WHO’S IN CHARGE The name “Turner’s Seafood” has a sterling reputation, earned from selling and serving the highest quality fish for over 25 years — from Gloucester (Turner’s Seafood Market) to Melrose (Turner’s Seafood Grill & Market) to Salem (Turner’s Seafood at Lyceum Hall).
In November, the Turner family business expanded again — this time, from surf to turf. The much-anticipated Rising Eagle Publick House opened in Melrose on its historic Victorian Main Street, directly across from the popular seafood spot, the cornerstone of Melrose’s thriving restaurant scene.
Head chef Lane Copell, who hails from New Orleans, and Executive chef Yale Woodson created a menu reflecting revolutionary times — casual and hearty, locally sourced and daily fresh-cut dishes — served on gray stoneware resembling pewter.
THE LOCALE Time warps back to pre-Revolutionary New England one step inside the 150-seat Rising Eagle Publick House. It’s easy to imagine the original Boston patriots, like Paul Revere, John Adams, even George Washington bellying up to the bar or sitting by the fire, pints in hand, discussing current events.
Rustic charm exudes, from the wooden exterior door to the subtle interior lighting. An antiqued, 13-star Betsy Ross flag sets the stage, along with aged farming tools hung on the walls. A new, open concept layout allow customers space to mingle, also snag a cozy view of the crackling wood fire burning in the dining room’s centerpiece, a new, floor-to-ceiling, stone fireplace.
ON THE MENU Before you go, expect a culture change: a new style of service and an automatic 5 percent house fee added for backstaff.
Instead of reservations and assigned waitstaff, expect some independence. You seat yourself. That’s right. You walk in, peruse the menu, then place your food and drink order at the bar. There, staff make the drinks which you then take, along with a number tattooed on a wooden spoon, and find yourself a table. Once seated, waitstaff brings your pre-ordered dishes, and any additional drinks or food.
To the uninitiated, it can be confusing. But gently guided by waitstaff, you quickly adjust. Co-owner Jim Turner says that’s how it’s works in “old world” publick houses in England and Ireland. In fact, he adds, the new restaurant model is gaining popularity in California and is “the rage” in Seattle. The new restaurant model, said Jim, “allows us to provide great food and hospitality at great prices.”
Great food includes comforting, classic New England entrees, like the generous Yankee pot roast dinner ($20), thick tender chunks of beef with seared edges and Colonel Leslie’s creamy chicken pot pie ($18) with flaky crust. Naturally, there’s some seafood (clam chowder, cup $8; oven-roasted haddock, $22; warm Jonah crab dip, $12), but cross the street if fish is what you want.
Modern patriots of all ages hungry for a quick but quality nosh can find something that satisfies. We enjoyed the build-your hamburger ($12.50), a juicy, seasoned beef, a cut above being grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and added thick-cut applewood smoked bacon ($2) and cheddar cheese ($1.50).
For something fun, we tried the soft and chewy, freshly baked Bavarian pretzels ($5) served with mustard dips and the 6-minute scotch egg ($6), a pub staple, served atop arugula with tangy mustard sauce. Our senses delighted in the crunchy shell coating the soft-boiled, yolky egg, bundled in Bianco & Sons Italian sausage, breaded in panko and parmesean, then fried.
Vying for the “most popular” vote among our party were two simple dishes elevated to perfection. The braised beef grilled cheese ($12) melded tender beef (pot roast) with Cabot sharp white cheese between griddled sourdough, and a divine au jus gravy for dipping. Crunchy, dry-rubbed, slow-smoked chicken wings ($8) tried to elbow out the grilled cheese. Moist and meaty, they were served with bleu cheese creme fraiche dip. The secret? “They’re smoked on-site,” a waitress said.
Rising Eagle Publick House, 505 Main St., Melrose, 781-590-4080, www.risingeaglepublickhouse.com
Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.