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Food & dining

Cheap Eats

At Snappy Pattys in Medford, everything is appealing

The food (clockwise from top): white fish tacos; the mixed patty melt sliders: original, jalapeno, Texan, razor clam chowder. Above center: chef Nicholas Dowling with his son Aidan, 11, who bakes the bread for the restaurant.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

White fish tacos.

Medford, MA., 08/27/14, The mixed patty melt sliders: Original, Jalapena, Texan. The Snappy Pattys is profiled for Cheap Eats. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff (The Boston Globe.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

The mixed patty melt sliders.

If you go to Snappy Pattys, you too will fall hard for the Patty Melt Sliders, the clam chowder (best I’ve ever had), tacos, fried chicken, pan-roasted fish, and more. I wanted to order every item on the menu, and all the people who dined with me said the same thing.

Chef Nicholas Dowling, 28, a Milton native, came from Franklin Southie, and he learned the Franklin Restaurant Group hallmark: Food has to sound appealing and arrive at the table the way it’s intended. Hot things are piping hot, crisp things remarkably crisp, meat and fish moist, everything delicious. Dowling also worked at Dan’l Webster Inn in Sandwich and Red’s Best on the Boston Fish Pier and has lots of opinions about local fish. He likes his to be so fresh that he’s got it within hours of the fisherman landing at the pier.

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Snappy Pattys managers constantly scan the 36-seat dining room so they know what’s going on. The food, occasionally heavy-handed with salt, with bold, saturated flavors, and true high-fidelity tastes, is amazing.

Owner Adam Gazzola, formerly in financial sales, has been in the industry over 20 years, most recently at Liberty Hotel in the front of the house under Lydia Shire, who taught him that food needs to be fun, whimsical, and delicious.

The Snappy name comes from sliders ($6.25 for three, $2.50 individual) that arrive on mini olive-oil brioche toasts in a high-sided, red-plaid paper container like you’d get at the ballpark. These were originally on the Franklin Southie bar menu. Dowling’s 11-year-old son, Aidan, a sixth-grader at South Boston Catholic Academy, is making the bread in baby loaf pans every day. (Dad started cooking at 14, and his son is getting an earlier start.) The toasts hold a -pound grass fed patty that has been griddled and arrives done, not rare, but juicy and flavorful, with addictive toppings. Original patty has American cheese and sweet relish, jalapeno comes with nacho cheese and a mild pico de gallo, California mixes havarti with a dreamy avocado mayo, Texan has an intense, smoky “secret sauce.”

Razor clam chowder ($8), with Ipswich shellfish and chunks of salt pork, is quite creamy, but somehow not too rich. Old Bay potato chips are in the bowl. A Caesar ($9) has golden yolks on its hard-cooked eggs, lots of shaved pecorino, garlic-rubbed toasts, and slightly too much of its fork-lickingly-good dressing.

With its caramelized, cheese-y edges and tender centers, ricotta gnocchi ($7 for a side, $9 for a small plate) are a nice surprise. They come with a big serving of umami in the form of roasted Hen of the Woods and other mushrooms, and a citrusy parsley puree.

Dowling is smart about the way he buys food. A whole pollock is used in two dishes. The loin is pan-roasted ($18) to produce a golden crust and flaky interior. It sits on a bed of pureed celeriac (a wonderful root that will never win any beauty contests). The nape, cheeks, and other bits of pollock go into white fish tacos ($10) on half-white, half-corn tortillas that fold nicely with greens, salted cantaloupe, and pickled onions.

Buttermilk fried chicken ($9) has a barbecue sauce called “bourbanq,” simmered with bourbon, molasses, and coriander, mustard seeds, and other spices. Morsels of boneless thigh are so juicy you half expect a squirt of butter like with chicken Kiev, and the skin is memorably crunchy. Attentive staff gets this and other food to you so hot you can hardly touch it. “I don’t have a heat lamp and I don’t want one,” says Dowling.

There are more irresistible dishes: lightly smoked lamb ribs ($16) that are confited before they hit the cherrywood, a half-roast chicken with bacon succotash ($19), and shrimp on the barbie ($10).

Dowling says he and Gazzola are happy with how things turned out here. “I have to do something fun or I’ll die,” says the chef.

At Snappy Pattys, fun meets big talent.

Medford, MA., 08/27/14, Chef Nick Dowling with his son Aidan, 11, who bakes the bread for the restaurant. Snappy Pattys is profiled for Cheap Eats. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff (The Boston Globe.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Chef Nicholas Dowling with his son Aidan, 11, who bakes the bread for the restaurant.

Sheryl Julian can be reached at julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.
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