Scout sends mixed messages. On one hand, it feels like a hip coffeehouse with couches for lounging and books for browsing. Then there’s the hunting lodge vibe with stuffed animal heads and landscape paintings. Elegant crystal chandeliers and Oriental carpets give the place an urban chic feel. Finally, the pool tables and darts are reminiscent of a British pub.
In his downtown restaurant adjacent to the Montvale Hotel, owner Rob Brewster pulls these disparate elements together seamlessly. Scout’s multifaceted personality makes it equally suitable for a happy hour game of pool, a family weekend brunch or an office lunch at the rustic 20-seat table.
The menu is as eclectic as the décor, combining pub fare, breakfast favorites and bar snacks with a touch of Southern cooking. With a dozen breakfast choices, Scout is a welcome addition to the downtown breakfast scene. The restaurant was buzzing on a recent Sunday morning, with some diners enjoying breakfast and others sipping late-morning mimosas and playing a game of pool. There are several breakfast cocktails on the menu, including Irish coffee and a Scout Bloody Mary.
The appropriately named Iron Skillet ($10) comes in a personal-sized cast iron pan filled with eggs, thick ham slices and home fries. You’ll also find eggs Benedict, deep-fried French toast, and corned beef hash.
The light, fluffy Belgian waffle ($7) with a pool of melting butter was a favorite with my kids. The chicken and waffle ($10) is another option, served with fried chicken and gravy rich with sausage flavor and subtle red pepper kick, perfect for dipping leftover home fries.
The El Gringo breakfast consists of eggs, black beans and cheddar cheese. It can also be ordered as a burrito topped with pico de gallo ($8). My husband thought the dish lacked flavor, but I liked the simplicity of the seasoned beans and the lightly grilled tortilla.
The combined lunch and dinner menu features salads, a couple of entrees and a handful of sandwiches. Kids can order the Kid’s Pail ($5), a peanut butter sandwich or grilled cheese served in lunch box with apple slices and a cookie.
The Portobello sub ($8) has plenty of flavor from the balsamic marinade, roasted peppers and melted Swiss cheese, but could have used some texture that a toasted bun, crisp lettuce leaf or fresh herbs would have provided. The white chicken chili served alongside was disappointingly bland, and made me steer away from the nachos (also served with the chili) on a future visit.
The fish and chips ($12), big chunks of cod in a thick beer batter, were hot, crispy and surprisingly light. The hand-cut skin-on French fries seasoned with salt and pepper are full of fresh potato flavor and just the right crunch, making them highly addictive.
There are several starters and sides (including those delicious fries) worth noting. The Chicken on a Stick ($8) comes with five pieces of bacon-wrapped chicken bathed in hot chili sauce and is a magnificent combination of salty, crispy and spicy.
For a light meal, try the Scout Salad ($5) with apples, candied pecans and Gorgonzola paired with a side of corn bread ($3), which arrived in its own little skillet topped with honey butter and the restaurant’s moniker baked into the top.
Scout has a full bar and a good selection of microbrews, but it would be nice to see more than one vintner represented on the wine list. The extended happy hour (Monday through Friday 1 to 6 p.m. and all day Sunday) is a great way to stretch your budget with food and drink discounts. Live music plays on Tuesday nights and Thursday night is Trivia Night with prizes and drink specials.
The service at Scout is casual and quirky at times. Sporting neither a name tag nor a uniform, I once mistook a server as a fellow diner who had come to join my table. On another visit, the kitchen couldn’t find the chocolate fondue for the fresh fruit plate.
The fact that Scout doesn’t take itself too seriously is part of the charm. The combination of funky décor, a relaxed atmosphere and food that’s worth coming back for makes Scout a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene.