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Published: Thursday, 7/24/2008

Restaurant review: Chowders N Moor ***

When last we visited the oddly named Chowders N Moor, the restaurant was little more than a beach shack shoehorned into a cramped block of stores on Waterville s Third Street. Painted in seasick ocean blue, it was known primarily for its long list of sandwiches.

Well, things have changed rather dramatically since then. No, the relentlessly blue paint still saturates the walls, which are decorated with fish nets, bamboo poles, life rafts, starfish, and the like. The signature soups New England clam chowder and tangy white chicken chili still get top billing, and the music of Jimmy Buffett and the Beach Boys continues to fill the air.

But the Waterville location has moved to a larger venue, and a second Chowders N Moor just opened in Holland. Beer, wine, and spirits are now sold at both restaurants, and the number of sandwiches has grown from 44 when we first visited the place in 2004 to 60 or more today.

With the larger digs comes a nine-page menu that includes a full line of burgers, along with steaks, seafood dinners, Mexican fare on Mondays, and breakfast seven days a week. Still on the menu are a dozen salads in two sizes, and easily that many sweet drinks. ranging from cappuccino and yogurt smoothies to malts, shakes, and Italian cream sodas.

Owners Tina and Tom Kuron opened Chowders N Moor in 2002, moving to larger quarters at South Street and Rt. 24 in downtown Waterville early last year. The new restaurant, on Airport Highway in Holland, opened last month.

According to the eatery s Web site, all the recipes were created by Tina Kuron, and everything is made from scratch. In fact, much of the food does have a homemade taste, and the portions are generous.

This time around, we found the lively white chicken chili, served with south-of-the-border garnishes and nacho chips, to be superior to the chowder, which bobbed with clams just this side of rubbery. Both are priced at $4.39 a cup and $5.99 a bowl.

A 10-ounce New York strip steak ($16.99), served on a long romaine leaf, was good and juicy, accompanied by four butterfly shrimp ($4.99) that suffered only from the flimsy breading, which appears to be the same as that used for onion rings and lake perch.

Sandwiches being the restaurant s stock-in-trade, we tried several and weren t disappointed. Most are available in half or whole portions. One exception was the whole egg sandwich ($7.49), a must-try club that lived up to the hype with fried egg, thick-sliced bacon, tomato, white American cheese, and a mild homemade deli sauce on ciabatta bread.

Also gobbled down were a novel half-pound phat burger ($8.79) with cheddar cheese that included onion rings between the buns; panini-grilled corned beef and sauerkraut ($5.09/$8.89); turkey with artichokes, onion, tomato, and provolone ($5.29/$9.39), and a super chef club ($5.29/$9.39) containing tender chicken breast with bacon, cheese, and honey mustard dressing.

The sandwich that produced the most wows, however, was Little Italy, a whole Italian combo ($9.39) combining ham, salami, pepperoni, saut ed mushrooms, and cheese on ciabatta bread, so thick and satisfying that it belongs in somebody s sandwich hall of fame.

Contact Bill of Fare at:fare@theblade.com



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