The Marina Bay section of Quincy is basically its own little community that feels completely separate from the rest of the city, and in many ways, it is, as it basically sits on a peninsula that is mostly cut off from the rest of Quincy by marshland. In some ways, the development has resort-like qualities to it (no lodging at this point, however), with an L-shaped boardwalk with views of Boston Harbor on one side and a number of restaurants and bars on the other. And while the dining and drinking spots on the boardwalk are mostly popular places that can get packed on weekends and warm summer nights, once you go behind the boardwalk it gets quiet in a hurry, even though there are more businesses in the back. One of the spots off the boardwalk is an unusual little place called Gaveston Cafe that is part convenience store and market, part sandwich shop, and part Vietnamese eatery. And it is this last part that is the focus of this review, as one particular offering is certainly something special--and unexpected in a way.
Finding Gaveston Cafe can be very difficult if you're not familiar with Marina Bay; basically, you take Victory Road from East Squantum Street in Squantum (or Commander Shea Boulevard to Seaport Drive to Victory Road if you're coming from Neponset Avenue/Quincy Shore Drive) and follow it to the "end" by the back of the boardwalk, which isn't really the end at all since Victory Road then goes both to the left and to the right. Taking a right leads to a parking lot behind the right side of the boardwalk, along with a strip of businesses where Gaveston Cafe resides. Other than the chairs and tables set up out front during the warmer months, it is rather difficult to even know that this place is here, while the interior is similarly anonymous-looking, with a counter/ordering area and a few chairs in the left room and a little store being in the right room. An exit out back leads to the rest of the parking lot along with a walkway with a few benches along the water.
The menu at Gaveston Cafe has an eclectic mix of Asian and American food items, including spring rolls, wings, fries, Peking ravioli, wonton soup, chicken pho, pizza, turkey clubs, steak tips, pork fried rice, cheeseburgers, Italian sandwiches, and more, but it is their signature dish that bring people in the know to this place. The Marina Bay Banh Mi is indeed something special, and perhaps one that you wouldn't expect to find in a little market and food shop that's within a stone's throw of a sometimes wild and crazy boardwalk dining and drinking scene. But this classic Vietnamese sandwich is a great one, with cold cuts, pickled carrots, cilantro, hot peppers, pickled daikon radish, and a dollop of pork pate all giving a complex mix of flavors, with the ingredients stuffed into a crispy and crunchy French baguette. It is difficult to compare Gaveston's version of this sandwich to some of the other banh mi options found around the Boston area since different ingredients are used from place to place--for instance, one of the best versions is found at Pho Viet's in Allston, and that one has much more of a smoky flavor from the grilled pork, while the version at Gaveston is not as intense because of the use of Vietnamese cold cuts. Still, Gaveston's version has a very nice balance of flavors and definitely comes close in quality to the likes of Pho Viet's and others, even if they are made differently.
Marina Bay is one of a number of hidden pockets within the Boston area well worth visiting, as its gorgeous water views, bustling boardwalk area, and interesting dining and drinking scene make it a special spot that feels a world away from the rest of Quincy (which, by the way, has become one of the top cities in the region for dining out). And Gaveston Cafe is certainly a "gem within a gem," as it is a tough-to-find spot within a tough-to-find development and it just happens to feature a sandwich that certainly has a bit of a "wow" factor to it.
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