Archive for category Outdoor Dining

Black Whale, New Bedford

Gina rambled on about how the Black Whale has so many of the features we love about dining out: a nice view, delicious food, an expansive menu, unexpected surprises, good Covid protections, broad wine and beer selections, and she finally got to those awesome pocketbook hooks under the bar… when the Big Dog interrupted.

“Everybody has those now.” (Insert eye roll.)

Maybe, but not everybody has the feature that really stands out at the new Black Whale and which is the true indicator of an enjoyable restaurant dining experience: outstandingly pleasant staff. During our visit, we encountered enough employees to know that this is a systemic thing. One sure sign was the uniform: jeans and a stylish checked shirt that looked great on each employee and was worn with pride.

Our Exhibit A was bartender Carolyn, who efficiently walked the line between service and solicitousness. She didn’t intrude on our conversation but quickly stepped in when needed. She detected that we were having a leisurely lunch and so didn’t even ask for a food order until after our appetizer had been delivered. Through the plexiglass, we witnessed a completely different interaction with the French-speaking millennials seated next to us.

The backstory is that the people who own a couple of Not Your Average Joe’s restaurants, including the Dartmouth location we love, bought the Black Whale on the New Bedford waterfront a short time before the pandemic shutdown. They kept the stuff that was great about the old Black Whale, including a lot of the menu, and obviously introduced their whole service vibe.

We began with a bottle of William Hill Cabernet ($36). Before we left, we split a small glass of the “Silk and Spice” red blend from Portugal ($28) to compare with the Cab, and may likely choose that instead next time we visit. While perusing the menu, we were given the complimentary smoked cod dip with crackers that was a favorite at the old Black Whale; after a couple of scoops we put in an order to take home ($6).

Carolyn noticed that we couldn’t see the specials from our seat at the bar and recited them to us. The Big Dog zeroed in on the sushi special: a tiger roll, with tempura shrimp and avocado topped with salmon, as shown above. It was delicious, beautifully presented, and a bargain at $14.

For his entree, the Big Dog chose a seafood lasagna special ($24). It was a generous serving of a bad idea. The flavors were very nice, but we’re not sure how shrimp and scallops baked in a casserole dish of pasta and sauce would ever work.

Conversely, Gina ordered scallops from the “simply grilled” section of the regular menu. A half dozen proteins are available and described as being cooked with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and served with a selection of two sides. The bronzed scallops were delicious, if perhaps a bit overcooked, and our choice of fingerling potatoes and “garlicky” kale were excellent. Hard to not order scallops when the busiest seafood port in the U.S. is like six feet from your seat.

Black Whale
106 MacArthur Drive, Pier 3, New Bedford, MA

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The Bog Tavern, Bourne

You’ll come to the Bog Tavern for the panoramic view.

You will return for the clam chowder.

The oversized bowl ($11) comes adorned with littlenecks, steamed open in their shells. The creamy broth contains plenty of chopped clams, and Yukon gold potatoes and bacon. The difference is that each bowl is made to order, so it has an unusual fresh taste.

Where the chowder is The Big Dog’s go-to order at the Bog Tavern, Gina’s is an appetizer called “pig wings” ($14), a trio of easy-to-handle ribs in a dry rub, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, served with a tart barbecue sauce.

Don’t make the mistake of looking at the menu and deciding in advance what to order, though. The Tavern offers daily lunch specials that are often quite dramatically different from other items on the extensive menu. One day specials included an Italian sandwich (pictured) for $14, another day it was spicy chicken enchiladas ($13).

Better yet, they’ve been doing a three-course lunch for $13, weekdays from 11:30 to 2, with the purchase of any beverage: choose a (delicious) garden salad or (also delicious) soup of the day, add an entree, and select a (to-die-for) made-to-order cannoli or key lime pie.

It’s the kind of place where the chef, Kirk FitzGerald, steps out of the kitchen to ask how you enjoyed the food. And weekday bartender Allison, always cheerful and fun, enthusiastically describes the specials she’s seen coming out that day.

