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The Mystery of the Village Fish

L2k Aug 26, 2011 04:35 AM

A restaurant I've been fond of ever since it first opened in Brookline, even took my current wife there on our first date. Followed it to Needham, where it wasn't as crowded, maybe a little less comfortable, but still tasty (and you couldn't beat their early bird!)

Last week, in another thread here, it was reported to be closed. Drive bys didn't prove anything, although the sign was still up. Discussion with a local resident told me that the owners were closing down and reopening "in time for football season" as a BBQ-Sports Bar joint, had gotten a smoker, were adding tv's, etc, which I reported here in the August closings/openings thread.

Was walking in the neighborhood last night, could see folks seated inside, signs still say Village Fish, so we went in. Place looks the same, other than they've enclosed the formerly open kitchen in the back left. Menu was the same. Staff appeared to be the same.

We were in a hurry, so couldn't ask anyone (and DW thought I was odd enough that I would walk in and look at a menu when I had no interest in dining -- anymore would have brought on the wrath).


What gives?

Village Fish
970 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

  1. thecritique Oct 16, 2011 06:58 PM

    Wow, I was just telling someone about it being one of my all time favorites, (the old one in he village) We used to wait for at least an hour many nights for dinner, but was worth it!!!

    1. nsenada Oct 16, 2011 05:26 PM

      Made it to the Midtown Smokehouse, and thought it has really great potential, primarily because their meats were among the best bbq I've had recently. We had pulled pork, spare ribs, and beef ribs, all of which were clearly smoked, and recently at that. My biggest complaint with barbecue joints in general is that I can taste when the meat's been wrapped in foil for a couple days, or re-heated multiple times, causing the smoke ring to get brown, and the meat to have all the flavor of candle-wax (no slur against Yankee Candle, which probably has a pulled pork scented candle).

      Pork was the shredded variety, and had a nice smokiness to it, with no fatty gobs discernible (though sometimes I like fatty gobs). The beef ribs were very tender, with crispy bits on the outside, perfectly done, with most of the fat rendered out. The pork spareribs were also excellent, right balance of chew and tenderness, good smoke ring. Interestingly, one batch came without the chine flap cut off, which made me a bit envious. Sauces were two varieties, a "Texas" which was tomato-based with a bit of pepperiness. The other was "Memphis" which was vinegary, sweet and smokey.

      I've never been to Memphis, and am not well travelled in barbecue, but I do a fair amount of barbecuing myself, and this stuff came the closest to some of my more successful batches, and seemed to have come right off the grill (though I don't think it actually did).

      Less awesome, but adequate, were the sides - I rarely salt anything, but the mac and cheese definitely could have used a boost prior to serving. Beans were good, and fries were good (but again, could have used a bit of salt). Not having had any truly revelatory experiences with BBQ sides anywhere (except for Uncle Pete's Asian slaw, and the cheese grits I got at Blue Ribbon once) I was fine with that - my usual focus os on the meat and beer anyway. They have some great beers on tap, Dales Pale Ale, and Long Trail were particularly good.

      I can't believe we have great barbecue in Needham, of all places, and from a one-week-old restaurant. Clearly they did some homework before morphing from the the Village Fish. Anyway, will be back, fo sho.

      Village Fish
      970 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

      2 Replies
      1. re: nsenada
        yumyum Oct 16, 2011 06:41 PM

        And your doctor will be so proud! Heh! Just joshing.

        1. re: yumyum
          nsenada Oct 17, 2011 06:13 PM

          I'm not due back for a while - plenty of time for a detox...

      2. m
        myladyfae Oct 13, 2011 06:46 AM

        I'm sad to see Villiage Fish is finally gone. They started as a tiny lil place in Arlington back in the 90's....always tasty.

        8 Replies
        1. re: myladyfae
          bakerboyz Oct 13, 2011 07:21 AM

          I thought that it started in Brookline Village and got a little tired in its later years before resurrecting in Needham. I wonder with the new BBQ concept if they are cooking true "low and slow" BBQ and what kind of fuel (hickory, oak, etc) and what kind of smoker they use. I hope that they are. My sense is that many of the local BBQ joints take short cuts and do not smoke through the entire cooking process unlike Memphis, Texas, etc.

