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Contrarian views on "popular" restaurants?

Can you name a restaurant or 2 that you've experienced but left wondering what all the hullabalu was all about? I'm talking about consensus favorites by CH'ers in and around Boston. I'll start by mentioning Sabur. Been there several times, had different dishes and have left wondering why so many people rave about it.

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  1. Great topic! I can think of one in particular that got too much hype when they opened up:

    --All Star Sandwich Bar, Cambridge (decent food, but the hype was way too overblown when they first opened up)

    And a couple of others that didn't quite live up to my expectations:

    -Za, Arlington
    -Cafe Bella, Randolph

    1. Funny, I really enjoy Sabur and the staff was wonderful when I was there. They even suggested a wine and said if I didn't care for it, we would just move on to the next one - no charge! The place that I couldn't understand the hype about was Potbellies in South Boston. I'll admit that they made a pretty decent sandwich, but the service was basically nonexistent and the owners weren't all that friendly. Maybe it was just a bad day, but I haven't found myself in the mood to give it a second chance.

      1. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by Grotto: a lovely room with some seriously uninspired food (some of which was just plain inedible), topped off with the strangest dessert I have ever had, a "chocolate pudding" that was in fact about 3/4 cup of ice cold ganache.

        6 Replies
        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

          Yeah, I thought one or the other of us would bring this up. Even allowing a LARGE level of benefit-of-the-doubt for the fact that many restaurants aren't at their best during Restaurant Weeks, it was a really underwhelming meal, BFP's more than mine, and made worse by utterly half-assed service. (Kicked off by our waitress pouring BFP's beer so abruptly that it foamed up out of the glass and all over the table, after which she half-heartedly tried to wipe up the mess with a starched dinner napkin - not the best tool for the job.)

          1. re: Allstonian

            I've been a couple of times to Grotto - been pretty darn pleased with everything each time - if your experience was just the one time, I hope you'd give it another shot.

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              utterly underwhelmed by grotto and went because of recs from here. ok food, but the service, although friendly, was so amateurish it was painful.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Service is definitely NOT Grotto's strongpoint. I like the food and the prices, but the service can be sloowwwwww and bad.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I LOVE LOVE LOVE Grotto- but service does stink. That said it's more of a dateplace than anything else, and if you're in a hurry on a date than more is going wrong with your night than the service!

                  I think Anthony's Pier 4 Stinks. I don't care HOW good the view is!

            2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              I absolutely agree - I went with much anticipation from reading raves here, and was completely bored by the food and disappointed by very mediocre service. I had sweet potato ravioli (why? this was New England in the late winter, and squash is perfect) that was tough, greasy, and unpleasant, and a duck entree that had about 700 things happening on the plate, all of them way too heavy and unfriendly with the other ingredients. I also really hate the space.

            3. Tuscan Grill - Got their famous pork chop. It was tough and on the cold side. I have done better at home.

              Trattoria Toscana - Again, I ordered pork chops. These were served in a pool of oil that made me feel slightly ill afterward.

              Al's State Street Cafe - Their fresh baked bread reminds me of Brown n' Serve. The sliced turkey is thick and similar to what one could get off the rack in a supermarket. Don't care for the chicken parm either, maybe if the bread was toasted it would be better.

              Anna's Taqueria - Bland, unimpressive, its popularity is a mystery to me.

              East Coast Grill - Cramped, loud, a little pricey, just ok food.

              3 Replies
              1. re: wontonton

                I agree with your comments on Anna's Taqueria. I have tried it over and over again thinking that maybe it was me. It wasn't. The food is just average. I like Bocca Grande much better. Their menu is more diverse and I especially like their tamales.

                1. re: tjd3

                  Hah, anyone who considers their visits to Anna's "tries" is not the target audience. Anna's doesn't need a diverse menu, or tamales, or fish tacos or whatever. It's a way of life that involves excellent burritos and low cost.

                  1. re: tjd3

                    Yeah. Boca Grande is so much better. Anna's is the Subway of Tacos

                2. The Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown has been a consistent bummer. I've been a 1/2 dozen times for breakfast and every single time my order has been messed up in some way. So far the omelettes are blah, hash was overcooked, and I haven't been able to get an egg over-medium. I haven't been impressed yet but I am keeping an open mind because everyone I've gone to breakfast with were really pleased with their orders.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kittychow

                    It's amazing how few people can cook an egg over medium. Which to me is nice and cooked on both sides but still with a good yolk. Usually it's hard or still over easy. But I think I actually got over medium the way I like it at Deluxe.

                    1. re: Joanie

                      I worked as a breakfast cook for six years, and am also very picky about my eggs. Over medium seems the most elusive for our Boston cooks. Often it seems the egg will sit in the hot window too long and become over hard, or the cook just thinks it's an over easy, I hate loose egg whites. A good overmedium has the whites fully cooked, and the yolk the consistency of cold maple syrup.

                  2. I went once to O'Sullivans to try their burger that I had heard so many good things about and I don't get it. It came out one very round ball with unmelted cheese on top.

                    1. Gargoyle's - Ideas are better on paper than execution - much ballyhooed poke a disappointment.

                      I can't comment on the Butcher Shop because I won't ever try a $16 hot dog (unless they plump when you cook 'em.... ;)

                      Zoe's tea-smoked duck - got it once, tasted like Camel Lights-smoked duck to me...

                      and don't hate me....Chez Henri's cuban - It's merely...ok....there, I said it. (Yet, I think the main menu food is under-rated...)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        Couldn't agree more about the Chez Henri Cubano. I've was left wondering what all the fuss could possibly be about in relation to this particularly forgetable version.

                        1. re: litchick

                          Agree - it's a delicious and generous sandwich with lots of meat that's made for wolfing down. But to me it lacks the balance between the different components that typifies an elegant cubano.

                      2. Helmand, ECG, ASSBar, O'Sullivan's, Elephant Walk, Boca Grande

                        1. Okay, probably not what you're looking for. Many of these are only Phantom Gourmet-contrarian, i.e., flouting mass-market notions of worthiness, not Chowhound-contrarian. Feel free to yawn if you've heard me grind these axes a few hundred times before:

                          * Luxury chain steakhouse outlets, which in my mind include Fleming's, Smith & Wollensky, Ruth's Chris, The Capital Grille, The Palm, Abe & Louie's, Bonfire, Morton's, and Plaza III. These get way more love, acclaim, and business than they deserve.

                          * Places I like but whose price creep has exceeded my tolerance: Mistral, Bricco, Hamersley's, Lucca, The Butcher Shop, the dining room at No. 9 Park.

                          * Places I have liked in the past but am now wary of due to consistency issues: Pho Republique, the Red Fez, OM, Woodman's.

                          * Once-great places that have slipped badly: Olives, Radius.

                          * Popular places that never impressed me: Sibling Rivalry, Union Oyster House (except for the first-floor raw bar), the Hilltop (admittedly a soft target), Kelly's Roast Beef, the Village Smokehouse, Golden Temple, Temple Bar, Grafton Street, the Border Cafe, Finale, most of Newbury Street but especially Stephanie's and Ciao Bella.

                          * Was never worth the money or hype: The Federalist, Excelsior, Blue Ginger, Top of the Hub, Great Bay.

                          * Isn't terrible, but doesn't merit the crowds: Stella. many North End Italian-Americans.

                          * Never recovered from exit of opening exec chef: Mantra.

                          * Biggest gap between positive reviews in local dailies/weeklies and my dreadful experiences: Vintage Restaurant, West Roxbury.

                          * Most disappointing declines: the pizza at Santarpio's (not as great as I remember it from years ago -- maybe it's just me that's changed, though the "BBQ" still rocks), the turkey hash at Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, the Americanization of Brown Sugar Cafe in the Fenway.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Hey, "MC"how often do you eat out- bc your OPINION is on nearly EVERY topic in the boston board. What do you do, bc it seems as though you DO nothing

                            1. re: foodie07

                              My day job has me entertaining customers several times a week, and I dine out a lot with friends and family on my own dime, as it's obviously something I love.

                              With a part-time freelance food writing gig (I write for several Boston-area pubs), some of that is now subsidized a bit; I get a modest stipend per word plus expenses. It's not unusual for me to hit two or three places in an evening, and dine out for lunch nearly every day. But the writing gig hasn't really changed my habits; I would be spending that money out of my own pocket if The Dig or others weren't paying for some of it.

                                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  Ah, if only I had the budget. I do have an extended crew of "extra mouths" who help me in my research. Most of them are like me: kind of obsessed with the food, though I think I'm the only one who posts on Chowhound. We all weigh 400 pounds.

