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Pleasantly surprised at Orleans, Davis Square Somerville

yumyum Dec 16, 2006 04:54 PM

I planned poorly so needed to find a close restaurant for lunch where my friend and I could drink wine. I've long been an Orleans basher, mostly because the service stinks, so I was reluctant to recommend it. On the other hand, I knew they have a decent wine list and they're local so with all the proper caveats in place, I took my friend there for lunch last week.

I was really happy with our food. We shared the Maine crab cakes and an arugula salad to start. The arugula salad had cabernet poached pears, gorgonzola and candied pecans. A light tangy dressing pulled it all together. It was perfectly dressed. The crab cakes also came with a small salad with diced red onion and cucumbers. Each cake was topped with a dollop of spicy aioli. The cakes themselves had a little more filler than I like, but really not bad and definitely not your regular sysco product.

Service is still goofy. We asked the server to hold our pressed sandwich (corned beef, coleslaw and swiss cheese) back until we had eaten the salads, and we explained that we wanted to linger, have some wine, nibble the plates. Unfortunately it came out two minutes after the salad arrived and I asked her again to bring it when we were done, repeating that we were going to take our time and she could basically ignore us until we were ready. She was perfectly nice and competent in every other way, but she asked us at least three more times if we were ready for the sandwich when it was clear we were still eating the salads. I really don't think she meant to, but it felt pushy. Ultimately it was no big deal because when we were ready, a good 45 minutes later, they didn't try to fob off the original sammy, they served us a new one. And again, the sandwich was really good. Pressed panini-style and served with salad fries or slaw on the side. We got more slaw because we both love it.

Sparkling wine to start and a couple of glasses of rioja each and the lunch came in under $40 each. Not cheap, but we drank quite a lot and the quality of food was worth it. I don't think this is a destination place by any stretch of the imagination, however if you are at a loose end and need a place in the neighborhood for a nice boozy lunch Orleans will fit the bill.

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    phoebek RE: yumyum Dec 17, 2006 08:01 PM

    Orleans is a neighborhood place for us, so we go there often. I don't know why the service in the resto is so uneven, (and the few times I've been there at lunchtime, it seems even worse!) but in the evening we always sit at the bar, and Gerry and Mike take good care of us!

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      yayjenny RE: yumyum Dec 17, 2006 09:24 PM

      My boyfriend and I never thought Orleans was very good. Still, we frequented it because of its great location. Despite several disappointing meals, we kept returning, promising that each meal would be our last. We’re a bit lazy and Orleans is really close to us. However, the food there has recently improved, and we too have pleasantly surprised after our last few visits. My boyfriend’s steak frites was delicious: the steak tender and rare and the fries crisp and creamy. The arugula pizza was as tasty as always, and the many moderately wines add a lot to the restaurant's appeal.

      1. DavisSquare RE: yumyum Dec 18, 2006 05:00 PM

        Improving food at Orleans is fantastic news! It's right across the street from us, has always seemed like it should be a great place for a casual meal, and the people there are very friendly. We stopped going after too many disappointing meals; haven't been in about 18 months. We'll have to try it again on the strength your recommendations and report back.

        As an aside, this is what happened with Gargoyles, too. We stopped going after a few disappointing meals. Thanks to you all, we gave it another chance after a couple of years' hiatus, and now we're back as often as we can.

        1. gini RE: yumyum Dec 18, 2006 07:13 PM

          Glad to hear Orleans is not THAT scary. I'm there more often than I'd care to admit for nachos and mango mojitos, but I stopped ordering real food after my buffalo pizza came out sickingly sweet the last time.

          1. DavisSquare RE: yumyum Dec 21, 2006 01:38 PM

            So we took up the challenge and went for a quick dinner last night. Unfortunately, while the food has improved since we were there last, it's still mediocre at best. Excellent drinks (mango mojito got raves from across the table and I had a very nice dark and stormy) and great atmosphere started us off well. Even though it was pretty crowded last night, it was still quiet enough to converse in a normal voice; this is a huge plus! The service was lackluster with recommendations coming across as half hearted and an inexplicably long wait for them to pick up our credit card at the end.

            On to the heart of the matter, the food. A couple of appetizers: stuffed portobello with goat cheese and eggplant rollatini were competent but not exciting. I guess it's hard to go too far wrong with a lot of cheese. Once the eggplant cooled off a bit, though, its deep fried self was a little mushy. The arugula pizza was a failure, though. A big pile of greens with some sort of dressing on top of a white pizza without really anything to tie the two together. Contrast this with the same dish at Cambridge One, for example, which is much more coherent, perhaps because the arugula is slightly wilted rather than just raw. In addition, the Orleans pizza crust was tough and chewy in a bad way, and the whole was rather greasy. Dessert was a totally uninspired bread pudding; it wasn't bad, but I really need more to make dessert worthwhile.

            In sum, we'd go back for drinks and maybe a light appetizer, but certainly not for dinner. Which is a shame since the place is so close.

            1. finlero RE: yumyum Dec 21, 2006 02:22 PM

              I can throw a rock from my window and hit Orleans. Sometimes I want to throw it harder than others.

              Ironically, the only truly bad thing I've ever had there was the seemingly un-screw-up-able margherita pizza. I agree with DavisSquare's comments about the dough being unpleasantly tough and chewy. Strikingly bad tomato sauce and low quality mozzarella. Tasted like a bad frozen pizza.

              I've had [at least nominally] better experiences with their basic fish and pasta dishes. I recently had an innocuous grilled swordfish with veggie and rice; it was the sort of uninspired creation I could have easily cooked at home, but it was certainly at a level I'd accept from a neighborhood restaurant. Similarly, their spaghetti carbonara won't be winning any competitions, but it won't get a special award for awfulness either.

              I also agree with the above comments on drinks: good cocktails, acceptable wine.

              3 Replies
              1. re: finlero
                Joanie RE: finlero Dec 21, 2006 04:47 PM

                They had a decent burger the time I was there.

                1. re: Joanie
                  finlero RE: Joanie Dec 21, 2006 09:24 PM

                  Have you had the burger at Johnny D's? Preference?

                  1. re: finlero
                    Joanie RE: finlero Dec 22, 2006 12:37 PM

                    I haven't eaten at Johnny D's in ages so can't compare.

                    But I did have a burger at Temple Bar last nite and that was a juicy hunk o meat. It was probably 8-10 oz, I asked for medium but it was more med. rare. Good fries, giant pickle, $10. Friend's scallop dish looked amazing w/ giant scallops (~$23). People enjoyed mussels, a basic pasta dish, a couple other burgers. Food seemed a little slow coming out but no complaints.

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