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Jun 12, 2008 10:16 AM

Things to know about Arrows?

I've just made a reservation for a mid-July Saturday at Arrows for my wedding anniversary. My husband is a devoted vegetable gardener, so I thought he would enjoy what I hear is the lush garden atmosphere, and I have heard many raves about the food from my co-workers in Boston. Since it is a special occasion and I want it to be a wonderful evening, I was wondering if there is anything I should know to request beforehand (place to sit, tasting menu, etc.).

I noticed that posters here have complained about a pretentious attitude there, and indeed in one 5-minute telephone call I have already observed it--I was surprised that 6pm was the only time slot they had for a reservation 5 weeks in the future (admittedly, it is a Saturday), and I was also surprised to hear they have a jacket-and-tie dress rural Maine? We've been to L'Espalier, Clio, No. 9 Park, etc., in Boston, and have never been instructed to dress up. I am happy to wear a skirt, but it felt oddly didactic. I have a somewhat young-sounding voice, although I am over 30; should I have said it was my wedding anniversary to get more respect and perhaps a later reservation?

Also, in terms of seating, is there a good location (esp. vis-a-vis views of the garden) and a Siberia? Is there a tasting menu that can only be ordered in advance that I should know about?

Thanks, and I promise to return with a review.

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  1. we have dinner at Arrows at every year. do not think they are that pretentious. Re the dress code, it is for men- shirts with collars (no T shirts), no shorts (men and women). Not sure why you think it is jacket and tie. We have been eating there for at least 12 years and my husband never wears a tie. I don't believe a jacket is required. We had a friend who met us there once with a polo shirt with a collar and shorts on- they loaned him some pants- no jacket required.My husband usually wears a jacket but no tie. They have reservations for two time slots only- 6 and a later seating (? maybe 8:30). No menu that you can order in advance. The tastings ( two different usually, with one more courses than the other) are on the menu. The entire restaurant is beautiful, no matter where you sit. The seats along windows looking out onto the garden are nicest but they will not reserve one for you- first come first serve. Just get there around 5:45 to be one of the first in the door and there should be no problem getting a window.
    It is a lovely restaurant and the owners are very nice. Hope you enjoy it.
    They will offer you their special butter service for a charge. I don;t know why people complain about this- you will get butter free, just no the special ones. It is like if you don;t order bottled water you will get tap water with ice.

    3 Replies
    1. re: emilief

      Thank you very much for the information about the 2 seatings and about how to try for a window table--that's extremely helpful. My information about the dress code is straight from the reservationist on the phone yesterday afternoon, who said, and I quote, "We do have a dress code, we request that gentlemen wear jacket and tie." He didn't say such attire was *required,* it's true, and as I say, maybe this was due to my young female voice--perhaps he thought my companion and I would show up in bathing suits if not warned--but all I know is what he said.

      1. re: veryveryrosalind

        Sad to say, you were correct in your interpretation of their pretentious attitude. The host and our waiter both exhibited a very haughty demeanor, as though we should count ourselves lucky to be permitted to eat there. One of my DC's asked a question about a menu item and was greeted with a smug stare and a very condescending answer. To be fair, however, the food was generally excellent, the attitude just made it very difficult to enjoy it.

      2. re: emilief

        I went a few years ago, but I remember having a reservation for the first seating. We were able to get there early and get a glass of champagne for while we wandered through the garden pre-dinner, even though they weren't really open yet. It was really lovely.

      3. Hello Veryveryrosalind!

        Last July, I dined at Arrows in Ogunquit with my husband and family. It was very much understood that jacket and tie were recommended, as this is a top rated restaurant. Also, the grounds were very nice and the interior was pretty also, although I would not go as far as to call is gorgeous. They sat us at a table right in the middle of the room, next to a tree....not sure if it was alive or not. But it was kind of annoying because I was sitting with a tree branch constantly hitting my head. We tried to request a table next to the windows, but even with calling months in advanced, those tables were already reserved. We still have great views from the center of the restaurant onto the gardens.

        Most importantly, the food was great! We had the butter service that was nice. Also, each person at our table had their own kind of water bottle. It was different. The salad I got was great because they paired different greens with different dressings and different sea salt. Very different, very flavorful! Appetizers and main courses were delicious. Service was great.