                          2. i'm going to have to go with blue ginger. many people swear by this. granted, i've only been once but i was just not overwhelmed by my entrees. apps were fantastic but their special lobster, not so much.

                            1. Jfood with just a couple of comments:

                              Mistral - Except for the bar area, the food has ben OK, not close to the raves
                              Abe & Lous - The maitre d' finally told me on the night jfood ate there that the only steak the chef could prepare adequately was the boneless sirloin. The bone-ins were just way off on consistency. Onion soup should come where gruyere, just a jfood thing. A&L is a combo of gruyere and havarti.

                              Lots of other great choices so easy to avoid these two (carve out for the mistral bar).

                              1. I ate at Grill 23 last month and was extremely disappointed. I ordered my steak medium rare, and it arrived well done. Yes, I sent it back (and the manager came to our table and apologized), but by the time it arrived, the rest of my table was at least 1/2 way through with their respective pieces of meat. The sides were lacking as well. The "creamed" spinach appeared to be steamed leaf spinach with some milk poured on top of it (not even chopped). The potatoes were cold.
                                I'd really expected a lot more from what's billed by many as the best local steak place.

                                1. Blue Ribbon - I don't see much difference in quality or consistency than Redbones - and I've eaten at each place well over 20 times. Arlington location is a bit better than the Newton location since some items have more smoke flavor, but still not a place that I can reccommend without reluctance to those who looking for real bbq.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: LStaff

                                    Oh, don't get me started again on Blue Ribbon (see past posts on it for my complaints). Sorry folks, it just ain't good!!!!!!!!!

                                    1. re: Girl Friday

                                      A lot of foodies really love Blue Ribbon, but it's all a matter of opinion as to whether folks like it or not. Personally, I like the place a lot, but I'm not sure it would stack up well against some of the better places in other parts of the country, IMO.

                                  2. Anchovy's in the South End. I just never understood the popularity of food that tastes like it came out of the freezer section at Shaw's.

                                    The Palm steakhouse. Horridly overpriced and overrated. I'd rather eat my steak at home.

                                    Maybe the Chowhound opinion of this place is lower, but I can't understand the popularity of Vinny T's. I don't care if you do get 3 pounds of pasta in a serving...it's completely tasteless and soggy, and all the roasted garlic in the world isn't going to help.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: mwk

                                      Have to agree with mwk on Anchovies... and would like to add Cafe D. in JP. Everytime I go there I wonder if something is wrong with me, I just don't get what everyone loves about it (aside from their good fish tacos). Ditto for Giacomo's in the S. End. Bland, uninspired red-sauce italian, which I love if done well; but this isn't. Meh.

                                      1. re: Kbee

                                        I don't know anyone who ever claimed Anchovies is a great restaurant, but I'd be sad if it closed. It's a cheap neighborhoody place with passable food and a full bar.

                                        1. re: wontonton

                                          I'm with you on the neighborhood place and the bar thing -- all for it. I can appreciate that. Passable food though? At one time I would have agreed, but now I'm going to have to call it pretty much inedible. The last time I went it was literally inedible, and the server didn't give a fig. "oh....." and walked away. Not even worth the cheap prices.

                                        2. re: Kbee

                                          Wow, I went to Cafe D a few weeks back and I loved it. The calamari was very nicely done, crispy, tender, delicous

                                        3. re: mwk

                                          Well, I have to confess I love Vinny T's, but not for their pasta. Every time we've gone (it's convenient for a group of friends), I have to get the salad w/apple and gorgonzola, then I order their mussel apps as my meal...and I'm one happy camper! The broth they saute the mussels in is garlicky w/a touch of lemon and white wine...just as I like it.

                                        4. ECG. Ate there twice and was totally underwhelmed. That goes for all the BBQ places in and around Boston.

                                          Peach Farm. A private grouch since we were seriously ripped off by our server and I'll never go back. Food was just so-so.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: cheryl_h

                                            ECG- loud, noisey, crummy, so-so food. Why all the hype?? B&G - overly expensive and just ok food. Anise- not impressed. Excelsior- had terrible meal there.

                                          2. Some of these are fine, but def. not worth all the "hullabalu," some I just hate (surely I will get shredded for some of these):

                                            No. 9 Park
                                            Sibling Rivalry
                                            I'm sure there's more that just aren't coming to mind...I've probably tried to block them from my memory.

                                            Also (though I think CH opinions on these run the gamut):
                                            Carberry's (ick!)
                                            Hi-Rise Bakery

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: MB fka MB

                                              I have never understood the attraction of Helmand. The food is just okay ... service is kind of amateurish ... atmosphere is hardly inspiring. Somehow they still manage to pack 'em in.

                                              1. re: MB fka MB

                                                Amen to Carberry's -- how does it stay in business? -- yuck is the word for the coffee and the pastries!

                                                Love the baked goods at Hi-Rise, but go to Iggy's instead to miss the annoying attitude and riduculously-high prices -- Harvard Sq location is SLIGHTLY less irritating than Concord Ave.

                                                I don't get the appeal of The Daily Catch -- the North End one is OK but there so many better options at the same price point nearby -- the other locations should be closed down, especially Fan Pier!!

                                                It's good, but not worth the money by a long shot: B&G Oyster, Soiree Room at Upstairs on the Square

                                                1. re: rlh

                                                  I don't get the Daily Catch either. I've had better fried calamari at way less likely places, the other dishes we got were just okay. Not a fan of drinking out of plastic cups at "real" restaurants and no bathroom.

                                                  1. re: Joanie

                                                    Is there no bathroom at the N.End Daily Catch? Need to keep that in mind if that's the case...

                                                    1. re: Joanie

                                                      The attraction at the daily Catch for me is the squid ink pasta aglio olio and sometimes the monkfish marsala.

                                                  2. re: MB fka MB

                                                    I agree with you on Soundbites, except I thought it was outright bad - tasteless pancakes that were overcooked. I had leftovers which I brought home and had negative desire to nosh on. That never happens with me and pancakes!

                                                    But I like Alchemist - very nice vibe, good food. Drinks are sorta expensive, but they put significant amounts of alcohol in there. What was your bad experience?

                                                    1. re: windycity

                                                      The Alchemist just feels kind of soul-less to me. The drinks are great and the staff are just right for a neighborhood place. but the food? Meh. I'd rather go to Zon's or El Oriental. I mean, I've even had bad fries at Alchemist (lovingly called the Alch'y). If you've got a recommendation, I'd give it another go, but I'm in no rush.

                                                    2. re: MB fka MB

                                                      I love the coffee at the Hi-Rise, but always disappointed in their baked goods -- dense, dry, and so darned serious. Some of the prices are out of sight -- $14 for a loaf of bread?
                                                      And how does the whole area, serving coffee, breakfast, and lunch, get away with not having restrooms?
                                                      Carberry's is horrible. It's really hard to find a good bakery around here.

                                                      1. re: JMT123

                                                        14 bucks for a loaf of bread INSANE anyone that would pay that for bread should put the money towards having their head shrunk
                                                        anyone who would pay that is underworked /overpaid

                                                    3. Here's my list, which includes places I've seen one or more positives for on this board.

                                                      Not up to the hype -- varying degrees of disappointing:
                                                      Terramia and Mother Anna's in the North End.
                                                      Caffe Bella in Randolph.
                                                      Saporito's in Hull.
                                                      Scandia in Amesbury.
                                                      Grasshopper in Brighton.
                                                      Jake's Dixie Roadhouse and Tuscan Grill in Waltham.
                                                      Cuchi Cuchi, Bombay Club, Cambridge 1, Christina's Ice Cream, and Sugar and Spice in Cambridge.
                                                      Tremont 647, Union Bar & Grill (tried for brunch only), Mike's City Diner, Garden of Eden, 28 Degrees, and Seiyo in the South End.
                                                      McCormick & Schmick's and Maggiano's in Park Plaza.
                                                      Merengue in Roxbury.
                                                      Restaurante Cesaria and 224 Boston Street in Dorchester.
                                                      Rod Dee, Takeshima, and Sichuan Garden in Brookline.
                                                      Kaze in Chinatown.
                                                      Cafe Podima in Beacon Hill.
                                                      La Casa de Pedro, Stellina, and Porcini's in Watertown.
                                                      Bhindi Bazaar (tried lunch buffet only), Cafe Jaffa, and 29 Newbury in the Back Bay.
                                                      James's Gate in JP.
                                                      Red Rock Bistro in Swampscott.
                                                      New Bridge Cafe in Chelsea.
                                                      Zoe's Chinese and Neighborhood Restaurant in Somerville.
                                                      Salsa's in Southie.
                                                      Tantric in the Theatre District.
                                                      Tango in Arlington.
                                                      Masala Art in Needham.
                                                      Pretty much any high end steak chain except the two noted below.

