Archive for category Pub
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
Rarely have we gotten such an enthusiastic recommendation as we received for the 20-ounce ribeye at Boston Tavern.
A friend — we’ll call her “M” — owns our favorite hair salon — we’ll call it “Mad Cutter, 430 Shore Road, Monument Beach”* — and while getting a trim, talk often turns to dining. M has pushed us to make the trek up Route 28 to Boston Tavern not once but at three separate stylings. Order one and split it, she encouraged. It’s the best steak dish around, she enthused. You won’t believe it, she marveled.
M got that part right. We’re wary of restaurants with cutesy themes, and Boston Tavern is one of those. It’s filled with old-fashioned-looking business signs that may reflect Boston icons. The paper placemats feature photos of local sports heroes with a space for us to fill in their names if we know them. And of course the menu has headings drawn shamelessly from the most cliched travel guide: “Freedom Trail Favorites”? “Boston Fish Pier”?
But we have learned to trust M, so we ordered the 20-ounce ribeye ($23.99). At the risk of sounding like we don’t trust her entirely, we also ordered the shrimp and chicken pesto ($17.99).
Both were delicious (and just as good the next day).
Gina laid claim to the ribeye and was glad, because that entitled her to poke around the entire crunchy, fatty exterior of the medium-cooked meat for the most flavorful parts. “Medium” here means a little more pink than usual.
The pesto dish was equally good. Served over a generous serving of penne, the pesto was the deconstructed kind, with coursely chopped basil, parmesan slices, and hunks of garlic and pine nuts.
The latter arrived solo. The ribeye was accompanied by our choice of a complicated listing of sides, some of which had a $1.49 upcharge. We also got a house salad ($3.49) which was good.
Overall, we enjoyed our dining experience. The bar was a comfortable place to eat. Noise level was reasonable, service was team-style, with multiple bartenders providing service (but not their names, that we recall). The decor, while kitschy, was kind of interesting.
58 East Grove Street (Route 28)
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
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
The next day, we did something silly but kind of interesting: we ordered the exact same thing at the Hideaway Restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall in Middleborough. And it was delicious.
In fairness to White Tablecloths, we love their food, and they were clearly having an off night, because none of the four of us was happy with our meal. Chicken piccatta was bland, a blackened salmon over ceasar salad was too salty, and pork chops topped with vinegar peppers dish was weird.
The Hideaway is as far from white tablecloths as you can get. Gina and the Big Dog sat at a corner of a bar which winds around the interior of the room. Its worn formica surface was soon covered with paper placemats advertising, among other things, a gun shop and Big Dog Plumbing (no relation). One of the Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne movies was playing in our corner, and something funnier was airing on the opposite side of the room, judging by the occasional laughter we heard.
The chicken parm ($9.99) was as far as you could get from the white tablecloths’ version, too. White Tablecloths featured chicken breasts pounded to paper-thinness, coated in a bland breading, and overcooked, served on mushy room-temperature linguine, with a lifeless tomato sauce and no discernible cheese. Granted, that version came with a house salad (also off) and bread, but for the same amount of chicken and pasta, it cost more than twice the Hideaway price.
By contrast, the Hideaway chicken was fork-tender. The linguine was cooked al dente and served in a separate hot casserole dish. The breading was slightly crisp and kept the chicken moist. The tomato sauce was rich, and the dish was bathed in mozzarella. What a treat in an unexpected setting!
That was Gina’s lunch. The Big Dog ordered a build-your-own burger. It was very good, and it was a bargain at $6.70, plus 50 cents for the addition of lettuce, onion, and American cheese (and Dog’s usual combination of mayonnaise and mustard, both served in little plastic cups on the side). As they say, it was all that and a bag of Lays chips. He asked for it to be cooked medium and it came out more like well done, but he was happy with it.
He was equally happy with his margarita, a refreshing blend of Cuervo and the usual other ingredients ($7.25). Gina had a forgettable cabernet ($6.50).
At White Tablecloths the four of us split two bottles of good cabernet, and we enjoyed the evening out with friends we don’t see often enough. At the Hideaway, we got engrossed in the Jason Bourne movie and it was really just a quick pit stop on our way back from an errand.
The two experiences represented an interesting contrast. White Tablecloths felt like a disappointment, especially unsettling because we’d only gone there because we know it’s so dependable. The Hideaway felt like a great value and a surprisingly good experience. We were delighted and will return with higher expectations.
The Hideaway Restaurant
9 Station Street, Middleborough
If you view dining out as entertainment, and also like us feel that a thoughtfully planned meal is like a well directed movie with preparation, setting and service all a part of the exquisite cinematography, then you must dine at the bar at The Cabin.
It has all of those elements, plus the outstanding choreography of a well managed kitchen, all on display.
We were prompted to visit The Cabin by all the positive reviews on a fun, homey Facebook page called Lakeville/Middleboro Dining Out (Gina is a huge fan and encourages you to apply for membership to the group). As the Big Dog has roots in that area, we entertained the possibility that the positive reviews were the result of Lakeville/Middleboro residents being among the nicest people in the world, and never negative.
But they were being totally honest, not just nice, about The Cabin. The food was very good, the service was attentive and friendly, and the interplay of the kitchen kept us entertained for our entire visit.
It was a warm evening and we were in summer mode, so Gina started with a Mezzacorona pinot grigio ($7) and the Big Dog ordered an Ultimate Margarita featuring Jose Cuervo 1800 ($8.95). Both choices were good.
We like fried oysters and these, a special served with a spicy aoili, were very good ($10.95). Our affable bartender/waitress, Rachael, tracked down their origin and seemed as surprised and disappointed as we that they were not local, but rather from Virginia. But as much as we like to support our local farmers, we also like clean oysters fried in a light batter, like these were.
We watched dish after dish of the special swordfish ($17.95) flying out of the kitchen towards the small and far less entertaining dining room, so the Big Dog ordered that. Gina chose the menu’s baked seafood trio ($19.95), which Rachael gladly matched with two vegetable sides (broccoli and the evening’s special, green beans).
We suspect that a restaurant owner, especially one present like the Cabin’s, regrets his open kitchen a hundred times on a busy Saturday night. He’ll see flaws and hear muttered obscenities that the rest of us miss. In our case, we watched Gina’s distinctive dish simmer under a heat lamp while the Big Dog’s swordfish remained in the queue, and we could sense the stress level elevating.
But not ours. We remained entertained and distracted by the kitchen — the cool pizza maker to our right, the seasoned fry guy, the line, the efficient expediter, and their interplay with the rest of the staff.
When it arrived, Gina’s delight in finding a restaurant finally having removed the tails from delicious shrimp outweighed the slight delay and any other conceivable flaw we could have found. The fish and scallops were cooked perfectly, as were the beans and broccoli.
The Big Dog knew going into it that he wasn’t going to like the pineapple salsa atop the pan blackened swordfish, so he scooped it off and enjoyed the dish without it. The balance included mashed sweet potatoes and delicious asparagus.
When we first sat, the couple next to us greeted us like regulars; over the course of the evening, another couple took their place and they too acted like they knew us. The Middleboro/Lakeville vibe is part of the entertainment at The Cabin, and really added to our enjoyment of our positive experience there.
114 East Grove Street, Middleboro