Jake's Seafood Restaurant
Steamboat Wharf, Nantasket Beach, Hull
Open Monday through Saturday for lunch (from 11:30 a.m.) and dinner (from 4 p.m.) Open Sunday at noon
Retail market opens daily at 11:30 a.m.
Accepts all major credit cards
Soon after a recent dinner at Jake's in Hull, I ran into an acquaintance and mentioned the place. His response was immediate.
``They didn't put you in the good room, did they?" he said. ``Thirty years I've been eating at that place, and they've never put me in the good room."
I assured him that I hadn't sat in the so-called good room -- the one on the water -- even though I'd begged the hostess to sit us there. It didn't work.
She firmly explained that they were preparing for a big function the following day, and therefore no one would be seated in the ``good room" (she didn't call it that) for the rest of the evening.
We couldn't resist a peek into the bright, airy room next door with the floor-to-ceiling windows and the fresh ocean breeze.
The people eating there all looked so happy. Then we took our seats in the, well, the average room, that, with its shuttered windows and nautical knickknacks, can't quite compare to the prime seating next door.
But what are you going to do? So beloved is the seafood restaurant that opened in 1949 as the Nantasket Lobster Pound by the clam-digging, lobster-trapping Jacobson family (it has won Boston Magazine's Best of Boston Award for Best Seafood, South, for the past two years) that regulars aren't likely to quibble over seating.
``There's really no rhyme or reason to where you sit," said Jim O'Brien, whose family bought Jake's in 1984. ``It's all luck."
And don't get any ideas about calling ahead. Jake's is run like a tight ship, with a strict no-reservation policy and an iron-clad rule that no party will be seated until every member is present and accounted for. Maybe that attitude is why no matter where you sit, the food at Jake's is sublime, and the service is top-notch.
There are plenty of non -seafood choices on the menu, including steak, chicken, and pasta, but we decided to stick with the fish.
We started with lobster bisque ($4.95 bowl and $4.25 cup). When our waitress brought it over, she offered us each a soup spoon, in case we wanted to share. We did, and the gesture saved us the slight indignity of slurping off the same utensil. Not that we were standing on ceremony.
The bisque was so creamy and flavorful -- and somehow not too rich -- that we probably could have inhaled it straight from the bowl.
We also shared a plate of popcorn shrimp ($7.95 . The baby shrimp were tender and juicy, and the fried coating was light and fragrant with a hint of Cajun spice.
We couldn't pass up Jake's famous raw bar and found that the oysters and littleneck clams (market-priced) lived up to their reputation of freshness: very cold and firm.
For our entrees we chose the planked roast salmon ($17.95), served on the cedar shingle it's cooked on. I requested Cajun-rub seasoning, although it's not offered on the menu, and the chef obliged. The resulting filet was probably big enough to feed my family of five, but it was so flaky and good that we finished it ourselves without a problem.
We also ordered tilapia piccata ($16.95), which was dipped in flour, then sauteed in a perfect blend of wine, butter, garlic, capers, and lemon. We also tried the soft-shell crab special ($22.95), which we were glad to find in season on our visit. The soft-shell crabs are offered either pan sauteed or lightly fried. We had ours sauteed in a little oil, and were impressed with the way simple preparation left the flavor of the crab intact.
With every entrée comes a choice of sides, including cole slaw, baked potato, French fries, and a white bean salad that was so good I could have eaten it as a main dish.
The wine list is varied and reasonably priced. There's also a full bar and a large selection of domestic and imported beers.
By the time we were finished, we were way too full for dessert, so we just ordered coffee. We did make room for the tasty little biscotti the waitress set alongside our cups -- the perfect end to a delicious meal.
On a later visit , though, we found the double chocolate layer cake ($5.95) gooey and moist, probably because the thick layers consisted of chocolate mousse frosting and the thinner layers were rich chocolate cake, instead of the other way around.
The Key lime pie ($5.95) consisted of a meringue topping, a creamy lime filling, and a graham cracker crust -- a tangy and sweet combination that was a big hit.
Our waitress told us that Jim O'Brien's wife Paula makes the pies and cheesecake at home and brings them to the restaurant.