When the novelty of dining halls wears off, McCurdy’s Junction House comes pretty close to Mom’s home cooking. Located in a cottage at Ives and Wickenden, it’s a down-home charm, with creaky antique chairs, kitschy wall hangings, and a ditsy floral design along the walls. An artificial fireplace and scrawled-on chalkboards are in perfect keeping with the theme.
It’s also distinctive for its seasonally rotating menu. For winter, it’s appropriately laden with hearty fare like stews, chowders, open-faced sandwiches with Thanksgiving-style turkey or meatloaf, and latkes. The spring/summer menu will be unveiled in coming weeks, but here’s one idea: spring salad with golden beets, cherry tomatoes, Gorgonzola, and lemon. Check McCurdy’s Facebook for daily specials before you saunter over.
The best things on the menu are the simplest. Beef stew has a dark gravy full of braised beef, peas, and carrots. Guinness beer (yes, you read that right) makes the whole thing magical; that it’s served atop mashed potatoes is even better. It’s a lumberjack kind of meal. Steak tips, Junction House Nachos, and Sam Adams-battered fish and chips (only on weekends, plus Wednesdays during Lent) are similarly homey. All sandwiches come with addictive salt-and-pepper fries, and while they could use a little something more than meat and cheese–why not grilled seasonal veggies?–at $7.75, they’re tasty, tasty sustenance. Nothing on the menu tops $12.95.
But McCurdy’s also cooks with a bit of imagination. Paella is studded with shrimp, chourico sausage, chicken, cannellini beans, and veggies. Bartlett pears are halved, roasted, and topped with Gorgonzola, raisins, and walnuts. There was plenty pear, but the dish lacked enough spice and cheese to balance its cloying sweetness. Sweet potato polenta was bland and spongy, and the accompanying links of maple chicken sausage helped with flavor and texture but were scrawny. Veg-friendly options, such as acorn squash cornucopia stuffed with caramelized apple, portabella, and walnuts, are substantial and not your usual vegetarian cop-outs.
McCurdy’s bills itself as primarily a take-out joint, which is convenient for those of us who want to chow down in bed while watching Parks & Recreation, but it gets awkward when you take advantage of BYOB, dine in, and get food in Styrofoam containers. Especially now that they’re considering adding outdoor seating, investing in real dishes would be a good idea.
High: AMAZINGLY AFFORDABLE! The paella ($12.95) is the priciest thing on the menu; most things you’d possibly covet are under the $10 mark. Match this with good quality, eccentric atmosphere, and a constantly updated menu, and you have a restaurant with tons of potential to become an old favorite.
Low: Some offerings, like polenta or baked pears, are pretty mediocre. If we go to a restaurant for a home-cooked meal, we want something better than what we could actually cook at home. Inventive items set the menu apart, but McCurdy’s should do a bit more perfecting to bring it on par with the other staples.
Bottom line: McCurdy’s gets it right when it keeps things simple. Unbeatable prices, generous portions, and Guinness-infused beef stew will nourish your soul almost as much as Mom could.