                                                      Cibo, Nebo, and Artu in the North End.
                                                      Armani Cafe, Novel, Firefly, Top of the Hub, Wine Cellar, and Ciao Bella in the Back Bay.
                                                      La Morra (tried for brunch only) and Publick House in Brookline.
                                                      V Majestic in Allston.
                                                      Full Moon, Grafton Street, Kaya, Haveli, ZuZu, Jasper White's Summer Shack, and Punjabi Dhaba in Cambridge.
                                                      Jacob Wirth in the Theatre District.
                                                      Parker's and The Last Hurrah in the Ladder District.
                                                      House of Tibet and Rosebud Diner (except for breakfast) in Somerville.
                                                      Jimmy's Steer House in Arlington.
                                                      Bistro 712 in Norwood.
                                                      Peking Tom's in the Financial District.
                                                      Black Cow in Newburyport.
                                                      Kowloon in Saugus.
                                                      Morton's in the Back Bay.
                                                      Plaza III in Faneuil Hall.
                                                      Equator, Red Fez, Stella (tried for brunch only), and Pho Republique in the South End.
                                                      Farragut House in Southie.
                                                      News in the Leather District.
                                                      Barking Crab in the Waterfront area.
                                                      Zuma and Union Oyster House in Faneuil Hall.
                                                      Sorento's and the Tiki Room in the Fenway area.
                                                      Warren Tavern in Charlestown.
                                                      The Lyceum and Strega in Salem.
                                                      Yangtze River in Lexington.
                                                      Jamjuli in Newton.
                                                      Tantawan in Watertown.
                                                      Vin & Eddie's in Abington.
                                                      Sherborn Inn in Sherborn.
                                                      Town Spa Pizza in Stoughton.
                                                      Mount Blue in Norwell.
                                                      Ken's Steak House in Framingham.
                                                      Johnny Rocket's, Halfway Cafe, and Chick-Fil-A anywhere I've tried them.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: bachslunch

                                                        Whoa, that's an awfully long list. I guess it depends on whether we're defining "popular" as "perceived to be good." I don't think a lot of the places on your list are "perceived to be good" by Chowhounds, at least. (I'm not even sure some of them qualify as "popular.") Could you elaborate on a few?
                                                        Personally, I agree w/ you about Cuchi Cuchi. But I disagree about Merengue and Cesaria (places I hardly think of as hype-driven)--what disappointed you?

                                                        1. re: tatamagouche

                                                          I have enjoyed Cesaria the times I've been there - on weekends, they have live music and the whole vibe of the place supplements the chow, which is good, perhaps not great. I feel like it is a great place for a large party of friends.

                                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                                            [Reposted with a moderator requested edit]

                                                            Thanks for asking, Tatamagouche. You'll find my list is long because 've been to a lot of restaurants. There are tons of places I like, too, and I've tried to be generous in sharing not just my dislikes but also my likes over the past several months on this board. Hopefully, I'm succeeding at that! And yes, you're right that I'm interpreting "popular" as "perceived to be good, both on this board and in some other venues."

                                                            To answer your specific examples: when I went to Merengue on a Sunday afternoon I got the mofongo (which I found impenetrably dense, heavy, and bland) and a sampler appetizer plate which turned out to be all kinds of fried stuff (which I found thuddingly greasy and weighty). I got the lunch buffet on a weekday at Cesaria and found nothing I much liked among the various options, none of which I can unfortunately recall as it's been a while -- everything seemed like it had been sitting around a bit and I found the flavors blah. Service at both places was friendly but slow, especially at the former. It's perhaps possible that I just don't get these cuisines (both places have their boosters on this board), but I'm just not keen to try them again and would be hard-pressed to recommend them.

                                                          2. re: bachslunch

                                                            I'm shocked, but I can't find a single one of your list that I disagree with. I have a few to add though.

                                                            1. re: bachslunch

                                                              just to have a point of comparison, what places do you like?

                                                            2. Mamma Maria. Found it very presumptuous.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                Presumptuous? Could you please explain that?

                                                                1. re: Blumie

                                                                  I think it means they tell you what you're having before you actually order.

                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                    Heh. Yeah, I was there for a New Year's--granted, a mistake, but it's a shame that going out on special nights *should* be a mistake; it *should* actually be special. The price was $90 per, which I'd been told would be "somewhere between" 3 & 5 courses. Sure enough, it was 3--one of which was a choice of a salad or oysters on the 1/2 shell. And the staff, perhaps b/c of the evening, alternated between impatience and absence. The food was good but not nearly $300 good. If I'd known, we could have gone to Limoncello (see below) down the block and had much a livelier, cheaper time.

                                                                    1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                      Add me to the list of those who believe all restaurants should be avoided on New Years Eve, Valentines Day, Restaurant Week, and any other day on which they feel the need to vary from what they do every other night to profit from the occasion. Granted, a really good restaurant should be able to pull it off, but so many of them can't.

                                                                      1. re: Blumie

                                                                        I'll always end up giving in, though, b/c I don't *want* to cook on NYE. And I have to say I had a perfectly lovely time at Tremont 647 this year--for less money.

                                                                        1. re: Blumie

                                                                          This is kind of off the point, but I wonder a lot about a restaurant that should pointedly be avoided at such times. If they're looking at these times as an opportuntiy to fleece the unsuspecting public, I don't know that it's a place where I want to spend my money, period.

                                                                  2. re: tatamagouche

                                                                    It was the worst dining experience in my adult life that I can recall. (Not a special event night) I remember being giddy with anticipation to try the "crown jewel of the North End" This was a few years ago but the only passable dish was the beef carpaccio which can be acceptably prepared by a poorly trained monkey.

                                                                    Whenever folks recommend MM here I just hold my tongue because I have only been there once and while my experience may have been the exception to the rule, no amount of prodding will get me to return...well , maybe if you're paying. Zero redeeming qualities accept for the view. I'm usually the first one to give any place the benefit of the doubt but I'll gladly surrender this establishment to the North End tour-ons.

                                                                    Whew, I've been waiting to get that off my chest

                                                                  3. Sage, when it was in the North End. The food was good but not great, and the service was incredibly snotty.
                                                                    The duck at Salts, but other dishes--particularly appetizers--have been superb.
                                                                    Anna's Taqueria and Boca Grande. I think both are terrible.
                                                                    I liked Sabur the first couple of times I went, but just didn't find the food interesting enough to make me return.

                                                                    1. Could never figure out the raves about Santarpio's pizza. Mediocre at best.
                                                                      Lemoncello's was the worst Italian food I ever had.

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: catspercapita

                                                                        Really? I like Lemoncello very much. I really like the stuffed artichoke. And many of the pasta dishes. And how sweet and welcoming and family-like the staff is. What got in the way for you?

                                                                        1. re: onefineleo

                                                                          I was there on a busy night. Waitress didn't know the menu. All the dishes could have come out of a can. Owner or manager didn't care about feed back on totally bland, poorly executed food (and we were recommended by an old friend, supposedly). The feeling was "you ate, now get out", and we were not being rude at all. Worst Italian food I ever had. Would never go back even if it was free.

                                                                          1. re: onefineleo

                                                                            I'm in onefineleo's camp - we reallly like Limoncello, though it's one of the few restaurants where I usually order the same items - their signature dishes like the stuffed artichokes and stuffed Italian peppers (peppers not on the menu so be sure to ask of they have any), both family recipes, and the rosette pasta. I've also enjoyed their specials. One of the reasons we like Limoncello is actually the owner himself, who is always so generous and warm, as are the rest of his family - his sister is on the waitstaff and a brother in the kitchen.

                                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                                              I'm glad you had a good experience and perplexed how it was so wrong for my party. I am Italian and (IMHO) they served the worst Italian food ever. The servers lacked knowledge and finesse. The owner (or manager) lacked common courtesy. It was restaurant hell and the food tasted like ashes in the mouth. However, it was a few years ago so they could have improved, but , it was so bad for us I couldn't return, too much bad karma. There have been positive posts from others so maybe they learned from their mistakes.

                                                                              1. re: Rubee

                                                                                I'll chime in with another favorable Limoncello review. I've taken family there from out of town because its seems a little off the beaten path (though really isnt) and is a little more reasonably priced than a lot of other North End places. Lobster ravioli is my repeat dish. Always had friendly service, and I don't think anyone I've brought has been disappointed. I don't count on the best meal of my life, but I've found it to be consistently solid.