Covid protections are top notch. Tables are spaced, staff are masked, bar seats are separated by plexiglass dividers, and capacity is enhanced by a well-heated tent off the main dining area.

The view? It’s nice. The restaurant is set atop a hill overlooking the Brookside Golf Course, whose lush landscaping rolls down towards Buzzards Bay, visible in the distance. Apparently you can watch ships traveling through the Cape Cod Canal, but we’re always so engrossed in the food that we forget to watch.

The Bog Tavern
11 Brigadoone Road, Bourne

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Black Whale, New Bedford

black whale new bedford southcoastchowWe first visited The Black Whale on New Bedford’s charming state pier shortly after they opened in 2014. We were horrified. Mind-boggling acoustics, insufficiently trained staff, lackluster food — just a bad all around experience.

Enormous improvements have been made since then, and we highly recommend this restaurant now. And we have a secret to share: there is no better example of lunch being a better value than dinner. At night, The Black Whale is busy and pricey. Lunchtime prices are significantly less than the same dishes on the dinner menu. If they’re a correspondingly larger size at night, you’re going to need a bigger boat.

You know how if you go to an ethnic restaurant and there are people of that ethnicity dining there, you feel more confident in the food? Well, we’ve found after a handful of visits that this seafood restaurant is patronized by real live fishermen, and that makes ordering seafood dishes a no-brainer. That, and the fact that you park among fishing boats.

We sat at the bar, of course, on a recent Wednesday afternoon. This is one of those bars that’s perfectly suited for dining, with the bar top and stools at comfortable heights, and plenty of depth to spread out. Our attentive bartender, Zachary, brought us a bottle of Chasing Lions Cabernet ($39) and the complimentary cone of toasted bread and crackers alongside their delicious codfish dip.

Gina started with a house salad ($9.99), an enormous plate of pristine red and green lettuce with cucumber, tomato, and a scattering of sunflower seeds, with a lightly sprinkled citrus vinaigrette. It was perfectly simple and plenty for two.

The Big Dog ordered a bowl of the soup of the day ($6.99), a thick and zesty tomato soup garnished with goat cheese and chunky croutons. We liked it a lot.

For her main course, Gina ordered the pan roasted monkfish, described as being served with littlenecks, chourico, white beans, escarole, and white wine garlic butter, and topped with two grilled slices of rustic bread. At lunch, this dish is $12.99, and an enormous amount of very good food. At dinner, it’s $24.99, and probably still worth every penny. There was a little grittiness to it the sauce, which might have been from what we suspected as spinach rather than escarole, or maybe from the half dozen sweet clams. Gina regretted polishing off the bread with the cod dip earlier, because the somewhat spicy sauce was outstanding despite the grit.

The Big Dog selected linguine and clams ($14.99 – five bucks more at night), which also came with six clams. He found them to be a tad overcooked and chewy.

As mentioned, on our previous lunch visits, we’ve always noticed fishing professionals among those at the bar. On this particular stop, we saw one who literally wore an actual eye patch, and another was talking about bridal gowns with what appeared to be a granddaughter or niece. A lot of these guys come in to The Black Whale with hoodies and boots, but most of us would feel more comfortable there dressed a notch or two above that. In the summer, the restaurant offers a nice tented outdoor space looking out over the fishing boats docked a few feet away.

The Black Whale
106 Pier 3, New Bedford

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The Chart Room, Cataumet

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The Chart Room is located at the Kingman Marina in Red Brook Harbor. We went there by boat on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in July with friends.* The nautical approach probably halved our travel time from the mainland, and made for a fun — and exceedingly civilized — adventure, where the food far exceeded our expectations.

After slicing across the Cape Cod Canal, we motored into the harbor and queued in behind an orderly line of boats entering the marina. Our friend radioed in that we were in need of a lunchtime slip and refueling. A team of college students home for the summer graciously guided our vessel to the dock. For a moment we were Kennedys in Camelot, and surprisingly, that feeling remained through our visit.

