Despite being a largely affluent bedroom community to Portland sitting on over 70 square miles of land, Scarborough has long been plagued by a lack of a strong dining options. Aside from a smattering of chains and mid-tier takeout spots, a night out in the “center of town” typically means heading to either El Rayo for so-so Mexican or O’Reilly’s Cure for Guinness and corned beef — not exactly the spice of life.
Down Rt. 1 a bit and located in the burgeoning Dunstan Crossing neighborhood, a veritable beacon of hope for the Scarborough dining scene exists in the new Dunstan Tap & Table.
Billing itself as a neighborhood gathering spot serving elevated pub fare with a full bar, Dunstan Tap & Table shows immediate parallels at first glance to long-time Monument Square stalwart Shay’s. This is no mistake, as the restaurant is the second venture from Shay’s owners Jen and Brian Brenerman. Though DT&T trades in the warm, yet sleek and softly metropolitan look and feel of Shay’s for airy and playful blue/red color palette, both restaurants share a similar ethos — satisfying food at a reasonable price-point flanked by a strong beer list and an assortment of eye-opening cocktails in a comfortable, family-friendly setting.
Though relatively quiet on a recent Saturday afternoon, Dunstan Tap & Table has quickly built a following in and around the neighborhood as a preferred evening wind-down spot. A patio complete with fire pit, cornhole and additional seating drives home the fact that summer is well behind us, though there’s clearly no better place in the area to whittle-away a beautiful, warm evening. Inside, a curved bar and plenty of flat-screen televisions offer a respite from the fall winds, brightly lit and emanating the fresh sheen of new construction. It’s an inviting space, and one that could easily attract patrons from far outside the surrounding neighborhood.
With the Brenermans at the helm, it should come as no surprise that — just as at Shay’s — the food at Dunstan Tap & Table is no slouch. A starter of Korean BBQ-style wings showed subtle, creeping heat, each crispy bite a tease for the next. It turned out to be the perfect contrast for the fall bibb salad, a seasonal array of apples, blue cheese, cashews, Chioggia beets, butter lettuce and red wine vinaigrette. Tart, tangy and balancing the finer points of both sweet and savory flavors, it’s a must-order during foliage times.
The Dunstan Burger — ground beef, pickles, butter lettuce red onion and tomato — could use a sauce (mayo and mustard solves this small issue), but the overall result is scarily similar to the burger served at Shay’s, which happens to be my favorite in Portland. Equally satisfying was a plate of beer-battered haddock fish and chips, buttery with a perfectly crisp exterior and not even a hint of greasiness. Is this the best plate of fried fish in Southern Maine? Maybe not, but it’s certainly up there.
With only a few months of service under its belt, Dunstan Tap & Table has already become perhaps the best dining experience Scarborough has to offer. That may not be saying much, but rest assured that what’s on tap here holds its own against the best pub food in Portland.
Dunstan Tap & Table | 6 Stewart Dr, Scarborough | Mon-Thu 11:30 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat 11:30 am-10 pm; Sun 11:30 am-8 pm | www.dunstantapandtable.com