Definitely Not Alice's Restaurant.
So the Market Restaurant there's an obscure connection to Alice Waters, therefore the staff has an East Coast/West Coast appeal. They say the food is locally harvested from actual area farms from Gloucester, Cape Ann, and Essex. And the location is an amazing attraction because no one can really find it unless they know about Annisquam – a gem of a secret located off an appendage of Cape Ann. The restaurant itself has no real signage, and hides behind an old marina that has seen better days. I happened to bump into this tiny little foodie haven by renting a summer place a few lanes away. The locals did not give such favorable reviews (too expensive, limited menu, limited seating, limited wine list etc.) and I can understand why. The Market Restaurant is hip, trending the latest efforts of some very young kids who are trying to make a name in the area by dropping a connection to Alice Waters, if you even know who she is (and it is exactly the perfect area to name drop if you are into upscale food climbing). Crowded, happening, youthful, energetic, preppie-sort-of, San Francisco more-like, a summer experience with outdoor picnic table dining on a veranda that fronts the Annisquam Lobster Cove – a gorgeous watery sloop-filled harbor worth seeing at sun down if you don't mind the mosquitoes and the no-see-ums munching you for dinner free of charge!
Now onto the food part: I can understand why the menu is so extremely limited if they only buy locally produced goods. I mean, it isn't exactly harvest season in New England in June/July, so I guess you cook what you can get. But the sea provides apparently when it's coldest, hence we ordered a half-dozen oysters that were so delicious, so perfectly chilled, so baby tender, that we didn't want the experience to end. We drank down the liquid from each emptying oyster shell as if it was the nectar of the gods. The oysters were so good, in fact, we said "the hell with the price tag" ($13/half dozen), and ordered another round! Unfortunately, that was the best part of the meal–except for the one demure mini baguette delivered to our table in an "epi" format–meaning chewy florets of flour that we know from our Clear Flour Bakery experience in Brookline, MA. Apparently this bread comes from the Salem Bakery, a neighboring provider that gets a thumbs up from me. (My dining companion was less enthusiastic, waxing for a more crunchier crust) but never mind. I could have eaten two baguettes all by myself along with another plate of oysters. But not to be piggy, I waited for a small domestic salad, nothing special, while my dining buddies chose the only other salad item left, which I can’t even remember, then it was on to the main course – a choice between a rib-eye steak or wild salmon. As I was on a summer vacation, I would have paid anything for a lobster, boiled, baked, stuffed, in a seafood stew, with clams, or broth, or just sawed in half on the table. Alas, lobster was not a viable option that evening (a Friday night, mind you). Had I come the night before, I would have been able to order a giant bowl of bouillabaisse filled with all the fruits of the sea, including lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, but I missed that menu by 24 hours. So I passed. Despite the menu, our conversation was livelier than the food, and that was a good thing as it was noisy and the bugs were absolutely first class. I was able, however, to request some insect repellent from a very compliant wait staff person, and once a squirt or two was applied, I could then sit back and enjoy the complete dining experience. I think, in retrospect, that it would have been smarter to dine inside or at the bar, but it would have been a trade off--a spectacular harbor view for the slap of a screen door and bug-free dining. Your choice. As for the meat, it was rib eye, hence it was fatty. Why they chose the meat and a fatty cut is questionable to me. I don’t like meat particularly, although my companion adores it. And the only other option was wild sockeye salmon, which also didn’t appeal, although they must have hauled in quite the catch. Being a Friday, my Catholic client went for the salmon, but picked at it. My other half chose the meat, and spent his dinner fighting off the fat with a dull kitchen knife. I watched them both struggle as I sipped a glass of Pinot Grigio that was also not a bargain. But lastly, the desert was not ignored. Unfortunately it was a coconut flan of sorts. I hate coconut, but everyone else loved it. I chose the locally harvested chocolates, but as the weather was so hot and melting, the chocolates were just as humid.
All in all, despite my not-so-hot above-written review, I have to say the place and the workers had charm. They tried. And tried exceptionally hard. I think they might even get it right in the next season or two. And we'll probably even go back for more!
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