Pub and restaurant serving American food. ... More »
Front Street Station is the new, downtown stop, decked out in summer attire.
The casual, friendly restaurant opens without pretense and with a contented crowd, whether the diner is interested in a pint of Samuel Adams on tap or just drawing with crayons on the paper covering tablecloths.
It's a very easygoing joint, where strollers are welcome, no one complains and genial conversations abound, occasionally about fun at the restored carousel across the street. Sometimes, it all does get a bit noisy, with voices bouncing off the knotty wood surfaces.
But that suits the Station, too. Go elsewhere for absolute silence or steady murmurs, hushed reverence or the communal swoon. Front Street Station isn't looking for a theme, a designer, a boldface name or a buzz.
The restaurant divides itself into a sunny dining area with a greenhouse roof and a considerably darker bar with tables, where the best light comes from the color TV.
Black-and-white photos of the East End's railroad stations dot the room divider, giving the eatery a touch of tradition. On a warm Saturday night, flip-flops and shorts reflect the dress code as much as polo shirts and khakis.
You'll be happy with the well-seasoned, Manhattan- style clam chowder, with a generous serving of shellfish. The New England-style chowder is dull, and on the floury side. For a cool night, consider the onion soup.
Fried clams are tender and flavorful, though their batter is pretty thick. Sometimes, they prepare a version of oysters Rockefeller, a dish that invariably underscores the appeal of a raw bar.
Mini-crab cakes, no bigger than a 50-cent piece, could downplay the breading in favor of more crab. An alternative: the basic, unadorned shrimp cocktail.
The house's gratis salad is fresh and good. And so is the salad of young spinach, flecked with bacon and hard-cooked egg. But the dressing for the spinach number is pretty flat.
Front Street Station does a commendable job with simply prepared seafood and with steaks.
The lobsters are moist and tender, usually in the 1.25-to-2-pound range. You can skip the pricier, stuffed rendition, with a hefty dose of overdone crabmeat that takes away more than it adds.
For finfish, try the straightforward broiled flounder, again without the crabmeat addendum. Grilled swordfish, salmon with an olive crust, broiled mahi-mahi with mango salsa and mako oreganata also are satisfying specials.
One of the top main courses here is the shell steak au poivre, a thick and juicy production with beefy flavor and genuine bite in the sauce. A lot of high-end establishments, French and otherwise, don't prepare a comparable version.
The competition for the steak au poivre comes from a rib eye, which may be cooked the same way, and the ample porterhouse.
Apart from these, you can sample a series of hamburgers or dive into wraps and sandwiches. The lobster salad and the chicken salad will do on a July or August afternoon, as will the vegetable combo and the prosciutto production.
Desserts aren't the highlight of the meal. But the carrot cake is all right, in two layers with cream-cheese icing. The individual chocolate Bundt cake will remind you of Hostess gone deluxe.
Pecan pie and Key lime pie up the stakes, as does a berry charlotte. And there are cheesecakes, both the standard and the low-carb varieties.
But Front Street Station's style demands great ice cream, preferably in large, rich quantities. You'll have to find it elsewhere. And there are plenty of super scoops to be found nearby.
Make it a hot fudge sundae.
Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 7/25/04.