Fall River is an old New England town that grew over a span of generations. The city does not lay out neatly over the land in a grid, like younger western cities whose growth was planned and guided by committee. Therefore, as is the custom throughout New England, giving directions to one place from another often relies on a series of landmarks and visual milestones for ease and accuracy. If you're heading to O Gil's Restaurant, which is located away from the more traveled and familiar neighborhoods in Fall River, you'll be well served if you become aware of one of Fall River's most recognizable landmarks — the Rolling Rock. Balanced and stabilized on a slab of granite, the Hummer-sized conglomerate boulder sits just off of the corner of Eastern Avenue (Route 6) and County Street. One story is that Native Americans once used the stone to punish criminals by rolling it over their limbs. True or not, today, the rock is useful for us to find our way to O Gil's. Drive down Eastern Avenue and when you spot the Rolling Rock, turn onto County toward the rock (a left turn if traveling south, or a right turn if traveling north) and go about a quarter mile and it' there on your right.
Settled into the ground floor of a residential building in a quiet neighborhood, O Gil's is segmented into bar and dining room areas. The interior is very simple and humble, even by Portuguese standards, with no real personality or feel. On this Thursday night, it was quiet and a little dark inside with about other three couples having dinner and a wait staff of two taking care of us. The complete menu fits entirely on one page, but the selection is interesting and varied with most of the traditional Portuguese meals you'd expect, plus more. The thing that stands our the most, to me, are the prices. They seem to be really, really low. The question is whether this turns out to be a real value.
favas com chouriço
There are a number of Portuguese dishes that I grew up with that I rarely see on restaurant menus. I never see any dishes prepared with rabbit, quail, crab, sardines or eel — and other more interesting proteins. And as simple as they are, I rarely see the traditional fava bean casserole (often called Stewed Fava Beans, Favas com Chouriço and Favas Guisadas à Portuguesa) on restaurant menus in Fall River. At any Portuguese family gathering in Fall River, especially in the summer, you'll always find a fava bean casserole slow-cooked in a mildly spicy, thick tomato-based sauce, often with chunks of chouriço. O Gil's fava bean appetizer, a special on this night, was really good. I savored the flavorful and spicy sauce further by dunking my bread into it. This was a nice start.
Liver is a take or leave it kind of meal, and I think most people tend to leave it. I happen to love the liver dish my mother would prepare which was in a Portuguese style with lots of garlic, pepper and lemon. O Gil's prepares perhaps a more common version with onions, rather than garlic. My mother would first fry the liver pieces to firm up the out side, but also develop a more meaty and deeper taste. O Gil's liver sautéed and simmered in a broth with the onions and the liver itself is softer and tender. Served with rice and hand-cut french fries, O Gil's liver and onions dish was a nice variation for me and a heck of a bargain at $9.00!
T-bone surf and turf
My dinner companion raved about the surf-and-turf T-bone steak, which seems to be a mini Portuguese buffet on a plate. The meat is accompanied by some shrimp Moçambique, some little neck clams, hand-cut french fries, rice and the ubiquitous fried egg. Anytime you sell grill marks on a slab of meat, it's usually pretty good and this plate looks it, too.
This was my first time at O Gil's and it was a good experience. It's a very down-to-earth kind of place. It's clean and small, and the food is good and very affordable. The service was fine, though at one point the staff (of two) was so loud that I could hardly here my friend speak from across the table, but that was just for a minute. It's not a romantic or a special place, but it is definitely a good and affordable option to consider when eating out. Just look for the rock.
915 County Street
Fall River MA 02723-3201