Boston’s MIssing: Pewter Pot Muffin Houses

In addition to Pieroni’s Sea Grill, I found a couple of other menus in the stash that somehow came with us when we downsized. Anyone who lived in Boston during the sixties remembers—and probably ate at—a Pewter Pot Muffin House.

Looking Back to Ye Olde Boston

This chain could be found all around the city and down to Cape Cod. It represented Ye Olde Boston and looked back on the city’s history for both food and ambiance. The Pewter Pot décor recreated the early post-Medieval construction that we think of today as Colonial.Pewter Pot, Muffin House, Interior, Boston

Heavy dark beams crossed the ceiling and created a cozy feel. Furniture was all dark wood and thick-planked tables. Tacky murals of The Muffin Man traveling through a vivid New England landscape decorated the walls. A fire usually glowed in a brick oven. Waitresses—the Pewter Pot Muffin Girls—wore skirts and vests.

Muffin House Menu Selections

But the food was pretty good. I spent happy hours during dates—especially on cold winter nights—eating the Pewter Pot’s excellent chowder and absorbing warmth from the open fire. The menu offered 24 varieties of muffin, including odd flavors like Fruit Cocktail, Almond Tea, Mint Julep and Mystery. I usually ordered  something simpler and more familiar with my coffee.

Pewter Pot, Muffin House, Menu, 24 Baked Varieties

You could order breakfast at The Pewter Pot, of course, although the selection was not large: Ham and Eggs ($.90), Bacon and Eggs ($.80), Muffin and Egg $.40) and a Cheese Omelet (.75). A large mug of coffee would cost you a whopping 15 cents. You could pick up boxes of their muffins and “Country Kitchen Bread” at a gift-shop-style counter at the front of the restaurant.

The Pewter Pot’s Lunch Menu

Pewter Pot Muffin House, Harvard Square

The Pewter Pot Muffin House in Harvard Square

Other people online remember steak but that does not appear on my menu. It offers only sandwiches and only four of those:

  1. Roast Beef ($.75)
  2. Baked Virginia Ham ($.70 but 10 cents extra with “olde fashion cheese”)
  3. Grilled Cheese ($.40)
  4. Char-Burger $.55).

For dessert you could choose from the Peach Muffin Shortcake or the Strawberry Muffin Shortcake, both “loaded with real whipped cream” for an additional $.50. Coffee and tea were served in actual, and very heavy, pewter pots.

The clam chowder—”made from a cherished olde recipe”—proved the main draw for me and many others. You got a crock ($.60) or a cup ($.35) of thick, rich chowder loaded with clams. It both filled you up and warmed your insides when the Montreal Express howled down from Canada.

The Catania Hospitality Group

Vincent (VJ) Catania, a native of Chelsea, MA, founded The Pewter Pot chain in 1963—despite the menu’s claims of being “famous since 1831.” For the next 10 years, he expanded the chain to its height of 40 locations. You could find a Pewter Pot Muffin House in almost every neighborhood of Boston and Cambridge and beyond.

Pewter Pot Muffin House, Boston, Logo, Vicent J. CataniaIn 1973, Mr. Catania sold all but the Falmouth location and focused on growing a new chain, The Hearth ‘n Kettle on Cape Cod. He passed away in November of 2010 at the age of 81. Today, the Catania Hospitality Group owns and operates five Hearth ’n Kettle restaurants, the Cape Codder Resort and Residences in Hyannis, the Dan’l Webster Inn in Sandwich, and the John Carver Inn in Plymouth.

Boston’s Dining Scene Has Moved On

The Pewter Pot Muffin Houses have been gone for 45 years and Boston’s dining scene has turned decidedly upscale since then. Heavy beams and thick planks have given way to huge windows, Ikea-style furniture, and large airy spaces. I doubt we could find a menu with an extraneous “e” on the end of words anywhere in the city these days. That’s no loss.

For ten short years, The Pewter Pot Muffin Houses did solid business “Dispensing to the Publick All Manner of Giftes and Tasty Treats” for breakfast, lunch or a late-night snack. While they would not fit in today’s Boston, I remember the Pewter Pot Muffin Houses fondly. Especially that clam chowder.

Back-of-the-Menu Note

Here’s an interesting quote from the back of the menu:

“Coffee brewed in Pewter Coffee Pots made by Paul Revere . . . And then served with hot cakes baked from cherished olde Colonial recipes in the brick oven that was the center of the Early American Home. . . This was a tradition born in the early days of New England. This was the beginning of ‘coffee and.’

