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Jul 10, 2008 09:21 AM

Bad experience at Hope & Olive

Hi all, I just want to let you know about a recent dining experience at Hope & Olive in Greenfield. We were a group of four adults, all foodies in our own way. Being fairly recent (2 years on) transplants to western Massachusetts/Pioneer Valley, we have struggled to find truly good places to dine in the area, and we were very hopeful about this place based on positive reviews and comments from coworkers. Every one of us was disappointed and both of us as couples decided we would NOT go back.

The booth we sat at was too far away from the seats, so you had to be perched on the edge uncomfortably while eating. Uneven aesthetics in the room -- some nice lighting but also "dusty rose" formica booth table straight from the 80s. Loud space as others have noted -- really made communication difficult. Packed on a Wednesday evening, even early.

Our server was new to the profession but that would have been fine with us if she was by nature halfway attentive -- but she didn't know the menu, had to go back and ask in response to every single question, didn't pre-empt orders with news of things they were out of, didn't check on us after our main course was served to see if we needed anything, tried to take our credit card a second time after it had been rung up.

The selection of beers was disappointing -- dominated by Berkshire Brewing which makes rather ho-hum beers in our opinions. Served up nicely though, not in traditional pint glasses but instead in more fashionable tall glasses -- but I wonder if they were a true 16 oz.

Apps were acceptable -- arugula salad with Italian sausage, fennel, and other bits was by our friends' report decent. We had the catalan shrimp -- fresh, nice grilled taste, but strangely placed on the plate with a pile of marcona almonds next to them. Let's just say the composition was curious.

The main courses became the main disappointment. My husband's steak was tough and not very flavorful, and tasted cheap quality -- the twice-baked potatoes bland, and an unadorned small pile of lettuce leaves (no dressing either) just added insult to injury at the $22 price tag. A friend's beef stroganoff with "hand-cut noodles" -- were we believe actually from a package dried egg noodles, and the dish was not creamy or flavorful at all but instead some small strips of sad looking beef in a bland sauce, on top of the crappy noodles, then a little spoon of sour cream on top -- a relatively small portion compared to other main courses (the place is uneven in that regard) -- for $16!!! My pork chop was tough and dry to the core, but they did not even provide me with a steak knife to try tearing through the leather. Huge quantity (two slices), two very dry and heavy hush puppies, "potato salad" with chunks of potato that were badly dried out I presume from the baking process, nondescript uninteresting "corn salsa", and collards that had been cooked/presented so carelessly that there were big cut wads from the original uncooked stack of leaves still hanging together in piles from the cutting process. It was awful, and I really mean awful. Ironically, the best meal was had by the friend who ordered the "tempeh reuben" -- the cheapest and most casual dish of them all.

Dessert was overdetermined by granola -- which went into the cheesecake crust and as a topping for the fruit crisp. Maybe not everyone's pet peeve, but I'm not interested in seeing something virtuous in my dessert, on those rare times I decide to do dessert!! How annoying -- something should either be healthy and virtuous and state its intentions up front, or decadent -- but these dishes were rich but tried to pretend that they had healthy qualities to them.

Most places we have visited in the Valley have been disappointing -- compromises in all directions on authenticity, so much of the same thing repeated (this I think is an east-coast thing generally -- with people balking if Caesar salad and shrimp scampi aren't on every menu), overpriced and self-satisfied establishments, especially in Northampton. Anyway, for about the same price one could have a lovely dinner at the Night Kitchen, one true exception in the area, which for every point given here, the opposite prevails at that lovely place.

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  1. we went to the h&o for the first time last night, and while i hear your criticisms and understand what you are talking about, i still think they are a cut above most of the pioneer valley, especially for a place in greenfield, and i will definitely go back.

    we ordered cheaper on the menu - a beet and orange salad, which was really excellent, one of those rare salads that surprises you - and a burger and a tuna pan bagna, both of which were good. service was fine but nothing special.

    granola on the desserts is too bad, so very western mass.

    i'd urge you to think "gastropub" and go back for sandwiches and bar snacks. on that level, the place is a gem. as i said, we didn't order the entrees, so we can't criticize them.

    and, yeah, the night kitchen is a gem, though even they would be nothing amazing in a city with a great dining scene.

    3 Replies
    1. re: andytee

      Hmm......OK, I hear you on the "gastropub" idea. I'm not sure though for us whether the bitterness of the $165 bill (for 4 people) -- "FOR THAT?!?!" will subside any time soon, though.....
      Funny, we were there as a first time last night, too, and here we are, both on chowhound.....! :-)

      And yes, aside from the unique setting of the Night Kitchen, it would be considered standard-good but not amazing in a city with a good dining scene.

      1. re: andytee

        i would like to agree with shorty that it is unfortunate you had a bad experience, but that my experiences (as well as my visiting family and friends) there argue it is worth another shot! I really enjoy going there!
        As for the Wednesday night wait at an early hour, I think this is a good sign that people want to go there to dine! Go HO! The formica tables and booths are part of the original decor that came with the building. It was the old Polish-American Citizens Club. I think this adds a homey atmosphere to an otherwise contemporary atmosphere. I think the booths are adorable, but I must say sitting at the bar is my favorite.
        There a week ago on a double date, I had the steak with potato as well. I've found it more adventageous to order a shade rarer than you may usually order. The portions are hearty in size and due to this, I've found the meat is sometimes more well-done, mostly because it has to cook the whole way through! But my steak was perfect, melt-in your mouth delicious (I ordered medium-rare). I love that the kitchen always adds a little green to the plate (always local and fresh). My date got a roasted chicken breast special that was juicy and accompanied by a potato gratin and green beans. All were perfectly cooked!
        Sure, the price can be a little heavy once you've delved into their delicious martinis and cocktails, add some apps, entrees and desert (or a desert cocktail--try the icebox martini! its to DIE for). However, I've never felt cheated or unhappy paying the bill because I know they serve local produce and meats.
        I know a bad experience can be daunting, but maybe the kitchen (and your server) was having a bad night (not an excuse, but something any seasoned diner can understand. And especially something I understand as a seasoned foodservice worker).
        Have some love! For Western Mass,(and especially Greenfield) the HO has become a great community spot with really good food and good people and hopefully if this is read by them will be seen as constructive criticism accompanied by love love love.

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            1. I'm so sorry to hear that you had a not so fantastic experience with service and food at H&O. My first experience there was really very good and that includes incredibly attentive service. I went there several months ago when it wasn't incredibly packed all the time and the server I had was from Bottle of Bread as well. Very knowledgeable about the wine list and recommended a fantastic wine with my entree.

              I can only guess that maybe with all the good buzz about the place that they have become incredibly busy and had to hire new staff and it sounds like maybe some really inexperienced staff.

              I'm a little surprised that know one expressed their dissatisfaction with the overcooked meats. I'm really a stickler for that and will usually warn the server that if the meat isn't cooked as ordered I will send it back. I'm always really nice about it, but I just let them know that I'm definitely serious about it.

              I took a tour of the place when I was there and the booths look really comfortable and people seemed relaxed - no one looked really awkward anyway.

              I'm going to say give it another shot and see if your experience is improved the next time around. But also, be more vocal about what you're not happy with.