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How chowish is Ninety-Nine?

I'll tell you -- anytime I can get a turkey club sandwich made with real turkey breast and not that nasty processed Sysco crap, I am impressed. Everytime I've gone to 99, it's been really good. Moving from New York to New England we weren't familiar with the chain, but I have to say that for a good, quick meal where we can get a beer with our burger, mrbuffer and I will go there.

I'm not sure how chowish 99 is, though. Any thoughts?

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  1. Not. The. Least. Bit. Chow-ish.

    1. I haven't been in years, because even as chains go, Ninety Nine was bad. Real bad. But things can change, maybe it's better now. I seem to recall that about 10 yrs back, I thought Ruby Tuesday was decent for a chain.....I last went for a quick bite w/my family a year or so ago on the way to the airport, and it was terrible, start to finish. Have they really gone downhill, or have my tastebuds become so much pickier over the last decade? I don't know.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JaneRI

        I think pickier. At the time I married my husband, I was already a bit picky, but could be contented with a meal at a place like Ruby Tuesday. However, after 10 years of exposure to his delightful cooking, I can't stomach most of what I find in many restaurants (and not just chains). Too often, I am trying to figure out the mystery in the meat or saying to myself that he and I could make the dish so much better at home.

        We now reserve eating out solely for things we don't like or want to make at home (e.g. sushi), or for restaurants we know we will enjoy.

      2. Have to totally agree with Scuba Steve. Is the food edible--some of the time. I've had to do work related luncheons there and try to find the least offensive item. Salad and sandwiches don't come close to my definition of real and crafted food.
        Maybe you'd get more info off the chains board?

        1. Don't mention chowish in the same paragraph.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jaylhorner

            Uggh. The 99 used to be decent enough pub food. A great place to stop for drinks and appetizers before or after a movie with friends. Since they were bought out by the O'Charley's chain (about 5yrs ago), the food has really gone down hill in quality. Not like it was ever chowish though. imho.

            1. Is it gourmet? No.. Is it "chowish"? Probally not...But it is what it is, not trying to be anything stellar or earth shattering..Its not fine dining but not every meal is fois gras and cavier in my world anyways.. But as far as chains go Im going to go on a limb and say its better then most i have been to. Guess it depends on what you order.

              Buffalo chicken tenders are excellent. Better then most places.
              Fish and Chips (i always get it with mashed or baked potato instead of fries) is huge and very good. Better then most pubs definately better then most chains..

              I typically stick with those 2 things.. Id say it is much more "chowish" then applebees, chilis, fridays, olive garden, ruby tuesdays, bennigans, vinny t's, any of the fast food places, boston market, picadilly pub, the list goes on... I have even had better meals there then at some of the "fancier" chains like Not your average joes..

              2 Replies
                1. re: hargau

                  I've had to attend business meetings and other such gatherings at 99s from MA to VT and it seems to me that I've had some pretty good salads and a lobster roll or two. The 99s seem to be a choice among those who don't have any culinary preferences. Also, I've noticed what my tablemates have ordered and it's food that is strictly American innocuous.

                2. I like the 99. I always start with the crackers and cheese...although this has gone down in quality over the past few years. But I still love that cheese.

                  I like their salads. They used to have a BBQ Caesar steak salad that was really good. Now I get the Tropical Chicken Salad.

                  It's not amazing food, but it's good enough for me.

                  1. I'm surprised no one has said this yet, but the steak tips are to die for! Literally.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Bob W

                      LOL BobW.... That's classic!!

                      1. re: Gio

                        99 is what it is, not "chowish" but who would look for it in a chain restaurant. We eat there on the lamb or if we need something quick in a place we are unfamiliar with. They do a good burger and I don't know if I would try anything else. Obviously the tips are a risk but so is apple pie at McDonald's. Keep perspective and try at your own risk

                    2. Yeah, I think 99 will do in an absolute pinch. Definitely preferable to Applebee's, Fridays' or Tuesdays. I don't think its quite as consistent as Uno's but I haven't been a couple of years. Wondering what "chowish" means exactly?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jackbauer

                        "Chow-ish" for me would be a place that is putting forward the best example of a given dish or cuisine using the most authentic/freshest ingredients possible all prepared and served by people that are passionate about the food, and work very hard to assure that you enjoy the meal, the place and the staff. or something like that.

