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Marliave: Upstairs or Downstairs?

Reading lots of good reviews of Marliave and intending to check it out this weekend, but I am unsure what everyone recommends. Should we book upstairs or downstairs?

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  1. I should elaborate, to preempt the "it depends what you want" answer.

    We just want to check the place out. I'm always up for getting dressed up for a nice dinner, so if upstairs is worth the cost, then that would be great. But if downstairs is more fun and the menu everyone likes, then I'll try that first.

    1. I really liked the look and feel of the upstairs. I ate at the bar and very much enjoyed my lunch (also the visit to the ground level oyster bar) but if I was going out for dinner, I'd want to go full monty upstairs.

      2 Replies
      1. re: yumyum

        I ate downstairs recently - it was good, above-average pub food (decent burger and outstanding rosemary-dusted fries) but went upstairs just to look around. I asked the hostess and she said sure, why not. Both are nice spaces, with an old-fashioned feel (not surprising given the history of the place), but the downstairs is more of a tavern and upstairs is more formal.

        The two menus are completely different (and quite different in price) so I'm afraid you really do have to decide what you want. I have read here that you can order the downstairs menu when sitting in the bar area upstairs, so that might be a good compromise for a first visit.

        1. re: BobB

          yumyum & BobB, thank you both for your input.

          The upstairs sounds like a good weekend date.

      2. To the extent it helps your decision-making, this is a link to a previous post which includes my reaction to the upstairs. I would only add that, as BobB's post infers, the downstairs is more of a "bar-scene." A good thing, no doubt, but a very different feel from the upstairs. I don't think you can go wrong in terms of chow, so the issue is just the environment you are looking for.


        1. I love the downstairs cafe, the upstairs bar, and the cafe menu that is served in both. I think the food is terrific and a very good deal, and the cocktails are great.

          My issue with the upstairs dining room is not the food, which is indeed very good, but the quality of service for the prices they are charging. Most entrees are north of $40, which puts this place in competition with such fine-dining standouts as Clio, No. 9 Park, and their ilk, and the service is nowhere near up to that level. I actually found it to be kind of amateurish.

          Diners being asked to shell out north of $100/head at dinner can reasonably expect a very polished service experience from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave, and Marliave is sorely lacking in this kind of polish at the moment. They are going to have to either fix this fast or abandon the very high-end menu concept in the upstairs dining room.

          5 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I suspect the problem starts at the top: one of the main reasons I refuse to ever step foot into Grotto again is the crap service (I once had a beer quite literally poured into my lap, without an apology), and frankly, the service at Marliave is only a mild improvement.

            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              I found the downstairs service to be perfectly friendly and prompt the one time I was there, and the place was full. Maybe upstairs is worse because the servers have to constantly trek up and down, the kitchen being on the floor below the dining room. On the other hand, it saves them having to join a gym to stay fit!

              1. re: BobB

                I find the multiple-servers system downstairs unnecessarily confusing, and occasionally irritating, as in the time I had to tell three different people in the course of about a minute fifteen that I had only just gotten the cocktails menu and no I didn't know what I wanted yet. I love almost every single other thing about the Marliave, though.

                1. re: BobB

                  Barmy's being a bit harsh on the Marilave service, but we don't care for the tag-team approach and found our servers rather hover-y even though the place was busy enough that they shouldn't have had the free time to hover. See comments here from Bob Dobalina and myself:

                  1. re: Allstonian

                    Yes, there's much worse service to be found in Boston, and everything else about the place is so great that it's not a dealbreaker by any means, but it's the one weak spot in the experience.

            2. I was at the Marliave on Sunday for the first time. I didn't make it to the more formal upstairs, but the downstairs is as it has been described; a casual bar/restaurant with good food and drinks at reasonable prices. I drank wine but did have a sip or two of some cocktails that I thought were well made. We got the rarebits which were quite tasty though I have to say I liked the meatball sliders better. The entree portions are pretty big (I took half of my eggplant parm home with me). This is definitely a place I will head back to for a casual fun night out.

              1. I prefer downstairs, but I tend to sit at the bar. The bartenders are all friendly and helpful and it eliminates the multiple service issue. Obviously not ideal for more than a couple of people though.

                1. hey rlove -- how did it work out? I ask because a few folks I know (me included) noticed a funky smell in the downstairs room lately and I'm hoping it was a little nicer upstairs. What did you end up doing?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: yumyum

                    Funky smell? I seem to recall a kind of bleach-y smell down in the tiny little oyster bar on our one visit. But if there are issues currently I want to know too - Barmy & I are planning another visit to the downstairs on Saturday as a treat to reward me for having to work all day.

                    1. re: Allstonian

                      No, this smell was less bleachy and more erm, funky. I noticed it right away when I went in, and a few other hounds have mentioned it as well. Don't know what the current sitch is, though. Maybe other recent diners will tell us?

                      1. re: yumyum

                        This is what I wrote in Oct.:

                        The one thing that I noticed as I came in thru the oyster bar was a kind of cleaning fluid smell. I remember the one time I was at the Littlest Bar, it had a nasty smell and this just made me think of trying to clean up after that smell.

                        1. re: yumyum

                          No odd smell when I was there a few weeks ago. And I have a notoriously sensitive nose.

                          I didn't go near the bar though, we were seated at the first table on the right as you enter the room, by the window.

                          1. re: BobB

                            I noticed a funky smell there too when my wife and I ate there a few weeks ago. I concur it was a bleachy/cleaning fluid smell. Thanks! the wife didn't smell it and accused me of being crazy.

                            Other than that, we had a fantastic meal at the upstairs downstairs section (ain't that confusing!), and we're definitely going back. Upstairs looked nice, but pricey for the space/ambiance. I suspect it won't last long.

                      2. re: yumyum

                        hey yumyum -- we ended up going somewhere else that night (La Voile, I think) but I still intend to go. I'll post a review when we do.

                        As an aside, reading this thread, I definitely don't like the split upstairs/downstairs concept. I'd prefer one restaurant and one menu, perhaps supplemented by a cheaper bar menu.