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Oct 28, 2007 07:27 PM

Frustration in Melrose

My husband and I have lived in Melrose for seven years. We have noticed the vacuum of quality dining experiences as noted on another board, having lived in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville previously. We recently tried the new Stearns and Hill Bistro. The renovations are lovely but the food and service were mediocre at best. Clamcakes were previously frozen, over-fried and cold! Onion soup was bland and pizza - potato, artichoke, carmelized onion - was greasy and onions were days away from being carmelized. Our server disappeared on us once the order was taken. I understand that many people in the area are fond of this establishment but I was sorely disappointed.

We usually enjoy Turner's but when it's the only game in town it gets old fast. We like the Duck Walk in Wakefield for Thai and have recently discovered Rang in Stoneham for great Indian. We loved the food although the take-out timing was a little off. They quoted me 35 minutes early on a Friday night and it was closer to an hour,and I had my kids in the car!. They were very gracious and apologetic and the restaurant seemed nice inside. We are going to try this for eat in on a night when we have a baby sitter! I also recommend Sushi Corner. I recently had great take-out lunch from there. I have been a sushi fan in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline for almost 20 years.

We are eager to try the Cedar Perk "Absolutely Fabulous" week-end dining on
West Emerson which features a visiting chef from a catering company. I have heard great things about this BYOB dining experience. Any comments?

Any other local suggestions??? We are willing to travel, although we already know the Boston/Cambridge circuit. We are also interested in delivery suggestions. We have yet to find our favorite pizza delivery place, although we do like Tony C's in Wakefield.

Frustration in dinner options aside, I cannot say enough wonderful things about the almost one-year old Bohemian Coffeehouse, at the corner of Tremont and West Emerson right next to the Cedar Park commuter stop. They serve up incredible fair trade coffee, hot or iced, Christina's Ice Cream, unbelievably delicious muffins, scones, shortbread and cookie, all homemade. During a recent self-imposed coffee-fast I even enjoyed their fruit smoothies. The owner is local, vivacious, friendly and her family is often pitching in or visiting which gives the place a really nice vibe. I hate that they are closed on Mondays but I still recommend them place wholeheartedly!!! Worth a special trip.

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  1. Did I say clamcakes? I meant CRABcakes!

    8 Replies
    1. re: justjean

      I assume you've been to Mexico Lindo in melrose? I've been to the Methuen version and found the incredients very fresh. the Melrose outpost is their original, and well reviewed here.
      Sushi Island in Wakefield has gotten good CH reviews as well.
      For Chinese, you're not far from Chili Garden in Medford.
      For more upscale, I (and many others) can recommend Catch in Winchester.

      Mexico Lindo
      449 Main St, Melrose, MA 02176

      Chilli Garden
      41 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

      Sushi Island
      397 Main St, Wakefield, MA 01880

      Catch Restaurant
      34 Church St., Winchester, MA 01890

      1. re: raddoc

        I am always surprised to see Mexico Lindo recommended - I have been extremely disappointed with their food. For Mexican in the area, I love 3 Amigos in Stoneham - it's a little storefront in a shopping plaza, hidden beside Redstone Shopping Center (just past it as you head into Stoneham). Excellent food, mediocre atmosphere to eat in but ideal for takeout.

        Catch is wonderful. Excellent food, always, and lovely, personable service. The couple who own it are sweethearts and quite talented.

        Speaking of Winchester, Swanton St Diner is not bad for breakfast. Owned by the Stearns & Hill folks; I agree with you about S&H and would say Swanton St is similar for dinner, but fine for breakfast.

        1. re: ReluctantOperaChick

          While I do like Mexico Lindo- I agree that 3 Amigos is better (no liquor license though). I especially like anything with their homemade corn tortillas.

          1. re: Chris VR

            I stand by Mexico Lindo, but steadfastly avoid anything that might be considered TexMex. Don't go for the combo plates with refried beans and rice smothered in tepid cheese. Do go for the Albondigas soup and Campecha and other regional specialties.

            1. re: almansa

              Have you tried Three Amigos, almansa? Foodwise, I'd give them the edge over Mexico Lindo, but I'm happy to have both options close by.

              1. re: Chris VR

                Alright, I'll go tomorrow or Monday and report.

      2. re: justjean

        Frankly, I assume most crabcakes in the BOston area are previously frozen....fishcakes, on the other ahnd, have a chance to be authentic.

        1. re: Karl S

          Why do you assume that? Even crabcakes in Maryland are generally made with southeast Asian, pasteurized crabmeat.

      3. Pizza: The best local options are Bacci's (Saugus & Wakefield), which also makes the best calzones in the area, and Two Paisans (Malden Center). Both deliver to Melrose, but Two Paisans only in the southern half.

        Chinese: Fuloon, in Malden Center. The best stuff is the more authentic Chinese stuff on the menu. They deliver to Melrose.

