth and the medical facilities throughout that area. It’s a few minutes from downtown New Bedford, and a few minutes more from downtown Fall River. We happened to be in the area because Gina was getting her first Covid vaccine.
We figured early afternoon on a sunny Sunday would mean no trouble getting a seat. Wrong! We waited 15 minutes for a distanced hightop beside the bar as parties with reservations streamed in ahead of us.
Kacey, our very busy bartender, set the stage by finding us a pair of cheaters so the Big Dog could read the special beer menu whose expansiveness necessitated tiny type. We sampled a double IPA from Maine’s Banded Brewing Co. and enjoyed its floral hoppiness, but opted for a couple of red wines instead: a Silk and Spice red Portuguese blend ($8) for Gina, and a Mondavi Private Selection cabernet ($9.50). The wine list was interesting, and selections by the glass fairly inexpensive. The craft beer list is clearly a focus, and if Vaccine #2 occurs when the Sox and the Bs aren’t on, we could imagine enjoying a sampler flight out on the very appealing heated patio.
We decided to start by sharing two appetizers. As we placed the appetizer order, we had already decided on our entrees. As we waited and watched other dishes come out of the kitchen, we thought maybe we would ask that to-go boxes come with the entrees. A few enthusiastic fork-waving moments into the appetizers, we decided we would just order the entrees to go and have them for dinner. As we slurped up the last of the appetizers, we were planning our next visit, and deciding we would order the entrees then. The apps were that hearty, and that delicious.
The first item on the menu, under the heading “Start Here,” is Scallops and BBQ Brisket ($13.95), described as pan-seared scallops, BBQ burnt ends, and Asian slaw. If you love scallops, you have to go here and order this. If you hate scallops, you have to do the same, and you will be a convert. They were perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and untainted by the delicious sauces that adorned the plate. It was a great way to get a sense of the kitchen, and a very good value. The brisket and slaw and BBQ sauce are definitely the restaurant’s wheelhouse, but man, those scallops were really good.
As our other appetizer, we ordered something we’ve never seen before: Peach and Almond Salad ($9.95 for the large, which is way too much for one normal person and a challenge for two, and $6.95 for small). Incredibly crisp mixed greens, carrots, and cucumbers were topped with goat cheese, dried cranberries, slivered almonds with some sort of yummy coating, and sliced peaches, with a sidecar of a fruity yet savory blood orange vinaigrette. The dish had classic feel, like probably everybody but Gina and the Big Dog know about this combination and we need to get out more.
We should not have been surprised by the high quality of the food: this restaurant is owned by the same folks who run the Pasta House in Fairhaven.
The C&P website offers a link to the Open Table reservation site, and we encourage using that – we felt lucky to get a seat even on an off hour. In fact, we have already booked our next visit there.
Cask and Pig Kitchen and Alehouse
780 State Road (Rte. 6), Dartmouth, MA
Gina had ordered a pork chop special with Moroccan seasoning. She has never ordered pork chops in a restaurant and rarely cooks them at home, because they’re usually terrible.
Not so at the Silver Lounge.
The two chops were thin but unbelievably tender and juicy. Bartender Therese said the chef loves that Moroccan seasoning and puts it on everything, and we understood why. But having the chops as a perfectly cooked starting point was truly brilliant. The order ($14.95) came with a big, fresh salad (without onions), a little cup of sweet applesauce, and a perfect foil-wrapped baked potato with a freshly scooped dollop of sour cream and extra butter. The chops had an assertive grilled flavor and were oh so delicious.
We usually don’t tell about specials because it’s unfair to recommend a dish you can’t always buy, but the Silver Lounge has lamb chops on the regular menu and we can only imagine that they are prepared equally well.
Plus, the Big Dog ordered the steamed mussels appetizer ($11.75) and…
Steamed in wine and butter and served with a chunk of bread for sopping up sauce, these mussels were tender and flavorful. They were possibly the best mussels we have ever had: clean and perfect.
The Big Dog also ordered a bowl of clam chowder ($7.25) which was full of clams and literally thick enough to eat with a fork.
The Silver Lounge bar cheese came highly recommended, so we took an order to go. It’s a creamy concoction containing yellow cheddar, horseradish, and we guess some cottage cheese, perfect for slathering on the Ritz crackers that come alongside in the appetizer version. We’ll admit that we ordered a small container to go ($8.50, with crackers), tested it while cashing out, and were so taken that we ordered another larger to-go container ($9, without crackers).
We were very focused on the food, but it should be noted that the Silver Lounge has a charming, cozy interior – an authentic version of the Cracker Barrel look, right down to the attached country gift shop. Given the folksy appearance, the sophisticated wine list was a pleasant surprise. The Big Dog enjoyed a Coppola cabernet ($9.75), and Gina enjoyed a Silver Palm cab ($10.25).
They seem to be adhering quite strictly to pandemic protocols, which during the time of our visit included the 25 percent capacity limit. Despite that, the staff was cheerful and welcoming, and we look forward to our next visit.
