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New fun topic. What was the worst dish you've had and where

My musing about how gross the mac & cheese was at the Last Hurrah made me inspired to ask others, what has been one of the worst dishes you've ever had at a restaurant and where did you have it?

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  1. A side dish of sauteed wild mushrooms at Grotto. The meal as a whole was an epic failure on every level, but I still feel almost personally insulted by that dish of mushrooms, a moist, slimy pile of limp, flavorless, wormlike ooze. How do you make wild mushrooms utterly devoid of flavor or texture?

    2 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      How? You cook the ish out of them. Something, unfortunately, a lot of restaurants in The Bean do.
      As far as worst dish I've ever had ... a well respected, blue-haired, local chef once served me a perfectly roasted quail, stuffed with the worst tuna tartar I've ever had. The whole concept is like watching a bad episode of Hell's Kitchen.

      1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers

        Not sure I would have ordrered tuna tartar stuffed quail in the first place.

        I don't have an epic worst meal but this reminds me of this week's Globe's review of Central 37 (is that the name?). Yikes, she had a bad time with 90% of those dishes.

    2. A mixed seafood platter at Union Oyster House. Burnt swordfish, boiled cod? tasteless scallops, limp vegetables, not an ounce of salt on ANYTHING. Worst dish ever HANDS DOWN. Just stick to the chowder and raw bar.

      1. These were both my first and only times at these restaurants.

        A plate of guacamole at Margaritas in Waltham that looked brown and tasted like old fish.

        The beef tendon at Pu Pu Hot Pot in Cambridge, which was room-temperature tendon chunks in a bland brown sauce, on a plate next to nearly-raw broccoli and celery, and some overcooked rice.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Luther

          Thank you for reminding me why I have never eaten at Pu Pu Hot Pot, and why I never should.

          Sometimes I get so desperate for new lunch options in the area, I think "maybe I should give them a chance." Your post tells me my gut is right.

          1. re: kobuta

            the only thing i get from there is kan sho calamari. that is worth it.
            sure the squid is previously frozen but they do a nice job.

            just tears.

        2. Meatloaf at the long-gone-and-good-riddance Pentimento's in Huron Village. It was like if the cook was from another planet and someone gave a vague description of what meatloaf is. A fully inedible mush with raisins (!!!) and waaaay too much salt. What's more, when I tried to send it back the server said something like, "Okay, but if you want something else you're still going to have to pay for the meatloaf."

          1. The brisket at Firefly's in Quincy. Basically, it was a big pile of rubbery cubes of fat with a little bit of meat mixed in. They were literally inedible--I couldn't even break them down by chewing on them, and frankly, it was kind of gross even trying to do so.

            In fairness, I did have a really good pulled pork sandwich from Firefly's since that debacle, but I'm still kind of peeved at them about the brisket...

            1. Well, since this is the Boston board, I suppose we have to limit it to that (although the single worst meal I ever had was at an Indian restaurant in New York that had gotten great reviews, yet all the food literally tasted like formaldihyde).

              It's well documented that I think La Famiglia (or La Gag-me-lia) is a disaster of epic proportions (literally and figuratively). What really bothers me is to see tourists lined up in front of the place. I've actually told them while walking by that they're making a huge mistake.

              Once again, my one line review of the place:

              Yeah, they give you huge portions, but then you have to eat it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bostonbob3

                Somehow when I was in college we thought La Famiglia was great. And yet the last time I was there I swore they served me a plate of Chef Boyardee Raviolis from a can. I don't know if my palette evolved that much or the restaurant got worse or both, but that surely was one of the worst dishes I've ever had.


              2. It was the potato sausage at Deep Ellum with a side of limp, reeking cabbage and sweet potatoes in hot mayonnaise. I don't know what kind of mind could conceive of such a horror.

                1 Reply
                1. re: SSqwerty

                  you know, i had that once, and i thought it was pretty good; i certainly enjoyed it more than my girlfriend liked her olive and chicken couscous.

                2. most disappointing dish ever at gargoyle's in davis square. i had heard such good things and ordered a fried goat cheese ravioli dish with some sort of lovely sauce. what showed up were greasy, heavily-breaded ricotta ravioli without a hint of goat cheese doused in regular marinara. SO LAME. in addition the bf's asian-inspired duck dish tasted no better than any chinese takeout.

                  sidenote: have people had similar bad experiences at gargoyle's? i've only heard positive reviews.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: tunhgirl

                    I also had a less-than-favorable experience at Gargoyles. With all the raves coming from this board, I expected much more, maybe too much, from this place. The food was just so-so, and service wasn't very friendly either...

