News and chews: Newcastle Publick House

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We dined with friends at the Newcastle Publick House, the latest restaurant to occupy the cursed site on Newcastle Square, where Route 1A curves down and over the bridge onto Damariscotta’s Main Street. This one might just be the exception.

It was packed last night, and it was easy to see why. The food’s good, the portions are decent and the prices are affordable. It’s pub fare that rises above the usual. Many of the foods are sourced locally–and these are noted on the menu. And the restaurant grills meats, seafood and veggies over a wood fire. Best of all, this chef obviously knows his way around the kitchen.

Our party of four had two orders of fish and chips, one order of bangers and mash, and one order of grilled scallops. All were perfectly cooked. The ale-battered haddock was light, the fish moist inside the crunchy coating; the fries crisp–okay, I like them this way, Tom thought they were overcooked. The bangers were three large imported Irish sausage accompanied by garlic mashed (really, more smashed) potatoes. The four wood-fire grilled scallops in a honey-butter sauce were accompanied garlic potato mash and the day’s grilled veggies. None of us left a morsel on our plates. While the desserts were tempting, we opted to head over to Round Top Ice Cream to test the gelatto instead (very good).

Servers are young and enthusiastic. There are a few service issues to work out–it seemed understaffed–but the place has been open only a few weeks, and again, it was packed. Better yet, these kids knew when they’d been away from a table for too long, and always apologized for the absence. It would also help if some sound-absorbing materials were added to the dining room–it’s quite loud, when busy; almost too loud for regular conversation. But then again, it’s a pub.

Nitty gritty details: It’s open daily for lunch and dinner, serving in the bar/lounge, adjacent dining room and outside patio. Prices range from $6 for a wood-fired grilled cheese with veggies or BLT to $24 for a rib eye. Most prices are in the teens. What I really liked was that base prices were low, but there were options to “upgrade.” For example, we could have added fried oysters to our fish and chips for an additional $6 or you could add pastrami-smoked salmon to the applewood-smoked bacon in the BLT for $3. Go tonight: The special is a fresh lobster roll, served warm or cold, for $13.

Oh, and there’s a mug club and sometimes evening entertainment. Yup, looks like this one’s a winner; i know we’ll return. Cheers!