Zoe's Fish and Chop House has been operating on Route 10 in Easthampton since 1996. My wife and I first started going there a couple of years ago, lured by their wonderful Sunday brunch buffet which featured marvelously fresh iced oysters on the half shell, large plump peel-and-eat shrimp, roast beef and roast turkey breast at the carving station, and a variety of breakfast foods, seafood entrees, and desserts. Elegant and inexpensive, Zoe's was well worth the 40-minute drive even on icy winter mornings.
Unfortunately, early in January, the owners announced that Zoe's would be closing on 5 February 2008; the large, roomy, rambling building had been sold (and will be torn down for redevelopment) and that they hoped to resurrect Zoe's in a new location soon. The rising cost of fuel, food, labor, and maintenance have made it difficult to manage in the current location.
We made our final visit to Zoe's last Sunday, having made reservations a week earlier (the restaurant is so busy that they no longer take walk-ins for Brunch seatings.) The oysters, as always, were simply perfect -- beautifully fresh New England oysters, glistening in their half-shells on a bed of cracked ice. With them, I enjoyed one of Zoe's most excellent Bloody Marys - made with cracked black pepper and a dollop of horseradish stirred in, there is no finer drink to accompany raw shellfish. Other seafoods on offer included Cajun-style snapper (mild but still tasty), herbed salmon (a tad overcooked, but still moist, topped with a flavorful herbed crumbing that enhanced rather than overpowered the fish), hazlenut schrod (a favorite of my dining companions, though I don't care for hazlenuts at all), and mussels in garlic sauce (marvelous wild-caught Northeastern mussels, steamed open and dressed with a sauce that was little more than garlic and onion gently sauteed in butter - stellar.) Although I concentrated my attentions on the seafood, I did do some sampling around of the other offerings. As always, the fresh (and wherever possible, locally-sourced) ingredients were top-notch, from the delicately steamed mixed vegetables to the kielbasa made in nearby Chicopee MA. An extra touch that is often unnoticed and underappreciated: The kitchen staff kept the vegetables refreshed throughout the morning so that they never lost their marvelous al dente texture. And, of course, the service was every bit as good as the food. Our waitress was friendly and attentive without being annoying.
I hope that the owner finds a suitable location for a grand reopening. Zoe's Steak and Chop house will be fondly missed.