The decibel level is high in the tiny dining room of Marvels’ Lunch Box, a sit-down and take-out place on the strip across from Nantasket Beach. Then the food arrives, and a contented hush descends as we all chow down.
“Best crab I’ve ever had,” my friend Susan announces as she bites into the crab roll ($14), a massive quantity of sweet crab meat on a toasted brioche roll. The crab sits on a bed of romaine lettuce and is lightly dressed with mayonnaise, some celery, and what owner Kirby Mansfield calls a “secret spice.”
The mystery seasoning also appears on the lobster roll ($19), a quarter-pound of large pieces of lobster claw and knuckles, with a smidgeon of mayonnaise, on a buttery toasted brioche roll. “Unadulterated,” my friend Linda says admiringly. “So fresh.”
The fish and chips ($14) are another huge portion, a plate brimming with fried haddock in a light batter served over a mound of french fries. The fish is piping hot and moist, the batter crisp, and the fries are hot and salty with a slight kick.
A pint of Ipswich clams ($18) draws cries of “oooh, so good,” as it makes its way around our table. The small belly clams are tender, lightly battered, and very fresh tasting.
Similar satisfied noises emerge after the arrival of the onion rings ($4 a half order, $5.50 a full order). These are the real thing: different-size circles of fresh onion encased in crisp, hot batter.
The food is accompanied by cold bottled waters and little cups of vinegary coleslaw, lemon slices, and tartar sauce. A plastic beach bucket on the table holds napkins, straws and a bottle of malt vinegar. Next to it is a flourishing basil plant and bottles of ketchup and mustard.
The check arrives with little cups of salt water taffy, an homage to beach candy.
The background music is classic country’s Patsy Cline, and the room is airy and clean, with big windows looking out across Nantasket Avenue to the beach. Paintings on the walls showcase Hull landmarks, with inspirational sayings painted on the walls and overhead lights filtered by pictures of clouds and blue sky.
Marvels' Lunch Box, which opened in May 2012, prides itself on being family friendly. For kids, there is a play area with toys, books, and a small pirate ship.
Mansfield said he opened Marvels’ Lunch Box on a whim.
He retired early from a job in educational publishing and moved to Hull because “it’s beautiful, it’s close to Boston, and I can afford it.” While looking at commercial real estate for some friends, he happened on a failed takeout lobster place, Linda Bean’s. He bought the assets and started serving takeout. A year later, he added kitchen equipment, a bigger menu, and a dining room.
Seafood, bread, produce, and dairy are delivered daily from local suppliers, he said. For example, most of the seafood is from Rocky Neck Fish Co. in Hingham, he said. The restaurant also serves hot dogs, hamburgers, and sandwiches.
My friend Annie liked our lunch at Marvels' Lunch Box so much that she decided to come back that evening with visiting family from Ohio. Unfortunately, Mansfield had decided to close early that day because business was slow.
So go to Marvels' Lunch Box if you’re craving fresh seafood in a comfortable setting. But you might want to call ahead.Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.