The Chart Room waiting line involves claiming a circle of adirondack chairs on a sunny crushed shell patio rimmed with a fragrant beach rose hedge looking out over the marina. They’ll come out and get you to bring you to your table. Our estimated wait was 15 minutes, even on this busy afternoon, and that didn’t give us time enough for our nominee to return from the outdoor bar with drinks. We were quickly guided to the restaurant’s open air porch.

Our friends had raved about the lobster salad roll. Yep, it’s 29 bucks. And yep, it’s enough for two. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. The restaurant happily puts the sandwich on two plates and splits the sides. And one of our sandwich-sharers couldn’t even finish his half.

We all have our thing that we like to order AND see as an indication of a restaurant’s capabilities. For the Big Dog, it’s a chicken salad sandwich. Here, it was $10, and came with delicious potato salad (or choose chips or cole slaw). He got it on Portuguese bread and had plenty left over for dinner. The salad was deliciously rich.

Gina ordered the gazpacho ($5, and we’re not sure it’s always on the menu) and the avocado salad ($9). Gazpacho aficionados will relish the sour cream or creme fraiche float, the onion and pepper dice garnish, and the rich tomato flavor. The avocado salad was full of frisee, with hearty hunks of avocado. The Italian dressing was a couple of ticks up the sweetness scale from the Ken’s Italian Gina likes — if that’s your standard too, you’ll be okay with this.

Our friends had a young teen in tow (who piloted the boat much of the way home) and he ordered a bacon cheeseburger ($10). He enjoyed it, but couldn’t finish it. We can think of no truer evaluation of portion size than a dish that defies a 13-year-old.

The Chart Room and marina seem to employ hundreds of Cape teenagers during the summer, and they are well trained and pleasant. The food is great and the atmosphere is unique. We know from experience that it’s just as enjoyable after an off-season drive.

*We were there with friends, but the occasion was the result of an auction gift they had generously offered to the Boys & Girls Club of Wareham. Want to support the Club? Click here.

The Chart Room
1 Shipyard Lane, Cataument, MA 02534 | (508) 563-5350

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Fishermen’s View, Sandwich

fishermen's view restaurant review sandwich maQ. What kind of person eats dinner at 3 in the afternoon?

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.

Fishermen’s View
20 Freezer Road, Sandwich

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Cabby Shack, Plymouth

2016-08-02 14.25.07-1On a typical summer afternoon, a typical waterfront restaurant is jammed with people who are there for the view and the vibe, not the food, which is typically substandard.

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.

Cabby Shack
30 Town Wharf, Plymouth

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Stomping Grounds, Buzzards Bay

2015-08-08 14.37.49We recently had our first meal, and possibly our last, at Stomping Grounds.  The food was excellent and inventive, and the outside seating atmosphere was as expected when along Main Street in Buzzards Bay, but the service was so flawed that under ordinary circumstances we would not provide a review, especially without a second visit.

However, we concluded that there are so few optimal days, weather-wise, for a restaurant with outdoor seating in our region, so when those optimal days occur, we have every reason to expect the restaurant staff to be on its “A” game. We visited Stomping Grounds on what had to be one of the nicest Saturday afternoons this summer, and we didn’t expect the 150-minute ordeal it became.

First, the good news: the Stomping Greens salad ($12) is hands-down one of the better salads we’ve had this year. It included generous additions of sliced green grapes, toasted pine nuts, chick peas, and roasted brussels sprouts.  We marveled at how much prep time that dish must have taken, and wondered why no one else had come up with this delicious combination.  It’s tossed with a light lemony parmesan dressing that makes all the ingredients sing. Twelve dollars for a salad? When your licked-clean plate is taken away from you, we promise, you will be thinking you got a great deal.