                    1. re: xiao

                      My last visit to Gargoyles wasn't bad, it was just good and not especially innovative. The disappointment was that I had come to expect more from that chef, like what he had done earlier at Gargoyles and at Dedo before that.

                      1. re: xiao

                        More misses than hits for me. Good ideas with weak execution (if you want the diner to squirt noodle batter into soup, make sure the soup is hot!), or no-no combinations (oysters + puttanesca = not good), or just not exciting enough for the $. Service was fine. Drinks were great. Certainly not awful though. Will give it another shot sometime.

                        1. re: Aromatherapy

                          Ha! I had the same tepid soup experience as you. I wish the dish came with the noodles already cooked, anyway.

                    2. In the Boston area my worst meal in recent memory was at the Rosebud in Davis Square, Somerville. It was supposedly a fried chicken special, and it was special alright, but mainly because it was completely flavorless, with a soggy, greasy coating and tough overcooked meat. It was served nearly stone cold to boot. Completely inedible.

                      Not as much fun to write about as cevapcici, though ;-)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: BobB

                        I went to the Rosebud once and had the fried chicken special....lol...that's right i have been there once and that gross chicken is why I will never be back

                        1. re: Johnresa

                          I haven't been back since that night (about a year ago) either. It's a pity, they used to be a reliably good diner.

                          1. re: BobB

                            Maybe if you just stick with eggs and sandwiches?

                      2. I hate to say this because I know they're a Board favorite, but the Baraka Cafe served my wife a chicken dish that was half raw and smelled off (we sent it back). My lamb sausages were dried out to the point of dessication and nothing else in the meal was very good; it was as if everything had been left out sitting around for a few days.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: GaryK

                          The veal parm at Euno, soggy breaded veal with thick unmelted fontina on top. The sauce was like campell's tomato soup.

                        2. The late, not lamented Pauli's in Melrose, was the scene of the crime, and the guilty party was pasta with clam sauce.

                          This epic disaster was accentuated by clumps of raw garlic, sandy clams (little neck), and weird cross between fusilli and linguine that was overcooked to near mush.

                          As bad as my exerience was, my wife's pasta and meat sauce (it does not deserve to be called bolognaise) was INCREDIBLY worse as the meat was dominated gristle. And the same mushy mess of pasta. Plus a nasty tomato sauce.

                          This meal remains in the Hall of Shame, now and forever.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                            HA! I forgot about that place. My man and I ate there once and indeed it was terrible all around.

                            We were really confused as when we poked our heads in it seemed like some kind of suburban gay bar. But they ushered us in and put us at a table for dinner...and the rest is a bad, and until now, long forgotten memory.

                          2. Easy one- Joe's American Bar & Grill (Back Bay.) I ordered an Omelette, a.k.a- oil with a splash of eggs. I saw at least two inches of oil as it was put in front of me. I made the mistake of cutting into it only to have oil literally splash all over the table. Needless to say, I clearly sent it back, and will never, ever return. Absolutely horrific & they charged me for it!

                            1. Copley Morton's PH steak. Ate two bite showed the server the gray-meat (even though ordered M-R. Brings MOD over, he looks at it and thanks jfood. Huh?

                              Maybe there's a reason the restaurant's in a basement.

                              1. I think my brain protects me from horrible food memories by burying them. I know I've had some awful food in Boston, but I'm wracking my brain without great results. I'd say the most expensive bust was at Vintage Restaurant in West Roxbury. Just a comically bad imitation of a fancy steakhouse in every way. Really hilarious until that $75/head check arrived. Mercifully, The Dig picked up that tab.

                                My first meal at BarLola was inept and disgusting: a lot of "tapas" that looked and tasted like they'd been made early that morning and left out on a table all day. Gross.

                                I spent a lot of money at Golden Temple not too long ago, and I thought it was pretty bad. Not disgusting, just 60s-vintage American-Chinese food and very expensive. Oh, and they served mashed potatoes with their famous E Room Tenderloin; those were the single worst mashed potatoes I've ever been served in a restaurant. Weird and bad: sweet, gluey, flecked with Thai basil. Instant potato buds are better. Gramma and Grampa loved the place, though, so it was a success.

                                I was grossed out by the food and general dirtiness of the place at my last meal at Cafe Marliave, some years ago. Skeevy. I'm sorry to say the same is true of Sal's Lunch, that little nonna-run corner place on Thatcher Street in the North End.

