The wait is finally over! After months of watching “the old carburetor building” at 40 Merrimac Street in Newburyport undertake major renovations, we were finally able the check out the new digs for the Black Cow! One had to wonder why they would want to move onto the main street, after all, the space they have occupied for the last 20 years, overlooking the water was pretty ideal. With their lease coming to an end, the time seemed right for owner Joe Leone to make a move. The new space is pretty sweet! There was a lot of attention to detail!
At first we were a little worried about even getting in tonight. No reservations are taken. Driving into Newburyport, we hit a bit of a backup and the parking lot was a crime scene! But persistence paid off and we found a spot. Walking up to the restaurant, we were sure we would have a wait, what with clusters of people waiting outside, but we were pleasantly pleased when we walked in and were seated right away. This new space has plenty of room. We sat in the main dining room on the first floor with an expansive bar with seating for at least 50. This space featured booths all along the floor-to-ceiling windows plus a variety of high and low top tables the length of the long room. On the other side of the bar, not seen from this room was another dining area with more booths and tables and a “raw bar” with even more seating and another bar. Center to the room is a sailboat restored and made into the raw bar with a mast that reaches three levels.
On the second floor there is outdoor seating for both dining and more comfortable seating for gathering with friends for drinks. Here is where you will find your water view. Inside, still on the second floor is yet another bar to service this floor. There is also another dining room, not yet in use, but I imagine come winter, when dining outside is not an option, this will be put to use. Bathrooms can be found on both levels.
There is also a little patio seating right on Merrimac Street but that holds no appeal for me with the constant traffic going by. Just seems too dirty to me. The third level is not open to the public. That floor is used for offices.
If you go with a party of 2 or 4, I think you can expect to be seated fairly quickly. Larger parties may find themselves waiting. Much of the seating is booth seating. Free floating tables that can be combined to make a larger table are harder to come by.
We started our evening with drinks. We both opted for the Merrimac Manhattan made with Makers Mark Bourbon, Berto Sweet Vermouth, Cointreau and Citrus dash. It was perfectly made and delicious. Jerry had to order a beer to go with dinner. With close to 50 beers on tap there were plenty to choose from! I opted for a glass of wine with my dinner. The wine list was ample with a variety of choices. I opted for a Nebbiolo from Italy sold by the glass as well as bottle. It was a nice wine but should have had a little more chill to it.
With our drinks, bread was brought to the table with a variety of spreads. The spreads included a lemon butter with sea salt, a nut-free pesto and a white bean and garlic spread. You could not go wrong with any of the choices!
For an appetizer, we share Lobster Wontons. When we ordered this, I was thinking it was going to be something like a crab ragoon. I could not have been more wrong! This was served on a long rectangle plate. On top of some lettuce lay four crispy wonton chips. Each was spread with a cream cheese spread that had been mixed with fine herbs. A top this lay a lobster claw, a slice of avocado and all this was topped with a spicy (not hot at all) mango relish. This was light and “citrusy”. This could easily be shared with four people. Really great and different start!
For our main course I chose the Scallops & Gnocchi. This dish was amazing! They were not stingy with the scallops! I had to have at least 10. These were lightly suate’d and served with gnocchi, bacon, leeks, mushrooms, white beans, a parsley/spinach pistou (like pesto without nuts), served in a veloute sauce and finished with toasted panko bread crumbs. I think I got the dish of the night!
Jerry chose Cioppino made with shrimp, mussels, calamari, cod, chorizo (which had a little kick to it) and red potato all served in a roasted fennel-tomato broth. This meal was best enjoyed with a spoon. Had we not already had bread, Jerry would have asked for some to sop up that tasty broth! While his was delicious, I think my dish was better – with very interesting flavors.
We were too stuffed to even consider dessert. A stroll along the waterfront after a meal like this is one of the benefits of this location. We were pleased with the new location and new menu. We look forward to returning and sitting upstairs for drinks with friends! We would give the new Black Cow four cheers!