                                                                                1. re: skess

                                                                                  Update - I certainly respect catspercapita's experience - sounds like a terrible time - but after this thread, we decided to re-visit Limoncello Thursday night. Phew! Everything was good. It a bit less than half-full on a chilly spring night. I started with the stuffed peppers - two delicious large stuffed Italian peppers in a pool of chunky tomato sauce. I just love these. For my entree I had the shrimp appetizer special of three jumbo lightly-breaded shrimp with a pile of fresh sauteed spinach. I actually should have had my two dishes in the reverse order because the peppers were so filling. E started with the caprese special with fresh mozarella, and the veal parmigiana. The owner was friendly and welcoming as always, we had nice service from a gentleman who has been there for years and waited on us before, and ended our meal with the complimentary homemade limoncello.

                                                                                  As Skess wrote - "I don't count on the best meal of my life, but I've found it to be consistently solid". Though those stuffed peppers (and the stuffed artichokes) might be among the best I've had here. And it's also our go-to spot when we bring out of town family who want red-sauce in the North End.

                                                                          2. Great topic

                                                                            -B+G Oyster- servicable at best, at outrageous prices
                                                                            -Radius: Been there twice. Sommelier ignorant and insulting. Food not bad
                                                                            -Davios: Used to love it. Recently, hostess arrogant and food iffy. Great wine service.
                                                                            -Finale: Absolutely horrible

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: aadesmd

                                                                              I agree with Smith and Wollensky, Anchovies and Saporito's.

                                                                              I also had a bad experience at Oleana......food mediocre at best and service bordering on rude. I had been warned that I shoudn't go but I went anyway....big mistake.

                                                                              Also, LaSumma in the North End. The food was ordinary and the wine tasted as if it had been stored next to the stove.

                                                                              I am very surprised the aadesmd experienced a rude hostess and iffy food at Davio's. Next time you should ask for Eleanor, the manager. I'm sure that she would go out of her way to insure the you have a pleasant and tasty experience.

                                                                              Bachslunch, please start a thread on restaurants that you do like. I would be interested to see it and try some of them. I really like some of the ones on your "bad" list.

                                                                              1. re: aadesmd

                                                                                I am so with you on Finale, and Radius too.

                                                                                1. re: aadesmd

                                                                                  B&G... I have always had a great time there. Yes, their oysters are pricey, but I've found the service and menu to be excellent. I always wait for a seat at the bar when Tara and Jenny are working. They do a great job with wine suggestions--the wine list is quite varied--and they never rush you, no matter how busy the restaurant is. I go there every time I'm in Boston.

                                                                                2. Oleana is a lovely place with pleasant food, but in terms of technique and spicing, it doesn't offer much to me that is above and beyond Middle Eastern places like Brookline Family Turkish Restaurant, Sultan's Kitchen, Karoun or Reef Cafe.

                                                                                  I'll need to give Anise another visit, but what I had there was bland, without much of the complexity of the cuisine.

                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: limster

                                                                                    I agree wholeheartedly on Oleana, nothing special flavor-wise, sky high prices. My entree was $20 for four small pork meatballs in a runny green sauce. My DC had salmon - which was overcooked and had bland sides (Red Lobster does better).

                                                                                    I would add B&G, if you are going to charge me $24 for fried clams, there should be more than just strips there. Deplorable.

                                                                                    1. re: Mr.Og

                                                                                      $24 for clam strips? That's way too much to charge for just the strips, IMO. You can get them at the Barking Crab for $15 and the Hingham Lobster Pound (excellent place, BTW) for about the same.

                                                                                      1. re: hiddenboston

                                                                                        While you're completely correct that it's too much, B&G serves delicious whole belly clams. Yes they're expensive, but they're not strips.

                                                                                        1. re: Blumie

                                                                                          Those must be South End clams...too much time at the gym.

                                                                                          1. re: Blumie

                                                                                            Okay, well maybe two bellies on the plate.

                                                                                      2. re: limster

                                                                                        I also agree about Oleana, but keep thinking that since it's been a couple of years since I've been there, I should give them another try.

                                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                                          I think its a bit harsh to say that the flavors at oleana are no more sophisticated than brookline family turkish. they are both good, and Oleana can be hit or miss, but brookline family turkish isn't meant to be nearly as high end, and it doesn't come across that way.

                                                                                          1. re: Girl Friday

                                                                                            I wouldn't treat Brookline Family Turkish, or any of the other places I mentioned different, just because they were not aiming for a high-end experience. I was making a direct comparison about the flavours of the food itself. At the end of the day, each chowhound has to decide for him- or herself what's delicious and what's not, and we'll just have to agree to disagree on Oleana.

                                                                                        2. reef cafe, allston. heard the raves here and went and got lumpy rice and cold food and indifferent service. not sure at all why this place has fans.

                                                                                          anna's tacqueria is passable but sooooooo boring. With tacos lupita so close by to the one near where i live, I don't understand why anyone would go there.

                                                                                          i'm already well on record here with my disappointment in the all star sandwich bar. letdown of the year.

                                                                                          also, anise i found to be slightly off par. i wasn't bad, but I'm still not sure why the fern dish that wasn't supposed to be spicy was way hotter than the rabbit dish which *was* supposed to be spicy. weird vibe here too, in an almost deserted restaurant where the service was still slow, I've always thought that boston was ripe for a higher end sort of chinese restaurant and thought maybe this was the one. but I guess not.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: passing thru

                                                                                            <i>anna's tacqueria is passable but sooooooo boring. With tacos lupita so close by to the one near where i live, I don't understand why anyone would go there.</i>

                                                                                            They have decent food for not terribly much money and they make it FAST.

                                                                                          2. No 9 Park

                                                                                            My husband and I went for a splurge night out and it was shockingly bad. Husband was a good sport but I was mortified that I had pushed to go there.

                                                                                            Our steaks were not cooked as ordered. Husband just ate his. I sent mine back and it returned even worse -- charred on the outside and still too raw on the inside, plus greasy. Hapless service, small sides . . . an awful meal made worse because it was a rare night out for us.

                                                                                            And to those who suggest giving a restaurant another try because maybe the place had an off night: when a restaurant charges high prices for a meal, having an off night is not acceptable and I'm certainly not wasting any more of my time and money on the place.

                                                                                            Guess I'm still in a huff over No. 9!

                                                                                            1. How could I forget Betty's Wok and Noodle, site of the worst meal I've had in Boston? The food was worse than bad, there were chunks of uncooked food, still cold from the fridge, among the mushy noodles. Service was abominable, we waited over an hour from the time we arrived for our reserved table, to being served. There was no explanation or apology, not to us or the surrounding tables all in the same situation. They LOST the order of the diners seated next to us who had been there for longer than an hour too. The waitstaff avoided our area because of the rumbles of discontent.

                                                                                              I shudder when I read posts on this board endorsing this place.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                                                While I couldn't agree with you more regarding how bad the food is at Betty's, I believe most CH endorsements attach the caveats of "fun" and/or "location." If you press anyone who recommends this place s/he will, at best, say the food is okay and that it's hardly a destination spot.

                                                                                                That said, while the "fun" caveat is subjective, I don't quite get using location as an excuse to recommend Betty's. Sure the pickings may be slim but on a strictly food/cost based opinion, I think Betty's ranks with Our House as having the worst food in the immediate neighborhood (excluding fast food chains).

                                                                                              2. Of the places listed here, I'm a huge fan of East Coast Grill, No. 9 Park and B&G Oysters. It doesn't trouble me that others disagree, although I do cringe when people accuse these places of being "bad," as opposed to just indicating that they don't care for them.

                                                                                                That said, I'll nominate this place as affirmatively "bad": Maggiano's. It's shocking to me that so many people on this board continue to recommend this place. Stay home and open a can of Chef Boyardee: you'll get the same quality at a fraction of the price.

                                                                                                While we're at it, what business does PF Chang's have being so popular? It's a block away from real Chinese food at a fraction of the price. What's their secret? Each dish is made with about two pounds of sugar, resulting in a sweet, syrupy sauce on virtually every dish.

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                  A lot of people like familiarity, which is one reason why chains are so popular. I can't stand familiarity, so I avoid chains whenever possible. ;-b

                                                                                                  Having said that, I find PF Chang's to be pretty good for a chain. I'd rather go down the road to King Fung or Hei La Moon or East Ocean City, but I don't mind the place at all (except for the crowds!).