Silver Lounge Restaurant
412 Route 28A, North Falmouth, MA
Imagine you’re planning a celebratory Friday lunch at a nice Portuguese restaurant in New Bedford. You pull up and take the very last available parking space in the lot. You’re seated quickly by a window, and an attentive waitress brings you a glass of the brand of wine you favor. The menu offers many delectable-sounding choices, and your selections turn out to be ample and delicious, and at a price far less than you expected to pay. Happy dining day, right?
Now, imagine that you find yourself in a bar called Knuckleheads. You make your way past a lunchtime crowd of f-bomb-dropping workers in hoodies to the last unstable round hightop and move the ketchup and mustard bottles onto the windowsill so you’ll have space to eat. The waitress pours your wine from one of those tiny plastic bottles, and you anxiously choose a couple of dishes that total less than what you might have paid at the Honey Dew Donuts next door, as an argument breaks out among your barmates. Scary dining day, right?
But it was the same day! A friend recommended that we try Knuckleheads and we trust him, so we gave it a shot. While the atmosphere was not for the faint of heart, the food was outstanding and the service was very good.
Gina chose a grilled salmon special ($15.99). The big hunk of properly cooked fish came with a garlicky-buttery topping, a large portion of buttery mixed vegetables, and a baked potato with extra butter and sour cream. We understand how some people might be going out to a restaurant and think that bland steamed broccoli might be a good dining choice but… actually, no, we don’t. We think that vegetables deserve the same treatment of sauces and seasonings that the main entree gets, and we weren’t disappointed here. The fish was great, but the vegetables were the highlight of the dish.
The Big Dog ordered the Junior Portuguese Steak Sandwich ($12.99). It was the traditional preparation, with red bell peppers and a fried egg. He ordered the steak medium, and it was slightly pink the middle, just as we think medium should be. Served on a Portuguese roll, the serving was enough for another meal a few days later.
The Dog opted for the “round fries” as an accompaniment, and we were both glad. These Portuguese potatoes were just a scosh thicker than commercial potato chips, and addictive.
The wine, by the way, was Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon, which we order often. Here it was $5 a glass, and yes, it came from one of those little plastic bottles. And, by the way, a surprising number of the hoodie-wearers at the bar were drinking wine, not the Bud Light we would have expected. More proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
85 MacArthur Drive, New Bedford
Gina and the Big Dog have been at this for six years, having been inspired by our realization that we’re pretty good at sniffing out good dining experiences in unlikely places, and our desire to spread the word about these spots. Our first review was of a sports bar. And here we are again, with an even better hidden jewel disguised as a sports bar.
The End Zone is surrounded by a neighborhood that’s best described as “gritty.” Enter via the Coggeshall Street side and your first view is of the rectangular bar, with a slightly formal dining room to your right. Arrive via the Belleville Avenue entrance and find yourself amid a family-friendly layout of booths that the Big Dog likened to church pews.
Either way, once inside, you’ll find yourself in a delightful family restaurant specializing in outstanding renditions of Portuguese and American dishes. They have TVs displaying sports, and that’s really the extent of the “sports bar” thing.
This is a place where you’ll feel comfortable bringing Mom, even if Mom is a rabid Yankees fan who vexes you with daily texts about obscure sports news. Bring the kids. Bring a hot date. Bring your buddies to watch the Sox game. Bring your BFF to watch World Cup Soccer.
The Big Dog ordered a Moby Dick IPA ($6), and Gina called for a Pavao Vinho Verde ($5). If you’re visiting from out of town, these are outstanding choices. The beer is produced a mile or so away in a delightful brew pub and references New Bedford’s literary highlight. The wine, a tart yet fruity white served ice cold, will open your eyes to the world of Portuguese wines.
After putting in our order, Gina called for a side salad, which is $3.99 on its own, but $2.99 as an add-on to an entree. It was a really good, very big salad, with a mix of greens shredded carrots, cucumbers, red onion, and delicious house-made croutons. Our server, Jodi, brought us a basket of the outstanding Portuguese rolls from which those croutons were likely made.
Gina ordered the Cacoila Plate ($12.99), struggling with the local pronunciation, like “caserla.” It’s a mildly spicy dish of pork chunks and shredded pork, here served over a generous serving of delicious saffron rice and an equally generous portion of tasty french fries. (For the uninitiated, Portuguese-American food is a layered carb experience, where scooping up rice with delicious bread is not weird.) The pork chunks were a tad dry, but the shredded pork was not.
The Big Dog ordered a special: Portuguese Style Sirloin ($16.99). He ordered the steak medium well, and it came out perfectly medium, as he’d hoped. The steak was tender and flavorful, topped with a fried egg and ham as is typical for this dish.
Both entrees came with lively red pepper strips that were delicious, even when reheated the next day, and the day after that. Yes, our reasonably priced order included plenty of food.
If you love Portuguese food and live near New Bedford; if you have a young family and have reason to pass through New Bedford; if you’re a sports fan and live near New Bedford… then you probably already know about the End Zone.
If you don’t fall into any of those categories, don’t let the name or the neighborhood dissuade you; we strongly encourage you to give it a try. You will be pleasantly surprised and will likely consider making this a regular spot.
The End Zone
218 Coggeshall Street, New Bedford