Archive for category Restaurant Review
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
Have you seen that commercial for Haribo Gummy Bears, where a group of adults in a formal meeting room talk with delight about gummy bears in little kids’ voices?
We found a place that will make you feel like that.
Cisco Brewers New Bedford would be a cool spot anywhere: seven indoor and outdoor bars, live music, and concessions cleverly set up in shipping containers alongside a huge sandy patio with umbrellas shading wooden tables.
Now, put that spot literally right on the water, true waterfront dining being an amenity in short supply throughout the Southcoast.
Mix in a pleasing array of craft beers, spirits, and wines made by the people who own the place.
Then add some of the best food around.
Recipe for success? You bet!
Your visit begins, as some of life’s best moments do, with a doorman putting a paper wristband on you. The place gets wicked busy, we were told, and the armband signifies that you’ve been carded (not literally, for the aging Gina and the Big Dog) by the door staff.
On a drizzly Wednesday afternoon, we figured “busy” wouldn’t be an issue. Wrong! We were given the choice of fending for ourselves at the downstairs indoor bar, or taking the last available table inside. We chose the bar and found a nice spot amid a fairly diverse assemblage of tourists, tradesmen, twenty-somethings, ladies lunching, and professionals.
We started with an order of steamers ($16), a large portion of clean clams served in a broth with drawn butter and another more flavorful dipping sauce with a little bit of red pepper flakes and other unidentified but nicely flavored seasonings.
Gina selected the swordfish kabobs ($18). The six large chunks of grilled swordfish were described as being “spice crusted,” which is kind of like describing the Taj Mahal as a “stone building.” The dusting of exotic seasonings gave the dish a rich, Middle Eastern flair. The fish was cooked perfectly and was served atop a salad of spinach with halved cherry tomatoes and delicious pickled red onions. The swordfish chunks were separated by grilled red onion slices.
That sophisticated cadence, of ingredients treated differently in a dish, was even more noticeable in the Big Dog’s Brisket Wedge ($18) (shown). Smokey bacon on the iceberg lettuce? Check. Giant slabs of smokey beef brisket alongside? Double-check! Sliced beefsteak tomatoes? Yep. A scattering of multicolored sweet cherry tomatoes under a generous serving of blue cheese? Wow! Chef definitely knows how to take a classic dish and give it a spin.
And speaking of homage, the swordfish kabobs came from a section of the menu called “Davey’s Locker,” a nod to the worn but timeless restaurant which used to occupy this space. In between was a spot called The Edge, from which Cisco inherited some decor improvements before making more of their own. Some favorites among many in the Cisco space: surfboards suspended from a drop ceiling, and shelving displaying retail items against a shiplap wall supported by heavy nautical rope knotted to cleats on the wall.
Our bill identified our server as Jessica, although we think that was the name of a woman who headed up a large team of friendly and attentive servers, any number of whom stopped in to see how we were doing or to bring us stuff.
We admit to skipping the Cisco-branded beverages, opting for the more standard bar fare inside. Gina selected a Rufo Portuguese red blend ($12 for a 9-ounce pour), and the Big Dog enjoyed his usual Ketel Citron and soda ($10).
Stepping back to the sense of delight one feels upon arrival: whether the display of Cisco-branded garb catches your eye in one shipping container, or you’re drawn by the colorful vending of specialty cocktails, or you wonder what’s coming next on the giant Peavey amps, or the waters of Buzzards Bay appeal, or you just want to perch at a hightop under an umbrella at a sleek wooden table, this space is expertly designed.
A sure sign that Gina and the Big Dog really enjoyed a new spot: we plan our next visit while we’re still there; better yet, we plan friends to bring along next time. This was one of those spots – we look forward to becoming regulars and sharing this special spot with people we like.
If your rice bowl came with a side of fries… you must be in Fall River, MA.
This beautiful seaside city has a rich Portuguese heritage. For diners, that means the freshest of seafood and gently seasoned dishes. And layers upon layers of carbs: it’s not unusual for a single restaurant dish to feature rice, potatoes, and bread.
The Barretts’ restaurant group so popular in southeastern Massachusetts typically has kind of a pubby feel and menu. Their acquisition of this waterfront restaurant, formerly owned by beloved Red Sox second-baseman-turned-announcer Jerry Remy, promised a continuation of that theme. They kept the giant – no, billboard-sized – TVs above the bar within the cavernous industrial space.
But happily, they added homage to the area’s culture.
On a recent lunchtime visit, most patrons were outside on the patio, but we sat at the bar alongside a group of what appeared to be construction workers who added a nice contrast to the mostly business-casual crowd.
A lunch special called Spicy Texas White Bean Chili Mac & Cheese ($15) caught our eye, and we decided to split it as an appetizer. Our bartender, who never gave us her name, told us the head chef is a butcher and all the house made sausages, including the “spicy Texas” one in this dish, were genuinely made in house. Our advice: if a special says “house made,” order it. This dish was an oversized portion of spicy, cheesy deliciousness. The ground sausage lended a subtle depth.
The Big Dog ordered a half dozen oysters ($16). We were told they were from Duxbury, which could mean from a number of farms. One was perfectly shucked, the rest not so well but all tasted great.
Gina selected a Mozambique Bowl with shrimp ($21). If the cavatappi pasta in the chili mac and cheese weren’t enough, this dish put us in carb overload. The classic mozambique sauce had the traditional tang and rich butteriness, and the extra large shrimp were clean, crisp, juicy, and perfectly cooked. Meaty onion slices were tossed in the sauce with banana peppers, and the whole thing came atop saffron rice with a fistful of house cut french fries dunked into the sauce.
We boxed more than half of each dish, which justified a rare foray into dessert: a peach cobbler ($8). Crisp peach slices were baked in a dish with a cinnamony crust and topped with ice cream and whipped cream.
Our advice: If you’re looking for an authentic Fall River dining experience, don’t overlook what might seem to be a chain experience. Este é um excelente lugar para comer.
1082 Davol Street, Fall River, MA
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
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
Seated in a sunny window at the edge of a sleek dining room, with a view of the bustling Mashpee Commons shoppers on a chilly fall afternoon, we enjoyed a delicious Greek meal at Estia.
We wanted the range of authentic flavors, so we ordered appetizers as our shared entree.
Not being familiar with Greek wines, we selected a familiar one – Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) – from an unfamiliar place: Drama, a region in the northeastern part of Greece. It was unexpectedly smooth and delicious. The wine list is quite extensive with numerous Greek options.
We pondered the menu while polishing off a basket of bread chunks dipped in an olive oil made especially for the restaurant.
We cook rack of lamb at home quite often because it’s so easy, and usually expensive out. At Estia, $20 gets you a generous portion of four meaty, individually grilled lollipop chops with a big bowl of tzatziki, the garlicky yogurt dipping sauce.
With that, we ordered the Estia Sampler ($20), a great way to try a bunch of yummy offerings, without having to make a ridiculous-sounding attempt at pronouncing the Greek words. It featured dolmades (beef- and rice-stuffed grape leaves slathered with a lemony sauce), spanikopita (phyllo triangles stuffed with spinach and gooey feta), loukaniko (grilled sausages packed with herbs and spices), giant slabs of feta, and a mix of olives.
Every aspect of this dish was delicious, but the grape leaves were so outstanding that we found ourselves having to pronounce the word so we could take an order to go ($16). And then, what the heck, we took a big bottle of that olive oil ($22) too.
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
We 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