                                                                                                  1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                    Yep, they're familiar and they're convenient. The one time I ever ate there was when BFP and I took my gravely ill mother to see a January performance at the Emerson Majestic. All of us, my mom included, would rather have gone to Chinatown, but it was bitterly cold and my mom had ZERO stamina for either the weather or even just a few blocks walk. (To be honest, circling the very large block from PF Chang's was harder on her than I'd anticipated.) So we ate at PF Chang's. It was okay, though it made me laugh to have the staff going through their rote explanations of their "exotic" offerings, and I found their weirdly pretentious tea offerings annoying.

                                                                                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                      Pomodoro (brookline)
                                                                                                      Petit Robert Bistro (the food) desserts very good.

                                                                                                  2. I know better than to have a definitive opinion of a place after one visit but after the hype, I have to say I've been disappointed at:

                                                                                                    - ECG: mussels to start were amazing but my fish entree was just okay at best. If I go again, I'll do a little homework on what I should order (though I lean towards the opinion that if I'm dropping over $20 for an entree, I shouldn't have to).

                                                                                                    - Helmand: CHers, friends, coworkers, etc have all raved about this place. My meal there was average. Perhaps my expectations were too high as my DC liked her meal? I hope to go again but it's not atop my list.

                                                                                                    - Zafferano: I don't think I've seen much but praise for it here but on the one occassion I went, my gf's ravioli was so salty I have no idea how she actually ate it. I really, really wanted to like this place as I have a soft spot for almost anything Eastie but there are many other places I'd try before a repeat there.

                                                                                                    - Sabur: my entree was so bland and boring that I don't think I'd ever go there again. FWIW, I had the roast lamb which seems like a hard thing to make bland? The lamb and veggies seemed overcooked and the "natural jus" tasted like boiled water. I can't think of a more disappointing meal. I like the room/atmosphere there; the service was very good; it had the makings of a very good night out until I had to struggle to eat this lamb.

                                                                                                    - Smith & Wollensky: I know that knocking a chain "luxury" steakhouse here is beating a dead horse but I like a good steak and am willing to give each a try for my own opinion. I had a meal bought for me there that made me feel bad to see the bill. I may not be much of a cook but I can cook a filet better at home - plus the sides were truly forgettable. Also, both of my DCs didn't feel particularly well after the meal (which is kind of ironic, as I'm the one with the messed up GI tract).

                                                                                                    - Soul Fire: not sure if this qualifies for this thread as there have been mixed reviews here (though more praise than not, I believe?). I really want to like this place but just can't. Because it's a neighborhood spot, I think I'll give them one last shot but fear I'm going to agree with BFP's latest post).

                                                                                                    1. B and G Oysters. Inexcusably horrible service every time I have been there. I won't go again. There isn't a reason to know that I've been to Neptune.

                                                                                                      Smith and Wollensky. The steak sucked. And that's the only point of going there.

                                                                                                      Ashmont Grill. Incredibly uneven food and service that do not support the prices charged. I'm surprised they are still in business.

                                                                                                      1. Bricco. Has a lota fans here and I just didn't get it. So underwhelmed.

                                                                                                        Not Your Average Joes. Not actually a board consensus going on but it is recommended here and there and the place is always packed. Worst restaurant meal ever. No, Vinny T's may have actually been worse.

                                                                                                        Editing to add: Mexico Lindo in Melrose. Yuck. Gloppy, greasy. I expected so much better from all the great reviews.

                                                                                                        1. East Coast Grill...third time wasn't a charm...still don't get it.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: tomaneng

                                                                                                            ECG and All Star Sandwich: both are just ok, not bad but ...
                                                                                                            We've tried the BBQ and fish dishes at East Coast, and several of the sandwiches at ASSB

                                                                                                          2. Sorella's in JP... I'd always heard so may great things about this greasy spoon diner, and I tried and tried to find some redeeming qualities, but to me it was always (to be blunt) disgusting. Eggs were consistently runny (and I means the whites, not the yolks), potatoes bland, and there used be a guy who would refill your coffee wearing the same food-covered, soapy rubber gloves that he used to wash the dishes -- on more than one occassion I'd see the thumb of that dirty rubber glove dunk into my coffee as he filled my cup! Don't know why I felt compelled to give it a second, third, or fourth try (maybe it was because of the vast menu of pancakes and omlettes they offered), but never again.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: lgc3

                                                                                                              Sorella's is a good call, and Sibling Rivalry has to be the worst place to get a $20+ entree in the South End.

                                                                                                              1. re: lgc3

                                                                                                                OK, I live in JP four blocks from Sorella's and have for 15 years. Made occasional visits till I was too grossed out to ever go back. Low points were sandy, sandy spinach omelette that I sent back in exchange for another spinach omlette (how naive I was) that turned out, of course, to be just as sandy. Then there was the omelette with the hair in it--hair that identifiably belonged to one of the sisters. And the food, the edible food, just wasn't good. Random unrelated ingredients piled together in omelettes or pancake batter. But there's still a line when I pass by on weekends. I assume it's because new people keep moving into town.

                                                                                                              2. Helmand: eh, what's all the fuss

                                                                                                                Tu y Yo: Man I want this place to be good, but four meals in four years have each been bad. Not just boring but actively bad. It's been about two years since I went last so maybe it's time for another try...

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: DavisSquare

                                                                                                                  Love the bar, love the bartenders, love the drinks, love the vibe...hate the food. And that's after countless times with me snatching food off everyone else's plate to sample, Miracle Worker-style. I just don't get it.

                                                                                                                  Party Favors
                                                                                                                  Every local publication worships this bakery, but I think their frosting is on par with the Shaw's in-house bakery. Is there even butter in it? Pretty design-work, but I'd rather buy from almost any other bakery.

                                                                                                                  Petit Robert Bistro
                                                                                                                  So promising, so perfect for my style of eating. Yet I've never had a good food experience there.

                                                                                                                  Upper Crust Pizza
                                                                                                                  Maybe this is generally conceded and doesn't belong here, but there are still local publications who award this horrid pizza Best Pizza year after year. The sauce is so, so sweet, the toppings are unimaginative, the cornmeal-y thing they do to the crust doesn't work with such lame toppings. Just don't get it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: wittlejosh

                                                                                                                    I gotta say that Petit Robert Bistro (south end) really sucked when I went there. I had the duck leg entree that was served with what looked and tasted like Heintz beef gravy.

                                                                                                                    clear flour bread- Never liked the smell of the bread. I get this odd odour, almost chemical in nature.

                                                                                                                    1. re: gutterman

                                                                                                                      Huh - I *love* the smell of Clear Flour's bread - I live nearby and used to do my laundry next door, and am always grateflu for the homey neighborhood smell of the bakery. And there's certainly nothing chemical in nature in their product.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Allstonian

                                                                                                                        Maybe gutterman is thinking of that combined aroma of laundry and bread. It's a very distinct aroma that I happen to love.

                                                                                                                    2. re: wittlejosh

                                                                                                                      I couldn't agree more with you re: Upper Crust. I think their pizza is absolutely terrible and don't get what all the fuss is about and why people think they are so great. I hate the sauce (it tastes so garlicy to me), it doesn't hold up well at all (I've had mushy pizza there depending on the toppings). Please, I'd rather go to Regina's or Bostone pizza to get a good slice or pie.

                                                                                                                    3. re: DavisSquare

                                                                                                                      I tried Tu y Yo about once a year and never got it either. My last time about 3 months ago I thought if I still did not like my meal that much it will be the last. I was pleasantly surprized by my fish special as I really did like it very much. Not off my list yet but even though I live around the corner I'm not running back based on my prior visits.

                                                                                                                    4. L'Espalier!!!!! I don't get it folks. The service and cheese plate were impeccable. Other than that, I've had WAY better fine dining for a bit less money.

                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: shepherdspie

                                                                                                                          third this. it was surprisingly underwhelming.

                                                                                                                          1. re: coookie

                                                                                                                            TOTALLY agree, L'Espalier is WAY overrated, when I said this in a post awhile ago slim mcb or whatever his name is was all over me.

                                                                                                                            Lot's of money does not equal lots of quality

                                                                                                                            1. re: foodie07

                                                                                                                              Funny, I don't recall that thread where I got all over you for disliking L'Espalier, foodie07. Do you post under more than one Chowhound handle?

                                                                                                                              I am a fan of L'Espalier, though of course I defend any Chowhound's right to their own opinions on any place.

                                                                                                                              I am confused, however, since you said that L'Espalier is "V. Yummy (if you can afford it, the chef's tasting)" less than two weeks ago. What happened to change your mind since this post www.chowhound.com/topics/435899?