        Italian: La Vita Mia in Saugus (next to J Pace & Sons, across from Bacci's) is the best Italian-American place in the immediate area. Angelo's in Stoneham and Abbondanza in Everett are the champs further out. I have a soft spot in my heart for Ristorante Molise in Wakefield (the owner is a delight), but it can be uneven. Portobello in the Greenwood section of Wakefield is at heart a Portuguese restaurant that offers Italian food to help sustain its business; many hounds love that place (get the pork and clams alentajo).

        Salemwood Cafe in Malden (Maplewood Square) is well regarded for steak tips if you ever hanker for that.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Karl S

          Bacci's is just in Saugus now. They sold the Wakefield store and now it's a "House of PIzza". The phone number is the same and they won't tell you about the change. I found out the hard way when I was delivered a pizza.

          I agree with all the Karl says, although I haven't been to Salemwood.

          I also tried out Stearns and Hill a few weeks ago and won't be in a hurry to get back. The menu is a bit schizophrenic - they can't seem to decide if they want to be a neighborhood joint, a high end restaurant or a seafood restaurant, but the prices are too high for a neighborhood joint, the food isn't good enough for an upscale restaurant (my pasta Romano came with a thoroughly unappetizing slice of provolone? barely melted across the top) and they aren't good enough to be a seafood restaurant (my oysters were inexpertly shucked, with lots of shards of shell.)

        2. As a resident of Winchester I strongly recommend Catch Restaurant for upscale dining. There are many very positive posts about Catch on this board. Sushi Island, right next door to Duck Walk in Wakefield is also excellent. If you are a sushi fan I don't think you will be disappointed. Of course Sushi Island also has all the other types of Japanese food too if you are not into sushi. For Mexican I like Tres Amigos on Rte 28 in Stoneham. It is a small, family run place in small strip mall near the Redstone Plaza. They serve very good Mexican food at very reasonable prices. They do not serve alcohol but I have seen people bring their own wine or beer a few times. It is also a great place for take out. Another spot in Stoneham that I enjoy is Feliccia's which is on Main St (Rte 28) in the center of town. They do very good traditional Italian American food.

          7 Replies
          1. re: RoyRon

            Good additions. Don't know Felicia's, but RR's other choices make me suspect it's good.

            Felicia's of the North End
            423 Main St, Stoneham, MA 02180

            375 Main St, Malden, MA 02148

            Three Amigos
            125 Main St Ste 4, Stoneham, MA 02180

            1. re: raddoc

              I can't believe Felicia's has been reincarnated in Stoneham! Back in the day, Felicia's was The go to Italian restaurant in the North End. Everyone who was anyone ended up there for Felicia Solemine's cooking. Hollywood stars and other celebrities made her restaurant a regular stop when they were in town.

              For years my father and his friends had dinner there every two weeks. In college I had an Art History professor who planned dinners at noted Boston restaurants every month or so. That's when I first went to Felicia's. A memorable evening indeed. The professor knew Felicia who left the kitchen, something she rarely did, to chat with us.

              Can't wait to visit the Stoneham location. Thanks for recommending it. I never would have known!

              1. re: Gio

                Hi Gio

                I grew up in small town in CT and now Feliccia's really reminds of the Italian places I used to go to when I was kid. It rather dark inside the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired but if you like very traditional Italian/American food they do it very well. Some of my favorites are Zuppa di Vongole (Fresh Littleneck Clams steamed in either a red or white sauce. Delicious and one order is enough for two people to split. Their version of eggplant Rollatini is very good too. This past Sunday they offered a special that was Osso Buco. This has always been a favorite dish of mine and Feliccia's version couldn't have been better. A very nice veal shank braised in tomato, wine, carrots, onions and other herbs. It was served over a risotto that was ok but nothing memorable. The excellent veal more than made up for the rissoto though. I have also had their grilled sirloin steak with roasted potatoes and although I wouldn't say that is up to the quality of one of high-end steak houses it is a very good steak and about half the price you would pay anywhere else.

                1. re: RoyRon

                  Thank you RoyRon. Now I really can't wait to go. I love Osso Buco...and hardly order it out, because the veal is never as tender as it should be. As I recall, the original Felicia's was a little lacking in decor as well, and up an extraordinarily long flight of stairs....or so it seemed.

                  It's funny, when I recall my father and his friends days after the meal they had ...speaking of each dish in hushed tones, practically worshiping each ingredient, as if there were no other restaurant in the world except Felicia's. Of course these meals were for the men only. No women allowed. I'm thinking the women wouldn't go anyway, because they always finished their meal with port and a fab cigar!

                2. re: Gio

                  I never went to the original, but my one visit to the Stoneham Felicias left me disappointed. It was over a year ago so I can't remember all the details, but not great service, and the crime of a bad-tasting red sauce will keep me away for a while.