We also ordered an appetizer called “Spuds MacKenzie” ($8), described as “our twist on a classic favorite and a must try.” We did try, and while we have no clue what “classic favorite” this was twisting and found the presentation kind of weird, we liked it. Thin wedges of roasted red bliss potatoes were served with a a little bowl of dipping sauce that included gorgonzola blended with ground walnuts and bacon. Gina initially objected, saying it was too rich, but in no time was slathering it on the end of her salad.

We also enjoyed the Mediterranean Fish Stew ($16), another unexpected bargain. Served in an oversized bowl — too big, really, and it was difficult to get the spoon at the right scooping angle as a result — the soup had a rich tomato broth in which we found giant shrimp, scallops, tuna, mussels, carrots, celery, and potatoes. It came with grilled pita bread with a subtle curry topping, excellent to dip into the soup. This was Gina’s entree, and she took half home after sharing much with the Big Dog.

The Dog’s lunch was a Buzzards Bay Reuben ($10), which seemed like a regular Reuben.  There’s a choice of corned beef or turkey, and it comes with Cape Cod brand potato chips and some crisp, fresh, slaw made of red and green cabbage.

We ordered a bottle of Josh Cellars cabernet ($34), as it’s one of our favorites, and this proved to be a wise move, because we were able to pour ourselves a second glass while we were waiting for our food to arrive.

It took a bit for our waitress to make her way to our table, and she apologized excessively for the delay, and then for the fact that she had not brought menus.  When that finally happened, we selected the Josh from the short but carefully considered list of beer and wine options, plus artisanal spirits. Soon, the wine was delivered, opened, and ceremoniously poured by a young man in a grubby tee-shirt who we assumed to be a bus boy but who we later learned was the chef-owner. Note to chefs everywhere: Call us old fashioned, but we’ve chosen to spend a special occasion with you, and we think you should be dressed as if it’s a special occasion for you too. We want to believe you’re working magic in the kitchen, and if you feel more comfortable wearing a stained hoodie or a flour handprint on your pants, please don’t dash our illusions — stay in the kitchen.

(Rant over.  You know we believe that chefs and other restaurant staff are the hardest-working humans and we hate to criticize them.)

Our appetizers were delivered with another round of apologies, and this time, the Big Dog stepped in and asked the waitress to stop doing that.  We were enjoying a relaxing afternoon on a beautiful patio with a nice glass of wine, and the waitress’ implication that something was going terribly wrong was detracting dramatically from our enjoyment.  The young couple sitting near us snickered audibly, clearly having thought the same thing.

Twenty minutes later, with the sun beating down mercilessly, the wine bottle nearly empty, and our entrees yet to arrive, we regretted saying anything.  The waitress returned again empty handed, said she really needed to apologize now, and blamed someone else for losing our order.

Entrees arrived, we thought they were excellent, packed half for home, and that was that.

We realized, driving away, why this scene seemed not just unpleasant but inappropriate: because in the universal language of restaurants, the second “I’m so sorry” is followed immediately by, “… Save room for one of our outstanding desserts, on the house!” or “… We’ve taken that weird potato thing off your bill.”  None of that here.

Will we return? Too soon to tell. The food was excellent, but the fact remained that we spent $99, with beverage, tax, and tip (yes, 16.5 percent despite the flaws, mostly because Gina is not good at math) on a lunch that consisted of soup and salad, a sandwich, and an appetizer. We thought the food was a great value, but we did not get anything close to hundred-dollar service.

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Seafood Shanty, Bournedale

2015-05-11 12.34.22We’re on a quest to find the best lobster roll in the region, and before we even started the quest, a friend told us the best lobster rolls are at the Seafood Shanty, located on the Bourne Scenic Highway opposite the Herring Run on the Cape Cod Canal.

Despite our focus on food, our view of local restaurants is often affected by ambiance, service, and the quality of the beer and wine list.  None of those come into play here — the Seafood Shanty is a walk-up window; grab your tray and soft drink, and do your best finding a suitable picnic table.

