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Boston Restaurant Blog -- June, 2010

Below are blog entries from June, 2010. Use the links in the left column to do a quick search of blog entries, or to see blog entries from other months. And feel free to use the "Comments" links under each blog entry to reply to us; your comments just might end up in our Boston restaurant blog! (Note: This page is part of our restaurant features section.)

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June, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Five Places Near Boston That Have Lakeside Dining

photo of Allora Ristorante, Marlborough, MA With the hot weather firmly in place, it is a good time of year to dine outdoors, whether it be along the ocean complete with pleasant sea breezes or along a busy city street with lots of people-watching. But what about dining by a lake? Well, there are a lot of lakes and ponds near Boston, but many of them are protected from development (or strictly residential). A few options do exist within the Route 495 belt, however, if you are looking to dine by an inland body of water. Five such spots are mentioned below:

1) Allora Ristorante, Marlborough
An upscale Mediterranean and Italian restaurant between downtown and Route 495, Allora isn't right "on" scenic Lake Williams, but views abound from its sprawling outdoor patio across the street. Sure, the interior of this romantic place is quite nice, but there is nothing like having a good meal and a beer or wine outside while soaking up the water views on a warm summer evening. Address: Allora Ristorante, 139 Lakeside Avenue (Route 20), Marlborough, MA, 01752. Phone: (508) 485-4300

2) Bellino's Trattoria, Wakefield
Like Allora Ristorante in Marlborough (see above), Bellino's in Wakefield is an Italian restaurant with an outdoor deck situated across the street from a lake. And yes, the views of Lake Quannapowitt, one of the largest bodies of water in the Boston area, are gorgeous. Bellino's focuses more on Northern Italian cuisine, though Southern Italian fare is also offered. Address: Bellino's Trattoria, 146 Lowell Street (Route 129), Wakefield, MA, 01880. Phone: (781) 246-7666

3) Hayward's Restaurant, Lynn
In business since the 1960s, Hayward's Restaurant is a casual neighborhood seafood restaurant overlooking Sluice Pond, which is just one of many bodies of water in this former mill city north of Boston. And while its dining room and patio indeed overlook a rather small pond rather than a larger lake, Sluice Pond is a quiet, attractive spot that is perfect for an old-school roadside dining spot such as Hayward's. Address: Hayward's Restaurant, 125 Lynnfield Street, Lynn, MA, 01904. Phone: (781) 595-9563

4) Lake Pearl Luciano's, Wrentham
More of a function hall than a true restaurant, Lake Pearl Luciano's nevertheless does serve an excellent Sunday brunch, and the views of the lake below are perhaps the best of any dining spot mentioned here. Lake Pearl Luciano's is a huge space with a lot of history, and it is quite a popular place for weddings. Address: Lake Pearl Luciano's, 299 Creek Street, Wrentham, MA, 02093. Phone: (508) 384-3003

5) Monponsett Inn, Halifax
A spacious family-friendly restaurant on the shores of remote-feeling Monponsett Pond, the Monponsett Inn feels like it could be located in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, yet is only about 30 miles away from downtown Boston. Situated on the West Lake (Monponsett Pond is actually comprised of two large lakes), the Monponsett Inn is a nice place to go on a date or for a family gathering. Address: Monponsett Inn, 550 Monponsett Street (Route 58), Halifax, MA, 02338. Phone: (781) 293-2116

There are some other restaurants inside of Route 495 that are also situated on lakes and ponds, and many, many more if you travel beyond the Boston area into other parts of New England. But hopefully these five will give you a taste of what is out there if you are looking for a place to go that is away from the ocean yet still has water views.

Related Blog Entries: outdoor dining

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Food, Drink, and Views at The Whiskey Priest, Boston

I have to admit, I'm still a little sore about one of my favorite restaurants (Eastern Pier II) closing along the Boston waterfront a couple of years back, mainly because it was one of the few places in the city where you could get good food cheap while sitting outside and looking out at the water. And when its old-school and slightly dive-y neighbor within the same building (The Seaport Bar and Grille) shut down at the end of last year, it marked the end of an era in some ways. Two dining and drinking spots have since moved into the refurbished building, including the Atlantic Beer Garden, which took over Eastern Pier's space, and The Whiskey Priest, which moved into where The Seaport Bar and Grille used to be. I haven't been to the Atlantic Beer Garden yet, but we did recently check out The Whiskey Priest, and while the food was inconsistent, the drink list, water views, and overall vibe were good enough to make me just a bit less sad about the changes made to this building in Boston's Seaport District.

photo of The Whiskey Priest, Boston, MA The Whiskey Priest is a sprawling place with a large bar, lots of seating inside, and more seating outside with both a patio and a roofdeck with beautiful views of Boston Harbor. The interior of the restaurant feels almost upscale, with hardwood floors, soft lighting (including lights shaped like Celtic crosses), lots of dark woods, and huge windows that open out to the water below. The clientele, on weeknights at least, seems to be more of a business crowd, with a lot of nicely-dressed people of all ages. The bar area is a sight to behold for those who like scotch and whiskey, as there are countless bottles of each lined up behind the bar.

