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Ok, Summer Shack didn't suck today

I participated in a recent thread that included a debate of the merits (or lack thereof) of Summer Shack, and I firmly was on the "it sucks" side. Notwithstanding that, I found myself in the Delta terminal at Logan this afternoon, choosing between Legal's Test Kitchen and Summer Shack. Based solely on the menu, my parents and I chose Summer Shack (it was more the case that we didn't care for the LTK menu, but Summer Shack it was).

So first the bad: service was really ditzy. We were greated at the entrance by a sign that read "Please Wait To Be Seated," and even though the restaurant was nearly empty at 1:00 and a number of employees were milling around, we were greated only by the sign and not by a human being. After several minutes, I finally went up to the bar and asked if we could seat ourselves. Instead of seating us, we got the nod to seat ourselves, so we grabbed menus and chose a table.

Inserted into the menu was a page of specials, including a BBQ arctic char sandwich. I ordered this, but five minutes later the waitress came back to inform me that that was yesterday's special. So I switched to the fried fish sandwich on the regular menu. We later noticed that one of the two blackboards on which the specials are listed still listed the BBQ arctic char sandwich.

That's it for the ditzy service. The rest of the service was competent, and the service from the guy who looked to be in charge was very good (although he was nowhere to be found when we were looking to be seated initially). I should also note that I have always found Summer Shack's service to be decent (young but enthusiastic), even though I have rarely enjoyed the food.

So on to the food: As mentioned, I had the fried fish sandwich. The fish was heavily battered, which struck me as inappropriate for a fish sandwich. But this was a design flaw, not an execution flaw. Although I would have preferred less batter, or just breading, the fish was moist and the sandwich filling. My dad had the fish and chips, which comprised a more generous portion of the same fish that was in my sandwich and a more generous serving of fries than was served with my sandwich. My mom ordered baked scrod, which she also enjoyed.

Bottom line is that although our lunch is not going to win any culinary awards, it was well executed, tasty and filling: I may not be rushing back, but it didn't suck, either. The tab, with three soft drinks, came to $48.

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  1. We live near the Summer Shack in the Back Bay and we went there a number times when it first opened. The food was always fine by us. Good basic seafood meals and some fun stuff too. And, they have had some good bartenders in the past.

    We stopped going because of the noise. We were there one day when they had Michael Jackson shrieking from one set of speakers and some sport event droning on from the TVs. I object to either form of noise with my meals.

    And, then there is the wine list for beer guzzlers. I can't imagine a worse wine list. It looks like one of those low end places that lets the beer distributor set up their wine program.

    Perhaps this has changed but we stopped trying to go there. You can only give a place so many chances. We mentioned our issues to staff people. They always seemed to say, very politely, "Hey, this is what we are." Each time we returned we were faced with noise from the speakers and sub-par wine with our meals.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PennyC

      Good points, Penny. I forgot to mention that, notwithstanding the service blunders, eating at the airport location was far more relaxing than eating in the noisy barn that is the Cambridge location. I haven't been to the Back Bay location, but I suspect I won't be trying it anytime soon (if I'm looking for seafood in that area, I'll head straight to B&G).

    2. I'm a fan of the Summer Shack at the Delta terminal...always served quickly..nice option at an airport..good quality.

      I bike on the Fish Pier a lot of mornings and Summer Shack trucks are always getting loaded from good rep fin and shellfish vendors.

      I've only eaten at the airport branch of JW; but I know for a fact that they are buying high quality fish.

      1. I've criticised the Summer Shack for less-than-juicy oysters, I've been thinking I was wrong about that.

        1. I've always thought of Summer Shack as one of those "stuck in the middle" places. Whenever I go there I leave thinking I should have spent more $ and gone to someplace better or less $ and gone to someplace cheaper (and possibly still better).

          1. OK, I go to the Summer Shack at Alewife to meet a dear old friend of mine every once in a while. We choose this place because it is a mid point (sort of) betwixt JP and Lincoln. I avoid sitting at the tables and only sit at the bar. Could this make for better service because they know I am a regular??? I know the food sucks most of the time, but I also know food and what to order and what to avoid. I do have a hard time with those chalkboard specials, but I have been able to tweak them a bit and it has come out perfect. I don't know. I can't knock this place. It reeaaaaaly can be bad, and I hesitate to what is executed. This is not a place that doesn't tolerate substitions so I exercise that. I stand my ground and get what I get what I ask for. They follow through and I love that.

            5 Replies
            1. re: birdy30

              OT, but if I were meeting someone between Lincoln (where I live, too) and JP, I think you'd find some much better options in Waltham, Newton or Needham not too far from Route 128 or Route 9 (all of which would, I think, be easier for the JP person to get to than Summer Shack).

