|Clockwise from left, the salmon burger and lobster roll; raw seafood that customers can ether have cooked on the spot or packaged to take home; and swordfish steak and grilled scallops . (Photos by Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe)|
Seafood spot lives up to hype
459 Washington St., Duxbury
Summer Hours: Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Credit cards accepted
Tucked in the heart of Duxbury Harbor, behind black patio furniture and red umbrellas, Snug Harbor Fish Company has operated a flourishing fish market and take-out restaurant for over 15 years.
And although I have lived in Duxbury for 20 years, until recently, I didn’t even know it existed.
So with an open mind and an empty stomach, I walked into the store I had passed hundreds of times, curious to see if the buzz about the fish market and restaurant that prided itself on freshness was really all that it was cracked up to be.
The store itself is small, a space carved out at the end of the yellow building on Washington Street next to the French Memories bakery and the Duxbury Bay Maritime School.
Started by Dianna Shannon, along with her husband, Daniel Shannon, the restaurant was created to specialize in fresh, made-to-order dishes.
“It was the combined interest in both of our backgrounds,’’ Dianna said in a phone interview. “I’ve always been in the restaurant industry; my husband is a commercial fisherman. We combined our talents and opened up the market.”
The result is a take-out eatery that provides good food quickly, without verging into the territory of “fast food.”
Lobsters and cod are brought in fresh from the sea from Daniel’s Scituate shipping vessel. Oysters, steamers, and quahogs are often purchased from clam diggers right in town. The remaining fish is carted in from Boston, where fish distributors gather with their catch.
All come together in the small lobby of Snug Harbor Fish, big enough only for the lobster tanks, a soda fridge, and the display case. Seating is outside, where customers wait for take-out orders or munch happily on food brought to them by an attentive staff.
When not bringing out orders, the staff is cooking the food and talking about it with customers, and although the menu isn’t expansive, the staff is knowledgeable about the offerings.
Olivia Carlson, a 19-year-old from Kingston who has worked at the market for over three years, knew all there was to know about the fish at her fingertips.
Pointing at different plates of raw seafood, she spouted where they had come from, discussed the way dishes were cooked, and described special sauces and add-ons that were requested by regulars and were a favorite of the staff.
It’s the regulars who have a true grasp of what the market is capable of. One customer in the lobby offhandedly raved about an entrée not listed on the menu.
Dianna said the menu doesn’t limit the market — there are daily specials and a soup of the day depending on the catch and the mood of the cook.
Not wanting to miss out on either the specials or the regular entrées, my dining companion and I ordered an array of dishes, starting with the clam chowder and the special — a chipotle corn and shrimp chowder.
The clam chowder ($3.75 for a cup, $4.75 for a bowl) was creamy and thick, chunks of potatoes and clams warmed in a broth made unique by a touch of tarragon.
Although the chipotle chowder (also $3.75 for a cup, $4.75 for a bowl) was spicy and flavorful, I had wished the broth was thicker to contrast with the pop of the vegetables.
Soups were followed by a sample of the crab cake — a mound of crabmeat sprinkled with scallion and red pepper bits, breaded and then fried to perfection ($9.95 for a sandwich). The accompanying red pepper sauce added a creamy undertone.
Not wanting to miss out on more modest fare, we also tried shrimp cocktail ($8.75) and a mixed grill dish — another item not on the menu that features the choice of two grilled entrées.
Picking the scallops and swordfish steak ($16), we were not disappointed. Both were light and simply cooked, leaving the fresh flavors of both to stand on their own on a bed of rice pilaf.
Also successful was the salmon burger ($10.95), made with the off-menu suggestion of Gruyere cheese and cooked onions. The dish was served with french fries coated in a Cajun seasoning.
All sandwiches come with coleslaw — a delicious side made distinctive with a sprinkle of dill.
The market’s take on a lobster roll (priced with the tide), while not for everyone, boasts numerous spices and transform the dish to something new.
Yet for those looking for the classics, Snug Harbor Fish’s fried seafood doesn’t disappoint. Fried clams, shrimp, and native sole were all breaded in a light batter that melted in my mouth.
After my meal, I wasn’t surprised that the market had been busy on a Tuesday evening.
To keep up with demand, the restaurant has resumed summer hours, and will be open seven days a week throughout the season.
It’s probably a good thing too, because after my first trip down there,
I think they have a new regular.