177 Main St., Maynard
Lunch, Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 2:30; dinner, Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.
Reservations for eight or more
Accessible to the handicapped
Visa or MasterCard only accepted
You can't ask much more from a restaurant than great food that is reasonably priced, a friendly wait staff, and an inviting atmosphere.
At Quarterdeck in downtown Maynard, you get it all. The recently renovated restaurant offers an extensive menu with generous portions, soft lighting and exposed brick walls, and jazz piped in the background. It is across the street from the former Digital Equipment headquarters, now known as Clock Tower Place; the copper-topped bar in front attracts a local business clientele.
During our latest visit, we started with a shrimp cocktail ($7) with spicy cocktail sauce. No complaints there: The five shrimp were decent-sized and icy-cold. There was plenty of fish packed into both the fish and clam chowders ( $4 each), and the Portuguese-style calamari with cherry peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and wine ($8) was a high point. The batter was light, the calamari had a good zip without being too spicy, and the leftover sauce was ideal for dipping bread. We sometimes find steamed clams ($10) laden with sand, but these were perfect and not too small.
By then, we were almost too full for entrees, but many caught our eye, so we plugged on. The twin chicken lobsters ($25) were sweet and filling, and our waitress didn't hesitate when a member of our party, rather than order the standard fisherman's platter, instead requested a special plate fried clams and scallops ($18). There were plenty of both, and like the calamari, they were lightly breaded and cooked in pure canola or soy oil, according to the menu. The plate came with a side of coleslaw that didn't swim in mayonnaise. A Caesar salad with grilled gulf shrimp and garlic Tuscan croutons ($12) was just right -- not too heavy on the dressing and shaved Parmesan cheese.
A rich piece of chocolate hazelnut cake ($4) was a satisfying ending.
While we waited for our food, we visited Quarterdeck's fish market next door, which is due to be remodeled in the spring. Its large open lobster tank is great for entertaining the kids. The market carries a wide selection of fresh fish and fish salads (be sure to try the tuna jerky -- it's an interesting alternative to beef jerky and probably healthier) and a nice array of wine. Owner Chris Basile was behind the counter, and we talked about how hard it is to find arctic char at most fish markets. Basile suggested steelhead trout as an alternative, and the next thing we knew, he grilled up a piece and sent it over to our table. He was right -- steelhead trout looks like arctic char, which looks like salmon, and it was just as good -- with a slightly sweeter flavor.
Basile, who selects his fish daily, is clearly passionate about his vocation, so much so that he invites customers into the kitchen for a demonstration on how to cook fish they may not have tried before. ''People misunderstand fish; they know how to cook beef and chicken," but preparing fish eludes them, he explained.
Quarterdeck deserves to be classified as more than just a neighborhood seafood joint. It is on par with any of the more well-known seafood restaurants in Greater Boston we've tried, without the long waits.