                        1. re: ScubaSteve

                          and to concur with ScubaSteve, little chowish places close every week here in NH because people prefer to go to banal, predictable places like 99.

                          RIP Premier Palate, Seven Hills, Rachida's, Goong Choun...

                      2. Here is may take on 99:

                        We live 1 mile form the nearest location. Last night we didn't feel like cooking. I called ordered two Fish Taco Dinners and a Toasted Ravioli for our three year old. It was readdy in 20 minutes. The fish was freshly fried fish was crispy and was served with guacomole, shredded cabbage and some spicy mayo wrapped in a tortilla shell. Three of these tacos per order served with decent fries for $7.79. Chowish ? Not really. A good quick value, absolutely. Additionally, I agree with Hargau that their Boneless Buffalo Wings are very good.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: TonyO

                          At the 99 in Rutland on Rte 7 South I stupidly ordered a sparkling mineral water. Waitress shook her head..no. Ordered seltzer....again no. Ended up with a glass of Club Soda on the rocks. It was OK though. She was very pleasant, and I was not thinking.

                        2. I've been to many a 99. It's a great place to bring kids. They have a good menu and it's not that $, expensive. I need places like that. Is is Chowish? No. But as was mentioned it is what it is. The Turkey tips are great, as well as, the burgers and salads. I also love the chowder. Some locations are better then others, I've weeded out the bad ones and only go to the ones I trust.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: othervoice

                            i agree, except for the burgers. i feel that any place that will not cook a burger as ordered is showing me that they do not trust their meat provider.

                            1. re: ScubaSteve

                              In a lot of places, it's law that ground beef has to be cooked to a certain temperature, since the risk of food-borne illness is MUCH higher in ground meat than whole cuts.

                              1. re: spellweaver16

                                well it's not a law in Massachusetts or New Hampshire.
                                and when queried on several occasions it was explained as Corporate Policy.

                                1. re: ScubaSteve

                                  I just checked online and the menu says "served medium" for the burgers but the steaks are all cooked whatever temp you want. Curiously though the burgers all still have the * next to them for the "consuming undercooked..... " warning they are required to put on things cooked rare..

                                  I still say if you took their fish and chips...stuck it in newspaper/paper bag and doubled the price...served it out of a truck in an alley in Boston, or put it in one of the trendy joints that often is written up here, people would be raving about it!

                                  1. re: hargau

                                    Hargau, I agree and will likely order that at lunch today !

                                    1. re: TonyO

                                      Report Back: The fish and chips were very good (not great, not bad). Freshly battered, moist fillet (Cod I would guess) served with fries (decent) coleslaw and tartar sauce (both cold which is always appreciated as I hate when the put cold condiments on a plate that then sits under a heat lamp). Service was quick and pleasant.

                                      1. re: TonyO

                                        I never get the fries or coleslaw. You can substitute any veg or potato. I typically get mashed and corn. Makes for a better meal to me. Also note that typically at lunch you get one large fillet, at dinner you get two. Ive had better fish and chips for sure but for the price and convenience i think its very good. Certainly not "awful" or "unedible"

                                        1. re: hargau

                                          If it's fried, they seem to have figured it out !

                                    2. re: hargau

                                      You understand that steak doesn't have the same safety issues as hamburg? Bacteria on the outside of meat gets ground into the meat when hamburg is made. If steak has bacteria on the outside it gets killed when cooked (even a steak cooked rare gets enough heat to kill bugs on the outside).

                                      1. re: JaneRI

                                        If you have ever suffered from e coli or other food borne sicnesses, I think you would appreciate knowing your meat is cooked to an appropriate temp. I don't think it is an issue in NY as medium is the law, there may even be regs about eggs sunnyside up. Of course, this may have nothing to do with 99 at all and may be based in some very "chowish" restos serving undercooked, tainted meat, even with a side of chopped salad or poached root vegetables. the appearance of the * has been seen at the chowyist places near by. I know you must know about the difference between steak and hamburger scuba and the role of regulations regardless of their faith in meat providers. Again, if you are not a fan of 99, eat some hamburger tar tar and roll the dice.

