Modern American food, with a local accent
For a restaurant that bills itself as a neighborhood eatery, it is fitting that the Corner Stop sits where Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset converge. The central meeting place is more elegant than its cozy name suggests, sophisticated yet never stuffy or fussy, and boasts a modern American menu with healthy and local offerings.
“We wanted this to be an everyday type of restaurant, where families feel as comfortable coming by as contractors would sitting down for lunch, or if it was a date night,” said owner Ron Vale.
On a recent Thursday evening, the bar room was lively but not loud, and the stone fireplace and sofas gave the feel of a ski lodge. The other dining room was quieter and evoked the outdoors with lantern sconces, wood-patterned carpet, and a focal wall made of real birch logs. Soda served in mason jars added a country-chic vibe.
In the spirit of a true family place, “Because we’ve got picky kids too” is written at the top of the children’s menu ($8.50 entrees). It includes kid-friendly chicken fingers and pizza, as well as healthier grilled salmon and sirloin.
For adults, the options get more creative. Short rib empanadas ($9.75) are enveloped in flakey puff pastry instead of the traditional empanada dough, and the beef is tender and gets a little sweetness from the onion. A dipping sauce of horseradish crème fraiche perks it up.
Another starter, the shrimp and grits ($10.25), is a knockout. The four jumbo Gulf shrimp are succulent, the hominy grits creamy and cheesy. A topping of tomato sauce, chipotle, and white vinegar lends brightness and contrast.
“It doesn’t sound healthy when it’s described like that, but it’s a good portion size,” Vale said. More important, it is insanely delicious, comfort food at its finest.
The edamame hummus served with the bread was less exciting. The spread made of Japanese soybeans simply did not taste like anything; only after my friend and I heaped spoonfuls onto bread did we detect something like chive or onion.
My friend much preferred his Scituate scallops ($25.50), pan-seared with a slight crust on the outside and tender inside, and finished with a blood orange reduction. The leek and herb risotto that accompanied it was creamy and flavorful.
My low and slow short ribs ($24) were fall-apart tender, but unfortunately dry. We found ourselves wishing for a sauce or gravy, and could taste nothing of the red wine it was braised in. A sprinkling of pomegranate seeds gave the plate some pretty color. I swapped out the burnt brussels sprouts for maple cabbage and cornbread crumble, but could not get past the heavy smokiness of the cabbage.
We finished the meal with a brownie sundae ($6.25) and apple pot pie ($6.75). The brownie was more like cake, lacking the denseness or chocolaty intensity of a brownie. Still, it is hard to go wrong with ice cream over chocolate cake.
The apple pot pie was topped with a round of buttery puff pastry and served with vanilla ice cream. It was fragrant and spicy, a wonderful blend of sweet and tart.
Vale said the most popular items are a pulled duck flatbread ($13.50) topped with duck confit, gruyere, and barbecue sauce; chicken wings ($9.25) in an agrodolce, or sweet and sour, sauce; and the Hippy Dippy ($7.75 for starter or $12.75 for main), a salad of field greens, wheat berries, grated carrots, avocado, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
The restaurant is remarkably pretty. Vale’s wife, Rudy, drew inspiration from local surroundings on her daily jog. The walls of the dining room recall the color of fog rolling in over the water, and pops of patterned orange brighten up the cream and slates. In the other room, a long, wood-topped bar stands as an island in the room, and gets lot of light from large windows or rustic chandeliers.
The Vales met and worked in California before returning to their native East Coast and working in Greater Boston restaurants. They opened the Corner Stop in October. The quirky location appealed to them — the restaurant has a Cohasset address but their home a few doors away is in Hingham.
The chef, Sam Cabral Curtis, worked in New Orleans and fell in love with the food there, and believes in strong, bold flavors, Vale said.
In addition to the scallops from Scituate, they get some produce from nearby Holly Hill Farm and are in talks with Weir River Farm for meat. The influence of the Vales’ time on the West Coast and its focus on fresh, local produce is apparent.
It is also the way people prefer to eat these days, a growing trend to be health-conscious, Ron Vale said.
“People are moving toward local. They’re thinking, ‘Where did what’s on my plate come from? How was it prepared? Is it good for me?’ ”