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Summer Shack (Alewife) Again

Had friends visiting and they wanted family friendly seafood nearby.

We had mostly apps and they were okay but not great.

Angels on Horseback, weird beet goop covering some delicately cooked oysters. Honestly a mess. Tasted okay, but the beet goop just smothered the oysters. Not sure what anyone was thinking when they thought this dish up.

The batter on the fish and chips was WAY to thick. I eat this dish often, and while this version was not bad the fish was lost in the dense almost tough batter. We also had broiled sword which was fine (but hard to mess up.)

I had some nice fried clams a few months back, but my general impression over the years stands. Not really worth the trip. If you've got kids in tow they can certainly feed a family, but just generally not that delicious.

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  1. Angels on Horseback is traditionally an oyster wrapped in bacon. was there no bacon? i do agree that anything beet-y would be weird on this dish.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ScubaSteve

      I know the traditional prep is bacon, this was just a mess with beets.

      1. re: StriperGuy

        We saw that on the menu whilst sitting at the Oyster Bar last week. DW & I, in unison, go "Beets? Umm.. no, uh uh!" In fact we had to read it twice in disbelief.

        Harp

    2. I've long been from the "Summer Shack sucks" school. I greatly appreciate, though, when someone takes one for the team so that the rest of us don't have to!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Blumie

        Well I gotta tell ya Blumie, I was more than happy with my gazpacho & Jasper's lobster roll. At $20.00 , and with the price on lobster falling, it's still a little dear but not when compared to B&G and Neptune's so I guess everything is relative.

        Harp

        1. re: Harp00n

          I ate the lobster role last time I was there and it did not have a ton of flavor. A little salt and pepper even. Not bad, but not memorable.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            That's funny, and I believe you, but mine was perfectly fresh and succulent. Now I don't think anyone would doubt that you're always going to get fresh lobster meat at Summer Shack so it's quizzical as to where the variation lies. Especially, when considering how simple a lobster roll really is.

            Harp

        2. re: Blumie

          definately not a fan of Summer Shack. I've tried but no can do. Big Neptune Fan...

          -----
          Summer Shack
          310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

        3. Not my favourite place, but it has loads of parking, and, of paramount importance, the indian pudding is very good.

          12 Replies
          1. re: sailormouth

            Different strokes, I guess. I've had Summer Shack's Indian pudding and thought it was horrible, the worst I've had locally -- a weird, custard-y thing that at least has some of the appropriate spicing. Even worse, they topped it with soft serve instead of real ice cream.

            For my money, Durgin Park does this dessert best locally. I remember it being just OK at Union Oyster House, but not as bad as the disaster version at SS.

            1. re: bachslunch

              And glad to see there's something else I can agree with on this OP because, frankly, this is devolving into a rock fight. Durgin Park's Indian Pudding isn't just the best in Boston it's the best I've ever had period. On several occasions, traveling around the country, I've had people come up to me in the hotel bars after hearing the Baahston accent. Accent, what accent? Anyways, they'd tell me they'd been to Boston's Jacob Wirth's, Lockobers and then would invariable get around to Durgin Park and specifically they still remembered how good the Indian Pudding was. As Jack Parr used to say; "I kid you not! " I found out a few years ago that my grandfather & one of my great uncles worked there for several years during the depths of The Depression so that's kind of a cool connection as well whenever I'm there.

              Harp

              1. re: Harp00n

                All right, I'll give the Durgin Park version a go, but it's your own fault for letting them get away with using soft-serve. For better or for worse, it is a place I feel like I need to be a little more on top of things like that.

                1. re: sailormouth

                  And speaking of rock fights.....
                  There's a love camp & a hate camp for Durgin Park with not much of a middle ground in between. To which I say; come if you will, stay away if you must.

                  Harp

                  BTW, I've nothing against SS's version, just think DP's is superior.

                  1. re: Harp00n

                    When I had the SS version of Indian Pudding, I had hard ice cream substituted for the soft serve. It is okay. Not to prolong the fight but Legal one point had a pretty decent version of Indian Pudding. Alas, it is no longer.

                    1. re: laulauman

                      As did John Harvard. But you'd be hard pressed on this Board, to get many to admit that anything ever came out of their kitchens deemed Chowish.

                      Harp

                      1. re: Harp00n

                        Durgin Park. Summer Shack. Legal Seafoods. John Harvard. So are the only places that serve Indian pudding mediocre-to-bad restaurants?

                        1. re: Blumie

                          Add to that the (in)famous Wayside Inn in Sudbury where your Indian Pudding can be accompanied by the ever-popular Woo Woo Cocktail. Fibrillators conveniently located near every table.

