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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.

      2. 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.

        1. I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I have had four great meals there, although it's been about six weeks since the last time I've been. Hopefully you'll give it another shot.

          1. Just a follow-up note on a couple of things. First, it is not that simple a matter of getting them to correct the shortcomings of the dishes. We were there for the pleasure of company and conversation, and it should be understandable that such a disruption (esp. if one or more chose to send back a dish and order something else but others didn't) would have been an uncomfortable, needlessly distracting disruption. In a sense, there is no graceful way of correcting the situation without having a serious impact on the dinner experience.

            The other thing is that it was what it was, and so why not post about a negative experience? Even if we addressed it with them, it started off poorly and in multiple aspects, including the service. It strikes me that there is a sort of attempt to shout down, through devaluing a review that disagrees with the prevailing sentiments, particularly among the ardent Pioneer Valley folks who just think this area cannot be criticized (despite the prevalence of mediocrity or worse in the local dining scene). For more evidence of this, see the longish thread started by famedelupo, where s/he gives an "eh" review to a number of places that people love, and then see the repercussions. Famedelupo even writes back at one point, "what's wrong with criticism"?

            Anyway, on another note, I did call one of the owners, Jim, and talked with him at length. He listened very carefully and took all criticisms well and really seemed interested in correcting things. His response was very sympathetic (including agreeing that people in this area tend to have lowest common denominator tastes!) and from his response we've decided to give it another shot, as a group of four, albeit in the "gastropub" vein that andy suggested. Will post back about that one if my comments are welcome here, otherwise, whatever....

            3 Replies
            1. re: Genovapernoi

              Reading the comments above in THIS THREAD, I'm not sure who told you not to post about your experience?!

              Jim is a good guy. Glad you are giving it another shot.

              1. re: Genovapernoi

                I have been reading your comments and those of others with interest, since I haven't yet gone to the H&O. It seems in general there are things people like but that we all wish Bottle of Bread was still in operation.

                However, having lived on both coasts and abroad I simply don't understand the sentiment that people here have "lowest common denominator tastes". I find there are many places in W. Mass where you can find much fresher ingredients, prepared with more respect for the true flavors of the food, and at a much better price than in Boston (where I now live, though I visit the West County frequently). Of course there are places that are mediocre or worse, but this is true of all areas. The variety of good foods may not be on par with more metropolitan areas but the ratio of good to bad certainly holds its own.

                1. re: Genovapernoi

                  Who's saying don't post about your negative experience? I've posted about plenty of them.

                  I will disagree about the *acceptance* of mediocrity as something I've experienced on Chowhound. There is an abundance of mediocre food in WMA, New England...everywhere. If there wasn't an abundance of people accepting of and continuing to eat the mediocre food then they wouldn't continue to exist. On Chowhound, however, I've witnessed quite passionate debates of what's good and where, and I can't say that Chowhounders in general are accepting of mediocre food.

                  So if you say your experience was mediocre and others disagree, its quite possible that your experience and theirs was totally on point for all of the reasons I stated in my original post here.

                2. I just went back on Sunday and it was the first "quiet" night I've seen at Hope & Olive, not that I'm complaining, as we got seated in a booth right away. I had the squash blossom appetizer, which was unusual in that the "stuffing" was on the side, in a ramekin, an olive and cheese mixture, and there were some roasted cherry tomatoes on the plate. Batter was quite nice, not at all oily. Had the pork chop entree, which was cooked perfectly, juicy with a bit of a crust. My only complaint about my dish was probably that there was too much food (also came with potato salad, a dilled coleslaw, garlicky broccoli rabe, and 2 hush puppies). My companion had more mixed feelings about his meal, his caesar salad was unremarkable (he agreed the special house salad might have been better, plums + candied walnuts + goat cheese, mesclun). He liked the summer meatloaf, the balsamic cipollini onions were very good, but the green beans were too spicy (I concur, and I love spicy food).

                  Too full for dessert.

                  Our server was terrific -- friendly and prompt, but didn't push, as it took me a while to make up my mind on my entree. We'll be back. Sometime I'd like to just stick to the bar menu, and there's also a lobster BLT I'd like to try. SO glad this place is in Greenfield...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hollerhither

                    i've been back for a second visit. try the lobster blt, it's not what i expected, but its really good.

                    h&o is really good for the pioneer valley, but in my (limited) experience, a bit inconsistent. the beet and orange salad that was frankly revelatory the first time i ate it was just good on my second visit. my SO ordered the kielbassa reuben - kielbassa is a strange choice for a reuben. it was good, but why? there really is nothing wrong with pastrami or corned beef. i think even tempeh would be more in line with the traditional profile. i am really interested in exploring the "bar menu" when i visit in the future. tomatos with basil, olive oil and malodon sea salt were really great, grilled corn not amazing but a really nice side dish for about $2.50.

                    i had been curious about the cocktail menu, the "cukesake" (hendricks gin, muddled cucumber, lemon, sake) was a really great drink.

                    so, my current verdict on h&o - sometimes really good but not totally reliable. still, most of the time it's good enouugh to be happy for. i'll be back.. like the other poster said - so glad this place is in greenfield.

                  2. Hello to everyone, I'm new to the forum, having lurked around and read widely for a while. I recently went to Hope & Olive myself with a friend, and overall I'm of a similar opinion to the OP on this place.....Some things that we didn't like:

                    Service: We might have had the same server as the OP, since her lack of experience particularly showed in how she was just too present at our table -- it was too involved having her as our server! She was chatty and talked too much about what she was going to do next (e.g., bring the drinks) instead of just seamlessly doing it. She's the very tall, willowy, tanned woman there -- sorry, I didn't catch her name.

                    Drinks: well, they were OK -- once one order was corrected (DC ordered a Citadelle martini and was brought a Citron-vodka one). The mint julep I had was rather weak.

                    Food: The arugula salad we found to be overdressed. The meat on the steak sandwich was really tough and stringy. The cubano sandwich was OK, but entirely forgettable. The appetizer of grilled endive and prosciutto was fairly well thought out, though. Nothing crossed that threshold of needing to be sent back, I'll say that much. It was all to greater or lesser extents edible -- we just didn't leave the restaurant really feeling like we had had a good meal or a good time.

                    So, I'll agree with andytee's suggestion that the place is "inconsistent". But based on our experience, I will come down on the side of not recommending it.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: nuthatches

                      Hope & Olive is one of my favorite restaurants, but I agree with you about the server.... We had her twice in the past month and she messed up our orders both times. She was also very insidious to the point that I was really uncomfortable asking for anything. I also got the sense that portions are slightly smaller every time....

                      1. re: nuthatches

                        Yikes--maybe it's just me, but I felt slightly uncomfortable reading the detailed description of specifically which server is the terrible one. Unless that server did something shockingly horrible that makes for a good story (like swearing at everyone at the table) it might be more productive to discuss their service, and the things that annoyed you about it, with the restaurant manager. It sounds like she needs guidance and instruction, and she might be more likely to get it that way.

                        1. re: lmg

                          Well, anyone who wants could always email the owners a link to this thread. Who knows, perhaps they are already reading it! It's a busy life running a restaurant, but it's worth keeping up with the reviews if you want to run a good business.

                      2. I would beg to differ, and would definitely recommend the small plates bar menu any day. Great variety from beets to ribs, all local ingredients, large portions and priced on the low side. And their cocktails are also made from scratch, including all the mixes.

                        I would concur that the entrees are sometimes a mixed bag, especially after such great appetizers and small plates.

                        My experiences with the staff have been great, adult waiters and bartenders who tend to know the food and what they are doing. And Jim is always gracious.

                        My two cents!