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East Coast Grill... so disappointing.

I've always loved East Coast Grill in the past, but hadn't been in about a year after moving to the 'burbs. Went back last night with some friends who just moved to the area. I was so embarassed that I recommended the place! One of the worst dining experiences I've had in a long time.
Seating was not a problem, food was... ok, and the service was terrible. Our waitress took our drink orders and brought drinks promptly, but after that she disappeared. We waited about half an hour for our orders to be taken and she only came by because we asked a server to find her. The restaurant wasn't even packed.
The fried oysters app came cold with a side of extremely salty broccoli rabe. The entrees were delivered to our table, minus mine. I waited and waited while digging at my mashed sweet potato side. My husband's side salad never made it to our table and his "trio" bbq platter came with only 2 items. When he asked the server, she asked him to dig around his plate to see what was on it, then determined that what was missing were the ribs (shouldn't this be obvious? the ribs were big). The bbq and my friend's blackboard special bluefish were excellent. However, her $24.50 bluefish came on only a bed of fried potatoes. My dinner was good, but not the memorable deliciousness I've had in the past. When it came time for the bill, it was given to us, but no one came back to pick it up. So we waited some more... again... for over half an hour, the whole time trying to catch a glimpse of our waitress or someone who could ring it up for us. In the end, my husband spotted her standing around the register and walked up to hand her our bill. A very disappointing night overall.
Was it just a really off night or has it gone downhill?

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  1. That really sucks! Was there for the last hell night - no problems personally, but man, it's amazing how easily bad service can turn someone off to a place. My guess is that the boss was not around on a chilly Tuesday so people were lazy, but who knows. Not to get someone in trouble, but you might want to call back and let the manager know what went down...

    1. I was there a couple weeks ago and enjoyed it as much as ever. I had the bbq trio (with all 3 items!) and a deliciously flaming "hell bone" (the Asian-style appetizer bone was also tasty). Our service was very good, but it turned out the waiter knew my dining companion from years ago, so I won't say it is fair to review on that account.

      6 Replies
      1. re: skokefoe

        My last experience there (sometime this fall, can't remember) was also disappointing, and this was after 3 or so consistent YEARS of loving it. I even wrote a letter to Chris Schlesinger and got a not-very-warm-and-fuzzy reply (i.e. I'm writing back because I have to respond, but I don't give your complaints much merit). I haven't been back. It's a bummer, though, because it was a staple of our eating out rotation prior to that.

        1. re: Weiszguy

          I'd never return to a place if I got a letter like that from the owner. People usually don't write if something didn't go terribly wrong.

          1. re: Weiszguy

            The letter was from Schlesinger, not a manager? That shocks me. I think of him as a very good guy and a highly seasoned restaurateur.

            1. re: tatamagouche

              Yes, directly from Schlesinger - he was the one I wrote to. I agree, I have never gotten anything but an incredible response when I have written - usually including an invitation to return on the house so they can set things right. I didn't think my letter was nasty (I usually take the approach of "I was disappointed, and want to know how I can be assured taking the risk to come back it worth it") but I must have struck a chord or hit him on a bad day?!

              Actually, just to entertain you all, I will tell you that I specifically wrote about the fish cake being disappointing. It was like a mass-produced fishcake, with very little flavor. Not at all what I would expect from ECG. He wrote back and said it was his concept and he thought it was good, and he enclosed a check for $9.95 or whatever the price was that night. Which I still have, because it's too funny. That one appetizer wasn't my only complaint - I wouldn't have written a letter if one app had been off in an otherwise great meal.

              1. re: Weiszguy

                How many times have you written him? You say "I have never gotten anything but an incredible response when I have writen", so maybe there's a limit, which I could understand.

                1. re: Joanie

                  I took his post to mean that he has written other owners, not Chris repeatedly.

                  Similarly, from the description he gave, and the singular nature of Chris' reply (focusing on the one dish, instead of the whole meal), I wonder if it wasn't something of a misunderstanding and that Chris took his letter to mean that he was knocking that particular dish.

        2. That's really a shame, especially since service has always been a strong point. Most of the servers have been there for years, and all of them are responsible for getting hot food to the tables quickly, even if it's not there own station. (If you sit near the kitchen, you'll see that they typically have an expediter who's sole job is to make sure that the right food is coming out of the kitchen and is being served immediately.)