        I would prefer the food and ambiance at MC Perkins in Perkins Cove, quite honestly. Same owners, more relaxed atmosphere....great food!

        With this said, I think that Arrows is a great dining experience at all foodies should have at least once. I think you will definitely enjoy it!

        Hope this helps.

        1. I hope this is not to late to be of assistance. Here is the straight dress code from the Arrows web site:
          "Jacket is preferred for gentlemen but not required. We ask that our guests do not come in casual attire. We do not seat guests dressed in jeans or shorts. We encourage our guests to dress up. "

          For a restaurant of this caliber this is a very liberal dress code. At this evenings dinner in the entire restaurant there were two gentlemen with jackets but no tie and only one with out a jacket or tie. Irrespective of the dress code one would typically dress to the occasion.
          I will post a full review in the next week but I want to say we experienced absolutly no pomp or pretense. In point of fact if you can find two more down to earth restauranteurs I would be suprised. I left with a book personalized and autographed by Mark & Clark.
          In terms of seating there are really no poor tables. Even the tables in the middle have an excellent view. The trees in the dining room are fake and I saw nothing that would obstruct your view even from the furthest table. Tasting menus and ala carte vary depending on the date you dine. Tonight (fathers Day) was Ala carte only. No prix fix or sampeling menu.
          IMO the negative press about being pretentious is more frequently based on the fact that a guest is uncomfortable in a higher end setting and thus winds up hyper-sensative. There was a table next to us this evening that would have fit that bill. They wanted still water instead of sparkeling and complimentary butter service instead of the special selection. As the waiter left their snide comments made it clear they were uncomfortable about paying for a $6 butter service and bottled water. The server was perfectly gracious even when they asked for samples of wines by the glass.
          Our experience was just shy of perfect on service but considering the price point ($45 entree) I was impressed. I have been to establishments with $65-75 entree's and service that would pale in comparison.
          If you have a chance to dine at Arrows do not pass it up. The gardens were wonderfull!
          I'll be dreaming of the fois gras hamburger tonight. Possibly the most fun and unique dish I have ever had at any etablishment.

          16 Replies
          1. re: Docsknotinn

            Butter service? WTH is that?
            You HAVE to pay for bottled water?

            I've said it before, more than once: this used to be a marvelous restaurant but it long since let prices move into the stratosphere and every time I read about it I hear about another precieuse adornment.

            1. re: Dual

              I think you misunderstood Dual's post. Arrows offers a high end butter service, but if you don't want it, you can just get the regular. They also offer bottled water, but you don't HAVE to get it; tap water is free.

              1. re: hilltowner

                Oh, yeah: I did misunderstand that (I'm Dual, tho.)


              2. re: Dual

                You HAVE to pay for bottled water?
                Nearly all fine dining establishments now offer tap water for free or the option of bottled still or spring water.
                The otional butter service is $6 and includes a house made salt butter, French and Spanish butters. They ask one time and do not push the sale of theese at all.
                I think your post is a good indication of exactly what I was talking about in regards to being uncomfortable in a high end setting. You never have to purchase upcharge items. Many prix fix menus have up charge options as well.
                Prices for this caliber of dining were very reasonable. $45 for a veal chop is the same or less than some chains such as Morton's or the Capital Grille.

              3. re: Docsknotinn

                i guess im one of "those kind of people".. The horror for wanting "complimentary butter service"

                when i use the restroom i also want the "complimentary toilet paper service" without having to ask and being looked down on as one who "fits that bill"....

                1. re: hargau

                  My post was ill-considered in many ways. I'm just so frustrated at what Arrows seems to have become in recent years that I vent. I know one pays for bottled water, LOL.

                  1. re: hargau

                    I was there last weekend for a wedding (working with the band) and had a discussion with one of the hostesses about the butter service. They give you several butters to try...Italian, Irish, French and a local butter (sometimes house made). The idea is to compare the different styles of butter made. This is a premium "mini-course" and I think they are well within their rights to charge for it. Of course you get regular butter with your bread if you don't want the special butter service.

