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Apr 12, 2007 07:16 AM

"Hot Tomatoes" not so Hot

The people who own Carmen in the North End have recently opened a casual dining place on North St. where Di Mio used to be. This place was such a disappointment. My friend and I each ordered salads. We specifically chose this place because of the 10 specialty salads on the menu - we thought we were in for a real treat but we were wrong.

1) I ordered the equivalent of a tuna Nicoise salad called the "Jezebel". After leaving to place our order the waitress then came back to tell me they didn't have any fresh tuna. She suggested I have tuna salad instead. We all know that's not even close to fresh tuna.

2) I chose a completely different salad topped with what the menu referred to as "Grilled Jumbo Shrimp". What I received was the equivalent of cold shrimp scampi on top of my salad and the shrimp were all chopped up into bite size pieces. They were oily, garlicky and cold. I'm guessing this was what they use to top the shrimp pizza named "Bubba Gump Pie". These shrimp were not grilled or jumbo as advertised.

3) My friend had a salad topped with Grilled Chicken breast that was also chopped into the smallest pieces imaginable. In fact, everything was chopped up so ridiculously small - even the pieces of mozzarella, avocado and bacon.

4) There was hardly any dressing on the salads and the dressing that was there was completely bland. We each had to ask for an extra side of dressing.

5) The lettuce referred to as "mixed greens" on the menu was mostly iceberg. It was pale and browning on the edges. Yes, there were a few pieces of actual dark mixed greens in there and too much raddichio to be called mixed “Greens”.

6) The avocado on the salad was either frozen or so unripe that it was almost inedible. My friend bit into a piece and literally said "Oh my God, what was that?" She had to actually remove it from her mouth because it was so tough she could not chew it.

7) The presentation of the salads was not pretty and the ingredients did not taste fresh. Sadly, there was truly nothing enjoyable about these salads. We ate them because we were hungry but the whole time I kept apologizing to her for picking the restaurant.

The bill for 2 salads and 2 glasses of wine at this very casual place was $42 (with tip it came to $50). The place is overpriced for the quality of what they serve.
Here are a few other examples from the menu:
- the basic cheese pizza starts at $15.75
- pulled pork sandwich for $11.50
- salad with grilled chicken for $11.50
- Two hot dogs with chips & pickle for $8.50
- Roast beef sandwich $9.50

On the plus side, our server did bring us two complimentary chocolate chip cookies with the bill. They were a little hard but actually quite good. The best thing I ate at Hot Tomatoes all night actually. These positive things did not go unnoticed:
- The place is nicely decorated (lots of red)
- Great menu (large variety of pizza, sandwiches, salads soups) Perhaps too much variety. I’d say, stick to fewer items and make them better.
- They serve beer & wine and they pour a large glass of wine (although it was an $8 glass which is steep for a place like this)
- The pizza that I saw on other peoples tables looked really good
- Our server was friendly

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  1. $16 for a cheese pizza and pulled pork for almost $12. That might be a rip off in some people's book. Does the sandwich at least come with sides?

    1. I got the Jezebel salad the other day and I can promise you that you weren't missing much. The tuna (which was "fresh" tuna) actually smelled a little off and was a little darker than what I would want with fresh tuna. The lettuce was just as you described - brown and wilty - some pieces even had that slimy stuff on it that lettuce gets when it rots against another piece. There were big hunks of potato, a hard boiled egg and some olives. It was expensive (as i recollect close to $12), the portion was really small and you are right the creamy garlic dressing was VERY bland. I had to salt the whole salad just to get any flavor. I was REALLY disappointed. Their pizzas do look good so I will try one but I tend to agree that they might be better off with fewer items with more high quality. I expected a lot more from the owners of the highly touted Carmen.