          I haven't been in a while (a year or so ago I was eating there several times a month, or more). I'm due for a return visit and will be sure to report back.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Blumie

            We have no interest in going back after a 2nd lousy experience. Bad inept service with items not being brought out and the server not checking in 'is it all good - can I get anyone anything?' to see that we were missing sides and a main. The BBQ was only so-so, dry and chewy with the same flavorings used for everything. By the 7th or 8th bite is was like 'is this it?' Too bad CS has become so indifferent to hear the voices of his customers; I too thought the fish cakes were low-end and sad to read that it's not the food, it's really you that doesn't get it. I think they need a good shake-up over there to return it to the stature it once so deserved. I commented to the person seating us that the last time we were here, it must have been an 'off' night so I was looking forward to the real ECG experience. The place is NOT on my list.

            1. re: ipsofatso

              I not only agree with not only going back after a 2nd poor experience, I think one lousy experience is reason enough not to go back. When people tell me perhaps a restaurant in which we were disappointed had an off night and to give it another chance, I am incredulous. Eating out is a treat and something for which we budget. Why would I roll the dice on the chance of having another poor meal? I'd rather go elsewhere.

            2. re: Blumie

              My table was at the window on the side of the kitchen, so I could see what was going on. Didn't look like there was an "expediter" around. We were constantly trying to catch the attention of anyone who could help us, but no one even looked over. I don't think I'll be back any time soon.

            3. I'd been a little down on ECG for a few years for kitchen consistency issues, but I've had much better luck over the past couple, with a string of very good meals featuring terrific grilled seafood, BBQ, and raw bar. Service is always a little hectic; I can't remember a visit on any night of the week where the place wasn't jamming. For some reason, the Lava Lounge seems a tad more sedate.

              Hell Night has gotten kind of over-the-top kitschy, but the food is generally wonderful, if you like that sort of chilli-eating swordfight (I top out at about five or six bombs, myself.)

              My big complaint is that the bartending seems to have taken a big dip: they used to serve my favorite Margarita in town, but what I've been served on my last couple of tries has been awful, tasting only of oversweetened lime juice, and the other drinks I've ordered have been middling at best, so I've kind of given up on them as a cocktail spot. Ole Grill around the corner actually serves better drinks. If you can bear the music volume at Bukowski (which I actually like on occasion), they shake up a surprisingly good cocktail, too, considering most patrons seem to be there to drink beer.

              1. Sorry to hear about the experience. Perhaps it was one of those random circumstances where things just fell apart. We had one night of about 10 like that at Neptune last year, and then they redeemed themselves. Took us a while to go back though.

                We too were at ECG last night and had the opposite experience. Arrived early - pre-6pm - with a 1-yr old for his bday. You might have seen the smiling bday boy who was waving to everyone.

                Sat us at a good table that could fit a high-chair next to us. And were helpful in getting some sweet potatoes and cornbread going for the bday boy before our food arrived.

                For the parents...

                - Crispy hell bone - as crispy as advertised, and with the inner beauty I expected. Nice change for me from the wetbone (still on the menu).
                - oysters - hard to mess up island creeks
                - tuna tacos - one of our all time faves. not hard to mess up - perfectly cooked tuna and that great brown mystery salsa. Anyone know what's in it?
                - pulled pork sand - little more dry than usual
                - whole trout "blackboard special" with hoisin sausage and some slaw. I walked out saying "boy do they know how to cook fish." One of those dishes that reminds me what ECG does at their best - perfectly cooked seafood, bold flavors, unique combinations. Perfectly cooked and moist and (thank you) deboned, with the fish and the meat left perfectly intact.

                Service was attentive and friendly (have had this server several times) and made sure we had full water, and were responsive with an early check to get out quickly in case of baby meltdown.

                Schlesinger was in the house last night.

                Our kiddo loved the sweets and the friendly staff. He won't be joining us for hell night in Jan. though.

                Still one of our favorites in the area.

                2 Replies
                1. re: edgrimley

                  The tuna tacos are my favorite thing there ... the "mystery salsa" you refer to has tamarind for sure and I've tried to deconstruct it for home use. But no dice -- it's tangy, sweet, sour, but no heat. What I love is the contrast of the seared tuna, crispy jicama matchsticks, creamy avocado chunks, the tamarind drizzle and a squeeze of lime.

                  I still love ECG too.

                  1. re: yumyum

                    I think the tamarind salsa might have some pureed shallots or red onions in there. Kind of like a japanese vinaigrette.

                2. ECG has (sadly) become a place that we will only go to for oysters and drinks so it saddens me further to read that the bartending has slipped. i've never been a fan of their BBQ.
                  i've done 2 Hell Nights and enjoyed them immensely but paid the price during the night/next day.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: ScubaSteve

                    East Coast Grill is still consistently one of the best places in the Boston/Cambridge area. I have been going there for years and the only thing you can knock the place for is sometimes the service isnt 100% spot on, but it is always pleasant. and they could use some updated lighting its a little dated........ The food is always fresh and very very good.

