Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Westport, MA: The Back Eddy

You could be on the moon and run into somebody who has been to BACK EDDY (1 Bridge Street, Westport, MA  508-636-6500). Maybe this is what GPS has wrought - travelers willing to drive 12 miles down route 88 and back again just to get dinner on the way to the Cape. There are better options for breaking up the NY-to-paradise ride so it has to be the setting, which is definitely great. The outside seating is scenic - moored boats and grey cedar-shingled houses across the water are your backdrop - and on hot, dry nights it's nice to lean on the rail with a drink. Other nights there can be a wind vs. gnats thing going on - too much wind is no fun, too little, you've got the gnats. Anyway, inside is good-looking - two big (but not too) adjoining rooms, one with a long, popular bar. The look is well-heeled, casual seaside and the menu reflects that. 

Don't be expecting a long list of fried fish served in red and white boxes. This menu is ocean overlayed with urbanism. You can order fish and chips (or a plain lobster or a cod sandwich) but you can also try oven roasted cod which is a pretty simple affair of cod in a broth of littlenecks, chourico and giant limas. Back Eddy serves as much local fish and shellfish as it can get so you eat super-fresh oysters, littlenecks, lobsters and mussels. When ingredients are local, whether from water or land, it's emphasized. No offering is very complicated, even the yellowfin tuna Japanese-style is straightforward. The dessert menu is a short list of good ideas: walnut apple crisp, chocolate cake, really good ice cream, etc.

My gripes aren't with the menu or, most nights, with what's served. The food isn't great but it's usually good enough. Two things about Back Eddy bother me, a lot. One, is the NOISE.  Din is the only word to describe it. If one person at your table is having trouble hearing, soon everyone is speaking a little louder and before long, since this is happening at every table, you're in a room of high-pitched near-shouting. It hurts my ears. My second assessment is harsher. There is a huge staff both in the kitchen and serving and yet the service is haphazard. Not once in the last year have I been with a group where everyone was served at the same time. Most recently our table for four was served one dish at a time over the space of ten minutes.  Dinner is less good if you feel guilty enjoying your cod because the person on your left has nada.

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