Friends, Family Remember Hostess at Legal’s

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Members of the Class of 1954 (from left to right) Joseph Blake, Harvey Steinberg, and MIT President Emeritus Paul E. Gray reminisce at Legal Sea Foods on Wednesday after a memorial ceremony for the late Anna McAllister, a longtime hostess at the restaurant and friend to many in the MIT community.
Samuel L. Range—The Tech

Dozens of friends and family gathered at the Kendall Square Legal Sea Foods on Wednesday in memory of Anna McAllister, a beloved hostess at the restaurant who died recently.

Anna, who hosted Legal Sea Foods for over 35 years, left an enduring influence on Legal Sea Foods and members of the MIT community who knew her.

There, the MIT Class of 1954 presented a plaque honoring Anna’s service, which is now on display at the restaurant.

“I knew her for almost 42 years,” said Course 8 professor emeritus and popular former 8.01 lecturer Walter H. G. Lewin, “since she started in Inman Square [the original Legal Sea Foods].”

Attendees remembered how McAllister oversaw the entire operations of the restaurant, ensuring everything ran smoothly and efficiently, while simultaneously setting the example for hospitality and friendliness. Roger Barkowitz, president of the Kendall Square restaurant, described her as the “backbone” of Legal Sea Foods’ culture and operation.

However, the strongest memories of Anna were not of what she contributed behind the scenes, but how she treated her customers: Paul E. Gray ’54, Course 6 professor and MIT president emeritus, spoke about the welcoming feeling Anna created for MIT community members who patronized the restaurant: “You’d see groups of grad students and their professors, and there were often 40 or 50 faculty just in groups of two or three … and when you walked in the door, she greeted you as if to her own home. She made this [Legal Sea Foods] into an extended living room.”

Anna knew everyone who frequented the restaurant: “When you walked in,” Joseph P. Blake ’54 said, “no matter how busy, she’d spot you. ‘Don’t you think of leaving, love,’ she’d say. ‘We’ll get a table for you in just a minute. Just grab a seat.’ That was the word she always used: ‘love.’ It’s what everyone was to her, and what she’ll always be to us.”

Today, diners at the Kendall Square Legal Sea Foods can view the memorial plaque donated by the MIT Class of 1954 and eat “Anna’s baked scarp,” a newly-renamed dish still prepared according to the recipe McAllister created.

—Sam Range