While the atmosphere and the water views at The Whiskey Priest are both memorable, the food didn't seem quite up to snuff on the night we went, as the one terrific item we had barely made up for the two subpar dishes. First, the good--the crab cakes and boxty was absolutely delicious, with thin but hearty potato pancakes (the "boxty" part of the dish) nicely complementing the sweet-tasting Maryland lump crab cakes placed on top of the potatoes. The creme fraiche only added to the flavor of the dish, as did the scallions and capers. Unfortunately, the Irish stew was nowhere near as good, as the slow-cooked lamb was mostly fat and gristle, while the sauce was thick, overly sweet, and gloppy, tasting not unlike some of the brown sauces you might have with dishes from late-night Chinese takeout places. The Killarney grilled chicked was marginally better; it was small, rather greasy, and fell apart right off the bat, though the Guinness Stout marinade did help boost the flavor of the white-meat chicken a little bit. Drinks were satisfying, as the Guinness and Longboard (from Hawaii) both hit the spot, while the Michael Collins single malt whiskey was simply outstanding, with a smooth, sweet richness that made me want to go out and buy a bottle or two of it. Service was good overall, and prices were reasonable, especially considering the location of the place.

The Whiskey Priest seems like a good place to go for a beer, scotch, or whiskey while enjoying the spectacular ocean views, but food-wise, I'm not entirely sure. I'm certainly willing to give it another shot, though, perhaps for appetizers over a drink or two, especially on a warm night when I can sit up on the roof deck. And yes, I will be studying up on my scotches and whiskeys before I head back there, as there are so many from which to choose.

If you want the address for The Whiskey Priest, here it is: The Whiskey Priest, 150 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA, 02210. Phone: (617) 426-8111

Related Blog Entries: Boston restaurants, Irish pubs

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Saturday Night at Roy Moore's Fish Shack, Rockport

I've been in Rockport a couple of times this spring, with the last trip being two weekends ago. On this trip, we decided to go the lobster route, heading over to Roy Moore's Fish Shack in Dock Square (where Bearskin Neck begins in the center of town). I had been to the Fish Shack a few years ago and honestly wasn't overly impressed by the place, but this time the food was much better, making for a pleasant meal on a humid but otherwise gorgeous Saturday night.

photo of Roy Moore's Fish Shack, Rockport, MA Roy Moore's Fish Shack feels less like a seafood shack and more like a comfortable family-friendly restaurant, with plenty of tables, a relatively low noise level, and large picture windows affording views of the water. The main dining room is fairly spacious and perfect for larger groups, while a smaller and more cozy room is slightly below and off to the right, and is better suited for couples. The Fish Shack, by the way, is connected with Roy Moore Lobster Company, which is a short walk up Bearskin Neck and is more of an "eat in the rough" type of place.

We were seated at a window table in the smaller room and started our meal with a decent dirty martini and a pina colada that was very tasty (though for some reason it was served in a milkshake glass). Then it was right to the main course, namely the lazy lobster casserole and the lobster scampi. The casserole included about a quarter pound of lobster meat mixed with a butter sauce and topped with cracker crumbs. It was a simple dish made great by the sheer freshness of the lobster meat (which is what both the Fish Shack and the Lobster Company are known for). And it was the same case with the lobster scampi, which was another basic, ordinary dish that was extremely satisfying due to the deliciously fresh lobster meat. The garlicky sauce that came with the scampi enhanced the taste of the meat, while the linguini and tomatoes in the dish complemented the lobster nicely. The casserole came with a baked potato and green beans, while the lobster scampi was served with cole slaw, but it really was all about the lobster when it came to both of these dishes. Our server was friendly and smiling and checked back with us a few times to make sure we were all set. Prices were reasonable, though the fact that we did not have any appetizers or dessert did keep the bill a good bit lower than it could have been.

Based on the fact that the so-so meal several of us had at Roy Moore's awhile back didn't include any lobster dishes, and our recent lobster-based dinner there was a lot better, I'm inclined to think that the greatness of the lobster at this dining spot perhaps keeps it from being just another good-but-not-great restaurant. It also makes me want to try the Roy Moore Lobster Company on Bearskin Neck even more, since that seems like more of a bare-bones shack where lobster lovers tend to go. In either case, I know I'll be getting more lobster at one of these places at some point in the future.

If you would like the address for Roy Moore's Fish Shack, here it is: Roy Moore's Fish Shack, 21 Dock Square, Rockport, MA, 01966. Phone: (978) 546-6667

Related Blog Entries: Rockport restaurants, seafood restaurants

Tuesday, June 8, 2010
First Visit to The Raven's Nest, Walpole

I used to enjoy going to a bare-bones Irish pub in Walpole called The Paddock, partly because it felt a bit like some of the watering holes I have been to in Ireland. And while the food could be pretty good at The Paddock (no relation to the one in Somerville, by the way), it felt a bit worn out and tired, and the service wasn't always up to snuff. So when The Paddock closed about a year and a half ago, I had mixed feelings about it being gone, but was excited to hear about a new Irish pub moving into the space, especially since the owners were also behind a well-regarded spot in Waltham called The Mad Raven. Well, we recently made it over to this new restaurant and pub--called The Raven's Nest--and while the food seemed a bit inconsistent, it is a very pleasant spot that certainly shows a lot of promise.

