It's a comedy of errors in the Alderney Landing parking lot. Cars hug every corner and the sun shines almost oppressively. A small crowd is huddled around the pay-to-park machine, cupping hands over the screen, trying to cut glare and figure out what buttons to press. After each success, another group spends another two minutes fumbling around in the heat. "We should have taken the ferry," I think to myself.
Inside of Alderney Landing is a totally different story: it's surprisingly empty. Only two of the tables that make up a casual dining area beside Evan's Fresh Seafoods and Restaurant are full. Another table, flush with boxes of peaches and berries, sits temptingly a few feet away. Outside, someone is taking a seat at one of the shaded picnic tables.
I'm lucky to have stumbled into Evan's on a Fishcake Friday. The fishcakes ($10.99) are the daily special tacked onto the small collection of fish fry and seafood favourites that make up the usual menu. Though tempted by the famed lobster roll, I just can't resist the lure of chow. My friends order scallops and fries ($8.99) and a large seafood chowder ($7.99).
We grab some salt and pepper from the counter and head to a table to wait for our order. A server brings by some cutlery, offers vinegar and ketchup. Our table is a rainbow of condiments by the time our food arrives.
At first sight, the chowder looks amazing: rich and creamy, dotted with herbs and buttery flecks of oil. A fluffy homemade roll sits beside the bowl.
Each dip of the spoon is like casting a fishing line: hunks of delicate, flavourful fish come up every time. Half way through the bowl, the spoon surfaces with what seems to hungry eyes like an entire fillet. Tender potatoes give the soup an earthy touch that helps it live up to that love at first sight.
The scallops are cleanly presented on a little escargot plate set next to a pile of golden French fries. The light breading is wonderfully seasoned, fried to a deep brown. The scallops are tender, juicy and sweet---still with a hint of translucency. The French fries could stand to have a little more crispness, but the fresh, hearty potato flavour is great. A Cajun mayo (50 cents) is a nice accompaniment, with just the tiniest hint of spice.
The two golden fishcakes are accompanied with a tiny bowl of sweet baked yellow-eye beans, a cup of tart-yet-sweet chow and a big, fresh garden salad. The salad is impeccably fresh, with crisp red onion, red, yellow and green pepper, celery, mushroom and lettuce: exactly what you would hope for from a restaurant parked by a farmers' market. A tasty maple-balsamic dressing complements the sweet beans. The fishcakes themselves are tender and delicious, but could do with more fish in the mix.
The servers have been attentive and friendly to everyone in the dining room. They wander around working tag-team, taking turns checking in on people, one speaking a few words of French to some gentlemen a few tables away. When we're done our meal, one of them checks in to see if we want dessert. She informs us that their desserts are all gluten-free, and that she just made a carrot cake that morning.
We decide to split their two desserts--- carrot cake and a small ice cream cake---between us. The cake's freshness shows: it is incredibly moist and sweetly spiced, with a rich, smooth cream cheese icing.
The ice cream is sourced from a shop in Pubnico. The cake is a tiny, homemade tribute to a DQ ice cream cake, with silky chocolate and vanilla ice cream made sweeter still with a layer of caramel and Skor bar. It's the perfect dessert for a hot day.
I'll definitely be back to Evan's. The only thing I'll do differently next time: take the ferry.