                                1. I think there must be a memory-suppression effect re:bad food, as MC suggests. I could mention a couple of good food poisoning episodes in Boston but Chowhound won't allow that. No problem, I very much like Chowhound.

                                  What did immediately come to mind was the giant-rip-off-of-all-time: at Jumbo Seafood in Newton Centre. I thought I'd try "Billionaire's Fried Rice"... a huge amount of rice, some flecks of Chinese sausage, scallop, and egg, all for $13. Some cook there is smiling -- thinking that he's the "billionaire," ahem.

                                  I'll add that I haven't had anything at Jumbo Seafood in Newton Centre that I'd recommend to anyone.

                                  1. This was probably not the *worst* dish I've ever had but it is the one that sticks out most in my mind because it was the biggest disappointment: at Oleana a couple years ago I ordered a veal dish that both looked and tasted like Alpo dog food. (Well, not that I've tasted Alpo but it tasted close to what I imagine Alpo might taste like). It was chunks of veal in a bland brown sauce, which arrived in a molded shape, which made it seem even more as if it had just been dumped out of a cylindrical can! The strange thing was that the menu description said nothing of chunks or sauce. Perhaps it was retribution for ordering politically incorrect meat.

                                    1. The chicken cutlet dish at Cafe St. Petersberg in Newton Center was outrageously terrible. Soggy and completely flavorless. Yuck.

                                      1. Skipjack's, when it was in Brookline Village. The bluefish I ordered smelled so badly of ammonia that I almost passed out when the waitress passed in in front of me. It was years ago, but I can still smell that fish. They took it back grudgingly, but with no comp or apology.

                                        1. The most memorable of too many such incidences was at Sabur. I ordered a risotto dish with chicken and vegetables. Large plate of poor quality risotto swimming in an inch of water (not sauce). I couldn't even make a dent in it even though I was starving. Evidently, they failed to realize that water from the vegetables will seep. I didn't even bother to send it back. It was my 2nd disappointment there and decided to give up totally.

                                          1. I agree about Vintage (which, thankfully, is now closed). I think I had the most mediocre steak with cold vegetables ever to be had for a $70.00 pp tab. It was depressing as hell and I guess I wasn't alone in my assessment.

                                            1. I had not one, but 3 of the worst dishes of my life at Persephone. Salt cod fritters that were tasteless with really oily hot peppers. I'll go so far as to say they didn't taste like anything, not even salt! :) The ribs had the most disgusting layer of fat on them, and the sauce tasted like cheap store bought Hoisin. The ham and cheese Panini was cold by the time it arrived at our table, and remarkably small. I have never been more disappointed with food at a restaurant before.

                                              One small disclaimer, our drinks were fabulous. My husband had an incredible glass of red wine, and I had the petal pusher cocktail.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: VTtoMAtoCAfoodie

                                                Contrast with the recent Phoenix review, which gave it four stars! http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Food/622...

                                                I think Nadeau is pretty 'houndy so maybe they have worked out the problems you experienced.

                                              2. Ugh. 10 years ago. Eggplant Parmesean at Piccolo Venezia. I was visiting at the time, and could NOT understand how, in the North End of all places, they thought that was acceptable food. I'm still scarred by this experience, and remember vividly sitting there in the restaurant , truly sad over my horrible Italian food in the North End of Boston.

                                                1. Great idea for a post! Two experiences come to mind. First, my husband and I went to Restaurante Fiore in the North End about 4 years ago to see if the food was good as they advertise that they have a large function room and we were looking for a spot for our rehearsal dinner. We ordered standard pasta items and they were all disgusting. The service was horrendous. I have no idea how that place remains open.

                                                  Second was the meal at the MetBar in the Natick Collection. The philly cheesesteak rolls were revolting....the burgers weren't great either.

                                                  1. This post is a good idea -

                                                    In truth- my worst experiences are where good and VERY good money has been spent with sub par results- sometimes silly things- often too much salt, oil, not cooked properly, too much temperature variation but all the same-
                                                    Hard earned dollars spent on a totally anti-climatic dining experience.
                                                    And the servers- wonderful to start but fade mid-stream.

                                                    It is esp disheartening when a beautiful dinner for much less could have been had at home! And done much better with less stress.

