It's prime time on a Saturday night, and I'm struggling to make my way out of the newest gastro pub on the South Shore. As the reincarnation of a long-gone bar and grill, it's also, in a sense, among the oldest. People are lined up three deep at the bar; I hear the wait for a table is an hour and a half. That's because no reservations are taken for parties fewer than five. So glad I went early. Still and all, chef-owner Joseph Bonacore's food would have merited the wait.
It feels good to share a $20 bottle of wine and a bowl of irresistible potato chips drizzled with white truffle oil, topped with Asiago cheese. "Little piggies," pastry-wrapped wieners, prove gratifying, as do a trio of spunky tacos with lobster salad, spice-crusted tuna and shrimp mango seviche. I don't expect to be transported by baked clams, but the clam and shrimp casino, laced with bacon and roasted in an herbed beurre blanc, surprises me with its smoky depth of flavor. Bonacore's big, bold butternut squash salad with chopped grilled vegetables and toasty pumpkin seeds also bids cliches goodbye.
Surf and turf is simultaneously presented on two plates, one holding meltingly tender short ribs, the other with spiced barbecued shrimp over tomato mango salsa.
But the kitchen slips by overcooking a friend's bucatini Amatriciana; it's oversauced, as well. A new version is made, and it turns out much better.
I'm both intrigued by and skeptical about the signature burger topped with Cheddar, bacon and lobster salad, served on a sesame-seed roll. But it proves true that mayo-dressed crustacean and grilled ground beef harmonize. Bonacore's pig's "butt" (the menu uses another word) sandwich on garlic bread is all about the synergy between warm, juicy meat, melted Muenster and tangy, house-made duck sauce.
Favorites among "mini indulgence" finales, $2.95 each, include a trio of spoons (tiramisu, crème brûlée and nutella panna cotta) and a first-rate banana-white chocolate-walnut bread pudding.
Given the reservation policy, you might want to consider finding four good friends and booking a table.