Our Gourmet: Waterfront food and fun in Portsmouth

July 18. 2017 10:35PM
The lobster roll at Lazy Jack's in Portsmouth (with optional onion rings available for $2 additional). 
Lazy Jack's Watering Hole
58 Ceres St., Portsmouth; 294-9902; online via Facebook

Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight daily (until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights).

Cuisine: Casual seafood.

Pricing: Appetizers $9-$17; Sandwiches $10-$18; Entrees $16-$24.

The scores for Lazy Jack's:
Atmosphere: 19/20
Menu: 16/20
Food: 17/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 17/20
TOTAL: 87/100

The weather for outdoor dining couldn’t have been better last weekend, so Mrs. Gourmet and I revived our fantasy of doing every one of our summertime restaurant reviews from a waterfront deck. Whether we can pull it off remains to be seen, but we got off to a great start at Lazy Jack’s Watering Hole in Portsmouth.

Lazy Jack’s isn’t a restaurant with a deck, like most of its Ceres Street and Bow Street neighbors; the restaurant IS the deck.

The entrance is an alley between two buildings with a hostess station out front. The alley leads to the deck, which is festooned with assorted beer flags and pennants, bright colored furniture and plenty of tropical touches. There’s a mix of covered and open-air seating, and the overall atmosphere is sort of working-waterfront tiki bar, where the vibe is loose and extremely casual.

The real star at Lazy Jack’s is the location. We were lucky enough to get a booth on the rail alongside the Piscataqua River, giving us a prime view of the the boats buzzing around the harbor on a beautiful summer evening. Directly over my shoulder were the bows of the four huge Moran tugboats; directly over Mrs. G’s was the dock of the Heritage, the Portsmouth Harbor Cruises tour boat.

In fact, Lazy Jack’s is as much bar as restaurant. When we texted him a photo to show him what a great spot we’d found, our son, The Bottomless Pit, who recently graduated after majoring in having a good time, texted back, “Is that Lazy Jack’s? I love that place. I think I got food there once or twice too.”

Had he been there for food, TBP would have seen that the menu is simple, with emphasis on seafood. There’s a nice mix of fried, grilled and baked dishes, in addition to veggie, beef, pork and chicken choices. Sandwiches share equal menu space with entrees.

Mrs. G and I were both attracted to the Bang Bang Shrimp ($13) from the Starter section. Luckily, we discovered our duplication before our waitress arrived to take our order, so we had time to choose a second appetizer. We went with the Fried Calamari ($11), and weren’t disappointed with either selection.

The Bang Bang Shrimp were shelled (including the tails), breaded and lightly fried before being drenched in a spicy-sweet orange sauce typically made with chili sauce, mayo, hot sauce and honey. The flavor at first reminded me of a spicy honey mustard, but without the vinegary tang. A bit of peppery heat followed, making for a very tasty, engaging dish.

The calamari was just as well executed. A nice mix of rings and tentacles, lightly breaded and perfectly fried, the squid was cooked with a generous mix of unbreaded cherry and banana pepper slices carrying a gentle kick of their own. A smear of red pepper jelly under all and a spicy mayo on the side made for nice sweet/spicy complements.

We decided to go light with our entrees.

I chose the Fish Tacos ($13). Two grilled soft tortillas were filled with pico di gallo, mixed greens and a couple of moist pieces of spicy fried fish, topped with an excellent garlic sriracha creme sauce. The tacos were good, but the assembly order seemed off to me: I’d have put the greens on top, since the fish tended to fall off at the last second, leaving me biting into a greens taco. Some sour cream or perhaps some guacamole on the side would’ve been nice, too.

Mrs. G ordered a lobster roll ($18), with onion rings on the side for an extra $2. When it arrived, we were impressed with the big chunks of lobster. There was a bit of mayonnaise to hold the lobster together in the toasted hot dog bun, and that was it — nice and simple. The only thing that kept this one from being great was a lack of saltiness. (The best lobster rolls we’ve ever had were at a place on Cape Cod; they tasted like the lobsters had been cooked in sea water. In our book, simplicity and salty water are the secrets to a great lobster roll.)

Overall, the food was good, our waitress, Julia, was terrific, the atmosphere was fun and the location is killer.

The deck dining scene in Portsmouth has expanded dramatically in the past decade or so, giving diners a wide choice of cuisine, sophistication and price. Lazy Jack’s may be the most casual of the bunch, which is kind of refreshing in an ever more gentrified Portsmouth.

Our GourmetPortsmouth

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