We invite you to relive this relaxing tradition with us in the true colonial way . .  Have your coffee with a hot muffin or a hearty Colonial Roast Beef Sandwich, prepared and served to you in authentic Early American atmosphere at the Pewter Pot Muffin House.”

I can tell the menu once hung on my dorm room bulletin board at Northeastern because of the pushpin holes on the corners.

34 thoughts on “Boston’s MIssing: Pewter Pot Muffin Houses

  1. I worked in the Lexington store. I was the dishwasher from 1969-71. What a great time I had there. I was the only male working with all those lovely muffin girls. I miss them all.

    • I was visiting my Grandmother in 1956 and after a stroll thru the Common she took me to the Pewter Pot. What I remember most was the fresh homemade clam chowder made from fresh Breakstone’s cream with a patty of fresh melted butter on the surface and those fresh clams. For a side it was the world’s most dangerous blue berry muffin. Oh such memories!

  2. I have really warm memories of sitting in the Lexington Pewter Pot with my mother in the early 70’s. She loved it so much my father bought her one of the pewter coffee pots for their anniversary. I still have it and treasure it today!

  3. Oh I loved Pewter Pot. Was a grad student in Boston, left the area in 1983. Still miss it now and then. Those omelets! And the potatoes! And the coffee! and the MUFFINS! (When you are a starving student, good food makes lingering memories.)

    Silly, I guess, I thought they’d still be around, the food was so good and the value and comfort were too. Heartbreaking to learn here that No Name and Durgin-Park are also gone – good grief, will they be pulling down the Old North Church, or the Mother Church, to put up condos next? I’m so sorry. These are real losses.

    Thanks for the memories 🙂

  4. I was voted Muffin Girl of the Year. Can’t remember what year it was. Does anyone remember the event at a hotel in Boston

    • Yes, it was on Valentine’s Day 1968 at the Sheraton Boston
      Hotel. John Henning from the TV was a judge. I was there
      from Arlington Pewter Pot – I still have my plaque.

      • I grew up in Arlington and remember the Pewter Pot well. I think there was also one in Bedford and maybe Lexington but might be wrong. Memory is getting fuzzy.

  5. I loved having muffins and coffee there when living in Boston and Brookline. I thought those restaurants had character.Good clam chowder too. This was in the late 1960’s. I realize Boston has changed tremendously since then and is much more upscale overall.

    I also loved Durgin Park restaurant near Faneuil Hall . Loved it. Was very sad to learn it had closed this year. Life goes on and many many changes…..let’s hope mostly for the better. Not sure though. Many are being priced out, in Boston and many other places. That is a loss for many . Will the replacements create the same loyalty and sense of place….

    • Cheryl: We just lost the No Name Fish Restaurant after 102 years. It’s the latest in a long list of iconic Boston restaurants that have gone out of business. I think the city needs to change some of its rules and regulations. Or maybe it’s just the very, very high rents.

  6. I have fond memories of being a muffin girl at the Brookline Coolidge Corner location during 1978. Coming to New England from Florida, everyone always made fun of my Southern accent, all but one customer, who would sit in my section while studying. He would only order coffee but would make me recite all the countless muffin varieties available. He never ordered the muffins, just coffee, and always left me a dollar tip which back then was a big deal. It turned out he was a Harvard med student from Palatka, a small town in Florida. He was homesick and just wanted to hear me talk because it reminded him of his mother and sister. My memories were more food related, the favorite being the huge omelettes served in heavy iron skillets with potatoes and of course, a muffin. I don’t remember the name of my boss, but I do remember begging him for the day off to see the AL championship playoff game where Bucky Dent hit his 3-run homer to beat the Red Sox. I still have the ticket stub.

    • I worked at the Coolidge Corner store as well … I think around 1973 to about 1975 or so. Waiter then cook then night manager. Manager was Ronnie something, and district manager was Faye something. Great people. Nice place to work … good time.

  7. I worked as a Gm for them from 1976 to 1996. Bruce R. Butterworth was owner at the time and they closed all locations in summer of 1996. Butterworth passed away in 2005. I closed the last location located at 211 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington MA. By the way, that clam chowder was SNOWS clam chowder made with milk for years in the restaurant until one day I tried using half and half, huge difference.

    I worked in Wilmington, North Andover, Tewksbury, Revere, Braintree, and Burlington locations during my time there.

  8. Pewter Pot Muffin houses were done in when Massachusetts lowered the drinking age to 18, thus diminishing its appeal to the college crowd.

