Finding really great seafood in New England should be easy...right? Sadly, that’s not always the case. Some restaurants serve frozen fish (which is unacceptable in New England) while others cook it so long that it turns to mush. We say that there are no excuses for this and are always on the lookout for those restaurants that understand the importance of serving fresh seafood. With that in mind my wife discovered Fish Bones in Chelmsford, MA.
Located a short jaunt over the border from New Hampshire in downtown Chelmsford, you can see customers dining inside as you drive by the front and then make a right turn into their parking lot behind the restaurant. We quickly made our way to the front entrance and alas it was going to be an hour wait. The hostess took my phone number down because they let you know by text when your table is ready. Not something I have seen before but I think a good notification system for customers.
Upon entering Fish Bones, you immediately notice the soft blue-grey walls and bright white wainscoting all around the restaurant. You feel as if you are on Nantucket or some equally nautical destination and not in the middle of Chelmsford, MA.
While waiting for our table we made our way over to the bar, the centerpiece of the restaurant. A horseshoe shape packed with customers in every seat with many others circling trying to score a stool in front of the bar. We were lucky and found a few seats set up near the back bar. I ordered up a couple of drinks from the suspender clad bartenders. My wife started with a Pomegranate martini which was made perfectly and a beer for me. Next to us was a party of four and two of the people ordered Bloody Mary's. I watched as these where mixed up and then finished with a pickle, shrimp and olives on top. I'm not a Bloody Mary drinker but these looked amazing and it’s like a meal in itself. Needless to say Fish Bones is a good choice for drinks with professional bartenders who obviously know what they are doing.
After 45 minutes, my phone buzzed and we set off for the hostess station. We were brought to the front dining room which is very congested as far as the seating is concerned. With banquet style seating, you are very close to your neighbor. We realize they are trying to maximize the space but in the future I would request a table in the back as they were spaced to provide more privacy. It was a blip but one that should be noted. Our waiter arrived and asked if we had eaten here before and we told him no. He was patient and answered our questions.
In addition to a raw bar you can get just about everything seafood that your heart desires. Appetizers include Maine steamers, crab cakes. clam chowder, fried oysters and smoked salmon two ways (we saw one of the other tables get this and would probably order next time).
We ended up selecting the fried clams.
We are picky when it comes to fried clams but these were spectacular. The best we have had in a long time. Light and tender with just a little batter on these.
Their menus are set up with two daily specials at the top, three seasonal below and then their regular seafood, pasta and beef dishes. Along the left hand side you can get a number of different options for fish and also scallops either grilled, broiled, fried or baked. You will find crab legs, seafood casserole, sautés along with lobsters either steamed, lazy or in a roll. They even have a filet and burger if you are not a fan of seafood. But let’s face it, customers visit for the seafood and you should follow their lead.
My choice was the Block Island swordfish:
Served with basmati rice and cole slaw, I enjoyed this very much. They might want to consider adding a garnish as there was a lot of white on the plate.
My wife picked the seafood sauté.
Pasta in a white wine butter sauce mixed with lobster meat, scallops, and shrimp. Her side was broccoli, the vegetable of the day. The seafood was cooked perfectly and the sauce was tasty but not overpowering. She had plenty to bring home to enjoy for another meal.
We kept waiting a long time for bread to come out but it appears that they don't offer any. I had heard of some restaurants asking patrons to pay for bread but this is one of the first that doesn't offer bread as an option. As we do love our carbs, please add bread to the menu.
Our waiter presented us with the dessert menu and we were thrilled to learn that the desserts are all homemade. While the offerings on this evening were limited to just three, we opted for the raisin bread pudding and we were not disappointed. The serving was plenty for two of us to share and was a nice way to end the meal. It is served warm with vanilla ice cream which we asked for on the side.
Overall the waiter did a decent job. The only thing that he slacked on was remembering to refill the water glasses as they sat empty for a long time.
Fish Bones has a loyal following and we can see why – delicious and reasonably priced selections offered in a relaxed environment. You can come dressed in jeans or dress up a bit but one thing you will agree on is the seafood that is well worth your time for a visit.