              1. re: Blumie

                Blumie - tell me what you think of Aquataine Bis on Rte. 9. What are some other options out there?

                1. re: birdy30

                  For meeting a close a friend, Aquataine Bis, a Parisian style bistro, probably is the best of the several options in that area. I've been there a few times, and have found it to be good to very good, but in any event far suprior in every way to Summer Shack. Some on this board like the place a lot.

                  The other nearby options are Legal Seafoods and, on the pricer end, The Metropolitan (which I haven't been to) and The Capital Grill. Although I'm not rushing to any of these places, I'd pick any of them over Summer Shack any day of the week, and all would be good choices for dinner with a close friend.

                  There are a number of good options in Needham, too, that would be convenient for both of you.

                  1. re: Blumie

                    I think Aquitaine Bis is now high on my short list. Thank you so much for helping. :)

                  2. re: birdy30

                    Birdy, I would also recommend Kouzina, the modern Greek restaurant, near the Waban T on Beacon Street in Newton. That also seems close to half-way.

              2. Another summer, another visit to Summer Shack...I thought I'd revive this thread. We stopped by last night and the cornmeal-crusted oysters and grilled clams with garlic butter were excellent. The RI style calamari was great too. I thought my grilled sea bass was a tad dry on the outside, but moist once I got to the middle. Grilling seems an odd choice for a skinless fish fillet. Next time, I'll stick to the apps--they always seem to be executed with a little more care.

                8 Replies
                1. re: whs

                  I was at the Back Bay location a few weeks ago, on a Sunday, hoping for soft shell crabs, but they didn't have them. My backup plan was the lobster hash which unfortunately they told me they longer serve. So, I didn't want to be rude and leave, because the bartender on Sundays is personable and does a great job. I ended up with broiled scallops, prepared simply and quite good. Summer Shack isn't my favorite place, but it will do in a pinch.

                  1. re: Pegmeister

                    We went there for lunch a few months ago and the bartender was indeed personable. I had a corn dog because I have never had one in spite of spending my entire life in New England. It was the best corn dog I ever had. My husband had a hot dog and it was perfectly grilled on a toasted bun. There was a free cornbread side and the bill under ten bucks. I'll have something fishy next time.

                  2. re: whs

                    Great lunch at the Delta terminal Summer Shack last week. The special of four huge, succulent, grilled sea scallops with balsamic marinated watermelon was a steal at $10. That and a pint of Sam Adams summer ale made the airport wait downright pleasurable.

                    1. re: swans

                      The balsamic mirnated watermelon sounds interesting. I just purchased some nice quality balsamic yesterday and have been trying to decide how I'll use this precious liquid!

                      1. re: Pegmeister

                        Definitely do it! Chunks of watermelon with diced sweet onion, a bit of salt and pepper, a splash of EVOO and balsamic and a last-minute chiffonade of fresh mint makes for a great summer salad. And yes, I got the idea from Summer Shack in Back Bay a coupla years ago.

                        1. re: marais

                          I missed the original thread, so here's my opinion. We go to the Summer Shack every few months or so (Cambridge location) and I'm of the "it's ordinary" school of thought. However, its easy with teenagers, and their margaritas are good (for us, not the teens...), so we don't mind. My strategy is to order several appetizers rather than a main course; I find their mains are boring, unattractive and overpriced. Appetizers tend to be fresher and more interesting; another friend who has the same opinion of it tried the appetizer strategy recently and it worked for her as well.

                          1. re: lesliewh

                            I think the all-appetizers strategy might be the way to go. Was at the Alewife Summer Shack a few nights ago, and the only tasty part of the meal was a stuffed razor clam appetizer. The fish of my fish and chips was heavily breaded and esophagus-cloggingly greasy (the fries were fine).

                    2. re: whs

                      Last time I was there I enjoyed the grilled clams too. I go to the SS about once a year, and mostly for the easy parking and quality raw bar. I find that if you stick to raw bar/apps and a couple of glasses of tasty wine (they always have delicious whites by the glass) it's a fine option. Jasper is usually there, too, which I find endearing.

                    3. very disappointing- worst lobster roll I ever had. I've given up on this place.

                      1. I agree with the "it doesn't suck" comment. I just isn't very good either. I agree with the OP regarding either spending less money for the same food, or the same money for better food. I still go, mind you, but not very often and generally under duress.

                        When compared to typical airport fare, however, I give it a big thumbs up.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: tdaaa

                          I think that is accurate. The bartender is great. My DH teaches an evening class in the area, and the bartender starts pouring his draft beer as soon as he walks in the door. Inexplicably the accompanying food can be mediocre or worse. Attention to quality control could turn it around.

                          It is hard to take because Jasper White has done excellent chervil lobster, seared scallops at his(earlier) waterfront restaurant, and a memorable Mother's Day Gospel brunch in Cambridge.