                    1. re: hargau

                      The horror for wanting "complimentary butter service"
                      I think you may want to read my post again. The issue was NOT with the server but with the patrons that were put off by the fact that they were offered the optional butter service and kept making a huge deal out of COMPLIMENTARY butter. So if you are put off by just saying no to something you don't want then you you just might indeed be one of "those kind of people" although I have no idea who exactly you were quoting because you surely did not find that statement in my post.

                      1. re: hargau

                        For the ten thousandth time, there IS complimentary butter.

                      2. re: Docsknotinn

                        Restaurant of this caliber? Hmmm. I'm sorry but... albeit, Arrow's is a nice restaurant, have eaten there several times, it certainly doesn't warrent the "caliber" that you refer to nor does it demand any sort of pretentious attitude. It's a nice restaurant in a summering community, for the best restaurants that I believe you refer to, you must travel farther to say New York or San Francisco.

                        1. re: svendeezy

                          Just last week, the chefs were down in NYC as James Beard finalists for best NE, yes, I think that qualifies them "of that caliber", IMHO.


                          1. re: Science Chick

                            Arrow's was up for "Best Northeast Restaurant" that is a far cry from "Best Restaurant" or, for that matter best NYC or Chicago.

                            I do believe that "for New England" Arrow's is a good if not outstanding restaurant. It is not on the caliber of anything that you would find in NYC, but neither are the prices.

                            1. re: seacoastguy027

                              agreed. its a great choice for a nice dining experience in the area and congratulations to the chefs for this prestigious honor. don't think that they'll actually ever win the award if we keep hearing about a "pretentious" attitude however.

                              1. re: svendeezy

                                Again, I have to say that we were treated with the utmost warmth and kindness. And as a member of a function band that plays at most of the major New England venues, I can say that this is the exception, rather than the rule. If a facility has any attitude at all, it usually gets directed first at a band working there. The people at Arrows, from the manager and chef, down to the servers, were incredibly warm and welcoming.

                          2. re: svendeezy

                            it certainly doesn't warrent the "caliber" that you refer to nor does it demand any sort of pretentious attitude.
                            Exactly what caliber did I refer to?????
                            Charging a whole six bucks for an array of butters or perhaps charging for bottled water?
                            If So boy do I ever dissagree.
                            No restaurant "demands" pretentious attitude IMO and we did not expereience or observe any thing but courtious and friendly service. I will say that the young lady taking reservations on the phone could tone it down a bit but dinner service was very pleasant.

                          3. re: Docsknotinn

                            Regarding "docsknotinn" remark of not feeling comfortable with "higher end settings" I heartily disagree. Further I/we are not their "guests" but customers who don't seek good food and service only to be patronized.

                          4. I've got to try this place. There have been so many battles about it on this and other postings. I would really like to try it for myself. I will pay extra for extra, the butter service seems to fall in that category. The response to other diners can always be misinterpreted, perhaps an overheard comment or conversation can be taken out of context and what is wrong with trying or tasting wine before making a decision. I would say that dress codes and butter tastings are choices of the resto but I have to try this place that some see as upscale and others pretentious......

                            1. My husband and I just ate at Arrows this past Sunday--Father's Day. We had one of the best meals ever--we have been there five times in the past 10 years and agree it is our favorite restaurant. We declined the bottled water and special butters. He wore a jacket--no tie--as he usually does when we eat at a high end restaurant. Clark and Mark(the owners) are perfectionists and it shows in every aspect of their establishment. I'm sure you will have a wonderful dining experience--enjoy!

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: food101

                                Hope this is not too late.

                                Have been to Arrows about 7 times. Initially I thought it equal to Chez Panisse or the old Stars in SF, where the chefs/owners trained. There was a funky, welcoming attitude. Now, about 15 years later, I would say that it has become an anachronism a la Pier 4. The attitude, if not pretentious, is cold and sometimes haughty. Some may like that. I don't. I have never paid six dollars for a butter tasting. The food is often excellent, and at other times pedestrian. The room is not beautiful, and some of the smaller rooms are claustrophobic. I have always found the desserts to be the weakest link.