      2 Replies
      1. re: lypp

        I realize this post was put up here a while ago but, as this is one of my favorite haunts in the North End, I hate seeing out here for the world to read. I have lived in the NE for 5+ years now and have been waiting for a restaurant like HT to come along. Everything in the NE that is casual is mostly just hot subs, calzones and pasta. Hot Tomatoes offers that - and really tasty ones of those, I might add - and everything else you'd want: rubens, BLTs, sausage and broccolli rabe, etc. But what I always come back to are the salads. I get the My Little Chick-A-Dee (the one the original post calls out for being $11.50) probably 9 times out of 10 and it is the best value - tons of mixed greens, a boatload of tasty grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, mozz, red onion. Everything you want in a good hearty salad. I chalenge Grita to give it a second chance. Everybody deserves some times to work out the kinks and I know for a fact HT has!

        1. re: VivaLV55

          My first visit to Hot Tomatos was this past weekend. It's a nice little spot with friendly staff. The pizza was good but not necessarily my favorite in the North End. I went with the sausage and hot cherry peppers. Everything tasted really fresh but the crust seemed to be lacking. At first glance $18 for a pizza seems high but it's also an 18 inch pizza so, I guess I wouldn't complain. I did notice someone with the 3 bean salad which I thought looked delicious, and I plan to go back and try one of the sandwiches. This place also seems to be heavily frequented by people in the neighborhood so it must have something going for it.

      2. Intriguing. I have not heard of many people going to the North End for the salads. Seems a little like going to Maine and ordering chicken. Next time, order a pizza. They do a nice job. I have to admit...I have always do take out (and never a salad). But if I had to order a pizza in the North End, I would probably go there before a lot of other places in the area.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kcs1050

          As a north end resident I definitely put HT in the category of places designed for my wife and I more than as a destination for people coming into the neighborhood. Places like this, Billy Tse's, the Waterfont, and others are there so that when we don't want to cook we aren't foreced to stand in line for an hour, travel to another neighborhood, or eat pasta/pizza.

        2. You know this post is almost bizarre. Please keep in mind that Hot Tomatoes is a 'good value, good food' kind of place. It is warm, hearty, but nothing fancy. You can get sandwiches for under 10 dollars, and you can get great pizzas without waiting in line. In other words, it is not trying to compete with the major restaurants on Hanover and Salem. I have gone there a few times, a couple sandwiches and a couple pizzas, and it has been great.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Tsantiago

            Agreed. I've become a big fan of this place...meatball sub or anything with Bolognese sauce is fantastic.

            1. re: 9lives

              I love Hot Tomatoes. My favorite is the Jersey Exit 24 with ham, turkey, cole slaw and russian dressing. Very hearty and filling sandwich. And the pizzas are excellent too.

              1. re: 9lives

                I just got the Bolognese "sloppy joe" for lunch. Holy cow was it good. And huge, definitely enough for two meals (three meals for Joanie). Saving the rest for dinner.

                edit: I should add this "sloppy joe" is served on ciabatta bread and has fontina cheese, so it's not really sloppy joe-like at all. Except that it can get messy. It comes with a side, also. I got pasta salad, which was decent.

                1. re: Alcachofa

                  that one is my favorite as well. I initially balked at the $9.95 price tag but once I gave in and tried it, it was worth it. Plus they offer you a small side of slaw or pasta salad which is unecessary but quite tasty. I am ashamed to admit that depite the fact that it is certainly enough for two meals, I somehow usually manage to finish it in one sitting - but for dinner - not for lunch. (lame qualifier - I know).

                  1. re: Northender

                    I have "The Big Ragu" (essentially a really good Italian) at least once a week. That "Sloppy Joey" is a damn fine mess of a meal, too.

                  2. re: Alcachofa

                    "Holy cow was it good. And huge, definitely enough for two meals (three meals for Joanie)"

                    Ha ha, I was just telling a friend this is my claim to fame on CH. You'll be glad to know I ate every bit of all 3 courses at Meritage Tues. nite (plus 3 pieces of bread).