A visit to Scup's in the Harbor in East Boston's marina is an adventure. First there's the getting there - drive or walk and you must stop at the shipyard gatehouse and tell the guard you're going to Scup's, or take City Water Taxi from the Aquarium or Long Wharf ($10 round trip if you say you're going to the restaurant). Then there's the companionable atmosphere at the long communal table where you might sit next to a tug boat captain.
Enter the old industrial building that houses Scup's and the first thing you notice is the cement block walls, a window overlooking the harbor, and exposed piping across the very high ceiling. The next thing you notice - or rather, hear - is Wendy Saver. She calls herself "the mouth," greeting customers, talking a mile a minute, expanding on the chalkboard menu, asking how you heard about the place, and explaining the restaurant's name: It's called after Saver and partner David Rockwood's dog, a small mix they fished out of the harbor seven years ago, when they lived on a tug boat in the marina.
Saver and Rockwood, formerly of Emma's gourmet pizzeria in Cambridge, are the owners. Rockwood cooks and Saver runs the front - very colorfully.
Only open for breakfast and lunch, Scup's varies its menu, but baker Thalia Large's moist, not-too-sweet oatmeal-raisin scones ($1.75) and rich, smooth coffee from Hogan Brothers in Framingham ($1.50) are constants. When it's busy, Saver cheerfully puts customers to work delivering heaping plates.
A hot dog ($3) is plump and meaty. Ham ($7) baked with a brown sugar and mustard glaze is salty-sweet and tender and served with red-kidney baked beans made from an old Rockwood family recipe. Bits of chopped pickle mixed in and sharp cheddar on top add zing to a beautifully constructed tuna melt ($6.50; above).
At Sunday brunch, thick, golden french toast made with Iggy's brioche ($7) is topped with bright, tangy raspberry and peach sauces. (This syrup devotee didn't even miss the maple.) Baked eggs ($7), a ramekin of eggs, Parmesan, cream, tomatoes, and spinach, topped with bread crumbs, might be our favorite, but it's a close call. Bacon fried with brown sugar and pepper ($3 for three thick slices) is chewy, sweet, and spicy.
After all that, we could hardly do justice to moist, delicate pumpkin-orange cake drizzled with citrus syrup ($2.50) and tart, gingery apple crisp ($3.50).
Diners linger, and the atmosphere is less like a restaurant than like a meal at a friend's. Saver and Rockwood have applied for a beer and wine license, and they hope to use the space behind the building as a beer garden once the weather warms. See you there.