It isn't someone's name, a type of fish or any other inaccuracy often suggested. A "Jack Tar" is defined as "a man who serves as a sailor." But in this case, Jack Tar can also be confidently defined as one of Marblehead's finest eateries.
From the inviting, Tuscan cave-like interior to the choice selection of local and not-so-local seafood, Jack Tar provides Marbleheaders with an upscale, delectable culinary hot spot.
Jack Tar came under new ownership in 2008 and is now run by husband and wife team chef Scott Brankman and manager Emily Farnsworth-Brankman. Brankman incorporates more than 17 years of restaurant experience and was most recently executive chef and assistant manager at Cityside Bar & Grille in Cleveland Circle on the Brighton–Brookline line.
One thing that I really appreciate about Jack Tar is the restaurant can wear multiple hats. From couples looking for an intimate, romantic dinner to friends tipping back an ice cold pint of Sam Adams, the restaurant even has a place families can sit outside in the sun on the stone patio and enjoy fish and chips or a perfectly cooked burger.
It's this sort of flexibility that differentiates Jack Tar from numerous other restaurants in town.
I was fortunate enough to dine at Jack Tar two times in as many weeks because of multiple family segments trekking up from New York and Pennsylvania to visit lovely Marblehead.
On my first visit, I decided to pick fare that I had only truly enjoyed in Southern California and Mexico -- fish tacos, but in this case made with local cod. The lightly fried white fish was served with pickled cabbage, black beans and a mango salsa.
Although listed under "Tavern Fare," I found the tacos to work nicely as an entrée. The cod was fresh and the veggies were crisp and flavorful – a wholly appropriate and scrumptious choice on a warm Marblehead summer day.
My second experience at Jack Tar, I ventured for a more robust meal. I'm always one to order specials and I am known to have a weak spot for mahi mahi, also known as dorado or dolphin-fish, depending on your destination.
Although obviously not local, the mahi mahi was fresh and delicate, served broiled with an avocado, corn and lime relish, which brought out the flavor nicely. Equally as delectable was the scallop entrée and seafood risotto my guests enjoyed.
These scallops were served lightly broiled in garlic and butter with a sweet pea and rice mixture on the side – very, very good.
I'm happy to report that Jack Tar is certainly in the upper-echelon of Marblehead restaurants. One has many choices when it comes to seafood in the area, but Jack Tar distinguishes itself by offering a selection of local and more exotic fresh seafood prepared in traditional New England styles as well as more cosmopolitan and creative varieties. The prices are not unreasonable and fall into the $15 to $25 range for entree and $7 to $14 range for tavern fare.
All things considered, I give Jack Tar my recommendation and wager you will likely not be disappointed if you do decide to dine at "the man who serves as a sailor."