Federal Jack’s is 22 miles from my home along the New Hampshire border, so I doubt I will ever be able to call it my local bar.
But I would if I could. I’ve been three times since Christmas, and have yet to exhaust my patience for the place. The food is good, if a tad on the pricey side. The view is magnificent. The service couldn’t be friendlier. I keep finding reasons to return, especially in the winter, and that says nothing about the quality and variety of the beers.
What I like about it, food-wise: Consistency. On our most recent outing, we sampled a Caesar salad, clam chowder, chicken tenders and, for our young dining companion, a small bowl of mac and cheese.
We loved the tenders, which were served on a long, rectangular plate with a complement of celery sticks. They were moist, generous in size and accompanied by three sauces in addition to blue cheese: maple jalapeno, traditional buffalo and Maine blueberry barbecue, and all were excellent.
Generally, I stay away from buffalo and blueberries in any setting other than the wild. I don’t like blueberries in my beer or ice cream, and buffalo-spiced anything is usually unkind to my stomach. I prefer tenders over wings because of the meat factor: There’s more of it and it requires less work. You can eat tenders with a knife and fork if you want to be proper, which means less mess.
This was the second time we’ve had the tenders, and I suspect they will become our standby. My only complaint: There are five tenders in a small serving ($8.99), which makes it hard to divide by any number other than one. Give me six or four, but five leads to a polite stand-off over who gets the last.
My Caesar salad ($6.99) was refreshing. There was nothing spectacular about it, but nothing to make me think I wouldn’t order it again. It was generous in size, cold to the taste and crisp. I appreciated the lemon wedge, which I squeezed over the salad for zest. I ate every morsel, including all the finely shredded bits of parmesan. Even the croutons, which I usually only sample, didn’t stand a chance to my appetite.
The star of the show was the clam chowder. I ordered a bowl ($7.99). I like a creamy chowder, with lots of clams. This was all of that. It was hot, which offered a nice contrast to my chilled salad, and was densely populated with both clams and potatoes. It was thick, and I was given two bags of oyster crackers. I used both, one at a time, and ate every lovin’ spoonful.
Our little friend barely touched his mac and cheese, which looked like it came out of a box. But he ate all his fries.
As I alluded to above, the only consistent complaint about Federal Jack’s are the prices. There are only two sandwiches on the menu for less than $10, a grilled chicken antipasto and buffalo chicken, and both cost $9.99. You can get a burger for as little as $8.99, but you can also spend as much as $14.99.
The prices speak to the real estate and the tourism trade. Federal Jack’s sits right on the river, and in the winter it’s easy to get a table with a river view. Our 5-year-old friend had a blast counting ducks and boats.
At meal’s end, our server sensed that we were locals and offered us a loyalty card, which we accepted. We also frequent the Shipyard Brew Pub in Eliot, which is part of the Shipyard fleet. We’ll rack up the points during the Shipyard Brew Pub’s Sunday specials, which include $3 bloody marys, mimosas and margaritas. All day. Yum.
But truth be told, we don’t need a loyalty card to go back. We like good food, good service, good atmosphere. That’s standard fare at Federal Jack’s.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: