It's Comfort Food with a New England Twist at Scollay Square
Mike Dunphy investigates the history behind the food at Scollay Square.
"There's always something doing," was the rambunctious slogan of Boston's old Scollay Square, the once renowned commercial and entertainment district now buried under the brutalist brick and concrete of Government Center. It's a fact lost on many of the customers entering Scollay Square restaurant in Beacon Hill and accounts for the whys and wherefores of the large photo reproductions on the walls.
Several blocks away from its namesake, the restaurant is located next to the State House in a former, once opulent. The high ceilings and Greek capitals of the interior attest to this and add a comforting reminder of generations of luxury.
Last Friday night, Scollay's was busy but not overwhelming, the tables mainly full of well-groomed professionals in J. Crew and Ann Taylor. But General Manager Steve Damian doesn't want that to scare you away. "We're not high-end," he insists, "we are definitely casual," and points to numerous efforts to expand Scollay's customer base and change its brand image.
For example, the restaurant is working with Suffolk University to accept campus Ram cards. I don't know how many credits it'll cost for the Blood Orange Martini and the Pink Tassel Spinner ($10 each), but it might be worth it, depending where your interest lies. If it's the overall balance of flavors and quality of the mix, you might consider the cocktails a tad strong. But if your interest is value for money, (i.e. booze), they were great. The acai-pomegranate "antioxidant" martini was even better and downright delicious for berry fans.
Ever since the closing of the dear departed B-side Lounge, I've searched for an heir to their legendary pear salad. Scollay Square, unfortunately, is not the reincarnation. The grilled pear salad ($10.50) did not bring back any fond memories with its uninspired vinaigrette. I'd suggest razor-sliced pears and lightly warmed instead of chilled. The oven-roasted goat cheese ($9) on the other hand was excellent. It broke like crème brûlée and tasted just as creamy. Served with grilled ciabatta and a fresh tomato sauce, it's a definite thumbs up.
For the entrée, we followed the advice of our lovely waitress Maggie and ordered seared day boat scallops in a creamy leek risotto ($21) and customer favorite lobster mac and cheese ($16). The scallop dish would do well in Europe, a sensible portion with a taste that develops in the mouth but never overpowers. The lobster mac, on the other hand, is most definitely New England. Still, I admit an initial apprehension at mixing the high end of my diet with the low. It wasn't love at first taste, but the smoky cheese and al dente pasta quickly won me over, causing the second half of the bowl disappear much faster than the first.
Maybe that's what "comfort food" actually is -- a novel twist on a rooted tradition. The Kobe meatloaf ($18) is a good example of this, as is the Philly cheese steak spring rolls ($9). If it is the definition, I have to say I'm a fan. Maybe I am just getting older but I could use a little more comfort in my culinary life. Scollay Square offers plenty of it and gave me the perfect fuel to wind my way through the Hill in the October rain.