August 5, 2012

Dine Out Maine: Seafood surprise: Sophistication amid the hearty fare

By NANCY HEISER

There aren't many places to get a haddock Reuben. Which begs the question, do you even want one? Yes, you do. Try one at Schutty's food truck in West Bath.

20120728_DineOutMaine
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At Schutty’s Seafood in West Bath, proprietors Shawn Schutt and Holly Snowdon, with daughter Eliza, 12, display a couple of customer favorites: a lobster roll and a seafood platter.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

20120728_DineOutMaine
click image to enlarge

DINING REVIEW

SCHUTTY'S SEAFOOD, 410 State Road, West Bath. 798-9167

*** 1/2

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday

CREDIT CARDS: Visa, Mastercard, debit

PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $3.95 (garden salad) to 7.95 (fried oysters); sandwiches and platters, $5.95 (hamburger) to $23.95 (large seafood platter)

VEGETARIAN: Yes. Salads, veggie burger, veggie wrap

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes

KIDS: Good spot for casual eating with kids in tow

RESERVATIONS: No

BAR: No

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: At Schutty's, you'll find classic fried fare as well as items you wouldn't expect at many small-scale seafood shacks -- raw oysters, panko crusted calamari, pan-blackened scallops, lobster egg rolls, homemade potato chips. The menu is surprisingly large, the seafood is ultra fresh, the fryer is well-calibrated, and the homemade love is apparent. The result is delicious casual cuisine at an unassuming food truck sprouting at the edge of an under-used parking lot. Take the New Meadows Road exit off Route 1.

Ratings follow this scale: H Poor  HH Fair  HHH Good HHHH Excellent  HHHHH Extraordinary

Schutty's Seafood opened for the first time in July 2011, and stayed open until the end of October. It reopened on April 11 this year, with plans to stay open again into the fall.

Schutty's is not your typical seafood shack. The trailer perches for the season on the border of a lot between a small car dealership on one side and the upper reach of the New Meadows River on the other.

You can't see the narrow waterway from the picnic tables with umbrellas, but you know it's there. Occasionally, an osprey or a great blue heron will glide overhead, and a marshy aroma wafts through.

Potted flowers and tomato plants flank the truck's red-striped awning, making for a cheerful facade, but the overall setting may annoy some -- a moderately busy thoroughfare is out front. Ignore it, and you won't be sorry.

Owners Shawn Schutt and Holly Snowdon make a lot of their casual fare from scratch, and the seafood, procured from Plant's in Bath, is very fresh and cooked just right.

Seaspray Kayaking is located in the same lot (old-timers will remember the main building on this site as the former New Meadows Inn), and you can take a short walk to its grassy river frontage for a water view. Schutty's no doubt captures a ready audience of kayakers, but plenty of folks flock here simply for an open-air meal.

We visited twice -- the first on one of those brilliant blue June nights so beautiful that a bale of hay would taste a notch above average. We went back on a more "normal" evening to try other items.

The menu offered a fried haddock sandwich, but we asked for it grilled, which was no problem. "We can pretty much grill anything except the calamari," said Snowdon. Lettuce, tomato and a nice, buttery bun completed the standard plate.

Accompaniments is one way Schutty's sets itself apart from the average eatery. You won't find bags of Lays lazily tossed on red plastic trays. Thickly sliced, freshly fried homemade potato chips are Schutty's side addition. These are crispy to munch, greasy on the fingertips and studded with kosher salt. You'll also find celery salt on the condiment table.

The seafood chowder ($7.95) was chunky with skin-on potatoes and fish, but more milky than creamy, if you prefer your chowder rich with fat.

On our second go, we tried one of the daily specials -- pan-blackened catfish with crabmeat guacamole served on a bulky roll ($9.95). The sandwich was big, fresh, moist and delicious. The crabmeat gave texture more than flavor, but we liked the double seafood whammy nonetheless.

Next up, Cajun fried clams ($7.95). Plump and juicy inside, spicy and crispy outside, and perfectly fried so that there was a slight air pocket between the clam and the breading, a little heat lingering on the lips -- these were fantastic. And, since the cook uses a dry spice and cooks each dish to order, you can ask for any heat level you'd like, or even a dusting on the side.

I had some initial skepticism about that reuben ($8.95). But haddock is an innocuous protein, so I went with it. The dressing, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese added sufficient punch to make it a recognizable and respectable version. Will I order it again? Without a doubt. I'd like to see a little more 'kraut heaped on.

Fish tacos come in many guises. You get two grilled or fried fillets wrapped in a warm flour tortilla and topped with shreds of Asian coleslaw (a touch of sesame oil on the red bell pepper, cabbage, carrot and scallion mix gives it that distinction) and a homemade "Baha" sauce of yogurt, mayo, chipotle and fresh-squeezed lime.

The crunchy topping atop moist fish with a spicy sauce made this fusion very good indeed ($8.95). Delicious homemade sweet potato fries filled in any remaining cracks.

While Schutty's offers standard seafood shack baskets and platters, there's much else to enjoy here as well. Other options include homemade clam cakes, lobster egg rolls, even raw oysters from the New Meadows River. Schutt or Snowdon develops a few specials each day, depending on what's fresh and available.

You'll also find land food: Cold sandwiches, veggie burgers, a shaved rib eye steak sub. But with all the wonderful seafood options on the menu, we didn't get to anything else.

Nancy Heiser is a freelance writer. She can be reached at nancyheiser.com.

 

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