                                        1. re: jspear

                                          i'll eat the Burger at whatever temperature gets me something that is more rare than medium rare. unfortunately that cannot happen at a 99.

                                          steak tartare?
                                          there's a great thread on where to get the best in Boston on the Boston board last week.

                                          1. re: jspear

                                            There is no law in NY that states you have to cook a hamburger to medium.

                              2. Near us we have Chilis, Houlihans and 99 and by far 99 is the best for family meals with kids. Not far are all of the other major chains (TGIF, Applebys, etc.) and again we prefer 99. The kids love their childrens menu and the wife likes their salads. Everything I've had has been good (burgers, steaks, tips, buffalo chicken) has been very good. It may not be fancy but it is good. Chilis food is way to salty and greasy. The kids menu at Houlihans is not to our kids liking, though they have a few very good items for us adults. Is it "chowish"? Who cares. I find many "chowish" restaurants rated high on these boards to be too trendy and over-priced for what you get. JMHO, Jay

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: JayCT

                                  Every time I visit my sister on Cape Cod, we end up there. She finally apologized and said, look, I know it's a chain, but... and she listed the five or six reasons why it's a good place to bring kids. They bring snacks right away. They have cups with lids. The kids menu is not overpriced. Etc.
                                  Ok, fine. I'll probably still go there, every time I visit my sister.
                                  But I'd rather eat at home!!!!

                                    1. re: jspear

                                      I guess I meant, I'd rather cook, and eat, at home. :-)

                                      1. re: missoulagrace

                                        Who wouldn't unless your feeding kids and a dog :-)

                                  1. re: JayCT

                                    See, that's the thing -- it was 6 pm, we had just gotten the buffercat out of the vet, didn't feel like cooking or driving very far and didn't feel like eating in the dining room at Summer Place. So it was either pizza or 99 and it was ok in a pinch. I don't usually go to chains if I can help it, but after holding a squirming cat on a vet's table I needed something strong to alleviate the pain of the claw marks...lol

                                  2. There are things I order at 99 that they do a good job on. My 9-year-old son loves it there (also loves sushi, Korean food, pho, grilled blue fish, duck with choo-chi sauce, etc - u get my point). But when we go to 99, I am never disappointed with their boneless buffalo wings, buffalo chicken sandwich or fish & chips. Burgers haven't been so great there lately - but they have asked me how I would like it cooked.

                                    I do have to say that in Januray 2007, I had some of the best French fries of my life there. I took my son there during a snow storm. We both got burgers but the burgers were ready before the fries were. Our server brought our burgers over first so they wouldn't get called and said she would bring the fries over when they were ready. She brought them over as soon as they came out of the fryer and were so hot we couldn't eat them. I salted them waited a minute and then dove in. They were incredible for a place like that. No ketchup was needed. But I digress....

                                    99 is what it is....not chow....not great...sometimes really good....

                                    1. People from all over the Northeast weighing in on this. VT, MA CT... and someone who's sister drags them to a 99 on cape cod. Why would I ever want Cape Cod to taste exactly like every other place. I want new places i visit to taste new, I want home to taste like home. When the world becomes homogenized what is the point in going anywhere? I want to taste a cooks unique take on a dish, not an 18 year old's execution of a corporate recipe on a flash card.

                                      Kids love it, whoop deee dooo! Kids like eating hot dogs and candy too. Feed them a bunch of pre-made deep fried starch with a generic appeal and wonder why there is an obesity epidemic in this country. Sure its easier. If child rearing is a task that you are trying to get through with as minimal effort as possible, by all means. Call me crazy but eating healthy, supporting local business, exploring the diversity of the world, these are all thins i would like to install in my children and i think they are worth the effort.

                                      If all it takes these days to impress people is to use real turkey in a turkey sandwich.... it makes my brain hurt.

                                      Go ahead, tell me I am a snob or whatever you want to say to make yourself feel better about eating at these places. I personally don't come on Chow to hear about the glory of corporate cuisine, if I wanted that i would turn on the TV and let the multi million dollar ad campaigns wash over me. Oh yes Guy Fieri please tell me about how awesome Fridays is.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: EastRocker

                                        Um, what you said Rocker...Chains like 99 are essentially fast food, minus the drive thro and indoor playground...