To be honest, that setup barely qualifies as a dining experience for us. If we went to the salad bar at the Stop n Shop, we would not trouble you with our commentary about it, and a take-out window on a busy four-lane highway isn’t much better than a grocery lunch.

But the Shanty is a popular spot, and we can imagine that patrons flock there for someone’s proclaimed best lobster salad rolls ($20.50), the best scallop roll ($14.95), the best fish sandwich ($8.95), or any of the other standards they have to offer.

We’re certain all of those items are quite good.  But we’re equally certain that the flocking is caused not by the main course, but by the french fries.

We each ordered lobster rolls, and like many of the sandwiches, they came with fries. Now, we’re the kind of people who see fries as high-calorie superfluousness, and we’ll often ask for a substitute on principle.

At the Seafood Shanty, we were glad we didn’t.  Each fry was the crisp-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside ideal, and they were liberally crusted with salt. You can buy them on their own, at $4.95 for a large side, and we could easily imagine doing that. They were outstanding.  We can think of none better in the Southcoast region.

Our thoughts on the lobster rolls were more mixed. They tasted good, with big chunks of lobster tossed with mayonnaise, laid atop some crisp green leaf lettuce and a saucy dollop of mayo inside a buttery bun.

Our issue was with the structure, and this is one time we’re hoping that the ownership will read and heed: We would have been happier with the same generous serving of lobster, or maybe even a little less, spread over two buns. We would cheerfully have paid $14.95 for half the lobster in one bun.

Here’s the thing: It’s not a sandwich if you can’t pick it up to eat it. And we couldn’t with these overstuffed fellas, until we had forked out a healthy serving of overflowing lobster. Many, if not most, of our fellow diners may subscribe to the 16-inch plate of pasta theory of dining value, but we just don’t. A great lobster roll is not one that has lobster on the plate next to it: it’s one that contains bite after bit of bread, sauce, and filling, all working together. The restaurant has been around since the early 1990s and is clearly quite successful, but we’re thinking a slightly different approach might work even better for them.

Seafood Shanty
803 Scenic Highway (Route 6)
Bournedale

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Lobster Trap, Monument Beach

2015-02-27 14.35.28We have had many outstanding meals at the Lobster Trap in recent years.

Generally speaking, it’s our kind of place  Stretched along scenic Shore Road is first a wholesale fish market, then a retail market, then a room for takeout, then a delightfully rustic dining room, then a pub area with a handful of hightop tables on one side and a copper-surfaced bar on the other, then an outdoor patio, then the brackish Back River, which flows forcefully to and from Buzzards Bay with each tide.

Some come for the lively bar scene with periodic live music, some for the off-the-boat fresh fish in the market, some for the reasonably priced yet inventive meals in a dining room that’s as comfortable for toddlers as for Gramma.

We come for the water fowl, and we’re never disappointed.

Sure, the fish tacos featuring corn and black bean salsa ($12) are excellent. We love the beet napolean salad ($9) a composed structure of beets with blue cheese and not much else. The seafood stew ($8 for a 12-ounce cup) is rich and creamy, and the lobster roll ($21, but often available as part of a lunch special) makes you glad you live in New England even when it snows every day for two months. We like our Cabernet Sauvignon, and they have two good ones by the glass: Josh ($9) and Five Rows ($7).

But if you have any interest in wildlife, you’ll want to visit the Lobster Trap for lunch or an early dinner during the summer, and the food will take a back seat to the scene playing out before you at the bar.

The Back River is a tidal estuary which flows into a protected area known as Phinney’s Harbor.  During our visits, we’ve watched heron, egrets, osprey, swans, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, black ducks, and more. Most recently, we watched two flocks of Canada geese converge upon one another as if they were playing out a scene from “West Side Story.” The undertow is vicious, and the birds take full advantage, propelled inland under Shore Road, then bobbing back under the railroad bridge.

