Marblehead’s New B&B Fish Serves Summer Favorites All Winter
B&B Fish, the newest venture from renowned Boston chef Jason Santos, brings a bright spin to New England clam shack cuisine this winter. Jeanne O’Brien Coffey January 4, 2021
Ever had a carmelized pineapple lemonade? Tangy, tropical, and not too sweet, it brings sunny vibes to the darkest of winter days—something we all could use right now.
It’s just one of the summery delights available at B&B Fish in Marblehead, the new counter-service restaurant from Jason Santos, the award-winning celebrity chef best known for his blue hair and Boston restaurants Abby Lane, Buttermilk & Bourbon, and Citrus & Salt.
The chef’s elevated clam shack was originally slated to debut in June, but pushed back several times with COVID-19-related delays. But really, the timing seems ideal right now, as socially distant picnics fade into the rearview and everyone is headed back to potentially months of meeting friends on Zoom for dinner parties.
B&B Fish’s cheery bright interior, matched with Southern-inflected takes on classic fried food, is just the lift we all need. And if the kitchen, which was already jamming at 5:00 p.m. on a chilly Wednesday night, is an indication, Santos has truly tapped into the zeitgeist with a made-for-pandemic-times bright spot.
While there are a few small tables and stools inside, we’d recommend planning on take-out. That is, unless 2021 surprises us with a warm winter—the restaurant has several long picnic tables out front, and a gas fireplace surrounded by Adirondack chairs.
Dine in or take out, start with the New England clam chowder. On the spectrum between brothy and stand-up-your-spoon thick, this falls more toward brothy, though still made with dairy. Studded with whole clams and nuggets of crispy, peppery applewood-smoked bacon, it could be a meal in itself.
Especially if you pair it with a couple of Santos’s honey-glazed biscuits, which were made famous at Buttermilk & Bourbon. Dense and slightly sweet, they are served with two unusual spreads—smoked cinnamon butter and pimento cheese. We’d suggest the pimento cheese if you’ll be enjoying the biscuit with chowder. Or save a biscuit and the cinnamon butter for dessert.
Nearly everything else is fried, from cod and pickles to Oreos, so plan to leave your diet for another day. Santos took months to perfect the batter on the cod, with a mix of flavorings that run the gamut from curry to soy powder.
But don’t let those un-New England seasonings scare you—the result is crispy but subtle, filled with umami yet also comfortingly familiar. Santos uses thick filets of cod, fresh from Ipswich, in the dish.
While there’s a classic Southern-style cole slaw on the menu, we’d suggest going for a side of Crushed English Peas—something we’re pretty sure has never been served at a North Shore clam shack before. Santos’s fresh bright take on mushy peas, a British side traditionally served with fish and chips, this chilled, whole pea salad has a hint of citrus that is light and refreshing.
All the combo plates—from battered lobster tail, fried whole belly clams, and fried Louisiana crawfish tails to buttermilk fried chicken for landlubbers—come with fries and two house-made dipping sauces. We especially like the tartar sauce, which is enlivened with tarragon, adding a subtle sweet anise flavor.
Save room for dessert. The pillowy fresh fried beignets are a Santos signature—the deep-fried squares are based on a croissant dough, dusted with powdered sugar and served with a deep chocolate sauce and a vanilla bean cream. They also offer fried Oreos and house-made soft serve ice cream in unusual flavors like green apple. A perfect treat for dreaming of summer.
DETAILS Open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Christmas and New Year’s.
195 Pleasant Street, Marblehead, bandbfish.com