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Soundbites

  • j
  • Joel Dec 3, 2001 07:29 AM
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Just wanted to sound off a bit about Soundbites in Somerville. They consistently are voted best breakfast by various publications and are always mentioned in various threads here.

My question is, "Do the reviewers actually visit Soundbites on weekends?" The reason I ask is because of the owner and the way he treats the customers. During the week when business is slower, the owner is tolerable. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, when the brunch crowd is booming, he is nasty and insulting to everyone. There are signs posted warning patrons not to "overstay your welcome" by staying at your table after you finish your meal.

The drill is: You are hustled to a crowded table, you get your own coffee and within minutes the food arrives along with the check. While you're eating the owner and other waitstaff watch your table like a hawk for the first sign that you might be finished. The table is cleared whether you're ready or not and you are expected to leave fast. The owner will often yell and scream at customers and demand that they leave. I have had my half eaten breakfast taken away before and have seen him publicly humiliate many people with his outrageous outbursts. He has been dubbed by many, "The Breakfast Nazi" (Seinfeld reference).
The food at Soundbites is very good but I just can't go back again and see him treat people the way he does. Many of my friends won't set foot in there anymore either.
Anyone else have this experience there?

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  1. Joel...If Soundbites is as you say then all chowhounders should boycott the place.

    1. Wow -- I've always had just the opposite treatment from the owner. Yes, the place is crowded on weekends and they do encourage a shorter than normal post-breakfast linger, but I've never had my half-eaten food taken away. In fact, once I couldn't cover the tip and the owner just said "oh, don't worry, bring it next time." Could this be a male/female thing? Anyone else want to weigh in?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Amy

        I have also only had positive experiences with the owner, including him letting me off the hook when I didn't bring enough cash. Then again, I usually avoid the place on Sundays because I hate lines.

        1. re: Amy

          Is this a recent development? I've been going to Soundbites on crowded weekends for years and never been treated like this, or seen anyone else treated like this. Of course, as far as I'm concerned, it's simple common courtesy not to linger too much after eating when there are people waiting.

          If you've quit going to Soundbites, go to Renee's (on Holland St near Teele Sq) instead. The food is just as good, and since they more than doubled their seating area there's almost never a wait even on weekends.

          1. re: Chip Olson

            if you go there consecutively on Sundays try... you'll see it soon enough. promise

        2. Hel-lo! It's about time someone has posted a truism about soundbites. It is true, the food is phenomenal, very fresh and worth the inflated prices. It is not to be placed in the same category as a Bickfords or Denny's. HOWEVER, I have many times seen the owner treat people horribly.
          To be precise the last time I went to Soundbites a few months ago I stood outside in the cold for 20 minutes waiting for a table only to witness 3 patrons sitting at a window table get completely blasted by the owner for occupying a table too long. I didn't have to be near by to hear his yelling, it was loud and disturbing. One girl at the table was still eating as a matter of fact and after the incident the three patrons embarrassingly reached into their pockets to pay the bill. Once my party was seated shortly there after, the owner said: "and you can only sit here if you do not do what they did and stay for 3 hours!!" Who wants to hear that? Even if it is true?
          Every detail that Joel describes it absolutely how it is at soundbites without exaggeration. When I first experienced breakfast there it was a completely different experience. The owner was friendly, talkative and remebered our favorites. But now things have changed. One should be happy his place thrives on reputation, and I'm sure he makes an incredible living on Sundays sales alone.
          I do agree that it is obnoxious when customers outstay their welcome during a busy time. There is no excuse for the way he treats his customers and all should boycott soundbites. I'm all for the working man, but not one that doesn't appreciate my business at all.

          1. I hate to pile on, but my partner and I stopped going to Soundbites about two years ago - we were so annoyed by the rude behavior of the owner, and also the generally bad treatment.

            If I recall, the last straw was one mid week morning when we went in for breakfast around 1pm (we were both managing restaurants at the time). They started putting chairs up before we had even gotten our food, my dish came out a full 20 minutes before my partners, and then they stood around waiting for us to put down our forks long enough to whisk our plates away.

            Its too bad, before they got all high on themselves, they were a great place.

            Now we spend our time and money at Centre Street cafe in JP - where they are super friendly, the food is great, and you never feel rushed out the door.

            1. I go to Soundbites often and agree that the owner IS moody, but he can very nice if you actually develop a relationship with him. He CAN be brusque, and does an amazingly effective job at turning his tables over on the weekends... But I think he's just running an effective business, meeting a demand, and trying to keep the waits as short as possible. I've noticed him be very courteous to his regular older customers (who are there on a daily basis during the week, and who linger). Anyone frequenting Soundbites knows what they're getting -- quick unembellished service, hearty portions, good quality. Remember the No Name? His notes make reference to being considerate to a "hungry neighborhood" and I can live with that.

              If you're looking for good food, good value AND friendly service, go down the street to What's Cookin' on College Ave. (unfortunately they don't serve breakfast). If you're looking for relatively friendly service and mediocre greasy-spoon food, go up the block to Kelly's Diner. If you're looking for attention, go to the Charles Square Hotel... or maybe the Ritz Carlton?

              1. I've eaten at Soundbites several times, and I have definitely witnessed the rudeness... a couple was there once when I was there and they were yelled at by the owner when they complained about something in their meal. At that point, they were left in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether to finish their food, or walk out. I think they walked.

                The place is a small and cozy dive, which is sorely needed in cambridge/somerville, but I think the food is overrated(Zagat, etc.). I like the quick service, self-serve coffee ('n Tabasco), etc. But like I say, the food's nothin' special. If you get the French toast w/fruit on it, the fruit tastes a little old and mushy. The hollandaise on the eggs benedict is WAY too thick and overcooked, the omelets are just average. The potatoes are pretty good though.

                I don't know how I feel about boycotting them, but I definitely don't feel it would be too much of a sacrifice -- the food's just not that great.

                1 Reply
                1. re: beanbag

                  During the week, the atmosphere at SB is laid back. I would never have guessed the owner turned into Mr. Hyde on weekends. I like the food a lot better than Beanbag, but he's absolutely right, it's not a truly stellar example of its type. Generally speaking restaurant breakfasts suck, especially in Boston. At least Soundbites features fresh ingredients. I'm impressed by the fact that they make their potato pancakes/hashbrowns out of real potatoes, and that they bake their own muffins. As far as I can tell, they make their pancake batter from scratch. SB sets itself apart from its competition (say, the Kelly Diner) by frying their food in non-rancid fat. The glass-fronted fridge and the deli case are crammed with fresh fruit, which is incredibly rare for a Boston breakfast joint.