          1. re: bakerboyz
            nsenada Oct 13, 2011 12:03 PM

            I will be really excited if this is as good as it sounds, though it seems unlikely that it could transform into an awesome barbecue joint overnight. I'm definitely taking a field trip there in the very near future. I do walk by there frequently, and have yet to smell the intoxicating mingled aromas of wood and meat (is that redundant?)

            1. re: bakerboyz
              L2k Oct 13, 2011 12:42 PM

              Brookline is correct. See my initial post, we went there in late 1990 for our first date, and it wasn't new then.

              They have a smoker, out back in the parking lot. You can smell it a few blocks away (when the wind is right). No idea what the fuel they are using.

              No menu online that I could find, maybe on their facebook page?

              1. re: L2k
                Taralli Oct 14, 2011 06:09 AM


                1. re: Taralli
                  nincyh Oct 17, 2011 05:21 PM

                  Interesting because (a) I love BBQ - especially beef ribs - and (b) I live quite close.
                  If you click through the photos on their fb page (link above) after the menu, there's some tasty looking 'q, followed by lots of leftovers from Village Fish ;)
                  Will try soon and report back.

                  Village Fish
                  970 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

                2. re: L2k
                  CocoDan Oct 14, 2011 06:31 AM

                  If my mind's tastebuds are working correctly, I think the story goes something like this.
                  The owner (Greg?), originally worked for "The Daily Catch". Was not happy and went off to start his own business. Ends up in Brookline and calls it "The Village Catch". Gets taken to court for using a name too close to his former employer, and ultimately changes it to "The Village Fish". No matter what the name, I always liked his fish. Will miss it.

                  Village Fish
                  970 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

                  Daily Catch
                  441 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                  1. re: L2k
                    bakerboyz Oct 17, 2011 04:02 PM

                    Walked by tonight to pick up a menu and also walked around back and there was no smoker out back in the parking lot, perhaps the town nixed that?? I will likely go in during the next few days and see how they are smoking, how long, etc. I did notice in their small kitchen an upright, red smoker which looked rather small, only about 5' high by maybe 3' wide but when I walked through the restaurant I could neither see not detect any smoke. Once I get a little more info and also try the food I will report back.

                    1. re: bakerboyz
                      nsenada Oct 17, 2011 06:12 PM

                      Yeah, I saw the red smoker, too, it was from badbob's. Not sure if it's a pellet smoker or plain wood.

              2. L2k Oct 7, 2011 10:51 AM

                I hear they are opening tonight.

                5 Replies
                1. re: L2k
                  hiddenboston Oct 7, 2011 01:41 PM

                  Yup, they are opening in about 20 minutes. :-)

                  1. re: hiddenboston
                    L2k Oct 12, 2011 05:46 PM

                    And I'm the first to go there?

                    Went tonight with my current wife, along with my sister and her husband. They've decorated it a bit with Texas type stuff -- cowboy hats, boots, posters, etc. 4 or 5 large TV's, most on the baseball game, one I only saw on the way out telling me that I can get new catheters!

                    Menu looked good, had all the necessary BBQ items (pulled chicken and pork, beef ribs, brisket, spare ribs, baby backs, etc), and prices topped out around $15, which is great. Beers were $4 to $5, big selection on tap and bottles. Lengthy wine list as well.

                    Waitress was very attentive and friendly, told us right off the bat that they were out of a few things, and about the special (catfish). Got us our drinks quickly, then brought out the Fried Pickles for the table. You get 6 pickle chips for $5.95, which seemed a bit steep. Everything else was good and plenty. You get a biscuit or cornbread with all the entrees (we got 2 of each to share, the cornbread was excellent, the biscuit was cold and hard. Waitress told us they are probably getting rid of the biscuits, and brought us extra cornbread), and 2 sides (salad, slaw, fries, sweet potato fries, mac & cheese, etc). Sides were good, not great. We all were very pleased with our entrees, both the quantity and quality. I had the spare ribs, wife had the half chicken (and dinner tomorrow), sister had the pulled chicken as an entree (it's listed as a sandwich, but they can make it an entree), bro-in-law had the beef ribs, and everyone was very pleased.

