Ally’s, a new sandwich shop in Rockport, has elevated a panini and salad eaten on a bench to fine dining, not a default. Rockport, after all, is riddled with wonderful benches, each with a better view of the harbor than the next.
And now it has sandwiches and soup to make that bench an easy lunch away from the crowds on a day strolling Rockport’s gardens and shops, a sand-less snack for a day at the beach, even a meaningful dinner destination before your concert at the Shalin Liu.
Open just eight weeks, (although the sign strangely says “since 2011”), wedged into a former ATM, Ally’s miraculously offers a couple of stools and some clean wooden counter space. If you choose to take a seat you’ll probably meet the already committed Ally’s fans coming in for third and fourth visits. A well-coiffed Rockport grandmother in pearls, waiting for her order, told me she was “working down the menu.” She’d been there several times with her granddaughter, and “everything was excellent and fresh;” she loved the “Good Boy” (roast beef, black forest ham, roast turkey, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and honey mustard) – the “Rockporter,” (honey ham, melted brie cheese and raspberry jam), and the watermelon gazpacho.
We couldn’t resist the sound of that Rockporter, but added a “Drop It” (turkey, avocado, bacon, swiss cheese, and mango habanero aioli), a “Motif #Yum” (peppered turkey breast, roasted artichokes, Pete’s basil pesto, and provolone cheese) and a Cobb Salad to our order. The Cobb Salad was tacked on after a woman came in asking if she could pay to have more of it - it wasn’t too small, she just liked it so much she wanted more!
We got that. The salad was both crisp and meaty, with tender chunks of chicken, the greens still cool, the bacon, avocado, hardboiled egg, and blue cheese happily balanced.
The grandmother in pearls was right about a lot of things; the paninis and wrap were built with fresh, high quality ingredients. Peter Zopatti, formerly chef at the Seaward Inn and designer of Ally’s creations, makes his own spreads like the mango habanero aioli and pesto. But mostly our elegant Rockport critic was right about the soup. I tried the tropical mango and cucumber, a light, cold touch. It transported my bench to a cafe in St. Barts.
Disregarding the adorable names, the choices are creative enough to satisfy jaded sandwich eaters without losing traditionalists. Ally’s is still a sandwich shop. But it’s hard to find a meal anywhere with fresh ingredients and flavor beyond french fries and mayonnaise. To add a stone bench with Rockport harbor at one’s feet to a well-made Cobb salad and “Rockporter” is like dressing up Cinderella for the ball, but Cinderella had good bones to start. Ally’s has a great product, easily dressed up as fine picnic-ing.