                                Quite simply, unless someone else paid AND I was in the neighborhood, I wouldn't go. I agree with MC Perkins Cove. Fun, friendly, with great food.

                                1. re: aadesmd

                                  Apparently the one time we went, it was a "pedestrian" night. The food was good, but I've had much, much better, and a lower price point. I don't mind paying extra for extra as someone said, and I thought the $6 butter service was one of the highlights of the meal. My issue with the water is not that they charge for bottled water, but rather that they feel it's necessary to offer multiple types of bottled water, that's a bit pretentious in my book. All in all, I liked my meal, but wouldn't rush back. I've had slightly cheaper and infinitely better meals at Hugo's in Portland, a place I will return to.

                                  1. re: kimfair1

                                    I have to agree with you about Hugo's in Portland. The food and attitude at Hugo's is wonderful. The first time we went there I called the Host to inquire about the dress code and their reply and I quote "We want you to wear what you are comfortable in" I like that sort of environment when I dine.

                                    The Chef's tasting is a must. Ours, while advertised at 7 courses ended up being 11 or 12 counting all the free "bites" that they threw in.

                                    1. re: kimfair1

                                      My issue with the water is not that they charge for bottled water, but rather that they feel it's necessary to offer multiple types of bottled water, that's a bit pretentious in my book

                                      That sounds like a server issue. Ours simply asked if we would like tap or bottled water. I had to specify that I wanted San Pellagrino and my wife wanted still water. We really had very good service.
                                      The place is farm house that's over 200 years old. I do see it as a bit of a niche that's not every ones style. I'm sure many go just because of the concept with the gardens. I have had better meals to be sure but at the price point I have nothing but praise about Arrows.

                                      1. re: Docsknotinn

                                        bottled water is the new wine, people like what they like. if you only had Pellagrino and someone wanted Voss, I can hear the complaints....

                                        1. re: jspear

                                          While i tend to agree with you, I have NEVER been in another establishment that had multiple brands of bottled water. If you're that picky then don't get water if they don't have your brand. We asked for sparkling water. Our water steward (that's what he called himself), came over with a metal holder with six types of water. Overkill in my opinion. But we all know what they say about opinions! ;~)

                                          1. re: kimfair1

                                            I don't understand why offering choices is "overkill" or "pretentious". It is just excellent service. Some people do have a water preference and are probably thrilled to have the choice. If you don't care, so what? Or ask about the differences between the water. Maybe you will find that you do have a preference! By the way, I am not picky about water. I usually just take the tap water at a restaurant.

                                          2. re: jspear

                                            Multiple bottled water availability is standard fare now. I can't imagine any upscale restaurant not offering multiple choices. I can think of several chains that have similar availability. Arrows did not utilize a "water steward" on our visit. Just the server. However I can completly understand why they would bring out the choices if you ordered sparkeling water and didn't know what you wanted. That's a bit like saying I'd like red wine. Nothing wrong with that but no doubt a Sommelier would be at your table trying to assist.
                                            That's called service. ;)
                                            What I see in Arrows is that it's a bit of a cross over restaurant. Many first time diners on the high end scale which IMO really contributes to the mixed reviews.

                                            1. re: kimfair1

                                              Folks, if you want to discuss the bottled water practices of restaurants generally, please start a thread about it on the Not About Food board, so that we can keep the focus here on local chow.


                                              1. re: Docsknotinn

                                                So, what you are saying is that anyone who disagrees with you about Arrow's must be " a first time diner on the high end scale"
                                                and therefore not worthy to express their opinion?
                                                The goal of any proper fine dining restaurant should be to serve the finest possible food, prepared in a careful and creative fashion, in an elegant atmosphere, without any hint of snobbery or pretention. While I have no quibbles with Arrow's on their "water policy", they clearly fall well short of the above goals.

                                                1. re: terrystu

                                                  Terry, well said. I agree that the extras described in this post are just that, extras. Choose the place for them or avoid it because it is pretentious. I think people will gravitate where they are comfortable. I don't think choices are over the top, I think it is pretention when people are made to feel less because of the presentation of the choices. I know of restos where their own opinion of themselves translates into language where people feel put down or looked down at. As I stated before, I will have to try this place to see where it falls.