I’ve never been one to subscribe to the lure of waterfront restaurants. All too often when people rave about them I find they’re talking about the view rather than the food. Hence, I was intrigued a couple months ago when I read a snippet in The Phoenix about a tiny place in Eastie called Scups.
“How refreshing: a waterfront joint that’s actually quite good,” the subhead read. Even so, I wasn’t moved enough to dash on over… after all, getting to Eastie involves water taxis, the Tobin Bridge or the dreaded Blue Line.
But several weeks later I was talking to a friend of mine about brunch places and she mentioned this great breakfast she’d just had in Eastie. “The flavors were amazing,” she said. “I think it’s called Scups.” OK, I thought, maybe it’s time to check this place out.
I’ll be up front: getting to Scups is no easy task. Located inside the Boston Harbor Ship Yard and Marina, you either have to arrive by car, water taxi or private boat and unless you’re a ship builder or a yachtsman, it’s rare that you’ll just happen to be in the neighborhood and swing on by for a sandwich.
Once you’re inside the ship yard, finding Scups is a challenge. Located in a squat, non-descript red brick building, your only clue is a cluster of picnic tables and an orange life ring painted with the word “open” that’s propped up on a broken lobster trap by the door. Around the corner, a sign bearing the restaurant’s name is spelled out in signal flags.
Scups’ obvious Yankee ingenuity delighted me upon my arrival. An old life raft full near the kitchen door had been planted with basil, while discarded soup pots surrounded the patio and were filled with tomato plants and marigolds. A plastic freezer bag filled with water hung in the doorway like some practical joke- the woman working the counter told me that the reflection of the sun on the bag confuses flies and keeps them out of the restaurant. Sure enough, the dining area was insect free, despite the open door.
I opted for the “Cheesy BLT” ($6.50) and a raspberry lime rickey ($2.50), while my companion got the “Scuppah,” a grilled hot dog bun filled with chicken salad (a seeming bargain at $3).
While we waited for our food I nosed around the dining area, which has a lot to look at despite its small size. A large table where diners eat communally takes up most of the space. But there’s also four seats at a counter across from the ordering window that look out into the harbor. The counter is the soul of the place, crowded with a hodge podge of New England and nautical artifacts ranging from a bunch of pussy willows in a sterling water pitcher to a book on the history of ships and an autographed photo of Kirk Douglas.
It was a nice day, so we took a seat outside at one of the few picnic tables that grace Scup’s patio. Our food didn’t take long to arrive, but had clearly been prepared for us. My BLT was piled onto grilled wheat bread- thick-cut, crispy bacon, halved cherry tomatoes and cheddar cheese. A generous spread of pesto gave it a fresh taste that made me wish I’d thought of adding it to a BLT before.
The Scuppah was another invention I wish I’d discovered sooner. A grilled hotdog bun filled with chicken salad (there’s also a tuna option), the sandwich was crunchy and soft, warm and cool all at the same time. Why, in the land of lobster rolls, don’t we pile any and everything into grilled hotdog buns? It was so good we ordered a second.
My raspberry lime rickey was similarly extraordinary. Usually a concoction that tastes like a watered down Shirley Temple, this one was obviously made by someone who knew what a raspberry lime rickey should taste like. The syrup was subtly sweet (perhaps naturally flavored?), offset by the sour lime and the bubbly club soda… a real pleasure to drink.
I’m apparently not the only one enamored with this place. After I went, I discovered that Boston Magazine named Scups Boston’s “Ultimate BLT” this year. No doubt, this little restaurant will continue to get a lot more popular. Just remember, arrive early if you want choices.