                                                    By and far my best meals are the cheap ones- good Vietnamese Sandwiches in Chinatown [new place opened, sorry don't remember name but they were good!] where I feel I ate something authentic, truly reasonably priced and so I feel happy. Chacerero though they are climbing in price. But the expansion...

                                                    This post is exactly why- cooking at home matters.
                                                    Disappointment and dollars wasted when you have a nice night out and it turns out not so nice.

                                                    I know- I know. Expectations.
                                                    The restaurant business is a tough one. I know from experience!

                                                    Worst meal?
                                                    Free. Park Street, Some lovely good citizens/church people I believe, giving out meals to people in need. I was a little low, financially, last year and came upon them as I left work so thought why not and I took a cup of corn chowder from them. I was grateful for the fact there is free food. I felt sad that it is so easy to make food taste good no matter the budget.

                                                    It was truly reprehensible. How difficult is to mess up corn chowder?
                                                    Just add green beans, peas, carrots misc odds and ends, too much flour, crummy milk well-

                                                    Still- better than feeling gypped out of $250 for a unsatisfactory meal at a fancy restaurant!

                                                    ;-) A good reason for volunteering time and your expertise at local soup kitchens!
                                                    Good recipes are easy to come by!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: miiki

                                                      Fajitas & 'Ritas in Boston.

                                                      I love any kind of chicken wings - these were the first batch in my life I couldn't eat!


                                                      1. re: miiki

                                                        now that the lovely orinoco has replaced Village Fish I can laugh at the memory of being served lobster fra diavolo with the lobster raw and the "diavolo" non-existent. returned it to the server explaining i don't do sushi lobster. it came back to the table with the same lobster obviously "nuked" and simply rubber. it was so bad and so blatantly disconnected from any concept of cooking or service that we just laughed and never returned. good riddance to bad grubbish i say!

                                                      2. Fajitas & 'Ritas in Boston.

                                                        I love any kind of chicken wings but these were the first batch in my life I couldn't eat!


                                                        1. Spaghetti and meatballs at The Chateau in Waltham. That place is truly vile! My parents adore it and I have no clue why. The sauce tasted of melted plastic, the pasta was crispy yet watery at the same time, and the meatballs resembled tennis shoes. :(

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Swankalicious

                                                            "...and the meatballs resembled tennis shoes."

                                                            Reminds me of Devra First's review of Rene Michelena's Central 37 on 5/28. Certainly made for some entertaining reading! LOL A sample:

                                                            "Pizzette bianco that's so sad it makes us want to cry. Why would you do this to pizza, beautiful, innocent pizza? The crust is nice and thin, and there are enticing grill marks on the bottom, but the little pie has been cooked and reheated until it's suitable material for crafting a pair of vegan shoes. The cheese on top is just as leathery, and slices of meat curl up at the edges like Shrinky Dinks."

                                                          2. daily catch, in the north end. got a piece of swordfish (or similar fish--it was a couple years ago), and it was smelly and swimming in an unpleasant tomato sauce. i'm sure i've had worse, but that's one that sticks out on account of the price and reputation. wanted to like the place, but we haven't been back since.

                                                            1. Thankfully, I was having trouble thinking of a single "worst dish" due to carefully avoiding pitfalls by reading all your posts! So I have been successful in steering away from Fire + Ice, many of the "popular" places in the North End, etc.

                                                              But there was one that comes to mind - Antonia's in Davis Square - what was supposed to be carbonara that was like alfreddo sauce from a jar - just shockingly bad Italian food - irresponsible Italian food - - poor excuse for food in general. Plus indifferent staff, blaring Sinatra tunes and Euro-disco (on that night).

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                                One of the worst that comes to mind was a seafood polenta at La Morra in Brookline. The polenta was watery, undercooked flavorless, and a very odd shade of grey. The seafood part of the equation were funky quartered pieces of scallops, a mix of un-opened clams which were probably better than the open ones which smelled like they had been lying around for a week. I think there may have been a tough over-cooked shrimp in there as well.

                                                                That was our 3rd visit there, we were twice underwhelmed but gave it one last shot. Mistake.

                                                                recently a place that really disappointed was Grand Gusto. Nice pizza no doubt.
                                                                but we had 2 of the worst pasta dished we have ever had. The Bolognese tasted like ground beef boiled in tomatoes, not a hint of flavor. The Mushroom and Sausage consisted of pre-sliced mushrooms and possibly a tablespoon (if that) of crumbled sausage tossed in some butter and thyme. really poorly executed and a embarrassment I guess sticking to the pizza is key there