                          1. re: pondrat

                            Was also not taken with the Indian pudding at the Wayside Inn, which is certainly in the running for the worst version of this dish locally. While they got the texture more or less right, the flavor was blah. But worst of all, there were hard little fibrous pits and pieces scattered through the pudding, which I can only think were detritus from corn cobs or something similar -- kept fishing them out of my mouth while eating the dessert.

                            Coupled with a tough piece of prime rib and thick, glue-like clam chowder beforehand, this was a meal to forget and then some.

                            1. re: bachslunch

                              Their demographic tells me that fiber on the menu would be encouraged but nothing you'd need to chew.

                          2. re: Blumie

                            So I guess by your snarky comments we can place you firmly in the hate camp regarding Durgin Park, would that be about right?

                            1. re: Harp00n

                              Durgin Park is a novelty restaurant as I see it. Viewed in that context I'm perfectly fine with it. I actually liked it better when they were really rude there but that critical novelty has faded over the years. Unless I'm really missing something now all you're left with is mediocre food.

            2. I enjoy some of the items on their menu--the spicy and greasy Rhode Island calamari, the grilled littleneck clams, and the fried clams. I've gotten fresh fish from the specials board on a few occasions--the fish itself is fine, but the sauces are usually pretty boring.

              3 Replies
              1. re: liamsaunt

                I would make a special trip just for the grilled clams with that special garlic sauce....but now that I've purchased his cookbook I can save the gas...

                Or even better here's the recipe courtesy of Jasper and you all save an additional $25 on the book to put towards ingredients:

                http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...

                1. re: pondrat

                  +1 on the grilled clams. Thanks for the recipe. This, and the raw oysters, are the only things I typically eat at the Summer Shack. Heavy cream? who knew!

                  1. re: yumyum

                    Oh and don't forget to order one of these so you can completely replicate the Summer Shack presentation.

                    http://www.greatgrate.com/id13.html

              2. I love Summer Shack. I do not really understand why so many people on this board don't like it. My lobster roll was sensational last time I was there. The seafood platter was great and my husband loved his pan roasted lobster. I always have great meals there. I like the desserts too!

                18 Replies
                1. re: macadamianut

                  Reason a bunch of us don't like it, is cause the food is on the pricey side and made without a lot of care. Read the reviews, or heck, just try the "Angels on Horseback, " blech. Pretty hard to mess up a pan roasted lobster.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    Most places that serve fish are on the pricey side I guess because it is so perishable. If a place does serve fish cheap I don't want to eat there. How do you know that the food is made without care? Jasper White has such a big following and reputation. I can't imagine that he does not put care into his food. When I was there last we saw him working and he even smiled.

                    1. re: macadamianut

                      I've had fish done much better at Dolphin Seafood without having to take out a second mortgage on the house, and without having to withstand the gymnasium noise level of Summer Shack. And if I'm going to spend SS level bucks, I'd rather go to Neptune Oyster, B&G Oysters, or even Kingfish Hall, where I've had better food experiences.

                      When I have a great experience at Summer Shack, I'll be the first to chime in positively.

                    2. re: StriperGuy

                      Price notwithstanding let's remember the place is called Summer SHACK...not Cabane d'Ete. It's a bunch of picnic tables with giant caldrons of boiling water. Based on the number of VERY pricey restaurants with legendary owners that get slammed on a regular basis by the CHOWS on this board, I'd say Summer Shack does a damn good job at keeping customers happy.

                      1. re: pondrat

                        I know PLENTY of shacks that server WAY, WAY better food at 1/2 the price. The dinner I ate ate the other night was classic Summer Shack glop. If it happens once okay. I've been 6 times or so and the best meal I had was just okay.

                        And finally pan roasted lobster is almost impossible to wreck, throw lobster in pan, cook for 10 minutes, done. There is almost no skill or caring involved.

                        If Jasper White makes a token appearence now and then fine, but this place is not even a SHADOW of his former excellence at Jasper's where he truly redefined New England seafood.

                      2. re: StriperGuy

                        "Pretty hard to mess up a pan roasted lobster"

                        C'mon give a little credit where credit is due .
                        That is a great treatment of lobster and it is signature Jasper White.

                        Harp

                        1. re: Harp00n

                          I have to agree: the pan roasted lobster is simply fantastic. Give the man some credit for this dish, if nothing else. (BTW - had the hot lobster roll at Neptune's today - out of this world).

