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LOCAL FARE

Visiting new Rockport restaurant on chef’s night off

An entree of clams with pork belly, tomatoes, chickpeas, and cilantro at Feather & Wedge.
An entree of clams with pork belly, tomatoes, chickpeas, and cilantro at Feather & Wedge.Naomi Kooker

WHO’S IN CHARGE Cape Ann residents Charles Gladstone (of Gladstone fine jeweler in Manchester-by-the-Sea) and Stephen Smit, a native Londoner, had been talking about opening a restaurant for nearly a decade. When the opportunity to purchase 5 Main St. in Rockport arose, they bit.

Having met in the 1980s getting their MBAs, the fast friends saw an opportunity. The location was doors from the Shalin Liu Performance Center and in the heart of the seaside community that was once a major supplier of granite. With an increase of liquor licenses in the once-dry town, Gladstone said there was a “crying need” for a bar-restaurant like the one they planned to open.

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Feather & Wedge is named for the tools used to split granite and not for the fowl and retro salad one might assume, though its chicken under a brick looked mighty tasty. The 50-seat restaurant with a full bar opened last September.

THE LOCALE Feather & Wedge’s space is a draw along bustling Main Street. The circa-1914 building was once an American Express depot where summering city folk shipped their luggage for a season’s stay, said Gladstone. It’s also been a souvenir shop, among other things.

The gray interior — walls and floors — mimics the granite and ocean hues, lending serenity to the dining experience. Candle votives add romance. Vintage photos of the granite quarries and workers speak to the restaurant’s namesake. Dress is casual or dressy. The L-shaped bar seats 10 and is popular for an afternoon beer or glass of wine.

Passersby peruse the menu, which changes daily. “This, I’ve heard some things about,” said one man to another as they strolled by.

The dining area and bar at Feather & Wedge in Rockport.
The dining area and bar at Feather & Wedge in Rockport. Naomi Kooker

ON THE MENU With the friendly staff, the menu’s focus on fresh local ingredients, and luring descriptions, I wanted to like the food more than I did. Perhaps it was my built-up expectations or the way I ordered.

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“Delicious,” said one diner of his salmon. “Wonderful,” said a woman of her seared eggplant, reaching for a salt shaker. I had neither.

Chef Doug Papows (pronounced Papis), a Gloucester native, was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago. He worked at Pigeon Cove Tavern at the Emerson Inn in Rockport and the now closed Foreign Affairs Wine Bar & Bistro in Manchester-by-the-Sea before coming to Feather & Wedge in March. Papows was not cooking the evening I dined.

The smoked bluefish pâté on toasted crostini ($10) was a basic spread with cream cheese (which I did not detect) lightened with fresh chives and chive oil, but a squirt of lemon might have brightened it more. The clams and pork belly ($26) with beer-braised chickpeas hit the mark — separately — with the steamy-fresh clams (from Ipswich Shellfish) and savory house-cured pork belly, but the broth fell short of flavor and the grilled lime, while it perked up the pork, clashed with the clams.

The two dishes I most enjoyed were the lightly dressed simple salad ($8) and the banana bread pudding ($10) adorned with a Valrhona bittersweet chocolate sauce complemented by a tart cream made with labneh, a thick strained yogurt.

Leaving curious, I would go back for the chicken or salmon.

Feather and Wedge, 5 Main St., Rockport. 978-999-5917, featherandwedge.com.

Banana bread pudding with cream and chocolate.
Banana bread pudding with cream and chocolate.Naomi Kooker

Naomi Kooker can be reached at naomikooker@gmail.com.