Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Antique charm and Greek cuisine

Consider the baked potato.

Not many restaurants do anymore. Most chefs, it seems, are ever questing after new alchemies of flavor in their dishes. And when the chef is great, rich food can take people to the heights. Still, I don’t always want a rich dish when I dine out and think that good menus should include some beautifully done, plainer, low-ish calorie dishes for those who feel like eating simply of an evening.

Which brings me to the nice baked potato we had at Scituate’s Barker Tavern last week. Steam rising out of its zigzagged top-cut, the potato’s flesh deeply satisfying with a little salt and pepper, butter, or sour cream — as you like.

I’d seen but never eaten at this longtime, locally popular restaurant housed in an antique building from the 1600s. Judging a book by its cover, I’d expected the 180-seat dining room and 40-seat pub to be as wholly New England in flavor as they look — with their fireplaces, old exposed beams, white tables clothes, and low ceilings. And both parts of the tavern – the meandering spaces of the dining room and the cozy pub – are as expected in ambiance: warm and homey, with wonderfully muted acoustics that bear mentioning.

But, as New Englandy as it looks and feels, Barker Tavern’s menus aren’t confined to regional seaside favorites but include several good Greek dishes! This incongruity is quickly explained away by staff or regular patrons milling about who immediately say that owner Eli Jordan, who opened the restaurant in 1978, is Greek.

And, although there are many good dishes here, I liked the simplicity of the Greek dishes I had the best.

We loved our appetizer trio of hummus, tsatsiki, and “eggplant caviar” served with triangles of pita bread ($7). Each spread was distinctly flavorful: the tsatsiki bright with yogurt’s tang and fresh cucumber; the eqgplant a whipped vegetable mousse distinct with the flavor of cumin; and a good, creamy, protein-rich hummus.

The grape leaves appetizer –- dolmathes –($7) were wonderful. The leaves themselves — perfectly tender (which isn’t often the case) — and the meat and rice stuffing substantial and satisfying.

On the regional end of the spectrum, I loved the tavern’s New England clam chowder ($7) — which is very light on butter and cream yet packed with extremely tender clam meat. I liked it so much, in fact, I had it again on a second visit and found it every bit as delicious.

The smoked duck breast with Tuscan kale ($20) was good with a strong smoky taste. The sliced poultry was served with a thin reduction and three duck confit ravioli.

The salmon filet ($18) was okay: a little on the overdone side. It came with the aforementioned great baked potato and some spinach sautéed with garlic that tasted a bit like something else.

The thick swordfish filet ($15.50 for the pub size, $29 for the dining room’s enormous cut), can be ordered broiled, Cajun-style, or grilled. I enjoyed the pub portion, grilled, with simple steamed strips of summer squash and zucchini. Good.

We took our terrific server’s advice and ordered the

raspberry mille-feuille ($7) dessert along a daily dessert special — Greek yogurt with amaretto honey, walnuts, and raspberries ($6).

The mille-feuille was lovely and deceivingly light – with layers of whipped cream, fresh berries, and paper-thin sugar cookies over a sweet berry sauce. The amaretto flavoring in the yogurt dessert was a clever way to make yogurt taste complex enough to satisfy as a sweet course. (I’m going to copy this.)

Depending on the night, the restaurant offers various wine pairing and prix fixe menus for $30 and $40. And, the pub, which opens a couple hours earlier than the restaurant, has smaller, less costly dishes while also offering the full dining room menu. And both sides – pub and restaurant – offer several top-notch Greek specialties.

Barker Tavern
21 Barker Rd., Scituate
Dining room hours: Tuesday through Friday, 6 to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m., Sundays 1 to 10 p.m. Pub hours are the same excepting its Tuesday through Friday, 4 p.m. opening.
781 545 6533
Accessible to the handicapped
Major credit cards accepted