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Why NOT Cameron Mitchell?

I've noticed that a few posters are vehemently opposed to Cameron Mitchell's restaurants.

I'm very curious to know why you feel the way you do.

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  1. Excellent question! I've noticed the same thing (people very anti-Cameron Mitchell restaurants) and never really understood why. It is by FAR the best place to get good fish for a reasonable price in the greater Cincinnati area (IMHO).

    1. i have eaten at four or five different cameron's places in columbus and they were all pretty good. we now have three fishmarkets in detroit (birmingham, rochester hills, and livonia) and they enjoy a pretty strong reputation. i had a piece of yellowfin there last week for lunch that was fine. he also opened a cameron's steakhouse in birmingham a couple of years ago. been there a few times and it is very good.

      1. Cameron Mitchell restaurants are, by and large, pretty good. Quality is quite high, and service is generally very efficient. However, they're also becoming totally repetitive. I've been to nearly all of them (except for Molly Woo's, which I won't visit on general principle), and there's a certain sameness to the food. The tuna appetizer, for example, is always good. But it's the same seared tuna with wasabi that fifty other restaurants serve. The same is true for the steak.

        The restaurants in Linworth and Miranova are both quite good, but there's really excellent food to be had for the same price at many other places in town (Alana's, Rigsby's, Seven Stars at the Worthington Inn, L'Antibes, Kihachi, etc.).

        1. I've been Mitchells Fishmarket and Camerons Steakhouse in Birmingham, MI many times. I've consistently found them both to be very good. Camerons has excellent filets, NY strip steaks, and lobster tails, and I love the smoked salmon appetizer with salmon mouse and the spicy pan fried calamari steak appetizer. At Mitchells, my favorites are the Shanghai sea bass and the ginger crusted salmon. And I like that you can get whatever you want however you want it. I think these are very good restaurants. But too each his or her own, certainly.

          1. I live in pittsburgh and we have a Mitchell's fish market as well. I just don't think it's good compared to some of the local fish restaurants. I thought it was overpriced and boring in terms of choices. Not that pittsburgh is a culinary genius land...but i just wasn't impressed?

            1. I think a bit of history may account for some of the anti-Cameron sentiment. When he first started, he would travel to restaurants in other cities to find places to basically copy. As he expanded, he would send out teams to do this. Early on this was the tactic, which made some folks resentful. I think as time has gone by he has come into his own, and is now developing his own style. Overall, everything is consistently good, with interiors high in visual appeal. I may be wrong, but this was the overall feeling at the time.

              1. I am anti-Cameron Mitchell restaurants in the same way I am anti-Applebee's or anti-Olive Garden. Cameron Mitchell restaurants are corporate-owned, and I would rather give my money to an independent restaurant. The menus and decor are decided on by focus groups, and I would rather go to a place where a chef is willing to take risks. I find Cameron Mitchell restaurants soulless and overrated. It annoys me to no end when I hear someone who considers a Cameron Mitchell restauarant as the epitome of fine dining.

                Check out the official Cameron Mitchell bio:


                He talks about his goals (to build a corporate empire and not make great food), awards (for entrepreneurship and not cooking), and how he bought a spot on the Culinary Institute of America's Board of Trustees.

                Does this sound like a chef I want to support? Does he sound like a chef that should be mentioned to a fellow chowhound? I'd much rather go to Alana's, L'Antibes, or even Handke's. Chef Handke can be a jerk, but at least I know his passion is the food, not winning Businessman of the Year.

                I have eaten several of the restaurants and I have never been impressed. I thought Molly Woo's was awful and borderline offensive. Cap City is ok, but I can name a dozen restaurants in the price range that are better. Martini's is to dining as to Abercrombie and Fitch is to clothing. The Ocean Club (I went before the recent remodel) was average.

                On the plus side, Cameron Mitchell restaurants are better than those of The 55 Restaurant Group where Cameron Mitchell once worked. I don't miss those places. He does a decent job of "borrowing" ideas.

                I think when recommending a Cameron Mitchell restaurant to a chowhound it is important to state that it is a corporate resataurant as that is important to many chowhounds.

                My question back to you is what is the difference between Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, etc.) and Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and would you recommend Red Lobster to a chowhound?

