IT STARTED WITH a conversation about fish tacos.
Our Gourmet thought the ones at Lexie’s in Portsmouth were delish (even though it’s a hamburger joint).
“Newick’s has the best, hands down,” was the reply from a longtime Seacoast friend.
OG hadn’t ventured out to Newick’s Lobster House on Dover Point in some time, but decided to make the trip and take along a Dining Companion (DC) who first experienced fish tacos in California, many years before they appeared on New Hampshire menus.
“Even though I thought fish tacos sounded nightmarish, you had no choice but to try them if you lived in San Diego,” the Granite State native said.
It was love at first bite. DC now enjoys not only the traditional fried fish with cole slaw taco, but grilled shrimp, scallops, swordfish, tuna. You get the picture.
Newick’s can be a bit hard to find. Follow the signs to the DMV off Exit 6 on the Spaulding Turnpike (the intersection was just re-configured), and once you see the DMV building, keep going another half-mile or so. The building is HUGE, so you won’t miss it.
It has lovely views of Great Bay, where lobsterman John Newick founded the restaurant in 1948. Three generations later, it is still family-owned. (There is also a Concord location.)
The day was rainy, and DC and I decided to start with chowder. We were pleased to see Newick’s offers the “the traditional thin New England broth” as well as the “thick” variety in clam, fish and seafood ($5.49 for a cup).
OG tried the traditional fish chowder, and was pleased with its straightforward flavors — flakes of tender fish, earthy Maine potatoes and a milky broth.
DC’s thick seafood chowder was bursting with seafood and bacon flavor, and didn’t need the pepper that OG added to her more modest choice.
Other appetizers include a sampler of buffalo tenders, calamari, onion rings and fried mozzarella sticks ($15.99) — each can be ordered individually — as well as fried mushrooms, steamers, or oysters on the half shell ($2.25 each or $24 for a dozen).
Now to the fish tacos. The order of three ($11.99) was simplicity itself. Fried North Atlantic haddock with Cajun slaw on a soft taco. The haddock was fresh, perfectly cooked and topped with the zipped-up cole slaw.
DC gave it a thumbs-up, as did OG. I still like Lexie’s addition of pickled onions, but the Cajun spice provided just the right prickle of heat. The tacos came with fries or homemade potato chips. The chips were good; DC would have liked a little more salt.
OG and DC split a classic entree, Baked Stuffed Haddock topped with Ritz cracker stuffing ($18.99), with red bliss mashed potatoes (yum). The dish was piping hot and offered palate-pleasing freshness and texture.
“You can’t beat Ritz cracker topping,” DC said.
Did I mention Newick’s is big? A party of 18 nearby fit right in; all of their meals were served within three minutes by three servers. The restaurant has picnic tables topped with red-checked plastic tablecloths; plates are paper (as are the straws) and cutlery is plastic. The requisite lobster floats, marine flags and gift shop with sweatshirts, T-shirts, shot glasses and fridge magnets are all here.
The menu is big too. There is every kind of fried seafood you can think of, including a smaller “Tide Me Over” portion served before 4 p.m. There are lobsters of every variety, lobster rolls and Lobster Mac & Cheese (market priced). Then there’s Steak Tips ($18.99), a Cap’n Burger ($10.99) and a Black Bean Burger ($9.99). There is even a Scampi Flatbread with Gulf shrimp, garlic, cheese, tomato and black olives ($9.99).
But we were nearly full, so we didn’t order any of that. We DID have room for dessert. Our server, who was pleasantly brisk and answered our numerous questions quickly and completely, recommended the Fried Cheesecake ($6.99). Other choices were Chocolate Lava Cake ($7.99), Italian Lemon Cream Cake, Strawberry Shortcake or Blueberry Cobbler (all $6.99).
“It’s like fair food,” the DC exclaimed of the cheesecake filling wrapped in fried dough, sprinkled generously with cinnamon, drizzled with raspberry syrup and nestled alongside a dollop of whipped cream.
Our tab was $57.99 before tip, and we took home a couple of doggy bags.
We drank Arnold Palmers with our meal, but there is a good selection of craft and domestic beers with 24-ounce pours available ($4.99 to $6.99), cocktails ($7.99 to $11.99) and a wine list that covers the bases ($6.99 to $7.99 a glass).
That’s what’s best about Newick’s — nothing fancy, and that’s just fine.