                                                                                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                I see that you have done your due diligence! : )

                                                                                                                                No, I do not post under any name other than this. I thought that it was you, although I could have been mistaken. Perhaps your name came up bc I see it so frequently and remembered incorrectly. I apologize.

                                                                                                                                Re the change of heart- it's not really a change of heart. While the chef's tasting IS v. yummy it's not good value. As far as the a la carte menu goes I wouldn't bother spending the money.

                                                                                                                                Finally, while the chef's tasting is yummy, in general I think that the restaurant is overrated.

                                                                                                                        2. I just thought of another place that I think I'm in the distinct minority in hating...Flour Bakery.

                                                                                                                          I used to live a couple of blocks away and really wanted to love it, but every baked item I bought there was just tasteless and overpriced. The last straw was a chocolate cake I bought. A 6 inch cake was $26, and the people I served it to, didn't even want to finish it.

                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                            I haven't been that impressed by Flour either. I don't hate it or anything, but the quality felt average to me and the prices didn't reflect that.

                                                                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                                                                              Some of your "hates" are my loves: La Morra and Clear Flour for instance which are two of my favorite Brookline stops. East Coast Grill catered a wedding for us and we love them. Some I agree with: Santarpio has ordinary pizza not worth the trip, Pomodoro in the Brookline version is erratic and pricey, Oleana has always seemed overhyped to me just as Lala Rokh always seems to me to be undervalued. Unless you have to have a martini and a steak, I don't get steakhouses. Order your meat from River Rock or Peter Luger and shake a pitcher of martinis at home.

                                                                                                                              1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                                                                Sorry guys... but Mistral looks cool but that is about all i have ever been able to enjoy about that... Ms. Lynch please get your first restaurant back to where it used to be before you try to open three more (no. 9) Teatro Maybe one of the worst meals of my life. Aujourdui may be the biggest scam in the boston restaurant scene (did you know that they are now getting $72 dollars for a whole roasted giannone chicken) Maybe if the could figure out a way to make the food taste good first then they could charge that much money. and Finally Bricco in the north end, high prices to people watch while you eat bad food that is way overpriced.

                                                                                                                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                                                                  The discussion above was about Flour, not Clear Flour.

                                                                                                                                2. re: limster

                                                                                                                                  Haven't been impressed either and eventually stopped going. Helps that Bread and Butter/Canto 6 came to my neighborhood.

                                                                                                                              2. What a fantastic thread

                                                                                                                                Peach tree - the oysters were horrid. I politely ate as much as I could, and I love littlenecks in black bean sauce and oysters raw, paneed.
                                                                                                                                Upper Crust - I think they were once fantastic, and now mediocrity has set in
                                                                                                                                Town Spa - Stoughton - what changed? was great years ago and then got kinda gross
                                                                                                                                Union-getting tired
                                                                                                                                Frankin - seems off its mark lately
                                                                                                                                Teatro - like the food, but can never get a nice glass of wine? Why?
                                                                                                                                Good Life - tuna tartar was wrong - so very wrong.

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: gyppielou

                                                                                                                                  Living in JP, I don't understand why everyone raves about Zon's - absurd portions of really uninspired food, and it's amazing how slow the bar is on weekend nights.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: gyppielou

                                                                                                                                    I ordered Peach Farm's oysters in black bean sauce last year. Three of the gigentic specimens were filled with a chalky, tarry chemical-tasting black substance that made me want to gag.

                                                                                                                                  2. Reading through these posts, it struck me that hype is the knife that cuts both ways. As in, the greater the buzz, the higher the expectation. Ergo, the higher the expectation, the greater the chances for let down.

                                                                                                                                    Here's my hype = let down experience.

                                                                                                                                    # 9 Park - why all the fuss?

                                                                                                                                    Om - Another head scratcher. Very expensive for what it is.

                                                                                                                                    ECG - Good? Yes. But Hall of Fame?

                                                                                                                                    Smith & Wollensky - Not that good period, let alone the price point.

                                                                                                                                    O'Sullivans - A big ball of beef does not a great burger make.

                                                                                                                                    All Star SB - A big fat letdown. The front page treatment in the Globe set the bar so high, I don't think anybody could have cleared it.

                                                                                                                                    MuLan - It's no Taiwan Cafe.

                                                                                                                                    Coast Cafe - The fried chicken was hyped, but on my visit, it was greassssyyy!

                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                                                                                                                      I agree that Mulan is no Taiwan Cafe, but in very much a good way. TC is fine for what it is, but the cooking there is generally on the rough side; while Mulan isn't as refined as what the cuisine can offer at its very best, I find the cooking there much tighter than TC's and with more care.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                        i keep thinking about why this thread bothers me. in the end, i'm looking for what you love. maybe i won't love it, but at least i'll try it and i can decide for myself. what you hate won't mean much to me unless i try it and hate it too. I remember when William Grimes replace Ruth Reichl at the NY Times: I didn't like how often he seemed to pick restaurants with the intent of trashing them while she always seemed to give me leads to things i liked. I guess i'm a glass half full person and would rather get high on your optimism and not your pessimism. tell me what you love and i'll go and explore.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                                                                          I guess I'm with you, mostly an optimist. I mostly want to talk about what moves me, not what offends me. I think most regulars here are about what they love, not what they hate.

                                                                                                                                          If there's a problem with the Boston board -- home to a lot of passionate, mostly positive Hounds -- it's a tendency of a small group of voices to dominate, and some less-frequent posters or lurkers to be less adamant in voicing their opinions. That's the beauty of a "contrarian" thread: it seems to let these less aggressive voices to speak out, to let fly.

                                                                                                                                          In a perfect world, every local Hound would speak the truth as they see it. But even in a community that values candor above all, there are cliques and trends and clusters of opinion that seem to hold sway. I'm grateful for threads like these that seem to embolden the folks that maybe don't post here multiple times per week.

                                                                                                                                          I tend to voice my opinions here a lot, but even I get tired of my own voice sometimes. I welcome any mechanism that gets some fresh voices speaking.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                                                            Points well made MC. Part of my rationale for posting this thread was to listen to what a large segment of the Boston board feels regarding such restaurants. It's always a positive to hear from as many people as possible.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sal Monella

                                                                                                                                              vinny t's is an insult to italian food

                                                                                                                                    2. So much talk about ECG and Eastern Standard (both positive and negative) on this board that really makes me wonder (and wanting to speak up) as I have had consistently disappointing experiences at both. And I have tried to like them, honestly. Coming back to our home (Boston) of 40 years after a brief appointment in DC for two years... much has changed on the Boston culinary scene. (At the same time I have been exposed to some sublime dining experiences in DC.) There is so much good French bistro fare there, and none ever disappoints. I find Eastern Standard to be a poseur. The food is erratic, inauthentic and the service is so awkward as to significantly affect a dining experience there. As for the food - I never want to see a piece of perfectly seared, delicate foie gras unceremoniously dumped on a bland pile of lentils again! The steak frites are so-so The service is so unpaced and awkward, not to mention cloying (while iniefficient) that I want to jump up from my seat and get things done myself. Bottom line: - ES tries toooooo hard. They should focus on the food - I mean really presenting well-prepared bistro offerings in a classically correct presentation, get the front of the house to be competent and nice - not cloying, and get the timing right. This place disappoints me time after time. ECG on the other hand - outstanding food - if sometimes hastily prepared and lacking attention to careful seasoning - and thought restaurant staff is really pleasant - the bar staff is 'too cool for school' and are gaulingly aloof and off pace.

                                                                                                                                      1. My wife reminded me of one other let-down experience. Last Memorial Day weekend, we visited Oleana. Admittedly, our expectations were high. Alas, a two-course meal took two hours for completion. And the food fell short -- good, but not stellar. Considering the consistent raves Oleana gets, I'm on the fence about giving it another go.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. This thread is, I believe, a reminder that inconsistency is a huge problem in Boston restaurants. I could pick many of the places mentioned. Reef Cafe, for example, can be very good but then you can also feel like they literally don't care if you dropped dead at your table. I've had a great burger at O'Sullivan's and a really bad one - so I try not to go in if the cook who can actually cook isn't on the grill. This is the Boston reality.

                                                                                                                                          I've never had a good meal at Brasserie Jo and they've pushed bottled water on me without my even realizing the water came from a bottle until the bill came. But others like it. Do they lack taste buds or was it inconsistency?

