Where to Jasper White’s Summer Shack at Alewife, an urban fish shack with all the specialties you might find at the beach.
Why Because you can’t always get seaside if you want chowder, clams, crab, oysters, shrimp, and lobster. There are plenty of seats inside, but the outdoor patio in the adjacent parking lot is a setting that fits the fish shack favorites everyone craves in summer. The massive restaurant is catering to the many new commercial and residential buildings nearby. Honestly there is so much going on behind the Alewife T that it looks like a new city has sprung up. Old rumors about area developers taking over the Summer Shack building have resurfaced recently. A manager told us the rumors have been around for years.
The Back Story Jasper White opened Summer Shack at Alewife in 2000 and expanded to Back Bay and Mohegan Sun. Now there’s a Shack pop-up in Harvard Square outside the Charles Hotel. Before opening these casual places, White ran the high-end Jasper’s Restaurant on the Waterfront in Boston, where Julia Child was a regular and ordered the pan-roasted lobster. You can still get that specialty, along with baked stuffed lobster and an entire clambake, but prices for those are in the stratosphere (a 1½-pound pan-roasted lobster is $65; 1½-pound baked stuffed lobster is $72; clambake is $48). White hasn’t been part of day-to-day operations for a couple of years. Dell Leandro, who started as a fish cutter under White, is now executive chef.
What to Eat The crab cake snack, a single crabby round with remoulade sauce and house slaw, is delightful. The classic New England lobster roll, packed with luxurious meat on a toasted bun, with homemade potato chips, is chubby enough to split with a friend. Whole belly clams are right out of the fryer, almost too hot to touch, deliciously briny.
What to Drink Our response to the list of ordinary, highly commercial, wines: “Hi Neighbor! Have a ‘Gansett!” There are other beers on draft you’ll recognize, such as Jack’s Abby, Smuttynose, Wachusett, and Mighty Squirrel.
The Takeaway The seafood specialties of the region are done well here and service is brisk but efficient. It’s fun to eat under a tent in the parking lot, like what a shack is supposed to be. A busgirl was so attentive we slipped her a tip as she was heading for the T. 149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, 617-520-9500, summershackrestaurant.com