Others, we’re sure, come for the unusually pleasant staff.  This being a seasonal community — one we tend to avoid in the season — many patrons are greeted with a cheerful, “When did you get back!?”

During our most recent lunchtime visit, we experienced a rare misstep: the oversized “house-made brioche croutons” accompanying the caesar salad were like bricks.  The Big Dog’s topping of very good steak tips saved his salad, and Gina thought the classic dressing on her side version offset the crouton debacle. And the slightest expression of dismay on our part drew effusive apologies from our server, and complimentary wines for each of us. Things go wrong even at the best establishments, and the front-line staff’s handling of a complaint makes the difference between a customer who won’t return, and one who enthusiastically recommends the place.  As we recommend The Lobster Trap.

The Lobster Trap
290 Shore Road, Bourne

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42 Degrees North, Manomet

IMG_20140710_215322_077Hooray!  Gina and the Big Dog have sniffed out yet another great place to dine in our area.

We arrived at 42 Degrees North, on Route 3A in Plymouth, on a warm summer evening to find the snazzy outdoor bar packed with patrons.  We spotted a couple of seats but found them marked with cell phones, the new universal symbol for “I’m still here.”  So we trudged indoors to the empty bar and nearly empty restaurant, and were glad we did.  There, we got the full attention of our affable bartender, Brooke, and learned lots of things.

For example, 42 Degrees North is part of a family of restaurants that include two more located further up the South Shore area than we typically venture.  They have a fishmonger who delivers a catch of the day and the kitchen is never sure what it’s going to be.  They change their menu seasonally, and what we had before us was pretty new.

And very impressive.

The Big Dog spotted oysters on the menu and Brooke sped off to learn that they were, in fact, the product of our friends at Big Rock Oysters in Harwich.  He ordered four ($2.50 apiece) and liked them a lot — they were meaty and characteristically briny, and were served with cocktail sauce and an interesting citrusy mignonette.

The wedge salad ($8.95) caught our eye and we split it. A hunk of iceberg came draped with two slabs of bacon in an odd presentation that tasted better than it looked.  It came with a quartered tomato and more bleu cheese dressing than any two people should ever eat at one sitting.

Gina ordered the paella ($21.95), which is an excellent choice for people having trouble making a decision.  A big bowl of rice, yellow with saffron and rich with little chunks of tasso ham, was loaded with steamed clams and mussels, just-cooked scallops, peas, peppers, and perfect little shrimp without the annoying tail shells that restaurants so often leave on. It was a hearty and tasty dish.

The Big Dog ordered the grilled lamb sirloin (also $21.95, which is about the average for the 18 very diverse entrees). The lamb was cut into pieces and served with a demiglace and a rosemary branch. He ordered it medium well and concluded that medium would have worked for this preparation, but enjoyed it.

The lamb was served with a side of quinoa laced with goat cheese that was good enough to try replicating in The Dog House some day. The crunchy little quinoas were bathed in a goat cheese sauce, with some asparagus and portabello mushrooms tucked inside.

To our dismay, we found ourselves faced with a very appealing dessert menu and were forced to endure the bread pudding ($6.95).  Brooke told us that dollop of ice cream was house-made cinnamon, and that alone would be enough to bring us back to 42 Degrees North. We rarely order dessert (yes, you’ve heard that before) and this enormous, delicious, and creative dish will be difficult to top. No perfunctory BJ’s cheesecake here — the desserts are definitely given plenty of attention in the kitchen.

Throughout the evening, Gina sipped a Clayhouse cabernet sauvignon, and the Big Dog chose a Josh cab (each $9 per glass). When there’s a good selection of wines, we typically try each other’s and often make a trade, but not so this time — we each preferred the wine we had ordered.

This dinner was more expensive than our norm (about $70 plus wine and tip), and despite the large volume of food we brought home no leftovers. But the high quality food, excellent service, and attractive surroundings made it feel like a great value, and we highly recommend 42 Degrees North.

42 Degrees North
690 State Road, Manomet

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