Finding Haven in Jamaica Plain
Branching out for Scottish food and drink
2 Perkins Street, Jamaica Plain
Monday – Friday: 12 – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Sunday: 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
As a student at MIT, it is often hard to find reasons to branch out from the standard food options surrounding campus. However, staying in the “MIT bubble” deprives students of the chance to eat out at many of the great restaurants a little farther away from this part of the city.
One particularly fertile area that is often left unexplored is Jamaica Plain. A crop of interesting restaurants has begun to pop up in this area over the past few years, including widely acclaimed Tres Gatos and Ten Tables. However, of the restaurants in Jamaica Plain that I’ve tried, The Haven, a Scottish restaurant/pub on Perkins Street, is the one that I am confident I will be journeying to regularly in the future.
More likely than not, on your arrival you’ll be greeted by Jason, the restaurant owner and a real live Scotsman. Aside from just his presence, The Haven greatly benefits from the attention and effort he has put into this restaurant. The space, menu, and atmosphere all make it exceedingly clear that The Haven is a labor of love for Jason.
The interior is warm and casually decorated with deer antler chandeliers, rustic wooden tables, and Scottish posters, with the occasional swatch of plaid cloth thrown in. The menu is predominantly Scottish, with classics like Haggis and Neeps ($9), Scotch Eggs ($8), and White Pudding Sassitch ($17), but with some more accessible options thrown in if the idea of haggis (offal and oats cooked in a sheep’s stomach) puts you off your appetite.
I opted to give the Haggis a shot, and found that it had the rich and gamey flavor I hope for in offal, but was a bit under-seasoned. Overall, I’d say the haggis itself was overshadowed by the delicious truffle honey mashed rutabaga it was served on. The Haven also serves an excellent burger with bacon-onion marmalade and pickle aioli ($14).
However, the surprise showstopper for the night was the pan-seared scallops entree ($24). The dish was made up of snap peas, pearl onions, diced bacon, citrus butter, and the best scallops I’ve eaten in years. All the components were expertly prepared, and it made for a flavorful and balanced dish. For dessert, The Haven offers a full menu, but there is really only one choice: The deep-fried Mars bar with homemade maple whipped cream ($5). Whatever your apprehensions may be about eating junk food dunked in oil with a side of fat, justify it to yourself however you need to and get one. It will be the best bad decision you make that week.
The beer list is unique in that it is almost exclusively Scottish, and is also uniformly tasty. On it you’ll find some options that a non-Scot may recognize, like Orkney Skull Splitter and Innis & Gunn, along with some you probably haven’t seen, like Belhaven Black or Froach Ale. There are even some delightful oddities, including beers that boast seaweed and pickled spruce as ingredients. The cocktail menu also contains some great drink options, with my group’s favorite being the Maggie May, a lavender and pineapple-infused gin cocktail with grapefruit, honey, and ginger ale. The wine list is very limited, but if you’d choose wine over one of the great beer and cocktail options available, I don’t think that The Haven is really the place for you anyway.
There is more to The Haven, though, than just good drinks and great food; it provides a warm environment to soak in and enjoy. The relaxed service makes you feel like you should linger over that drink, and maybe ignore your better judgment and order a second deep-fried Mars bar. In the future, if I need to withdraw my face from in front of the fire hose, and escape MIT for a night, this is where you’ll find me. As MIT students, we sometimes find it hard to break away from our little corner of Cambridge. Luckily for us, The Haven is only an orange line ride away.