There was a time in the Merrimack Valley’s primordial past when dining in the Westford/Littleton area was highlighted by a restaurant with an airplane on its roof (Polly’s) and an OK Italian eatery (Domenic’s).
Thankfully, things have changed in a dramatic way, and the latest evidence is the Great Road Kitchen Oyster Bar & Grill. The restaurant is part of The Point, a new business/retail development in Littleton that’s right off I-495.
There’s more “great” about GRK than its name. The single dining room is among the largest eating spaces I’ve visited recently. The L-shaped area features plenty of windows and light. An open ceiling adds to the feeling of ample space.
A bar greets you almost as soon as you walk in the door. There is seating at booths and banquettes, and high and low chairs. Want more? Near the back of the room is a raw bar with counter seats that overlook the open kitchen. Still need more? An outdoor patio seats about 40 when the weather cooperates.
The overall effect is a relaxed and casual but upbeat meeting place that fits the needs of most everyone, from families and dating couples to Red Sox fans looking for a television and a couple of beers. That’s a near perfect formula for this part of the Valley.
The menu is a broad mix of light bites and finger foods (including tacos), along with about a dozen entrees. Folks who lean toward the vegan/vegetarian side of the menu will find some nice options, including a terrific shaved cauliflower bowl ($9) with beets and Brussels sprouts that even this carnivore had to admire. There’s a smoked tofu brown rice box ($17), quinoa “meatballs” ($18) and more.
The lobster bisque ($8) was a satisfying starter, accented with chives and a truffle crouton. The lobster was not so subtle in this version. The little gem Caesar ($8) was a striking dish, the lettuce lined up like little soldiers on a rectangular platter. Some anchovy dust (whose job is it to collect that?) and challah Parmesan crumbs completed the smart starter.
Since the establishment includes “Oyster Bar” in its name, we felt the need to sample. We opted for nearby cold-water oysters — Maine’s Pemaquid and New Brunswick’s Cape Spear. At $3 a pop, it’s best not to get too addicted to them, but they were ideal starters for an alfresco summertime dinner.
The pesto-rubbed cod ($25) was fresh and bright with a light texture and clean bite, just as it should be. Served in yellow tomato water, the chive gnocchi that escorted the fish were a playful surprise.
There’s not much beef on the menu, but with an item like the center-cut tenderloin ($30), there doesn’t need to be. Tender, prepared correctly, and packed with flavor, it was a delight. Add some roasted mushrooms and a demi-glace sour cream and onion bliss, and you have a very satisfying meal.
Our servers were pleasant and attentive, but they seemed to get lost in the details. My lobster bisque was served without a spoon, and I nearly had to body tackle someone to request one before the bisque cooled off. The baby amarone wine we ordered was a nice bright pink (it should have been red) when it arrived. My wife and I stared at it in wonder until we both said, “Wait a minute. That’s a rosé.” They did let us keep both glasses.
The creme brulee and the bananas Foster bread pudding hit most of the expected dessert marks and ended the meal on a pleasant sugary note.
Great Road Kitchen is a great new addition to the Littleton/Westford culinary scene.
Great Road Kitchen
613 Constitution Ave.
Lunch: Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday brunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.