There’s a gray flatness at the beach in November, when the aluminum sky melts into sea. No crowds, no dogs, no people. And so it’s a strange time to open a seafood shanty — yet that’s what Jason Santos did with B&B Fish, a mile or so from Devereux Beach in Marblehead.
Santos is the gregarious chef behind big, busy urban restaurants: Abby Lane, Buttermilk & Bourbon, Citrus & Salt. Ordinarily, his places would be packed with people slurping frozen cocktails while he holds court — dyed blue hair in full effect — from behind the bar.
And so B&B Fish looks like a relic from another time, as if aliens plopped it onto new terrain without knowing the strangeness here. The small space, once a gas station, is done in his signature neon blue: patio chairs, fish motifs. There are twinkling lights dangling above the patio, with long white picnic benches and blue Adirondack chairs. It’d be a great setting for a party, if only there were a party to be had.
But this is New England, and there is never a bad time for fried seafood. So we order in advance and bring our bounty to the sand, the way nature intended.
My first clue that this is a Santos restaurant is the fact that our groaning, grease-soaked bags weigh 200 pounds. Well, not quite, but portions aren’t small here. Santos does everything big: big colors, big flavors, big sizes, lots of sauces. We plop our bag onto the dashboard, and it shudders.
Inside that bag is the promise of summer: whole belly fried clams; fried scallops; fried chicken; fat, craterous onion rings; fries smeared in garlic butter. (Yes, I have begun fasting upon writing this story.)
Know this: Almost everything on B&B’s menu is fried. If you’re trying to cut back and eat healthy, this might not be the place for you. But if you’ve given in to reckless abandon — we won’t see other people until, what, May? — dig in. Combos (oysters, clams, lobster tails, et cetera) come with fries and two sauces. Sauces are always part of a Santos experience; he comes from the carnival school of culinary arts: lots of wacky combinations, spicy sauces, bells and whistles.
Choose from tarragon tartar, crystal cocktail, honey mustard, ranch, Cajun remoulade, and white barbecue. They’re all delicious, but white barbecue is the best, a spicy Southern mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, and horseradish.
The sleeper hit: honey-soaked biscuits, the size of a healthy infant. We balance them on our laps, smearing them with creamy pimento cheese sauce and cinnamon butter. After feasting on oysters and scallops, we barely have any room, but you’ll make room for these. For dessert, there’s fried beignets, fried Oreos, or a kale smoothie. Just kidding about the smoothie: It’s soft-serve and sundaes!
When we’re done, we pack up our bags and take a walk along the windy beach. Just like B&B, the waves seem reassuringly immune to our unusual world; they just keep lapping at the shoreline. Both remind me that better months are ahead.
B&B Fish, 195 Pleasant St., Marblehead, 781-990-1739, www.bandbfish.com