Our Gourmet: A taste of summer on a chilly beach

April 25. 2018 1:53AM
A Sicilian burger -- ordered without the burger -- was a big hit with a vegetarian Dining Companion at the Sea Ketch. 
Sea Ketch
127 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach; 926-0324; www.seaketch.com

Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Cuisine: Seafood, chicken, steaks, sandwiches.

Pricing: Chowder, $4.99-$7.99; Salads, $4.99-$12.99; Appetizers, $9.99-$12.99; Sandwiches & Burgers, $8.99-$15.99, Entrees, $14.99-$36.99.

Scores for Sea Ketch
Atmosphere: 17/20
Menu: 17/20
Food: 17/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 17/20
TOTAL: 86/100

Finally fed up with the winter that wouldn’t end, Our Gourmet set out for Hampton Beach one recent sunny Sunday with two dining companions (DC1 and DC2) and the ever-present 8-year-old Fussbudget (FB) in tow. As always during an April visit to the coast, we were woefully underdressed for the brisk onshore breeze, so the chilly temperature and fresh ocean air had us freezing — and hungry — in no time.

Many of the businesses on Ocean Boulevard were still shuttered, but the Sea Ketch, right across from the beach playground we’d promised the FB we’d visit, had opened for its 47th season a few weeks before. Its clean white exterior with aqua trim, and the diners we could see enjoying a meal on an enclosed upstairs deck, beckoned. We crossed the street, entered and went up the stairs, where a hostess just outside the dining room asked if we wanted deck or inside seating.

The FB was immediately enamored with the floor-to-ceiling fish tank in the dining room and made several forays for an up-close view during our visit. The dining room itself was fairly empty, though artfully decorated. Most of the diners this day were out on the deck, which was warmed with overhead heaters. We tried that, but DC1 felt a draft and we gave up a primo ocean view for the warmth of indoor seating.

We started with drinks: Just Cokes for the grown-ups and a chocolate milk for the FB, but with two decks promising outdoor seating in warmer weather, as well as summer entertainment, the Sea Ketch offers plenty of the more adult beverages. We were here for lunch, and the restaurant offers a fairly extensive menu including appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, salad and entrees that lean toward seafood.

DC2 was home from Texas and craved chowder, so he ordered a bowl ($6.99), while OG went with a cup ($4.99) to share with the FB. The chowder was properly thick, with plenty of diced potato and tender, minced clams. DC2 was impressed he could stand up his spoon in his chowder, and our cup was commandeered by the FB when we gave him a taste. This was pretty good stuff: thick, creamy and hearty.

DC1, our regular companion, ordered mozzarella sticks ($9.99), which were served with a thick homemade marinara. The order was plenty big for an app, with the sticks fried crisp and the sauce nicely spiced, but they were a tad less than hot, allowing the cheese to regroup to chewy instead of gooey.

It being our first foray to the beach this season, OG couldn’t pass on the Whole Belly Clam Plate. A large serving was delivered, fried to crispy and mounded on the plate with a traditional side of fries and slaw. Our clams were hot and tender, but it seemed these clams hadn’t been fed in a while as the bellies on many were sadly small. We saved our fries for the FB to enjoy later, but loved the slaw, comprised of finely chopped, yet crisp cabbage and carrots and not overly sauced with a tangy, peppery dressing.

The FB ordered a hot dog ($3.99) from a children’s menu that includes chicken, burger, haddock pieces and other offerings. The dog was grilled and served on a toasted bun, with fries on the side. He ate about half, having filled up on the chocolate milk and chowder. Unfortunately, he commits the sacrilege of putting ketchup on his hot dog, or we’d have finished it up for him.

The DC ventured from her vegan ways with her mozzarella sticks and with cheese a part of her main dish. She confused our server (and reminded us of Jack Nicholson in the diner scene of “Five Easy Pieces”) by ordering a Sicilian Burger ($10.99) — without the burger. It took some time for our waiter to understand the concept, and he admitted later the kitchen didn’t understand it at first, either. What she got, and loved, was a burger roll filled with mozzarella and warm, soft, roasted red peppers, topped with crisp lettuce and tomato. No burger. We tried it and found it refreshing and really in no need of the meat.

Our visiting DC2 went with a Tuna Salad Wrap ($8.99) for his main course. The large wrap was filled with tuna, dolled up with diced celery and the right amount of mayo, with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. His chowder had done him in, though, and most came home for a late-afternoon snack.

In the height of the season, we see the Sea Ketch as a go-to place on the Hampton Beach strip, and can picture us enjoying a cocktail or two, dinner and outdoor entertainment on the deck, overlooking the beautiful Atlantic.

Someday, it’ll warm up enough to do that.

FoodOur GourmetHampton

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