                                                                                                                                          I was with my kid at Cask & Flagon and they served fries that were ice cold. Not warmed under a lamp but room temperature. I asked the manager how that worked, how a place that serves fries all day long could do that. The response was telling: you have to watch the kitchen. Uh, that's the problem in a nutshell, that the service standards are so low that people serve crap as food if someone isn't kicking them to do it right.

                                                                                                                                          This thread symbolizes why Boston is not yet a great eating city. It's capable of being one on given nights, at given restaurants, but the food service here is simply not consistent, even at the "best" places. My feeling is that good food is not yet a real tradition here. Restaurants in Montreal, in SF, in NYC, in New Orleans, even in Chicago, are simply more committed to producing the same quality of food experience over and over. That's a cultural commitment and, while we have some very good food, we lack the commitment to do it regularly.

                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: lergnom

                                                                                                                                            Here's another way to think about it. I don't think there are such things as great eating cities, only great restaurant or dishes. When it comes to chow, I don't believe in generalizations, and I prefer specific details. Cities don't commit to producing consistent food, kitchens and cooks do. On average, I didn't notice more consistency in the 7 years I lived in SF than in the 5 years I have here.

                                                                                                                                            Inconsistency can have may causes, sometimes that's because line cooks come and go, when another cook is at the stove or because of menu changes and hitting it when the kitchen isn't as familiar with a new dish. That happens everywhere.

                                                                                                                                            OTOH, what I do see in threads like this is the wonderful diversity of tastes and critical/independent thinking and eating in chowhounds that I've come to rely on.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                                                                                              What I like about this thread is I can see whose tastes I agree with. Those who don't like ECG aren't looking for the same things I am and that leaves more room at the bar for me. (BTW -- I always order at the bar, the apps and oysters are the only thing for me.)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: yumyum

                                                                                                                                                In addition to calibrating tastes, sometimes, there's good info to be had in thread like this. It's not rare to see posts that say "X is bad, you should go to Y instead." There's nothing better than hearing about a restaurant that beats out a restaurant one loves -- it might a lead one to an more deliciousness!

                                                                                                                                            2. re: lergnom

                                                                                                                                              I don't see inconsistency as either the overarching theme of this thread, or as an issue exclusive to Boston vs. the other cities you mentioned. I agree with limster's comment that the message to be found in this is "...the wonderful diversity of tastes and critical/independent thinking and eating in chowhounds that I've come to rely on." I lived in NYC for years and found that inconsistency riddled both fine dining and holes-in-the-wall. I have visited and revisted Montreal, SF, and Chicago and found my favorite restaurants there to hve the same issues. IMO it is not whether a place gets it right 100% of the time, but if my multiple experiences there are positive (hence going to ECG three times despite mediocre experiences there the first two).

                                                                                                                                              1. re: lergnom

                                                                                                                                                I disagree. In each city you mention, I have had bad food at overhyped places, especially Montreal. If you said Quebec City alone, I probably would have agreed. Many of that small cities restaurants are world class. And L'Espalier produced the greatest meal I've ever had. They taught me one thing - never have mashed potatoes without gruyere cheese.

                                                                                                                                              2. I'd support the contrarian comments here about Blue Ribbon (not so special -- I do like Redbones and Soul Fire, which is contrarian for Chowhound), the All Star Sandwich Bar (though they did get off to a 'slow' start, maybe too much PR at the start), Grafton Street (for food, though it's great for beers), Silvertone (it's nice enough but seems over hyped once experienced, same for the Butcher Shop), Anna's (cardboard), Woodmans (overpriced), and Peach Tree's monster oysters. I also, in contrast with this thread, very much like ECG, the Publick House, ES, Jacob Wirth, and Bartley's burgers.

                                                                                                                                                1. Two restaurants that have not lived up to their reputation are the much mentioned Finale and Hamersley's Bistro. Finale is just plain bad. I have tried it three times and never had anything good. Even if everyone said it was so-so it would not live up to its reputation. I have given up on it and won't go back.

                                                                                                                                                  Hamersley's was not bad but not what I expected it to be. (just ate there 5/19/07) The decor is beautiful but it ends there. I ate the Duck Confit which was a “signature dish.” It was the saltiest food I have had in years. My wife had salmon stuffed with coconut rice which was also too salty. Our waiter was unfriendly and could not describe the preparation of the Hanger Steak to me. I will say that the busser was fantastic which only made the waiter look worse.

                                                                                                                                                  I also want to disagree with the comments about Oleana. (ate there 5/17/07) The Spinach Falafel was one of the best dishes I have had in Boston. My wife ate halibut which was cooked perfectly. I really think this is one of the best neighborhood restaurants I have ever been to. I don't think that the decor is that special and the service is casual but polite and knowledgeable.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tjd3

                                                                                                                                                    Finale's reputation, at least on this board, largely is very bad -- with good reason IMHO. I'd rather grab a half moon and a cup of coffee at the counter at Francesca's than dessert at Finale. (Of course I could say the same for a lot of restaurants who's food I enjoy very much; Finale's food, on the other hand, is no better than their desserts.)

                                                                                                                                                  2. has anyone ever stopped to think that what is "hyped" on this board is hype??? Perhaps if we all just stepped back and realized how much we talk, and that maybe we over-hype just by being here.and talking about it day in and day out.... without Chowhounds.com, would our perspectives be different???

                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: aperitif

                                                                                                                                                      Darn good question. If you check the manifesto, it reads:

                                                                                                                                                      "Everyone has one in his life: ...the co-worker who's late from lunch because she HAD to trek to one end of town for soup and to the other for a sandwich..."

                                                                                                                                                      That's me.

                                                                                                                                                      I'm willing to bet that the people on Chowhound already over-discuss their favorite food places to ALL of their long-suffering friends, who should be thankful that this channels (and focuses) some of that energy.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: aperitif

                                                                                                                                                        That's been addressed before, I think--e.g., with the opening of All-Star Sandwich Bar. We ourselves were definitely among the gaga word-spreaders. But civilian enthusiasm, even over-enthusiasm, and PR spin are 2 different things.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: aperitif

                                                                                                                                                          Hi Hounds, sorry to interrupt the chowtalk, but for talking about the discussions on the board, we request that it be continued on the Site Talk board, so that we can focus on discussion Boston food here. Thank you so much for helping us keep the boards focused.

                                                                                                                                                        2. I still haven't had a good meal at Fugakyu :(

                                                                                                                                                          1. i agree with the notion of inconsistency being quite common... but if, for example, you go to fugakyu on a friday night and just see the crowds... well, i think it's not hard to understand why the food might slip. and i actually agree with that comment. i have always had ok food there, but not great... i actually like ginza down the street better. but fugakyu is such a pretty place!

                                                                                                                                                            as for helmand... ok, it's maybe not excellent top notch, but it's always decent and priced quite a bit below the average in the area. eating out in boston can be expensive!

                                                                                                                                                            which is why anna's is popular... a decent (if boring and not super fabulous) burrito at the MIT student center is cheaper and more filling than a rotten sandwich at the grocery store nearby.

                                                                                                                                                            ok, finale is bad (and overpriced!), but who goes there mostly? undergrads on dates... who maybe don't know any better.

                                                                                                                                                            about sabur... i like it there, but there's the ethnic connection. it's a bosnian owned place, and a lot of people i know from former yugoslavia have a weak spot for going there occasionally. although we'll be the first to tell you that it's overpriced and the few ethnic items on the menu are not the best executed. but they have a number of croatian wines on the list, and that always makes me happy! nice cocktails in general. about their lamb... i have a lot of friends who adore it, but i think it depends a lot. they roast a huge pot of stew in that kind of show oven in the center of the restaurant. when it's near the end it can get the way it was described above. some of their other dishes are good; and they always have a couple of very acceptable veggie options. but i find their staff friendly (even if you speak english) and i like their bar and their live music.

                                                                                                                                                            1. I tend to mostly agree with CHers. Aside from my previous mention of Grotto, I was very underwhelmed by both Bartley's Burgers - not bad, but not exceptional by any means - and by the Top of the Hub, which was just plain awful - food, drink, and as bad service as I've ever had anywhere. Yeah, the view is amazing - but I'll just do the Skywalk!

