This seasonal restaurant is a hidden treasure, frequented by summer cottagers attracted by its dockside ambience and its piratical vibe.
“A sunny place for shady people” is the eatery’s slogan, and though the open-sided tiki bar and the dockside view might attract its fair share of sun worshippers, it’s the seafood that keeps them coming back.
Open for more than 23 years, the pub has been owned and operated by the mother and son team of Merrilee Eastman and Matt Preston.
Tuna Striker Pub
The cozy, Key West-style gathering place is perched on pilings not far from Seabrook Beach, on the dock where the party boats of the Eastman’s fleet depart for whale watching and deep-sea fishing trips. Choose a dockside table, and watch the party boats depart as well as fishing boats bobbing at their moorings. And in the spirit of full disclosure, beyond the tidal flats, the Seabrook nuclear power plant looms large.
That being said, we loved the tidal-flat funk ambience of this local favorite. The tables are outdoor furniture and metal picnic tables backed by a long rattan fronted bar festooned with giant sandals, an inflatable flying boat, and other sea-themed flotsam and jetsam. There are four giant heating units in the ceiling that enable it to remain open from April 1 through Columbus Day.
As a gentle breeze blew in off the water on a lazy weekday, we perused a menu that is strong — as one would expect — on seafood. But there’s also a smattering of non-aquatic dishes such as Eastman’s summer steak tips, marinated in the house sweet and savory glaze, then charcoal broiled ($16), and a char-broiled chicken breast ($14) topped with a kind of chimichurri made of lemon, olive oil, and house-grown herbs.
All the dinners are served with a starch and vegetable. There is a children’s menu that includes standards like a foot-long hot dog with French fries ($6.50) and linguini with marinara or butter ($6.50).
As for the seafood, many items are “market priced.” When we stopped by recently, the clam plate was $20, steamers $22, and a stuffed lobster $24. And many of the items on the menu were a little more expensive than indicated on the website.
We started with an appetizer of tuna wontons ($13). A pinwheel of six fried wontons surrounding a heap of seaweed salad. The crisp wontons were topped with slices of sesame seed crusted and seared rare tuna, served with ginger teriyaki sauce and wasabi aïoli. They were a sushi-like treat . We absolutely devoured the seaweed salad with its sesame dressing.
We also grazed on a char-grilled romaine Caesar salad ($8). Fabulous. The lettuce was cooked enough to infuse it with a smoky flavor, but not so long that it lost its crispness and freshness, which was further enhanced by a really nice dressing and pieces of char-grilled baguette.
Calamari DiBatista ($11) is a platter of lightly fried squid tossed with banana peppers, garlic and herbs, and served with a side of tomato sauce. The squid was crisp, but not overcooked or rubbery, and the peppers and herbs added a nice bite, making the dipping sauce unnecessary.
For a main course, we indulged in the grilled Atlantic swordfish ($19). A good-size serving of char-grilled fish was expertly seasoned and cooked. It was juicy and flavorful in a way that restaurant-prepared swordfish sometimes falls short.
We also loved the lobster BLT ($17), a heap-o-lobster criss-crossed with strips of crispy bacon on a buttered and grilled brioche roll, with slaw and fries on the side. It was the perfect summer lunch in the perfect summer setting, especially with our libation of watermelon lemonade ($7.50) — puréed watermelon mixed with lemonade and vodka. It was pink, refreshing, and oh so appropriate for a seaside indulgence.
A friend who summers at a cottage in Seabrook has been encouraging us to try the Tuna Striker for years. Her favorite dish is the fried captain’s platter ($24), fresh haddock, scallops, shrimp and clams. We’re just sorry we didn’t follow her recommendation sooner.
Tom Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.