                2 Replies
                1. re: kura kura

                  ditto, the big point is that he does not care a wit about food, its just a way to make money. his places are the local PANERAs. basically the complete opposite of a true 'hound pick.

                  alas 'tis true, some people like that.

                  1. re: kura kura

                    My original post never indicated that I recommend Cameron Mitchell restaurants.

                    I simply wanted to hear why some go out of their way to say how much they don't like/approve of Cameron Mitchell.

                    Not being a native of the territory which his restaurants cover, I know nothing about the history of how they came to be.

                  2. I think the service and food at the CM restaurants are usually fine. I try not to recommend them because I'd rather go to independent places; however, I do like Cameron's (his original) and Mitchell's Steakhouse. I think CM restaurants are very good for a chain and they are pretty dependable. I usually only go to them if I've been given a gift certificate, but I have not had a bad meal at any of them. I just prefer the local places because I think they are more creative and try a little harder.

                    1. Interesting replies.

                      Since it was brought up, I'd like to add for the record that I get a lot of enjoyment out of finding small, locally owned, one of a kind places to eat.

                      1. I like Mitchell's. The only one I have eaten in is in Carmel, IN on the north-side of Indianapolis. Indiana is not known for much fish cookery, more like how would you like your salmon, which I will not touch. So to be offered so many fish varieties is a pleasure and to have it so fresh and well perpared is a treat. There are not any mom and pop fish restaurants around here that I know of and if there were, I'd tend to be suspicious of the freshness.

                        1. I eat where the food is good. I've always had good food at Mitchell's - there aren't many other good options for fish in suburban Cincinnati. If a chain restaurant does something better than locally owned businesses, I'll go to the chain. That is definitely the case w/many chinese restaurants - I haven't found a locally owned one where I can stomach the quality of meat, so I go to PF Changs.

                          Who cares if decisions are decided by a focus group? Aren't restaurants supposed to want to succeed? Regardless of whether a restaurant is locally owned or a chain, it is in their best interest to do market research. I'm sure we've all seen restaurnts w/potential fail because of a bad location (or other factors other than food that could have been avoided).

                          If you don't like the food at Mitchell's, that's fine, you don't like the food. However the post by kura kura seemed more like some kind of personal vendetta!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cincinnatilisa

                            "If a chain restaurant does something better than locally owned businesses, I'll go to the chain."

                            This is a perfectly reasonable statement. But it doesn't legitimize posting about chain restaurants on a message board that is focused on finding different and unique dining experiences. You might love one of Mitchell's restaurants. That is fine, but I'd suggest that you write about it on your myspace page and not on chowhound. And if you want to discuss it on chowhound, you can always take it to the chain board.

                          2. Oh, and no, I would not recommend Red Lobster or Olive Garden because I don't like their food (not because they are chains). To imply that every chain is the same strictly because they are chains is ridiculous.

                            The best know chef in Cincinnati (Jean Robert), who was initially the head chef at the Maisonette, went out on his own to open his own restaurant, Pigall's. Since then he now has several restaurants in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. Is he now to be frowned upon just because he chose to capitalize on his success?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: cincinnatilisa

                              interesting you bring up jean robert for comparison, because this is a clue into why to avoid a mitchell restaurant from the get go. jean robert was a fine dining chef for many many years at a high end restaurant. now with the closing of maisonette, he is out on his own. mitchell otoh was in the kitchen of bland/corporate/mediocre "55" restaurants for maybe 5yrs tops and then went right to the business end. so they came at the same thing from quite opposite directions.

                              imo its no match, you follow the soulful chef when you can. roberts still has the basic philosophy of "i love to cook and sure i'd like to make money too" (vs. the "i want to make money via building a restaurant empire" approach by mitchell). sure there may be more surprises going this route, its not the safe route, but the payoff can be so much better too. and really now, in the end who do you want to support?

                              1. re: mrnyc

                                > in the end who do you want to support?

                                The place with the best food and overall experience, with respect to what kind of meal I'm looking for on any given occasion. Sometimes this is a Cameron Mitchell restaurant, sometimes it's something else.

                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  in that case you will definately find both the best food and the best overall experience elsewhere.

                            2. If someone asks for the best place for good fish at a reasonable price in Cincinnati, Mitchell's is the best option. I'm not going to pretend like it doesn't exist because it is a chain. If you don't feel this is the appropriate place for such a discussion, perhaps you should refrain from participating in it. Some people may be looking for unique dining experiences, others just a good burger. To each his own.