                    Most letter writers are looking for a free meal. and are usually wrapped way to tight anyway.

                    Boston is lacking in these types of places (casual but with truly good food)

                    1. re: jvish

                      if you say so.... I refuse to go back to the place after one horrible dinner there. 4 out of 4 of us did not like our meals. overpriced and bad. Seems to me most people rave about the place for 1) hell night 2) drinks 3) raw oysters 4) couple of the apps. tacos/bones.... Very rare i hear anyone raving about the entrees/dinners. We found them overpriced, not very tasty, and small portions. Combined with poor service and a very tight/loud room.. Too many decent places to try and places i have never been. Perhaps once i have been to every other restaurant in MA and im ready to start the rotation again, i will.

                      Also seems to me some feel its about the "scene" and that somehow its "hip" or "cool" to be there... For me its about food. Its either good or bad.

                      1. re: hargau

                        In general, I think the ECG is way too overpriced for what you're getting. And really, I never thought about it this way, but your description "hell night, raw oysters, the apps" is pretty spot on, as it is the entree selection for the most part that I find to be really overpriced (most of the other stuff is 'somewhat overpriced'). I like the atmosphere and I do really like the food, but the prices aren't worth the atmo/food to me 99% of the time (exceptions being a once in a while brunch or dinner and hell night).

                        1. re: hargau

                          Small portions? That is REALLY surprising. I have never considered the portions there "small."

                          "Not very tasty" or "bad"? Again, a little confused because not very tasty to me means bland, which I cannot imagine would be the case here. If anything, they tend to be TOO heavy-handed. (In fact, I have recently been a little disappointed because some food has been a little clumsy for overseasoning - too much salt - etc.)

                          I think the prices have gone up, but nothing not really out of step with other places of its ilk in the Cambridge area. It is also a very loud and tight room, no argument there.

                          While anyone that knows me knows I am far from "hip" or "cool," ;) I do like the vibe there, that you can get outstanding chow in a very informal and fun atmosphere. (I prefer it over Central Kitchen in that regard, with its dark, vaguely-Sprockets mood - but don't get me wrong - CK is fine in its own right.) Granted, I would not take certain folks to ECG - my folks would not appreciate it and some friends aren't as enthusiastic as I am.

                          In terms of jgg13's deleted note below about never ordering fish there, and hargau's, I think the best items are their fish specials - always seem to get that, instead of the regular menu items, and generally find them to be good eating. I had a rockfish thing a few months ago that was out of this world.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            I agree. ECG has always been my go-to-place for seafood. Never had a bad meal there in MANY outings.

                            1. re: Bob Dobalina

                              Its been a while since i was there but i got a shrimp dinner that had 4-5 shrimp that were cooked to the consistancy of elastic bands for $26-27. My brother got a grilled fish meal that was about a 4-5oz pc of fish on a plate with a couple beans or something for $25-26. My dad got a bbq combo that was unimpressive, dry, and small. Forget what my mom got. We all really wanted to love it.

                              If everyone liked the same places/things then i guess we would only have 1 restaurant in the world. :)

                              edit: I now recall that i did like the plastic monkey hanging by its tail off my lemonade glass so there is that.

                              1. re: hargau

                                I am wondering if all this was on one night, then maybe the regular kitchen staff was not on? Things happen. Restaurants do have off nights, but if all four dishes were stinkers, combined with the accolades the place usually garners, makes me wonder if you just hit it on a bad night. Then again, like you said above, it might just be that the place doesn't resonate with you like it does with others.

                                1. re: hargau

                                  NO worries, man - I don't doubt you for a minute - same thing for the OP - I have also had occasions when everything was not quite up to par as in the past.

                                  Just that your experience is more than 2 standard deviations outside mine so it's definitely a headscratcher! :)

                                2. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  The bit about the seafood - I don't really like seafood, so ...

                                  I like the place overall, I find them to be friendly and I've never *not* liked something (and usually quite liked what I ate). I've just felt for a while that in terms of price/performance (to me) it wasn't worth going regularly.

                          2. i'm gonna be one of the pro-ECG folks. In fact, as I think about it, I've not had a bad meal there... I've loved the fish, I've loved the BBQ, I've loved the "hell bone" (which is no joke, holy moly), the service has always been fine for me. I've had dates, casual dinners w pals, take-the-family-out meals, even dined alone there a couple of times... all have been just fine. But the best thing I've had there, amazingly, was the grilled veggie plate! I went with a vegetarian friend, and the platter he was served was terrific.

                            My minor complaints: the beer selection could use some improvement, especially since they serve BBQ. And yeah, the cocktails aren't very good. But hell, I'm a former Southerner, so I tend to order iced tea with my ribs, and they sure do that just fine.