Result of Dinner Last Night: North Street Grill
Thank you everyone who posted yesterday to help me pick a place for dinner last night to celebrate my sister's engagement, I really appreciate it and will continue to look to this board for advice, please please don't take the following review personally (I just need to vent this) but unfortunately this choice turned out to be a bad experience:
I made a reservation for the 9 of us and me and my Fiancee ended up arriving first at the Grill. My first instinct at seeing the restaurant was to cancel our reservation and go somewhere else, the place was not nice looking even by downtown bar standards and it was friday night 6:30 and there were only 3 people inside and they were at the bar, there were no people eating there.(My sister's original suggestion was McCormick and Schmidts in Faneuil hall, but I suggested this place over it from the great looking menu and good reviews)
I figured since I heard so much good about the food I would try to ignore the look and keep the good food in mind. Everyone eventually arrived, we went in and sat down and again were disappointed (some of the plates were dirty/greasy, the booths were torn at the edges and greasy looking and our table against the wall was just a few feet from an open doorway to the kitchen with no curtain or door to hide the wide open view of the dishes being done)In the end I went through most of the evening mortified and embarrassed at my selection. There was only one waitress but the place is small and as I mentioned when we arrived we were the only onces there to eat and I also told her we were celebrating and engagement, she still gave us very little to no attention and throughout the night it was very difficult to catch her attention for anything.
Everyone noticed the fry oil smell almost immediately and it wasn't a good fry smell it was a slightly burnt icky fry smell. Also, it was a cool night but they had the AC on and it was blowing on all of us, we asked a few times for the waitress if she could turn it down - she never did. The chef never acknowledged us even when we were the only ones dining (I only mention because some on other threads had posted that the chef was friendly and would check in on you)
Our appetizers were ok, we shared fried clams, slider burgers and mixed green salad: The clams I heard were good, the sliders I wasn't crazy about and the salad I liked.
For dinner I got the steak and it was very good and so were the fries. However they confused the orders of two of us, the chicken I heard was good but the sides on all of our dishes were barely noticable (mine came with an heirloom "salad" and it had two thin quarter slices of tomato and a tiny sprig of green)..Also, my brother who is a big eater got the pork loin and that was probably the worst choice he could have made - it turned out to be four or five tiny medallions of pork and the only other thing on the plate was three or so equally tiny packets made with some starch which we couldn't quite name though the strange bad taste was familiar (we all ended up giving him some of our own dishes)...
Our evening at this place had many little surprises and none of them was positive...
Overall the quality of our food was "good" and that did not nearly make up for all the other shortcomings we experienced. I don't think there was any question that none of us would ever return, and if we had seen the place beforehand probably would never have chosen to eat there ever in our lives (that is not an overstatement).
We all had an ok time overall and went down to Mike's for pastry after, but walking through the other North End restaurants to Mike's after just reinforced the fact that we could have all just walked into the North End blindfolded with no plans and almost any place on Hanover street we could have fallen into would have been a better experience and better suited to the occasion...
Sorry to be so harsh, I don't think I'm picky about restaurants and and my family often goes to local casual restaurants (like Jimmy's in Saugus or local restaurants in Malden) and I've never had an experience so poor, I almost felt like I had insulted my sister by picking this place, the whole night I was wishing we had gone with McCormick and I don't even care for them, I definitely owe my sister and her fiancee a really nice dinner now...
As bad as it was, this experience will provide you with a great and - eventually - hilarious story to tell and retell at future family gatherings.
I'm sorry you had a bad night out -- it's never fun to be the one that picks a perceived loser -- but I would encourage you not to give up on finding extraordinary places. Choosing places for large groups, especially for "occasions", can be daunting. There's often a picky or dull eater in the bunch, someone allergic to seafood, a vegetarian, a trendy foodie type, etc. It's hard to find a place somewhere between what you consider fabulous and the lowest common denominator.
For "occasion" dinners, I always try to dine myself at the place at least once beforehand. Places get overhyped, or go downhill, or get new chefs, or change their concepts, or become inconsistent, so even recs from trusted sources can age badly. But even this precaution won't always protect you.