                              As I am a grown with a family, I don't have a myspace page, sorry.

                              1. Like cincinnatilisa, I eat where the food is good, and I've always had good food - heck, GREAT food - at Mitchell's. The Chicago area is one of the very best in the country for foodies (THE best, IMHO). You can find great restaurants here in every category, including seafood. And I LOVE going to Mitchell's Fish Market. (In addition to the one in Glenview, a suburb north of Chicago, I have also been to the one in Lansing, Michigan, and it was equally excellent.) The fish is always fresh and the preparations are consistently delicious and often creative. Even the side dishes - notably the salads - are outstanding.

                                There are other great seafood restaurants here in the Chicago area. The simple fact is, many of the very finest seafood restaurants here are owned by firms with multiple locations, including not only Mitchell's but also Shaw's Crab House (part of Rich Melman's Lettuce Entertain You empire), McCormick and Schmick's (more than 50 restaurants), Devon Seafood Grill and Braxton Seafood Grill (their chain also includes locations in five other cities), etc. I've found the same thing in travels to Indianapolis, where their seafood restaurant The Oceanaire has eleven locations across the country; it, too, is wonderful, my favorite restaurant there (and I've tried most of the top places).

                                I don't think the corporate ownership degrades the eating experience whatsoever. Good food is simply good food. And it also provides an incentive to those individual entrepreneurs who are so inclined to expand after creating a single-location high-quality restaurant.

                                Furthermore, I think that more choices are nearly always a good thing. If you don't want to eat at a place that has more than one location, that's your choice. I prefer to try a lot of places, regardless of their ownership, and I return again and again to the places whose food and experience I enjoy the most. In my area, that's Mitchell's.

                                1. It is an over-priced, over-hyped restaurant. They can't even make a decent clam chowder. It has a thick, white gravy instead of a creamy, luscious soup/broth. If you've ever been to a coastal state and had really good seafood, you should know the difference.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: thinfine

                                    I grew up in a coastal state and I've had really good seafood, there and elsewhere. And Mitchell's has really good seafood.

                                  2. For me, I just found them over-rated and nothing special, especially for the money that you pay. I have been to Martini (very underwhelmed), Cap City Diner, the Meatloaf was good, and Molly Woo's which was entirely forgettable. The same could probably be said for lots of restaurants but I think with Cameron Mitchell, especially in the Columbus area that is such a "name" you go in expecting more than you get.

                                    1. To hate a restaurant because it's a chain is simply ridiculous, if its a good restaurant then its a good restaurant. If you choose not to like restaurants like "The Cheesecake Factory" simply because it is a chain, then I guess its your loss. As for me, CM' steak houses are not the best in cols, I dont like his Italian restaurants (martinis), but his Fish Market is my favorite seafood rest in cols.

                                      1. For my part, it's mostly because I feel like I can get the same or better quality meals at a lower price. I can't think of a time I went to, or was taken to, a Cam. Mitchell operation and said "Wow, that's good, and I can -only get this here-." About the only Cam. Mitchell place I go to with any frequency is the Rusty Bucket down by Lane Ave., and that's just because it's right next to Liberty books, so I'll go do shopping there and maybe hit the Bucket for fried pickles and a beer with a friend or two.

                                        Some things at the various chains are very good, and if a friend wants to go to one, or a client wants to do a lunch at one, I won't kick up a huge fuss, but I generally just hit other places.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: BZArcher

                                          I am with kura kura, I avoid chains like the plague. My motto is stay close to your food, think local, vote with your feet, and put your money where your mouth is. I have tried it, not on my own but when an associate took me there. Mitchells here was OK when it opened then I heard it got real bad for a while, literally smelled bad when you walked by, better recently I hear, but I have not been back. We are major chowhounds, we cook with fresh food, as much local as possible, we shop at Findlay every Sat. morning, only go to a Krogers when we have to and when we do go out we try and support local food and people. Jean Robert is a blessing to this area, we go to his places most of the time. In fact one of the reasons you can get better fish here is that he took Lukens at Findlay into his world, started buying from them and the quality and variety has gotten better, One of the reasons we don't have better local food is we don't demand it. Read Michael Pollens "Omnivores Dilemma" and break the chain.