Nantucket Landing

4723 Elm St.



Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. (Full dinners 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

Prices: Most dinner entrees from $9 to $17

Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.

This is a double-duty restaurant. Downstairs is a noisy bar, usually crowded with college students taking advantage of food and beer specials -- half-price burgers and dollar drafts, for example, or free pizza. (Note that there are also lobster specials on some days. If you're a bargain hunter, call and get a calendar of events.)

Upstairs lies the peace and quiet of a large, dark-paneled dining room, glaringly lighted but pleasant, where you can choose from a typical modern American menu -- grilled fish and meats, salads, sandwiches, pastas, seafood -- and take advantage of the nightly bargains.

It's hard to generalize about the quality of the food at Nantucket Landing. Some of it is prepared very well, some very poorly. And there's enough variation in quality control to make it difficult to predict which will be which.

A good starter is the seafood chowder, made with real cream and not over-thickened. Although it doesn't contain a lot of visible seafood, the flavor is properly briny and the seasoning nicely zippy. But the she-crab soup is too salty and has a sharp taste similar to canned tomato juice.

The ribs, available as an appetizer or entree, look better than they taste. The portion is generous, but the meat is dry, chewy and not really smoky, and it's not penetrated by the undistinguished sauce.

Among the entrees, the swordfish has been outstanding -- a big, thick slab, commendably moist and nicely grilled, served with well-prepared vegetables. The crab cakes have been very good too, light and airy, made with a mixture of lump and claw meat that's vividly seasoned.

An occasional special, and an excellent dish to watch for, is the chicken florentine, a reasonably juicy chicken breast stuffed with crab, served with a good, peppery cream sauce with spinach and herbs that's distinctly flavored but not overwhelming.

The Nantucket bucket is an impressive bargain, a pail stuffed with an entire steamed lobster, some decent shrimp, middling mussels (some have been a bit ripe) and good parsley potatoes. At $16.95, it's enough for two. The fish and chips has been poor, with both the fish and the cooking oil past their prime.

The burgers aren't great, but they're fairly juicy and not too compressed, and at $2.50 on half-price night, including fries and slaw, they're a great buy. Among the pastas, the fettuccine with shrimp is a good choice; the shrimp are tender and not overcooked (although the pasta is a bit overdone), and the oil-parsley-garlic sauce is pleasant.

As for side dishes, the french fries are problematic -- one night superb, another night oil-soaked and limp. The onion rings are nicely chunky, but the batter is too coarse for the onions and, on the night we had them, the oil seemed old. The salads that accompany the entrees are generous in size, but the house-made dressing, a honey-mustard, is achingly sweet.

For dessert there's a good key lime pie, thankfully unencumbered by green food coloring. The ordinary hot fudge brownie comes with "whipped topping" out of a squirt can.