photo of The Raven's Nest, Walpole, MA The folks behind The Raven's Nest did a nice job of renovating the space where The Paddock used to be. The ceiling has been raised (giving it more of a bright, airy feel), the front windows now open to the sidewalk, the center wall that used to separate the bar from the dining area has been taken down, and a fireplace has been added to the back of the place. Indeed, the Raven's Nest feels nothing like The cave-like Paddock, looking a bit more like a gastropub or an slightly upscale Irish restaurant than an old-school neighborhood bar. Some folks may miss the gritty feel of The Paddock, but I really like what they did with the space (even though I am a big fan of dark, no-frills bars).

A large group of us made the trip over to The Raven's Nest, so we got to try a number of items on the menu. The highlight was probably the flash-fried calamari, which was tender and not greasy at all, and came with delicious fried cherry pepper slices. The lettuce wraps were satisfying, with a nice mix of diced chicken and rice noodles, all in a sweet (but not too sweet) sauce. The Cape Codder sandwich (deep-fried scrod on a bulkie roll) was pretty basic, receiving mixed reviews, while the Raven Roll (a turkey wrap with bacon, scallions, and havarti cheese) was tasty but undercooked on the grill, and marred by an overabundance of cheese, which detracted from the relatively small amounts of turkey and bacon. The pesto chicken sandwich was fine, but it was tiny--so small that it looked like the two orders of the dish our table received had instead been split up as one order to be shared by two people. Drinks included a decently-poured Guinness as well as a couple of other beers. Our server was friendly and helpful throughout our meal, and the prices we paid for our dishes were generally ok, though maybe a bit on the high side, especially considering the small size of a few of the sandwiches.

The few issues we had with the food at The Raven's Nest may simply be because we went there shortly after they first opened, and they need to work out some of the kinks. If they do, this will be a place that I'll certainly go back to, as the atmosphere is terrific and the people seem very nice. Perhaps once the restaurant gets a bit more settled in, I'll give the place another shot.

If you want the address for The Raven's Nest, here it is: The Raven's Nest, 998 Main Street, Walpole, MA, 02081. Phone: (508) 734-9377

Related Blog Entries: Irish pubs, Walpole restaurants

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Lunch at the Fat Cat in Quincy

About a year ago, I reviewed the Fat Cat in Quincy on the Boston Restaurant Talk blog (link: Review: Fat Cat, Quincy) after checking the popular restaurant and pub out for dinner. Recently, we got back to The Fat Cat, this time for lunch. Because I have already reviewed the place--and because we went more for a quick bite to eat than a detailed review--I'll spare most of the details here, but I can tell you that it was an enjoyable experience once again, with both excellent service and food.

photo of The Fat Cat, Quincy, MA As I mentioned in the Boston Restaurant Talk review, The Fat Cat is a place that has quite a bit of character, with lots of exposed brick, dark woods, and a somewhat industrial vibe. The left side of the narrow room consists of a bar, while the right side (as well as the front) is dedicated to dining. The restaurant and pub is completely unpretentious, and the people who work there tend to be very friendly and often funny. The Fat Cat can probably be described as a gastropub, though in some ways, it feels a bit like a classic American restaurant and bar with a twist here and there.

When we arrived at lunchtime on our recent trip, I was stunned that the place was nearly empty, as this is a place where lines are quite common (it did fill up quickly as we were leaving, though). Our meal there was a simple one this time around; we started with the wonderful fried dill pickle slices that came in a cylindrical basket and had a mild Cajun remoulade on the side. As was the case before, the pickles were delicious and addictive, but they quickly started filling us up, so we had to stop after getting about halfway through them. Our entrees soon followed, with the steak Philly being a slightly upscale version of the classic cheesesteak, and while it was very tasty, it didn't impress quite as much as the last time, as I could have done with less in the way of peppers and shitake mushrooms, which detracted from the taste of the high-quality steak just a bit. The grilled burger was huge (more than a half pound) and had the perfect combination of a charred exterior and a juicy interior. The handcut fries were just as good this time around, once again having very little grease considering that they were fried. Beers included a couple of good ones, namely the Abita Purple Haze and the Wachusett Blueberry. Prices were reasonable, with each dish being in the single digits, and service, as mentioned earlier, was just terrific--the people really seem to enjoy working here.

I'm not sure that the Fat Cat is my favorite restaurant of its kind--that might go to the outstanding Highland Kitchen in Somerville--but it is very, very close in quality. I would be happy going to either place once every week or two if I had the time, as both the Fat Cat and the Highland seem to have it all, from great comfort food to extensive beer lists to hosts and servers who are genuinely nice. It may not be a hidden gem, but that certainly won't keep me from going back to the Fat Cat.

If you would like the address for The Fat Cat, here it is: Fat Cat, 24 Chestnut Street, Quincy, MA, 02169. Phone: (617) 471-4363

Related Blog Entries: Quincy restaurants