                  1. re: Chris VR

                    Oh goodness.... perhaps I should not have my hopes too elevated. I'll probably go just to see what they do, and drill the staff about the old Felicia's..... I'm guessing they never heard about it.

                    1. re: Gio

                      To be fair, I've heard others recommend it and the friend who brought us there were big fans, but they agreed our experience that night was subpar. But you only get one chance to make a first impression on a customer, and for me, a bad red sauce is the kiss of death. I made a damn good red sauce so if I'm going to go out for it, it better knock my socks off.

            2. Try Venetian Moon in Reading Center (Italian and great martini menu) and Sato II on Rt. 28 in Stoneham (Japanese - great sushi).
              Willing to travel? Glory in Andover Center is excellent for both dinner and cocktails. Great atmosphere as well.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ashley79

                Glory is a disaster. I had terrible swordfish the one and only time I went there. Service was non-existent and the prices were a bit high.

                1. re: Frank Enbean

                  i cannot disagree more about Glory. it is my one of my fail safe spots. as you have only been once i urge you to try it again before completely writing it off. granted we mainly hang in the lounge and dine at the bar, but i cannot think there could be such a fall off in service in the dining room.

                  1. re: ScubaSteve

                    I'll also put in a positive word re Glory, though like ScubaSteve, I've only eaten at the bar. Liked the selection of appetizers I had when I went, and would go again.

              2. sushi corner in melrose is fantastic, and a great value too. While I am the first to admit it is nothing to look at, the food is really quite good - very fresh. For a while they had problems with long waits, but they have increased the staff which seems to have solved that problem. I believe they deliver as well, but not sure of the range.

                I second the recs for mexico lindo, fu loon, and chili garden. Pisa pizza in Malden is our favorite, but not sure if they deliver to melrose.

                We've been meaning to try the cedar perk deal, but have not made it yet - please report if you end up going!

                5 Replies
                1. re: lisa13

                  Pisa Pizza delivers to part of Melrose. Their cutoff is somewhere around Grove Street and Lebanon.

                  1. re: lisa13

                    we were also frustrated as new arrivals to melrose from cambridge. love the cedar perk weekends. we were very pleasantly surprised by the food and the service.

                    1. re: valatiekil

                      I've only been to Cedar Perk once, but really enjoyed it. Also like Portobellos in wakefield (greenwood section),Duck Walk in Wakefield, Pasta Market in Malden and Abondonza in Everett. Enjoy MExico Lindo in the nice weather- I prefer to sit outside as it gets really crowded inside. Don't care for the newly opened Stearns and Hill.

                      1. re: macca

                        I've been to Cedar Perk for breakfast but haven't been there yet for the weekend dinners. I agree, Stearns and Hill isn't what I want it to be.

                        1. re: Chris VR

                          Love Cedar Perk- but have one hint if plan on making a visit in the winter months- make sure you go with at leasta party of four. Their two tops are right in the doorway and there is no foyer, so the diners sitting there will get a blast of cold air every time the door opens. And the restaurant is to small to move any tables around!! But the food is great. I had the seafood fra diablo. Lots of seafood, and nice and spicy. My DC had the beef tenderloin, and it was cooked to perfection. Great staff, and a nice leisurely pace. There were only two of us on my first visit, but we thought it would be fun to come back with four of us, and a few bottles of wine.
                          I did not even post about my Stearns and hill meal- but it was odd. We sat down, had a wobbly table and asked the server if we could move. She told us we could be seated at a high top table. I asked her if the high top tables were in the bar- she looked at me and said: This is Melrose, we dont have bars. WTF???? I looked back at her and asked if the high tops were in the room where there was a man making cocktails- with liquor bottles behind him, a large table in front of him. Give me a break. Then the food- I orderd a special- grilled swordfish picatta. The food came- the sauce was ok, lots of capers, bit the swordfish was not grilled. Looked almost poached. The server came by and asked if we were enjoying the meal. I showed her the swordfish, and she said:" the menu says it is grilled" Exactly my point- then she said: Let me know if you have any other problems. Well, I did something I rarely do. She received a minimal tip. When I reported my problem with the table, and with the meal, she did nothing to try and help, as a matter of fact, she displayed an almost elitist attitude. Come on, I have no idea who or where they think they are, but they need to get over themselves. My brother and SIL have a story of there visit with their two kids. Not a kid friendly place by ANY stretch of the imagination.When they walked in, the hostess, then the server told them they did not have a kids menu. They kept repeating they did not need special menus. Then they asked if they wanted the server to talk to the chef about " what he may be able to do for kids" again, they told her they did not need a special menu. jhe server also told her people rarely brought kids to the restaurant. My SIL said it was so funny, when they came to take the orders, my nephew ordered for himself- and orderd a ceasar salad and the haddock. His little sister piped in for her order- she wanted the shrimp scampi. Again, they said the food was ok, not great, but the staff is odd. End of rant-I feel better now!