On the beach, a popular spot
There’s something about Schooners that very much mirrors the beach across the street from the 21-year-old restaurant. It’s a friendly yet chaotic, reliable yet varied, honky-tonk sort of place. And judging by the full dining room and bar area, the ultra-casual eatery is nearly as popular as Nantasket on a hot and sunny summer day.
The ocean-going Schooners décor - including a display of harbormen and model schooners - combines with posters advertising local events and sports memorabilia to create an atmosphere that feels festive and topsy-turvy. No doubt the establishment could use a little updating and refurbishing, but chances are that owners Moose and Jacqui Chase, Hull residents who opened Schooners in 1990, are not inclined to fix what’s working.
Or maybe they prefer to concentrate on the food. Many assume that Schooners is primarily a seafood joint. But the expansive menu, which is available all day and late into the night, includes: Italian dishes such as pizza, calzones, and baked lasagna; veal, pork, steak, and chicken items; and child-friendly fare such as burgers, hot dogs, and nachos.
The adults and children with whom I dined on three recent visits to Schooners all praised their food selections. A starter of homemade lobster cakes with a Cajun tartar dipping sauce ($9.99) garnered raves, and the bacon-wrapped scallops ($9.99) were pronounced crispy (the bacon) and fresh (the scallops). The award-winning clam chowder ($3.99 per cup; $4.99 per bowl; $12.99 per takeout quart) - it won first place in Hull’s 2010 chowderfest - was creamy and delectable.
The tang of flavor in both the lemon-pepper grilled swordfish ($15.99) and the Cajun-style grilled salmon ($15.99) plates didn’t overwhelm the fresh taste of the fish, and we appreciated these and other healthy choices on the menu. My 16-year-old pronounced the marinated steak tips ($10.99) “delicious and juicy,’’ and the burgers and fries ($6.99) were a hit. The shrimp-scampi pizza ($10.99) - an individual dish topped with tomato sauce, shrimp, and plenty of garlic - was good when served, and remarkably good when reheated the next day.
The seafood medley ($14.99) was somewhat disappointing, as we found the mixture of haddock, shrimp, and scallops in a bread-crumb crust dry and a little chewy. But accompanying vegetables (creamy butternut squash on one visit; peppery asparagus on another) were savory, and the portions were ample.
We tried choosing our favorite menu item, and decided it was a toss-up between a gigantic platter of thinly sliced, perfectly fried onion rings ($4.99) and Schooners’ version of seafood stew ($11.99), a bowl generously filled with chopped shrimp and scallops in a tomato-leek broth. Served with crispy garlic toast on the side, the dish seemed divinely out-of-place on its paper placemat.
The service wasn’t always fast, but it was consistently friendly, even though staff members seemed busy at all times. One nice touch is that the Schooners hostess brings a dry-erase board with the daily specials to your table, and leaves it while you decide what to order.
The dining room at Schooners is darker and less cheery than the adjacent lounge, where you can eat and drink at either the L-shaped bar or the surrounding high tables. From there you’re able to enjoy the view of the Atlantic through plate-glass windows, and contemplate “the schooners, their captains, and their crews who were ship-wrecked off the coast of Massachusetts.’’ The restaurant’s food and menu, according to the Schooners website, is dedicated to their memory.