                    Service was excellent, water glasses were kept filled, extra napkins were quickly offered (no paper towel rolls!). Place was clean.

                    As a local alternative to our usual BBQ MetroWest destinations (Firefly, Bison County, Village Smokehouse), we'd go here, instead. It's no Hill Country or Arthur Bryants, but I didn't expect Hill Country or Arthur Bryants.

                    Village Smokehouse
                    69 Harvard Sq, Brookline, MA 02445

                    1. re: L2k
                      CocoDan Oct 13, 2011 05:46 AM

                      Same owners? Just curious.

                      1. re: CocoDan
                        L2k Oct 13, 2011 05:56 AM

                        Yes, although I didn't see them on premises last night, I know they were there over the weekend as a friend at work was there both nights.

                      2. re: L2k
                        Taralli Oct 13, 2011 05:56 AM

                        Is there a menu posted somewhere - couldn't find it on the web.

                  2. CocoDan Sep 27, 2011 12:54 PM

                    I for one will miss their pasta and seafood dishes. Not Italian, but a very good version nontheless.
                    Thought he made some of the best "scampi" around. Grilled lobster there was very good. Greg did a good job. Salads, not so great. Bread, not so great. Sorry to see it change.
                    Always Enjoyed,

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: CocoDan
                      Taralli Oct 7, 2011 01:28 PM

                      I loved their scampi!

                    2. L2k Sep 26, 2011 04:34 PM

                      Between yesterday noonish and tonight at 6PM, the windows (front and back) were papered over and it says:

                      COMING SOON!

                      MIDTOWN SMOKEHOUSE & GRILL

                      Genuine Dry rubbed, Authentic BBQ Wood smoked and Slow cooked over Natural Hickory on Premises


                      Midtown Smokehouse & Grill
                      970 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: L2k
                        FoodDabbler Sep 26, 2011 06:46 PM

                        By the time they reopen, you'll be able to get there with your next wife.

                        1. re: FoodDabbler
                          opinionatedchef Sep 26, 2011 07:46 PM

                          too funny. i don't think you're ever going to live that one down, L.

                          1. re: FoodDabbler
                            L2k Sep 27, 2011 06:47 AM

                            They hope to be open in 2 weeks. And may drop the 'grill' part of the name.

                            And my next wife has already been approved by the current one, so I got that going for me.

                          2. re: L2k
                            JoeM Sep 27, 2011 07:02 AM

                            I'd like to get excited, but how in the world (or at least a town like Needham where nothing gets done without months and months of outrage and controversy) are they going to smoke on premises??? I hope they find a way... or at least have a good menu otherwise.

                          3. j
                            JoeM Aug 29, 2011 11:57 AM

                            It was open on the 27th.

                            I haven't heard anything about a bbq/sports bar type of place and imagine that such a place would create quite a 'controversy' with lots of letters and local paper editorials worried about underage drinking and the smoke and the undesireables who go to bars in the metrowest suburbs (I'm being sarcastic, but I'd be willing to put money on it happening...).

                            1. opinionatedchef Aug 26, 2011 10:13 PM

                              Gee L, 'current wife' over 'wife'? yikes.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: opinionatedchef
                                Berheenia Aug 27, 2011 04:44 AM

                                Maybe that's why they were iin such a hurry...

                                1. re: opinionatedchef
                                  L2k Aug 27, 2011 05:11 AM

                                  There's a storm a-brewin'!

                                2. nsenada Aug 26, 2011 05:14 AM

                                  Interesting! I thought that the powers that be in Needham didn't want a BBQ joint to open up due to the smoke. Would definitely like some good 'cue nearby, hopefully their old proximity to the Village Smokehouse (except for their beef ribs) doesn't signify anything re: general quality.

                                  Village Smokehouse
                                  69 Harvard Sq, Brookline, MA 02445

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