  9. What a wonderful trip down Memory Lane on reading your blog post — my girlfriend and I spent many a time warming up in the Harvard Square shop from 1969 to 1972 – tea and a blueberry muffin were my staple. Cold winters were no problem with a warm haven in Harvard Square.

  10. I worked in Readind, MA. In 1969. Thsre was a PP Muffin House right downstairs from our office. I really must that place.

  11. As a college student who graduated in 1971, I often visited Pewter Pots for a muffin, particularly the one across from the Prudential Center. As to its decor vs. contemporary style, after years of being overpriced restaurants sterile, hard surfaces, I think the time is ripe for a return to the retro look— Especially if there are a good muffins and coffee. I

    • I may have served you! I was a waitress at that one in 1969. I was a teenager living at Durham and St. Botolph in what was then a slum area. Ha!

      Reading this post was great. Brings it all straight back fifty years later. I hope for current Bostonians that the Pewter Pots may arise someday.

      • Wow you lived on St. Botolph Street in the 1960’s?? I live there now! It’s no longer a slum haha. I would love to know what it was like back then. Any stories?

        • Brian: It was pretty grotty back then and not entirely safe. We were four female NU students living in an apartment together. At one point we had a stalker who would wait in the hallway outside our apartment for us to come home. Then he would stand outside our door and describe what sexual acts he wanted to commit. They got worse and more violent until one of our boyfriends, who was pretty tough, had a conversation with him. I didn’t miss it when we moved out.

        • Still on St. Botolph? LOL.

          I was just remembering this time of my life again talking with a friend who lived in Boston. She went to Pewter Pot, but one in Cambridge. We just discovered we both attended the Donovan concert there, in the old Music Hall, now the Wang Theatre, in October of ’69, but we’ve both lived in the same Indiana town now for decades.

          I actually lived on Durham, at the intersection with St. Botolph, and I would walk by the Pru every morning to get to work at Pewter Pot. It was a rough neighborhood, esp if you were female. Most of us carried a weapon. There was always construction near the Pru, and the guys were always yelling at girls, even at 7:30 a.m. This is back when I guess guys thought we liked that.

          I lived with three other people in an efficiency apartment—a living room, a galley kitchen, a bath. A far cry from what the building interiors are like now, but still with the bow windows, I see. We got by. We were hippie kids. I remember playing “Here Comes the Sun” every morning on our record player.

          I liked coming home from work and snacking at the Pru first. Can’t remember the name of the place, but I’d get an ice cream covered with jimmies. 🙂 And I liked to ride the escalator sometimes. Cheap fun, right?

          If we saved up some cash, we’d hit a movie—pretty sure it was the Symphony on Huntington. They showed arthouse and underground. Movies I remember seeing were “Alice’s Restaurant,” “Midnight Cowboy,” and “Yellow Submarine.”

          I didn’t live there long, but it made a lasting impression.

          • Thanks for writing, Lisa. I loved reading your memories of that time. I went to Northeastern and lived for a year on Gainsborough Street, where the Boston Strangler’s first victim was found. In fact, they were filming the movie while I lived there. Yes, it was a skeezy neighborhood with some equally skeezy neighbors. You wouldn’t believe what Boston looks like now. Or, at least, before the pandemic. Construction everywhere, luxury apartments and condos in every neighborhood, a whole new neighborhood behind Fenway Park, a seaport that looks like South Beach on a Saturday night, cruise ships coming in (again, before pandemic) weekly.

            I remember the Pru when it was first built and all the plazas were open, windswept and mostly cold. Now it’s an enclosed mall with high-end shops and restaurants connected to the even more glitzy mall by a skybridge across Huntington Ave. The city has gone so upscale we’ve lost a lot of our old restaurants, and not just the low-end ones. Places like Durgin Park, the No Name, and Locke Ober are gone forever. The list is depressingly long. On the other hand, Top Chef came to Boston a few years ago. Come back for a visit; you’ll be amazed.

  12. I was a foreign student at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, but when I came to Boston for a break, one of my favorite treats was a warm orange delight muffin with butter melted all over it (Yumm!), served at the Pewter Pot Muffin House in Cambridge right around Harvard Square. I wish I could find the recipe for it. Thanks for posting this and jogging my memory.

  13. Thanks for the memories. When I was 16, I actually worked at Prwter Pot in Dedham Massachusetts as a muffin girl and cashier at the “gift-shop-style” counter.
    The menu was, I think, a reflection of the time, simple and straightforward and the excellent food quality was comforting and reliable.

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