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Feb 8, 2008 03:22 PM

Summer Shack

We're thinking of heading to the Summer Shack. How is the lobster bisque there? And is one location better than another? We've only been to the Cambridge location. TIA

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  1. I like the one in Back Bay because it is easy to park in the attached garage and Summer Shack validates their parking. Never ordered their lobster bisque but everything there is good. I like their fish and chips, their lobsters, their chowder - even their pie. My three year old nephew eats their grilled clams, that's how good they are. I also ehar they have good fried chicken - never ordered that either as the seafood dishes are too tempting.

      1. re: Blumie

        Well I haven't been to the one in Cambridge, but my visit to the Back Bay location around Christmas didn't mirror Blumie's opinion. Everything we had (especially the Bluefish and Striped Bass specials and the bay scallops) was really pretty good and the oysters were great (and well shucked). I didn't have the lobster bisque so can't comment.

        1. re: Blumie

          How illuminating Blumie, very helpful.

          The key to enjoying the Summer Shack is to engage it for what it is – a very large restaurant from which Jasper White, an exceptional chef, generates a bit of income. It’s shtick is that it reproduces the experience of a seasonal seafood ‘shack’ at the beach.

          He manages to achieve sort of a Disney version of the real seafood shack experience. It is not a bad place to visit from the ‘burbs on no notice with a group. Parking at both Cambridge and Boston are straightforward, the Cambridge restaurant is larger.

          There are nuggets to be mined:

          1. The oysters are as good as anywhere. (I love how hard people try to attribute differences in oysters to venues – they are essentially sealed containers. If handled well, as they are at the Summer Shack, very difficult to screw up).

          2. Jasper’s signature Pan Roasted Lobster is one of the best lobster dishes available anywhere. And not something that one is likely to throw together at home.

          3. Steamed lobsters, steamed clams, and fried clams are entirely passable.

          4. The menu is very kid friendly.

          Other items on the menu depending on the day/night will be variable. I do not understand why the Summer Shack engenders such passion here.

          1. re: Carty

            I think the vitriol is due mostly to the perception that the Summer Shack tends to present itself as an "authentic" New England experience when in fact it's, as you say, totally Disneyfied. Or as I've put it, the culinary version of the old Broadway show Beatlemania: "Not the real thing, but an incredible simulation."

            If, say, my sister who lives in Iowa was coming into town, I would take her to the Summer Shack. If I was just dying for a plate of clams and I didn't have time to run up to Ipswich, I would go to the Summer Shack. But it would never be on my list of favorite restaurants in town.

            1. re: Carty

              Yes, signature dish Pan roasted lobster is delicious but you need to be hosed down after trying to eat it...I wish they took it out of the shell before roasting in all that yummy sauce but I guess that might overcook the lobster and ruin it. Summer Shack is what it is...a place with paper on the tables, kid friendly, fresh seafood...this isn't fancy and shouldn't be judged as such. Where else can you get sno cones for dessert? What kid doesn't love that?
              I thought chowhounds weren't snobs.

              1. re: Carty

                Totally agree, Carty. I think it's helpful to look at it as a revenue generator for a celebrity chef; kind of the culinary equivalent of a prestige Hollywood actor hamming it up in a Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster.

                While it's by no means a high rotation restaurant for me, I find it a pretty tolerable compromise choice when dining out with larger groups, chow-challenged friends, and/or families with kids. Maybe not a top choice if you're spending all your time hanging out at Speed's, the Super 88 food court, and Angela's, but it definitely has its place. See also: Antico Forno in the North End.

                And to the OP: sorry, I haven't tried the bisque either.

                1. re: Carty

                  I've been to both Summer Shacks several times and I'm usually disappointed (I expect to be now): clam chowder without clams, dried out oysters, miniscule portions of fried clams, disappearing staff, warehouse atmospheres, empty restaurants, frigid temperatures. But I will say that their lobster roll is pretty good; I haven't tried the pan roasted lobster yet and am glad to hear that the steamers are also good.

              2. It's no Jasper's, but then again, Jasper's was a money-loser in the end, and Summer Shack looks like a cash cow.

                The pan-roasted lobster is indeed really fine. They do most everything quite competently: good steamers, fried and wood-grilled seafood, and raw bar. They do maybe the only really good corn dog around.

                It's true that if you can, you should skip it for the real clam shacks and lobster pounds up the coast; there is an ersatz, chain-y quality to the atmosphere. For some reason, I feel more comfortable in the Alewife location than the Back Bay one. Certainly that spot is an upgrade from Aku-Aku.

                Probably the most offensive thing to me is the motto: "Food is love (trademark)."

                1. I've only been to the Cambridge location 5-ish times now and everything I've ordered there has been very good, and very tasty. The oysters are as good as I've had any where from Florida to Nova Scotia. I agree with the thoughts about the pan fried lobster, and would like to mention the wok seared's excellent. I really don't see the Summer Shack as a theme park, but rather a casual, non-fussy place to get a pertty good seafood meal. Plus, the Tanqueray & tonic is terrific!

                  1. I'm a little surprised at the loathing Summer Shack generates. My limited experiences have been very good. I've been craving good oysters and lobster bisque and S.S. offers both.
                    Every time we've visited Jasper White has been on the premises, which is a good sign.
                    It isn't a "real" clam shack like we all know and love, but it's very good for what it does and the atmosphere is preferable to some pseudo- hip places with so-so food.
                    Thanks for the input, everyone.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: mollydingle

                      I've never seen Jasper, I've been to the Summer Shacks probably a dozen times though only for lunch. Where and when do you see him?

                      1. re: steinpilz

                        Jasper has been roaming the restaurant in Cambridge every time I've been there... late lunch, early dinner. Be advised, he has lost a ton of may not even recognize him. But he's there.

                        1. re: steinpilz

                          He has lost a ton of weight in the last several years, barely recognizable if you were expecting rolly polly Jasper.

                          I go there much less frequently now that I don't work in Cambridge, but he used to be there all the time.

                          1. re: Carty

                            Just want to say that Jasper is usually at the Alewife location when I visit -- you can tell if you see his rain-slicker yellow Porsche in the lot.

                            Once or twice a year I have an out of town guest who I think would enjoy the effortlessness of driving into the parking lot, bellying up to the bar and having a few oysters, a couple nice glasses of wine, and one of my favorite specials -- grilled clams with garlic butter. There are better places to go, by far, but I've never been disappointed when sticking to raw bar and appetizers.

                            1. re: yumyum

                              I'm latching on to yumyum's post because it mirrors my feelings. I brought my parents and partner to SS Alewife for a mom's day lunch last year, think. Place was crazy with kids and parental units trying to get control of them. So in the chaos, our food order didn't make it in nor out. We're pretty patient people but even I started realizing that something had gone wrong - and once we mentioned something, our meals were brought to us promptly and the food was comped, particularly appreciated because this was mom's day brunch and I was rather embarrassed. They were really gracious. We drank heartily to pad that bill for that lovely waitstaff who was dealing with us.

                              As for our food - to some of us un-sophisticated, anti-foodie, just plain good eatin' types, the food was delicious and hit the spot (RI calamari, grilled fish, fish and chips if I remember correctly). Cold beer and crisp white wines rounded out the meal. I haven't been back yet, but if the occasion arises, I know where to to go.