                          1. re: Uncle Ian

                            There a ton of Hounds out there who'd agree on your/our statement but in this particular instance it's obviously a case of talking to the hand :-)

                            Thx.
                            Harp

                            1. re: Uncle Ian

                              I agree with Harp and Ian....my best friend is a well-to-do world-traveller/gourmand who now lives in Alaska. When she visited a few years ago, she was jonesing for lobster so we went to Alewife. She had a big boiled one but I tried the pan-roasted - definitely one of the best sauces either of us had ever tasted. I guess there are summer and winter versions - this one had chives, brandy, roe, and diced tomato, if memory serves. With lots of butter, of course. She dismanted the boiled one and we swabbed it with sauce, eating from both plates, since the school cafeteria atmosphere made this possible.
                              The buttery mashed parsnips were the best parsnips I've had as well.

                            2. re: Harp00n

                              The recipie for Jasper's pan roasted lobster is actually pretty complicated:

                              http://fooddownunder.com/cgi-bin/reci...

                              I consider myself an OK home chef and work with lobster a lot, it's not an easy dish.

                              1. re: Carty

                                I consider that a very simple recipe, but I cook a lot. Some like Summer Shack, some don't. Vive la difference.

                                Want way better food, some of it rather gourmet including some of the best broiled or fried seafood I eat in Boston. Hit Lobstaland in Gloucester. The fried fish sandwich I eat there regularly shames the clunky, way over-battered, lame fish and chips at Summer Shack.

                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  Just can't let this one go:

                                  - Roasted a lobster is not hard. Throw lobster in pan, roast, deglaze.
                                  - Making fish and chips requires a special touch, care, and nice fresh oil
                                  - Angels on horseback requires a delicate touch, not a slop of beets.
                                  - Ceviche is also delicate, and requires some care.
                                  - A lobster roll benefits from the right amount of salt, pepper, maybe even some celery, onion, or even celery seed and just the right amount of mayo

                                  My point being, that pretty routinely, when Summer Shack attempts anything that requires some real cooking, care, and thoughtful preparation they fall down.

                                  The board is full of people who have ordered anything but a lobster at SS and been disappointed.

                                  We may agree to disagree, but if SS was consistently nailing it, I would not be making this post.

                          2. re: macadamianut

                            Hold your ground macadamianut. You have defied the Boston Chow Conventional Wisdom (BCCW) at your great peril. You cannot possibly have had a positive experience at the Summer Shack, if you had a positive experience you must have been at Neptune or B&G.

                            I do think it's fascinating how the BCCW handles price, frequently used to justify assessments already made on experience. Not to put too fine a point on it but Neptune and B&G are very expensive and frequently defended.

                            1. re: Carty

                              I have to tell you another thing I like about Summer Shack. At the end of the day when I am tired and I just want to feel relaxed in my jeans that fit and a simple top I can feel as though I can eat there without getting all dressed up. You can have pan roasted lobster in a Harvard sweatshirt. At B&G on the other hand not so much. While I find the food there very nice I always feel as though there is an "air" to the people that work there like" your lucky you even got a seat at the bar." Last time I was there I showed up at 11:40am because I was hungry early. The host asked me if I had a reservation. I said no and he said than you can sit at the bar. The tables remained empty while I was there. Now yes the bar is fun at B&G but I wanted to sit at a small table. It was very expensive. 150.00 for lunch and I drank a soda. and my husband had a beer. Seafood restaurants in Boston and cambridge are expensive but if you live in Boston proper than you are used to paying those prices and we cannot really complain because we are lucky to live close to the city.

                              1. re: macadamianut

                                Will agree with macadamianut that B&G Oysters is expensive, as are many of the sitdown seafood spots in Boston. And I can see an argument that (like say, Mistral) B&G is approaching the point where it's too expensive for what you get, no matter how good it is.

                                But I will say, any suggestion that one can't go to most restaurants in Boston dressed jeans-level-casual doesn't jive with my experience, at least. The only places I would feel out of place dressed casually in this manner are the expensive fancy-dan tasting menu spots, such as L'Espalier or Clio, or the expensive steak places like Grill 23 or The Oak Room. I can, and have, gone to every seafood restaurant in town mentioned on this thread dressed jeans-level-casual with no apparent repercussions.

                                So macadamianut, I say dress down and enjoy! And if they give you an attitude, who needs them? Shame on B&G if they did.

                                1. re: bachslunch

                                  Your post made me laugh. I am a woman and sometimes I care too much if I look ok or if I run into someone I know and what if I look awful.