                                                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sophie fox

                                                                                                                                                                who the heck eats at top of the hub?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                                  Not at all impressed with Chau Chau/Chinatown, ditto ECG. I am convinced those who like it never had the real thing. Do love The Daily Catch in the North End. No self respecting CH'er wold ever think Teatro or PF Chang's is even within the outermost realm of authenticity. These 'popular' joints typify the mass-marketing of 'branded taste' with contrived atmospheres and menus to match. Gimmicky, Overpriced and underwhelming.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                                                    I am as picky and finicky as any CH'er, and I was very hesitant when I was taken to top of the hub a few months ago, but I have to admit, the food blew me away. the foie gras was perfect! Best I've had in all of boston. Really surprised. I wouldn't have wanted to pay for the meal, but I was pleasantly surprised.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Girl Friday

                                                                                                                                                                      Girl Friday, I have to agree with you. We went a while back because someone gave us a GC there, and we were both blown away by how good the food was (I, too, had the FG and loved it). Like you, we're very picky and would never have gone there on our own. But what a surprise!

                                                                                                                                                                2. Clio--silly food, wildly inconsistent service
                                                                                                                                                                  Craigie Street Bistro--weird cultish place, depressing room

                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                    I agree about the CSB room being depressing. I think basement dining can be cozy and romantic like at Grotto or Hungry I, but there's something about that place that makes me feel like I'm in a 70's basement rumpus room. Rumpus. Haven't used that word in a while.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                      I didn't like it either, Boring food, no ambiance.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. We were up from NYC this weekend for my husband's birthday and had dinner at Sorellina on Friday night. It was fine, definitely not an unpleasant experience. I fail to see what the big deal is.My husband did enjoy the kobe meatball dish and his steak. My salmon was just on the plate with some lifeless pieces of celery and mushroom. Best part of the meal was the polenta and truffled fries. That said, we go to Butcher Shop every single time we are up, and we love and many on the Boston boards think it is grossly over-hyped. So, who's to say what "amazing"?!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Eastern Standard is constantly recommended on here , but everything I've eaten there was far too salty. The drinks are fantastic, though...

                                                                                                                                                                        1. I agree with everyone who mentioned East Coast Grill. I've been there about 4 times, due to suggestions of friends. I have yet to have a decent meal.

                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: TheScribe

                                                                                                                                                                            better get new friends lol lol
                                                                                                                                                                            i would say not a bad place but does not live up to the hype

                                                                                                                                                                          2. The first restaurant that comes to mind is Dakshin in Framingham. I went there because I love Indian food and read so many raves about Dakshin on this board. I ate there, wasn't impressed at all with the food, and then less than a week later, I read the restaurant was closed due to "more than a dozen critical health violations." (Article found here: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/hom...)

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: heatherfields

                                                                                                                                                                              Dakshin is also starting to experiment with running night-club nights on weekends, possibly to compensate for revenue lost to the bad publicity. They aren't the first chow-oriented place in metro Boston to do this, but its a bit of a slippery slope once you go away from dining-oriented revenue as your primary dollar source.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Rialto was a huge disappointment. No better than any high end red-sauce free italian joint, and Marco is better at half the price. Bricco also a dissapointment. Actually, it's not in Boston, but the entire region of Tuscany was a huge dissapointment.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Question to those who hate Finale: are we talking about visits that include dinner? Because, you know, I've never seen a review of Finale that advised anything but going for dessert. My wife and I have been to Finale a few times (not recently) for dessert following a show in the Theater District and been satisfied every time. But I wouldn't risk a meal there.

                                                                                                                                                                                That said, what was wonderful the first time was merely good the second. Expectations....

                                                                                                                                                                                1. I don't understand why people like Mary Chung in Central. I think the food is lousy every time, the "dim sum" is not actually dim sum, the much-lauded suan la chow show are neither spicy nor delicious, and the service ranges from annoying to bizarre.... one time, before seating me, the older guy at the front of the restaurant pointed to the handwritten sign taped to the front counter and leered at me "You try this... Grandma Pie... veeerrry TASTY!" Then he waited a beat, as if I were to make up my mind right then and there. Uh... I wanted to flee. Another time, I ate alone while reading a magazine, and the waitress came by my table to ask me if I didn't think my duck weas delicious about ten times... over and over. When I said, somewhat exasperated "yes yes, I like my duck already", she cackled as if I'd told a very funny joke. HUH?? Get me out of here!

                                                                                                                                                                                  So yeah... Mary Chung. No thanks. I live right near there, and opt for a trip to Chinatown instead.

                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tulseluper

                                                                                                                                                                                    Sorry to hear about the bad times there. Fortunately, I haven't experienced this kind of thing before at Mary Chung's.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I've had good food and competent service when I've gone, though I'm not sure it's the equal of several Chinatown spots in general quality. To guess why some folks may like it a lot, note that it has a few unusual things in its favor:

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. it specializes in Szechuan, which isn't readily available in good quality in the area, even in Chinatown. It's one of the best I can think of locally that serves this particular cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Cambridge has several Chinese places but they mostly stink. While Mary Chung, Qingdao Garden, and Changsho are the only good ones, they're not at Chinatown level in quality. In the land of the barefoot, the guy wearing sandals is king.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: tulseluper

                                                                                                                                                                                      Hmm. I've been to Mary Chung on weekends -- in fact, I've had that same older guy at the front of the restaurant gesture towards the hand-made sign announcing "Grandma's Pie" and recommend it as "very tasty." (I tried the dish and enjoyed it.)

                                                                                                                                                                                      I've found most of the servers at MC's -- all of the waitresses -- to be friendly and attentive.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Joanie

                                                                                                                                                                                          It's a disk-shaped savory pastry. It's filled with vegetables -- but when I tried to elicit from my server (who happened to be the one MC server I don't much like, the young guy) specific information as to what the vegetables were, he was useless. Part of the filling may have been spinach. At any rate, I found the dish very good and I would recommend it.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Two nights ago I had the worst, over priced glop I have ever had at Brown Sugar on Commonwealth Ave. Absolutely horrible meal. Charred, artificially sweetened "duck" that looked (and no doubt tasted like) recycled paperback self-help books, all chopped up with some waxy red peppers, and an equally dreadful "chicken" dish that was one of the most terrible things I have ever tried so I quit after two or three bites and can't go on to describe the horrors. I want to live a few more years and felt this attainable goal might have been challenged big time had I continued with this "chicken" specialty. I felt like I was in a Buger King in terms of the service- get them in, get them out. Quick, quick....order, eat and GO seemed to be the message conveyed by the staff. We had BARELY ordered when our meals came out. I would say it took three minutes from the time we ordered to the time our steaming mass of unappealling goop arrived in front of us, accompanied by small bowls of dry brown rice. It was simply dreadful and I have no idea why people in Boston think this is a decent option for Thai food. Terrible experience in every way.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Clio, good, but not that good
                                                                                                                                                                                        upstairs on the square, so bad we left after our apps to find someplace descent to eat
                                                                                                                                                                                        no.9, had the nine course tasting, good ideas poorly execituted
                                                                                                                                                                                        the beehive, nothing good to say.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: slowfood

                                                                                                                                                                                          What apps did you order? I'd like know so I can avoid them!

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Specifics: Blue Ribbon BBQ - I gave them yet another chance a week ago, and again left with a dry taste in my mouth. When they say dry rub, they mean the rub is the food's dry. I really want to like them though...they are nearby and I love BBQ.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Tu y Yo - for a certain niche perhaps...but I think the average diner will leave mystified

                                                                                                                                                                                          Huge stabs: Most of the "best burger" or "best pizza" joints on this site. O'Sullivans has huge o-rings and fries, but the meat is so large that it's dry. Bartley's is also underwhelming. Santarpios and Reginas are also not worth much of a trip. Maybe it's the food itself...burgers and pizzas shouldn't cause more than a couple minutes' detour, perhaps?

                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: NYA Joe

                                                                                                                                                                                            "Maybe it's the food itself...burgers and pizzas shouldn't cause more than a couple minutes' detour, perhaps?" - I call Shenanigans. Whether it's foie grass, $6 or $15 burgers, $2 bahn mi, it's worth the detour (within reason, I don't mean go to New Haven every time you crave pizza) to me, regardless of the length of the trip.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Blue Ribbon's ribs were never dry the 10x times I ate them (would usually get pulled not ribs there). I seem to recall they are sauceless (or maybe I just said no sauce), but no more dry than a number of places I last tried in Memphis at restaurants during Memphis in May. Perhaps you just prefer a different style of "barbecue" (which can mean different things, animals, sauced vs not, etc to different people so long as it is slow smoked) than served at Blue Ribbon. Maybe you prefer wet ribs,. which are not my favorite.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: NYA Joe

                                                                                                                                                                                              "Maybe it's the food itself...burgers and pizzas shouldn't cause more than a couple minutes' detour, perhaps?"

                                                                                                                                                                                              Hmm, I guess my trip to Naugatuck, CT for a hot dog was a bit excessive in retropect. :-D