I have a group of friends that dine out together at a newish restaurant prior to going home to our families for Thanksgiving every year (2006 will be our 17th year of this tradition). Having had a couple of superb, romantic dinners for two at Torch not long after it opened, I nominated that place. But the restaurant made some very bad changes a few days after my last visit prior to Thanksgiving week, ruining their gorgeous, dimly-lit atmosphere by turning the lights way up ("Patrons complained they couldn't read the menus"), and making their menu much more generic and less creative. A big bust. We laugh about it now, but I was livid at the time.
Some 'hounds can point you to "safe" places of the kind you already like, others will help you be more adventurous. It pays to keep reading the board to figure out which 'hounds have tastes similar to yours, and which are comparatively envelope-pushing; both are useful. There are plenty of restaurants that can exceed your expectations and please the crowd without your having to resort to a chain restaurant in Faneuil Hall (though I'm less critical of McCormick & Schmick's than most chains) or a generic North End Italian-American.
Sometimes, of course, you just have to bite the bullet and go to one of those lowest-common-denominator places. Even at that level, some are a lot better than others.
Good luck, and keep 'hounding!
Wow ... I'm so surprised you had such a bad experience at NSG. I haven't been there since last winter, but I didn't notice the down at the heels room or the fryer smell. It *was* pretty empty when I was there, with a few patrons at the bar, but I didn't take that as a bad thing ... sounds like you were looking for more buzz last night.
I agree with Slim, it is terrible to recommend the stinker, but your time at the Grille just doesn't jive with my experience or that of other posters. I wonder what happened last night?
I'm sorry about your bad experience at NSG. I am one of the fans of this place. Mostly, because I love the huge portions, french fries and homemade potato chips. That being said, the last time I ate there was on marathon Monday in April. We had a large group and had a wonderful experience. At that time, I didn't notice any dirty dishes or torn edges. But then again, I was so hungry that I was ready to chew my arm off. I've also never noticed the fryer smell. It's been mentioned enough on the board that I'm sure it's there. Maybe I just like the smell of oil?
I am so glad you posted your experience. It always helps to hear about different views on favorites. That's what Chowhound is about. I do hope that NSG gets it's act together because they do have the touch of excellence when they set their minds to it.
I'm one of the fans too, but I don't recall the original post--you noted this was a celebration dinner? I'm wondering if there was some sort of miscommunication, b/c NSG is not a special-occasion destination, it's definitely a neighborhood place.
Jeez, how do you think I feel? I recommended the place to Autumneppy. SO sorry you had a bad experience. I've eaten there several times and have always had good food and a fine experience. Well, at least you liked the steak. :)
Next time you're going to the North End, make a post to this board and let us know. I'll buy you a drink for my penance.
What a bummer. My husband and I love the food at NSG, but we have both always said that we would never take guests there, for all the reasons you mentioned. We never wear clothes we care about when we go there, because we always come out reeking of fried food. It's really a shame, because I've always thought that the food there was great, and we've received good service (unlike your experience, which was unfortunate). But there is something to be said for atmosphere - there are never more than 2 tables full when we go in there on a Saturday night. I don't know how they stay open.
I'm always surprised when people don't notice that fry smell, it's such a bummer. But I am surprised by the OP's comment that about things being dirty and not liking the look. I think it's a cute little bar/bistro and love the big booths. Never noticed anything ripped and portions were more than ample, but I haven't been there since March. I don't know why they can't/won't fix that ventilation problem but it definitely detracts from the experience.
Wow - that's too bad. Like Joanie, I'm suprised you immediately thought it wasn't nice looking - we think it's cute and cozy. But then I've never noticed it being dirty and worn - in fact, the place was renovated less than two years ago. But I have to say, while it's one of our favorites - and we've brought friends with us who also enjoyed it - I don't think it fits your original description as a "fun place" for a celebratory dinner as it's usually quiet. And it seems like all the things we like about the place - the friendliness of the chef, the creativity and care in the menu, and the generous portions weren't there the night you went, which is unusual; in fact, I think this is the first post I've read with complaints about the food. I actually mentioned your post to my husband, and he said half-jokingly "are they sure they went to North Street?". Tho, if it makes you feel any better, while we've had good meals at the M&S in the Park Plaza, after our last dinner at the one in Faneuil Hall, we've never gone back.
I had a nice brunch last Sunday at NSG. I had eggs benedict and Ms9 had an omelette. Both were very good and they were kind enough to sub the french fries for the home fries. Large mound of dilicious fries. Short wait on a Sum AM. I did notice the "fried oil" smell. They seem to have a ventilation problem.