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June 28, 2011

Alice Eats: Smitty's Pub

1127 North Avenue, Burlington, 862-4300

IMG_2465 New North End residents have long had high hopes for a neighborhood restaurant in the space at 1127 North Avenue that's worth opening their wallets for. Cannon's fit the bill for a while, with its fried, pecan-coated chicken. When that went downhill, nothing seemed to please the locals.

The last spot, Norm's Grill, opened and closed in little more than a year. The latest, Smitty's Pub, is the baby of Norm's bartender, Ed Smith. That's his silhouette on the sign. Or Alfred Hitchcock's. Either way, I couldn't help but hear "Funeral March of a Marionette" in my head as I entered the building.

Could Smitty do better than Norm? On first look through the restaurant, it appeared unchanged. The signed photos of athletes are the same. So is the set-up of separate entrances for the bar and restaurant. The menu, with its burgers named for everyone from Big Papi to Danica Patrick, was similar, too.

IMG_2468 Though an order of dry-rubbed "Zing Wings" or "Smitty's Signature Swiss & Bacon Dip" sounded good, we decided to go for some roughage with a wedge salad.

Pretty, right? My boyfriend described it as a BLT without the bread. For me, it had a bit too much M, meaning mayonnaise. The veggies sat in a pool of what was billed as blue-cheese dressing but didn't taste particularly cheesy. There were supposed to be blue-cheese crumbles, too, which I wasn't able to locate.

Not a promising start, and I was worried that Smitty's was not that interested in preparing good food.

IMG_2469 Then I met the bun at right. The fluffy, egg-washed challah roll reminded me of my mom's. It couldn't have been homemade, could it? My very friendly waitress assured me that it was.

I liked what was inside, too. Named for Larry Bird, the sandwich was filled with tender but toothsome teriyaki-glazed chicken and a pineapple slice, then covered with a lightly pickled slaw of carrots, cabbage and onions.

Sweet and sour worked together nicely, but it was really the bread that tied it together, like a Chinese bun at a tiki party. The fries appeared to be out of a bag, but I still enjoyed them. They were thick and soft on the inside, with a flavorful, probably beer-battered crunch.

IMG_2472 It was beer batter that brought me to the dance to begin with. Word has traveled since its March opening that Smitty's is a worthwhile stop for fish and chips. While we weren't quite blown away, we didn't leave disappointed, either.

The fingers of meaty cod were battered in a mixture that included Switchback. The airy but slightly thick coating, fried in places into skinny tendrils, added plenty of fun texture to the planks.

I was further impressed that the slaw was different from the one on my sandwich. This one was composed mostly of cabbage and was more creamy than tangy.

IMG_2473 Our waitress smiled when we ordered the molten lava cake. We quickly saw why. While I can count on the chocolate molten cake at Kitchen Table Bistro or other upscale restaurants to be perfectly soft in the center, I often end up with a dry, baked-through specimen at less fancy joints.

This one oozed rich, dark chocolate sauce at first cut and continued to until we devoured it completely. Once again, the folks at Smitty's proved that it's worth paying some attention to detail. This non-Northender is likely to return.

I went to Smitty's a few weeks ago for lunch with some friends midafternoon on a Saturday. I ordered a simple turkey club. My friends also ordered sandwiches but asked for sweet potato fries to be substituted, I did not. The service was horribly slow, the server took forever to come to the table and at times we had to go get her. My sandwich arrived late because the cook assumed I wanted sweet potato fries. Then when I did get it and started to eat I found a hair sticking out of my sandwich. Again we had to go get the server. Finally my lunch arrived again but the sandwich was literally swimming in mayonnaise. The server took a long time with the check, she seemed more interested in the guys sitting up at the bar which she was also tending to. There weren't that many people in there for this kind of wait. We paid full price for the meal and none of us was very impressed. We won't be going back.

Unfortunately, I will agree with Hally above. I really wish this place were worthy of my time/$. It's convenient to where I live. I'd love some restaurant to make it in this location.

Smitty's isn't the one. I've been there twice recently. Both times it was moderately busy, not slammed. Both times I sat at a table in the bar. Both visits the service has been unattentive and the food has been tasty but not prepared as ordered.

First time they were short staffed on the wait staff, the hostess finally brought us menus and eventually took our order. I will give her the benefit of the doubt because I don't think she was hired to wait tables. She's was very pleasant but forgetful, no silverwear, drink order took forever even though we were sitting right across from the bar. The Boggs chicken sandwich was slightly undercooked, never a good sign with chicken.

Went back about 4 weeks later. Place was less busy. Waitress came over with menus quickly. Drink order was slow to arrive. Food took a long time to come out, when it did my dining companion's burger was rare (med rare at best) instead of medium well as ordered. My fish & chips were tasty, but the order is what I would consider a little small. We sent the burger back. Kitchen prepared another burger, which came out looking like @ss but tasted fine. No pickle with the burger? (either one). Ordered a 2nd beer when the 2nd burger was ordered, waitress comped it to make up for the undercooked burger. Sox were on so ordered a 3rd beer planning to watch the game. 3rd beer took forever to arrive, which was good because 2 older couples at the bar convinced Smitty to replace the Sox with Dancing With The Stars or whatever the heck is on Saturday nights.

Cancelled 3rd beer, went home to enjoy the game.

Won't be back to Smitty's next time will order from the Chinese joint next door.

I was pleasantly surprised when I ate at Smittys for the first time. I had been there earlier in the week for drinks and went back a few days later for dinner. I ordered the BBQ Chicken sandwich and it was smothered perfectly w/BBQ on a soft bun and the chicken was moist not dry which tends to happen w/chicken sandwiches. I also got the sweet potato fries and those were fantastic! Fried perfectly they were not soggy but nice and crunchy which sometimes does not happen w/sweet potato. Overall I was very happy w/my meal, for pub food I think its very good and the location for me is great! I will def be going back.

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