Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happy Restaurant Week! -- Day 1, Eastside Grill

This week I'll be visiting area restaurants for Northampton Restaurant Week and blogging about the experience. Restaurant Week runs until Sunday, June 9, and is a great way to get a 3 course meal at any of the many amazing restaurants in downtown Northampton!

It's here! It's here! It's finally here! The week I look forward to every year with bated breath and salivating mouth--Northampton Restaurant Week! And this time, I plan on actually blogging about the restaurants as I visit them, instead of a look-back post. Hopefully I can convince you (if you're local!) to come out for this fun event that supports local businesses, or give you an idea of where to visit next time you're in town.

This is the week when area restaurants offer a special 3 course prix fixe menu for only $20-25. It's a great way to try new restaurants, and for me, it's a nice treat to be able to sample a reasonably priced menu from restaurants I may not be able to afford with my post-grad-loan-burdened-entry-level income. And while I'd love to make the trek to Noho each day of the week and try as many as possible--unfortunately, my wallet won't allow 7 dinners out, oh well. I'm lucky to have plans for three dinners this week though, so I'm excited!

My boyfriend and I decided we were definitely overdue for a date night, so we set aside last night to try out Restaurant week together.

Picture from Eastside Grill website

Our first stop was a restaurant I've only been to once in the past, but loved. Most friends, when asked what their go-to "date night" or "fancy dinner out" spot is in Northampton, Eastside Grill is the resounding answer. Entrees run in the $20-ish range, and they're known for their seafood--I often see people sharing a plate of raw oysters and cocktails at the bar while waiting for their tables. The tagline is "a little New England... a little New Orleans!" I've never been to New Orleans, but I do love me some Cajun cooking. 

I ordered an oyster from the raw bar to start off my night, and was excited because I'd never eaten a raw oyster before, but sadly they'd run out when I made my order and by the time they replenished their supply I was past my appetizers and the empty real estate in my belly was getting smaller every minute, so I passed. Just means I have to come back again! I placated myself with a watermelon margarita instead. It was a great drink--what's great about restaurant week is I can typically budget enough for a cocktail to go with my meal!--the watermelon lends a mild fruit flavor to the traditional margarita, which was a classic made with Patron and a salted rim. I felt rather classy sipping it as I nibbled my bread and appetizer.

From the three choices of appetizer (wedge salad, watermelon gazpacho, salmon salsa) I was stuck between the gazpacho and salsa. I went in thinking I would get the gazpacho, but the salmon salsa came highly recommended so I tried that instead. Definitely glad I did! It was as if guacamole and ceviche had a delicious lovechild on a tortilla chip. Creamy guac, a burst of lime, and generous chunks of fresh salmon on a warm tortilla chip. A great choice, and with my margarita I didn't even miss the gazpacho.

For my entree I chose the scallops. The other options were a lamb shank or swordfish, with a "lobster vinagrette" which sounded intriguing. Eastside is known for their perfect, pillowy seared scallops, so this was a no-brainer for me. I hoped that my boyfriend would order the lamb so that I could steal a bite (I don't typically eat lamb but I was curious and the thick meat on the bone I saw at other tables looked amazing), but he decided to go off the Restaurant Week menu (sacrilege!) and get a steak with Cajun spices instead. This was mostly because he didn't think he'd like the appetizers offered--he has such a picky palate. The scallops came in a lovely sauce over a bed of wilted spinach and a heap of creamy buttermilk mashed potatoes. Since I had filled up on bread (rookie mistake, oy!) I couldn't quite finish my plate, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal nonetheless. My boyfriend's steak was equally good, and perfectly cooked and juicy. He was a little disappointed that the steak wasn't spicer, but to me it was the perfect slight kick that didn't overpower the flavor of the steak itself. He had the same buttermilk mashed potatoes and was gushing about how good they were in between bites.

And even though I felt nearly full to the brim with delicious food, the meal included dessert and I had to oblige. I chose the Blonde Brownie Praline Sundae. Oh goodness it was good. The only thing that could have taken this dessert over the edge would have been to warm up the blondie a bit, as it was a little cold and hard to cut easily with the fork, but the flavor more than made up for it. The praline was fantastic, I ended up eating spoonfuls of praline sauce alone at the end. The other dessert options were Chipotle Pot Au Creme or Blueberry Bread pudding. It's probably good my boyfriend didn't get a dessert, sharing the small plate was about all either of us could find room for!

Overall, this was a great way to start Restaurant Week! I love East Side Grill and will try to put it into my date night rotation more often. In addition to the stellar food, the service was impeccable. I chatted with the hostesses while I waited for my table, and the owner was even giving me suggestions on what to order as she passed by to help clear tables. Our server was equally awesome, very friendly and attentive with a great sense of humor. All around, this place is a wonderful Northampton favorite and deserves all the praise it gets.   I realized I'd only ever eaten scallops at Eastside, so next time I'll try to convince myself to order a steak or another type of seafood. I also hear they've opened a new restaurant, Slainte, in Holyoke, which I cannot wait to try!

 Tonight I am going to Mulino's Trattoria with a bunch of friends, will report back!

*FYI: these are NOT sponsored posts! I have received nothing for free, I just LOVE Restaurant Week and wanted to give my favorite foodie spots in Western Mass a little love :)


  1. Restaurant week is my favorite also. :) I'm glad to hear your first (of many) experiences was so tasty!

  2. Oh my, those scallops!!! You take great pictures at the restaurant. I never succeed taking good pictures at the restaurant. :/ You two are so cute together! :)

    1. I really lucked out with pictures--I requested a seat by the window and the sunlight at 7:00 was ideal for picture-taking.