For a small city there are a lot of very good restaurants in New Bern, North Carolina. We had spent some time browsing in the shops, but they were closing for the day and we realized we were getting hungry. Deciding where to have dinner was a tough decision, because of the numerous choices, and because we had heard good things about so many of them. In the end the decision was practically made for us because we found on-street parking less than a block from M.J’s Raw Bar. Rain was on the way so it was a quick dash from the car to the door and we were inside.
The interior is rather small, with the dining space longer than it is wide, The ambience is cozy and the service is friendly. Tables occupy the front near a large window that looks out on the street, while the rear portion consists of booths. Decor is decidedly nautical and “fishy”. Along one side the backs of the booths are each topped with a metal fish.
Along the other side each separation is topped with a sailing schooner. The walls are lined with framed pictures of sailing ships.
We were seated near the front at a table for four where we could look out at the street scene. Our waitress, a southern gal, was very friendly and described the day’s specials that were in addition to the regular menu offerings.
The soup special was Lobster Bisque. This sounded especially good, so three of us ordered it as a starter. It was rich and flavorful, with lots of small pieces of lobster floating in the creamy broth that had just a hint of sherry in it. A cup size serving was ample as a first course, but my husband had the bowl size because he likes a lot of a good thing.
The fourth person in our party ordered the crab chowder. Of all the items we ordered this was least appealing because it was so heavily spiced. While the flavor was good, the “heat” and spice was too much to be enjoyable. Spicy chowders seem to be popular in this area, so it is probably an acquired taste.
Amongst four of us we ordered three different entrees as two of us had the same thing, and that was the Crabby Patty Melt with Fries and Jamaican Tartar Sauce.. This consisted of two toasted English Muffin halves with a scoop of crab salad and a covering of melted cheese on each one. Served along side were the fries and a small cup of somewhat spicy tartar sauce. We both enjoyed this very much and found the serving size to be plentiful.
Another member of our party had the Soft Shell Blue Crab Sandwich with coleslaw. The crab was breaded and crispy on a bun with lettuce and tomato, and tartar sauce. She was pleased with this entree and said the crab was tender and flavorful. My husband ordered the house salad which consisted of green leaf lettuce, sliced strawberries, pecans and feta cheese. It was beautiful to see and delicious to eat. This was followed by Pan Seared Scallops in Pomodoro Sauce over Angel Hair pasta. The serving size of this dish was large, with a generous number of scallops that were sweet and tender. The tomato sauce was thin and nicely seasoned, a good compliment to the fine angel hair pasta. He liked his dinner very much, but finishing it was difficult—could it be because he already had a bowl of lobster bisque and a salad?
We did not order desserts because we couldn’t eat another bite, but there were several desserts available, all very tempting.
Our impressions of this restaurant: the food was moderately priced, very tasty, with ample portions. Service was prompt and friendly. If I lived in this area, it is a place I would go to for a casual lunch or dinner. Another really great perk: street-side parking is FREE. No meters to put change into, and no time limits. I would definitely recommend M.J’s Raw Bar to anyone visiting New Bern, N.C. or living in the vicinity.