The east side of Main Street downtown is about to get the East Coast treatment.
The large former home of Earl’s on Main is now the Friskee Pearl, an Atlantic-themed pub and eatery by The King’s Head owner Chris Graves with a kitchen run by chef Sean McKay.
The layout remains the same, with the bar side at the entrance partitioned from the expansive dining room via two new red velvet booths and some plush curtains. New is a stage for live music on the bar side, while the dining room now has some fun, tasteful nautical touches from paintings of cupids on lobster traps to two port holes that look into the open kitchen with its large cooking line and wood-burning oven.
From that oven, chef McKay is turning out delicious starters like oysters Rockefeller, while there’s a list of promising mains like a classic paella with prawns, clams, oysters, chorizo, peas and chicken on saffron rice that will surely be enhanced by the smoke.
Being big fans of chef McKay’s pastas and doughs–which always brought in the accolades–it was nice to see him back using his airy, crusty pizza dough (it’s somewhat like a French baguette) to create a clam pizza with caramelized onions, bacon, and thin slices of potato on a garlic cream sauce.
There’s two fresh house-made pastas on the menu–a clam spaghetti tossed in a roasted garlic marinara, and a lobster agnolotti with peas and sunchokes in a white wine cream sauce that has us terribly excited given how his sweet potato agnolotti at The Mitchell Block was always one of the best pasta dishes in the city.
During the soft opening on April 18, we tried a number of starters (and canapé versions of the starters) including delicious crab cakes that were all killer, no filler–lightly battered in panko so the sweet meat is still showcased; fried clams with Kennebec fries that were super crispy; deviled eggs with Northern Divine sturgeon caviar and crispy shallots; slow roasted ribs in a just-smoky-enough barbecue sauce; and classic peel and eat shrimp with a zippy cocktail sauce (on the main menu there’s a choice of four sauces to accompany this).
The Friskee Pearl is open from lunch through dinner, and the sandwich selection includes a fried shrimp and haddock po boy, a double stack angus burger, and a lobster club, while more dinner mains include rotisserie chicken, and an angus sirloin with salsa verde and bone marrow jus. There is of course a chowder, featuring salmon, clams, haddock and shrimp (not sure if it’s Boston (cream) or Manhattan (tomato-based), along with beer battered haddock and chips and a selection of salads.
One thing that should jump out to you on the food menu is the choice of sustainable seafoods, as it is very bivalve-centric, while the fish is all Atlantic haddock and salmon, as is the lobster.
At the bar, the drinks menu has some interesting numbers including the “Friskee Old Fashioned” which gets extra smoky before they even start pouring as they hold the tumbler over a piece of wood that is quickly blow torched. The “Wet Ya Whistle” has a fine balance of smokiness from the mezcal and blanco tequila matched by tartness courtesy of hibiscus tea and fresh lime, rounded out by a bit of sweetness from simple syrup. It’s served in a Tom Collins glass, so it looks pretty sexy, too, with its pink hue.
The King’s Head has always had a mighty fine selection of local beers on tap, and given crews from Little Brown Jug and Good Neighbour Brewing were all at the soft opening, you can rest assured you’ll find plenty of good local pints on offer.
With 240 seats in the dining room and bar, and a 120-seat patio that will open when weather permits, this is going to be a more than a welcome addition to downtown. The grand opening is set for April 24, making it a great choice for before or after a playoff game (or concert), so the timing really couldn’t be better for Graves and his team.
And a final note on the FOH team: they were all lovely. As any restaurant owner will tell you right now, finding staff is tough, and the team that Graves has assembled are all personable and professional
The Friskee Pearl is located at 191 Main Street and will open to the public on April 24. For full menus, hours and more, the official website at www.friskeepearl.com will be updated soon.