The Boston skyline twinkles on the horizon, joining with the passing headlights on Lynn Shore Drive to give an urban flair to the expansive water views at Mission on the Bay in Swampscott. In the main dining room, 100 linear feet of giant windows open to the sea breezes, while on the 180-seat second-floor deck, panoramic views abound.
The spectacular view is hard-earned. The team behind Newburyport’s Mission Oak Grill encountered numerous obstacles, from run-ins with the local historical commission to structural issues, in their quest to reorient the former Red Rocks Bistro to take greater advantage of its oceanfront perch. The result was worth the wait—the view is the star in a comfortable space that mixes a classic New England seafood restaurant with a casual, modern California vibe.
With dark blue barn board walls and water washing right up under the restaurant, the dining room feels a bit like the inside of a yacht. Perhaps that’s partly because a shipbuilder had to be brought in to steam and bend the wood for the technically complex but inviting oval-shaped bar at the back of the restaurant. With a second bar at the front of the restaurant and a mixture of high-tops and low tables, conversational nooks abound and every seat has a water view.
While the window tables are likely to be in high demand, to get the VIP treatment, request one of the two high-tops next to the open kitchen, known as the Chef’s Tables. The theater of the kitchen staff is just as engaging as the ever-present water view, and chefs might just offer up a little off-menu amuse-bouche especially for engaged diners.
On the menu, the options range from New England seaside fare to the South American influences of Brazilian-born chef/owner Wellington Augusto. Mission on the Bay offers a bountiful raw bar selection and some other typical appetizers, but the more unique offerings, like the short rib empanadas, are especially delicious. Inspired by South American cuisine, the empanadas feature Nebraska beef braised for hours before being pulled and hand-folded into the dough. An aioli dipping sauce on the side gets its heat from the Peruvian aji amarillo, a spicy yellow chili pepper. For a seafood app with a twist, try the Chourico N’ Shrimp—two large shrimp flavored with an agave-lime sauce, served with that spicy Spanish sausage and hearty yucca fries.
Sink into the seafood vibe for a main course; the classic fried plates are light and fresh—especially the fried clams. Whole-belly bivalves are sourced locally—whenever possible, from Ipswich—and then hand-breaded in a mix of corn flour and wheat flour. No egg wash or milk weigh down the breading, leaving a lighter, crispy shell that clings deliciously to the briny, sweet center. A touch of black pepper, in addition to sea salt, offers a nice contrast, as does the fresh tartar sauce, a mix of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, dotted with a dice of house-made pickles.
Or stick to the South American theme with churrasco. In this case, the “churrasco”—a term for any grilled meat in Brazil—is a skirt steak, arriving tableside sizzling on a skillet and flavored with dried porcini, soy sauce, and cayenne, accompanied by hearty yucca fries and lime-pickled carrots—a refreshing sweet counterpoint to the tender spicy steak.
The cocktail menu features a nice mix of artisanal spirits from coast to coast, including local darling Privateer Rum and West Coast favorite Ballast Point gin. For a late summer evening drifting into early fall, it’s hard to beat the On Point, a mix of Ballast Point Barrel Rested Old Grove Gin, elderflower, Aperol, and lemon. It has the sophistication of a fall cocktail with the bright notes that let summer go on forever.
Chourico N’ Shrimp?$13
Short Rib Empanada $12
Fried Clam Plate $24
Churrasco “Brazilian Classic” Skirt Steak ?$28
On Point $11
Marty Bloom, Wellington Augusto and Bob Hoffman
Mission on the Bay
141 Humphrey ?St., Swampscott