Notwithstanding the culinary ambiguity that Scorpion Bar’s name may evoke (“We thought this was an Asian-themed restaurant,” laughed several dining companions, who had mistakenly correlated the popular, shareable booze-filled Asian cocktail with this location), there’s nothing all that confusing about the latest addition to restaurant row, located at the epicenter of Patriots Place. Scorpion Bar is the newest endeavor from Big Night Entertainment (Empire, Red Lantern) and reputable chef Kevin Long (Empire, Red Lantern, Tosca), and it is an unabashedly Mexican-themed restaurant that doubles as an exotic tequila/sports bar (the restaurant stocks 100 premium tequilas), perfect for post-Patriots game crowds. Creative takes on Mexican standards include tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.
The restaurant’s ambience, much like a Pats game, is energetic, if not perhaps raucous (the restaurant transforms into a nightclub around 10 PM). The mammoth 7,800 square foot space that seats 300 patrons – formerly occupied by a high-end department store – has been impressively revamped to make one feel as if they’ve been transported to Mexico itself. You half-expect Johnny Depp to join the festivities as Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow given the wood-planked windows adorned with skulls and sangrias playfully served in glass skulls. Wrought-iron chandeliers hang from high, mirrored walls while imported Mexican crosses are in full view. There’s no sign of Toby Keith here (his restaurant looms nearby), as rock and roll music is loud and abundant (be warned: acoustics make for incredibly challenging conversation, particularly with large groups). A giant LED TV rests against one wall while several other hi-def monitors blare at the large bar directly across the room. Security guards monitor the entrance and oddly enough, the hallway to the bathrooms. Scantily clad, seductive waitresses in black tank tops politely – and frequently – ask if you’d like a refill on your cocktail. That aforementioned scorpion bowl actually does make an appearance here, and several tables delightfully sip from their straws on the Patriots-inspired monster-truck of a drink, the Gronkerita (at $44, a homage to the menacing tight end). Even people dressed in dog and unicorn costumes show up (I was expecting Scott Zolak to subsequently appear in a ‘Unicorn and Showponies shirt).
The menu is laced with items that include an appealing variety of appetizers, such as nicely chili-powder dusted tortilla chips (although the accompanying salsa was disappointingly bland and loose in texture), jalapeno fried ravioli, and a memorable Mexican riff on traditional French fries that was a hit with our table – papas fritas, served with an addictively spicy garlic sauce. Also noteworthy were flaky, meat and potato filled empanadas and carne asada Philly rolls, featuring steak, peppers, balsamic ranch and cream cheese. My one complaint is that the menu, particularly its entrée selections, needs more focus and consolidation. A whole host of steak, chicken and pork offerings exist across taco, burritos, and enchiladas sections, and the menu can be redundant, confusing, and perhaps overwhelming to customers, especially when one is interpreting the difference between street tacos and regular tacos while portion sizes differ by one or two tacos. My personal favorite?: ‘barbacoa’ style pork tacos laced with thinly diced green and red jalapenos, the perfect balance between sweet and spicy flavors that mesh with the succulent meat.
The list of tequila-filled cocktails, while inventive and tasty enough, are somewhat watered down and not nearly as potent as one would have hoped. Margarita selections range from excessively sweet (coconut) and smooth (the Cadillac blended with Grand Marnier) to spicy (my personal favorite, the Jalapeno blended with pineapple tequila).
The first iteration of Scorpion Bar took shape at Foxwoods Casino, while plans for a third location are already underway for the Seaport District in late spring/early fall of this year. The connecting theme here? It’s fiesta time. And while Scorpion Bar is far from culinary perfection, the restaurant serves up perfectly enjoyable, reasonably-priced Mexican fare with decent enough cocktails in a relaxed, suburban location. Now if only we could have NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell loosen up and imbibe on that grand Gronkerita.
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