I’ve mentioned it before in this space, but for a prideful waterfront city, New Bedford proper suffers from a dearth of oceanside eateries.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of places to eat outside and enjoy a view of the lapping waves, but only a handful of restaurants — Fathom’s, Waterfront Grille — sit on the water, not a parking lot or seawall away.

Since late last summer, Kyler’s Catch, the longtime seafood market off Interstate 195, has joined that exclusive club with its new waterside patio and cooked-to-order menu.

Dubbed Kyler’s Catch Kitchen, it offers up a clam-shack style menu with a view that can’t be beat, and on a recent Saturday afternoon, my wife Becca, son Cooper and I stopped by to enjoy the sunshine on the deck and analyze if the food stacks up with the bevy of other fried seafood options in the area.

It turns out they aren’t just throwing some batter on day-old fish, dropping it in the deep fry and calling it a restaurant. From the hand-cut, twice-cooked fries to the fresh herbs mixed into the lobster roll, Kyler’s took its uncommonly fresh seafood and did right by it when preparing its menu.

As our fishmonger for several years, I’ve always found Kyler’s to be clean, efficient and competitively priced. While I’d brought home a few prepared dishes and their sushi (you can enjoy that made to order now), we’d never tried their made-to-order menu.

The logistics of “eating in” might need a little work as they work out the kinks, but for now you grab a menu at the checkout line, put in your order and pay. There are daily specials, and the menu reads like most seafood huts, with a few enticing additions, like shrimp and fish tacos ($13 and $10, respectively), a soft shell crab sandwich ($9) and a salmon burger ($9).

About half the menu is fried — not a bad ratio — so I ordered the shrimp plate ($17), Becca went with the lobster roll ($16), we ordered Cooper a small portion of chicken tenders ($6, a large was $8) and to top it off we tried Kyler’s own clam cakes ($5). For those not in the mood for seafood, the menu features a burger ($6, add cheese for $1) and a chicken sandwich ($5), both served with lettuce and tomato on a grilled bun.

After placing our order — I added a Dell’s lemonade ($2.50) and Becca had a bottled water ($1), they also offer beer and wine ($4-8) — we stepped out onto the beautiful deck overlooking the Acushnet River. About eight tables of differing heights and sizes adorn the gravel deck, with its sail-like canopy, flower pots and rare view of both Fairhaven and New Bedford’s waterfronts. It was close to 80 degrees the day we went, but not overly humid, and with a constant breeze coming off the water it was quite pleasant lounging in the shade provided by the the canopy.

One small note: They did not have any high chairs, although it appeared they were making plans to purchase one. One of the tables had a low bench that 1-year-old Cooper could sit on, so it wasn’t a significant issue.

Our food came blindingly quickly in large to-go containers. The shrimp plate came with fries, a Kyler’s seafood cake, coleslaw, tartar sauce and ketchup. The nine wild-caught jumbo shrimp were butterflied, giving them extra surface for the light, crispy batter to work its way into every nook and crevice. Inside its thin, crunchy coating, the oversized shrimp burst with freshness and surprising juiciness.

Maybe my expectations were too low, but the fries truly stood out. I was expecting something crinkle-cut that came out of a large freezer bag, but these were fresh, hand-cut and, I’m almost certain, double-cooked to produce extra crunch. Coated in large chunks of sea salt, they reminded me most of Five Guys fries, and in my book that’s a very good thing.

Becca was equally impressed by her lobster roll, which came with a side of potato chips. Served on a toasted, buttered bun, it bordered on a lobster salad, generously doused in mayo, dill and several other herbs. The fresh, sweet lobster was tender and a hint of citrus awakened each bite. The serving was generous without being gluttonous.

Each bite of the clam cakes was peppered with large chunks of clam. Chewy inside and crunchy on the outside, they were cooked to a perfect golden brown, although one piece I had may have found the lukewarm spot in the fryer, as it was still batter-like inside.

Cooper’s chicken tenders were large, crispy and fairly ordinary overall (I have a feeling over the next few years I will tire of describing chicken tenders and fries). The cole slaw was mayonnaise-based, crunchy and slightly sweet, albeit not particularly notable.

For dessert, they offer eight flavors of Gifford’s ice cream, but we were already too full — and leaving with a full to-go box — to indulge. Our bill came to $51.65 including tax, but not tip (it’s not truly full-service restaurant, so we tipped accordingly).

As one of the most beautiful places around to enjoy a piping hot tray of fried seafood, Kyler’s provides fresh-from-the-boat seafood, cooked with care and a menu that was more thoughtfully executed than I expected.

 

 

 

Check out previous Dine Out reviews below