                              2. re: Carty

                                I don't think that's fair Carty. The BCCW has been discussed on other threads and I sincerely think divergent opinions are welcome here. Don't expect hounds to not back up their opinions, though. We're passionate people. As for Summer Shack, I usually end up getting dragged there a couple times a year and I enjoy the oysters and grilled clams. That's all.

                                1. re: Carty

                                  I'm actually not among the B&G fans myself I had a lousy night there once complete with bad service. I do love Neptune.

                              3. I agree it's inconsistent, but I end up there every couple of months anyway due to its convenience, visitors from out of town, and/or the fact that they do start with premium, fresh ingredients - it's just that about 1 of 3 times they do something wrong or sloppy to them, but it's still generally edible to downright good (though beets and oysters is really pushing it! - especially as a substitute for BACON!).

                                The raw bar is usually a really good choice, along with the simpler prepararations - and the corn dog is surprisingly good, too. Cocktails are NOT a strong suit - stick to the beer and wine here.

                                The prices are too high for me to recommend the place to anyone, but not high enough to keep me from getting pulled back there a couple of months later...

                                1. Bring back the Aku Aku!!
                                  I ate there a few times
                                  The Aku Aku (was a Trader Vic's style Chinese restaurant) people ran a real empire for a while with 2 other restaurants
                                  If they owned that Fresh Pond property, and I think they did, Jasper White paid a lot for it.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: gafferx

                                    Here's an admittedly small but I believe highly revealing reason why I believe Summer Shack is not a good value.

                                    1 bowl of Clam Chowder at the Alewife Summer Shack: $9.00
                                    1 bowl of Clam Chowder at the Kendall Legal Seafoods: $5.95

                                    Why pay 50% more for an inferior (relative to Legal Seafood) product?

                                    1. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                      Agreed, when I was there the clam chowder had one piece of clam about the size of a thumbnail... but plenty of potatoes, I made a point of complaining. I've also had dry oysters and skimpy fried clam portions, and generally dislike the atmosphere of either place. I do like the tarragon in the lobster roll though.

                                      1. re: steinpilz

                                        I was very disappointed with the food and service both times I went and I don't like the atmosphere at all. On top of that it is overpriced. I would not go back.

                                      2. re: CambridgeFoodie

                                        I like the comparison of Summer Shack to Legal Seafoods. This illustrates exactly what I don't like about SS - essentially the same food as Legals, at a much higher price point. I end up at SS about once a year, because it is close, and does have parking, but I always seem to have buyers regret afterwards. I go to Legals at one mall or another much more frequently, and am always happy to get better than average mall food at relatively reasonable prices.

                                        To answer the OPs regarding "chow orthodoxy" here I have panned SS (with conventional wisdom), praised Legal Seafoods (against CW), and will add that I have had both great and poor meals at Kingfish Hall, and would much rather go there and throw my money on the food roulette wheel and hope for another great meal, than ever go back to summer shack and get the less expensive (yet overpriced) consistently mediocre fare (Don't know how this fits into chow conventional wisdom).

                                        -----
                                        Summer Shack
                                        310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                                        Kingfish Hall
                                        188 South Market Building, Boston, MA 02109

                                        1. re: tdaaa

                                          I just compared menus between Alewife SS and Burlington Legal, and they seem quite comparable price wise - most common items between the two were about the same in price. So I'm not getting the "much higher price point" statement.

                                          1. re: LStaff

                                            I guess you are correct - I also checked and was surprised at the prices of some of the legals entrees. I guess I normally order the goat cheese, apple and tortilla salad with grilled scallops, which is always good. When comparing the menu prices, however, for comparable items, SS seems to be at least a few bucks more for most things. For example, chowder is 6.95 vs. 9, 6 raw clams are 7.95 vs. 9, and fish and chips are 16.95 vs 20. Unfortunately, both menus use the "market price" designation frequently so accurate comparisons are difficult.

                                            Checking the menu, I had forgotten about the oyster/stoli shooter at SS, which I have consistently liked both for originality and flavor.

                                    2. I've been both to the Cambridge and Back Bay locations one time and neither was bad, but not particularly memorable, and the service is indifferent at best.

                                      1. The only time I ate there I had some very disappointing bitter-tasting clam ceviche. I ate it because I paid for it, but I can't believe anyone thinks that dish is tasty. I've made far better ceviche myself.