                                        1. re: EastRocker

                                          Couldn't have said it better EastRocker, I agree with everything you said.

                                          1. re: MagnumWino

                                            And God Bless you if you have time to adhere to that credo everyday. After putting in a 12 hour day, sometimes I just don't have the energy to go shopping for locally foraged morels and grass fed beef that I can take home and spend another hour chopping, slicing, reducing, grilling, and so on (I'll save that for the days I work 10 or less hours). I hear you loud and clear but these places are not going away and shame on the local independent places that hang their hat on thinking being "local" is enough. It isn't. "Oh we are local, we can charge $15 for a mesculin salad". I can see the For Sale sign going up and another Chili's Coming Soon sign shortly thereafter.

                                            I'm sure the OP is glas they asked this question...............

                                            1. re: TonyO

                                              they do have frosty mugs for the beer though,thats the only good thing i can think of.......

                                              1. re: im hungry

                                                Yeah, that's true. Let's face it, there is "eating" and there is "dining". I try to dine as often as possible. When I only have time to eat, it makes me appreciate the joys of great food. And for what it's worth, my 4 year old daughter has never been to McDonald's. In fact she thinks it is Miss Donald's. I would rather feed her a plate of Veal Marsala and go to a toy store than serve her a "Happy Meal". Someday, she will thank me.......

                                                1. re: TonyO

                                                  Yahoo- THAT's what I need to say next time my sister drags me there.
                                                  As soon as our son is old enough to eat, on those family visits I'm going to insist we take him somewhere real, or cook at home, when on the Cape -- there's too much good stuff we can't get in Montana to enjoy while we're there.

                                              2. re: TonyO

                                                TonyO, It doesn't have to be that involved. It could be a quick turkey chili (grnd turkey, chili powder mix, a can of crushed tomatoes, red kidney beans, package of shredded cheddar cheese), takes about 10-15 minutes. Or some grilled chicken breast over arugula with a microwaved baked potato. Or a plate of whole wheat pasta and a quick tomato sauce from a can of crushed tomatoes some minced garlic, basil, olive oil and a glug or two of wine. There's more. Easy and healthy, yes? And probably less expensive as well. There's alot of ways to avoid having to go to any one of these chains, unless of course you like going to them.

                                                1. re: MagnumWino

                                                  I'll be honest, sometimes I do enjoy one or two out of a hundred items they make. I have limits, but sometimes I just want to "take a night off". We have 5 children, both work, and appreciate the importance of eating properly (both economic and health wise). I have cooked almost exact meals as to those you listed. I am at the grocery store/bakery/deli at least 6-8 times a week. If an occassional trip to 99 costs me my "Father of the Year" nomination, oh well ! However, I wouldn't feed Burger King to my family at gunpoint !

                                            2. re: EastRocker

                                              hey i like eating hot dogs and candy too!

                                              1. re: EastRocker

                                                "Why would I ever want Cape Cod to taste exactly like every other place. I want new places i visit to taste new, I want home to taste like home. When the world becomes homogenized what is the point in going anywhere?"

                                                The person who posted about Cape Cod is going there to visit family - the point of the trip is to spend time w/her sister and her sister's children. If 99 makes it easy for her sister, then that probably means a more relaxed visit/dinnertime. Throw kids into the mix and I'm all for anything that will make the visit easier and thus more enjoyable. I'm not a fan of 99 but for that sort of visit I can put my food snobbery on hold. It will probably not be my last meal on this earth, you know? I can think of PLENTY of $25-30 entree restaurants that have disappointed me.

                                              2. I like their French Onion Soup and also their seafood chowder is very good!

                                                1. Another 'one hit wonder' in this hound's cookbook. I was really intrigued by the $15 lobster roll sandwich. The waiter assured me this was as good or better than ANYTHING I'd get in New England. So, I took the bait. What a freakin' disappointment. Canned, hypersalinated lobster meat that, from the stringy texture, had been frozen at least once. Never again 99. Not even a 49 in my grading system.

                                                  1. Nope, not chowish, but not bad either. Last week I had their all-star burger or something like that with parmesan and rosemary dusted fries. They were good!!! If you stick to the basics you can't go that wrong...