The Pewter Pot

at Harvard Square

LIKE Howard Johnson's 28 Flavors, all the most interesting of the 24 kinds of muffins at the Muffin House are likely to be out of stock. But it doesn't really matter: they all taste the same anyway except perhaps the chocolate chip muffins, which have pieces of chocolate in them.

When you walk in, a buxom maiden in a red vest laced up the front comes to lead you to your seat. "One," I told her.

"You don't mind sharing, do you?" she inquired ever so politely.

"Not at all."

She showed me to a seat in the middle, lit as if it were in a corner. The man across from me watched her approvingly as she walked away in her bright red vest. "Is your muffin hot?" I whispered.

The man--a weatherbeaten, seafaring sort of man--leaned over, dipped his knife into the butter (which comes in little pewter buckets) and spread some onto his muffin. The muffin crumbled.

"Oh," I said. "Well, what kind is it?"

"Almond Tea, I reckon. But ye can't rightly tell. I only come in for the coffee."

"Good coffee, huh?"

"Yes," said the man, and went back to his lukewarm muffin.

IT'S a pity that they call it a muffin house, because everything besides the muffins is a delight. The sirloin steak--the Pewter Pot's only substantial meal--reminds you of the good old days when steaks were thick and juicy, and also of a backyard barbecue. There are no fancy sauces, just good olde fashioned American fare--baked beans and clam chowder and suchlike.

The whole place has a precious air of olde fashioned Americanness: wooden beams on the ceiling, pewter saltcellars, and murals. One has the merry muffinman wheeling his muffincart past a streetsign marked "Muffin Sq.," and another shows a bunch of Harvard students alighting from their horses, obviously discussing the local muffinhouse, which serves simple but solid fare.