                                        1. Quick update from a recent visit - we were actually very pleased, but it sounds like we might have gotten lucky with ordering. We wanted to get a quick light dinner on a Saturday night before catching a movie at Fresh Ponds, and Summer Shack worked out nicely for that. I had a delicious fried belly clam roll - perfectly fried in a light batter, lots of belly clams, huge portion - I had to eat about half the clams before I was able to pick up the roll. My husband got (his first!) lobster roll ($20 MP) - full of big tender lobster chunks, gently seasoned - looked to me like the product of a 1 lb lobster (I recently made a roll at home). Decent fries and pickles with both rolls. Friends ate more lightly - one got a dozen rawbar clams (littlenecks and something else), which he raved about; other (a vegetarian - not too many options for her) got an OK peashoot salad and a great mexican chocolate torte with a giant scoop of fresh whipped cream. Including a couple of draft beers and sodas, it was under $100 including tip, which we thought was OK for the quality and portions of the food. We're planning to go back - and I'll be sure to try the grilled clams!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: rovingfoodie

                                            I went Friday night and was impressed as always with the oysters, and the soft shell crab appetizer - fried with sambal and cucumber salad - was excellent, as were the margaritas. I don't like their pea tendril salad - way too stemmy and tough without enough avocado, spinach, and other flavors, as well as underdressed.

                                            1. re: rlh

                                              Headed out to the Summer Shack as were were already in Lexington, and craving seafood.
                                              We deeply regretted it as it was not cheap ($23 for Fried Clams). We knew what to expect as far as price but the quality was just plain poor. We would've done better I feel at the Prime Roast Beef & Seafood in Lexington for much less dough. Surf and Turf ($25) was a big let down for my husband...no taste lobster and flavorless, too rare (strange I know) very chewy steak tips. Fried Clams were mushy, VERY sandy and dripping in grease. Kids both had Florida Tiger Shrimp, this was ok but not at $18 a pop....The highlight of the evening was the Toll House Pie, although it was missing ice cream and came with a dollop of fresh from the can whipped cream....

                                              -----
                                              Summer Shack
                                              310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                                              1. re: rachgrn

                                                Went here a few weeks ago...fried clams were pretty good, but the fish (fish and chips) was very greasy.
                                                The clam chowder was SO bland...and mostly full of large chunks of potato (not many clams.)
                                                Jasper was there, too.
                                                Oh and they use the cheater 14oz "pint" glasses for beer.

                                          2. been there twice, dissapointing, expensive.

                                            1. When we go, we only order off the specials, or get the mussels. Those offerings are usually reasonably priced.
                                              We bring our own bread.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: CookieLee

                                                Agree on the specials, always fresh and well prepared. Their oysters also are great.

                                                Seriously on the bread? Do you stop at Iggy's first and bring that?

                                                1. re: Gabatta

                                                  I am absolutely serious about the bread. One of my friends couldn't stand going because of the bread, and when I found out, I offered to stop at the Clear Flour Bread , and bring a baguette. I have even told the hostess about the bread situation. Last time, I think my friend stopped at Iggy's and she brought the bread. It was a great baguette.
                                                  I will have to try the pan fried lobster!

                                                  1. re: CookieLee

                                                    I'm confused...couldn't you just not eat the bread?

                                                    1. re: stomachofsteel

                                                      hehe, we like having crusty bread with our mussels.

                                                      1. re: CookieLee

                                                        Oh right, with mussels that's essential. I was just thinking in general -- I've spent so much time trying to train myself NOT to eat out of bread baskets (to avoid the calories) that sometimes I'm relieved when the bread is not good!

                                                        But you do need bread for sopping, if you're ordering the mussels. Actually at the SS my wife orders a side of fries with her mussels and dips them in the sauce/broth. But unfortunately the fries aren't great either.

                                                    2. re: CookieLee

                                                      I wish I'd thought to bring in my own bread there. The grilled clams with garlic butter are just crying out for a crusty baguette too, not the sweet corn bread that they offer. Next time I'll be sure to smuggle some bread in! No sideways glances from the server???

                                                      1. re: yumyum

                                                        No sideways glances. As I said earlier, I have mentioned to the hostess that we find their bread basket lacking. There ya go, yumyum! I have to try the grilled clams next time.

                                                  2. re: CookieLee

                                                    I like their cornbread, but agree that the Wonder-ish white bread travesty that's also offered is not at all adequate for mussel juice soaking!

                                                  3. i am very fond of the pan fried lobster; that is the one thing that brings me back there.

                                                    1. You should have driven 10 more minutes down route 16 to Moultons Seafood in Medford... the best seafood around. I even challenge it to Woodmans and any of the other "Clam Shacks"

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. I'm not a huge fan of Summer Shack. I do know that they start with absolutely impeccably fresh fish. Max who runs their purchasing department buys only top notch fish. What they do with it from there is beyond me.

                                                        -----
                                                        Summer Shack
                                                        310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210