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Mar 26, 2009 06:04 AM

Something Savory restaurant closing

Johhny Levins and his wife recently had a child and have decided to close the restaurant aspect of the business. They will still be doing catering out of the location. Really a loss to the Arlington food scene...his stuff is really delicious

Saturday March 28 is the last day of business.

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  1. SS is a textbook example of a chef with good stuff who was afraid to make a commitment with his menu and the way his establishment was run. Is it supposed to be a Caribbean food restaurant? Then what's all the middle-of-the-road, poorly-executed bland catering food doing on the menu? Is it supposed to be a nice restaurant that serves beer and wine? Then why does it look like a sandwich shop, and why is the service so bad? Why do I need to place my order with a waitress when I could easily just walk to the counter? I couldn't help but get the feeling that they were trying very hard to please everybody and avoid scaring off the Arlington locals, which is always a recipe for disaster.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Luther

      Who says it had to fit neatly into a concept? How was the space odd exactly (from the post below)? It was what it was.

      For the record, I don't recall any of their food - Caribbean or not - being poorly executed or bland. Never had "bad" service - shoot them for hiring nice local kids, who is all I ever encountered there. I thought it added to the neighborhood charm.

      And as far as scaring off the Arlington locals, apparently they were not entirely off the mark in this regard - I never really got the sense that the "locals" really were into the Caribbean fare, so much as the loonies who drive anywhere for good chow - that would be us chowhounds.

      I'm just sorry I did not get there enough - I never had anything short of a very pleasant meal there.

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        I have had bland and poorly executed catering fare from Something Savory, part of the (complete and expensive) disaster was the restaurant-provided line cook who served the food, but the initial product was not up to the standards expected. I have had better experiences at the restaurant (such that I was surprised they are focusing on the catering), but as a dining out location it never lived up to full expectations so I have tended to only occasionally lunch there. As a long time Green Street customer, the restaurant still never fully clicked for me, but I am still sad it won't be an option. But Luther's criticism of the _management_ of SS, as opposed to necessarily the food, has validity in my opinion and here multiple opinions, even of sacred cows, are permitted.

        1. re: itaunas

          Don't disagree, but I think Luther's comments were about "catering-style" food on the menu at the restaurant, as opposed to the food at actual catered events.

          Anyway, really glad to hear the feedback on the catering, because I was considering looking at them for catering at my wedding. Will proceed with more caution now.

        2. re: Bob Dobalina

          Bob, I totally agree with you about some of the locals shying away from the place because of the sometimes unfamiliar, quirky menu items. I wrote about this awhile back, partly because I had heard from more than a couple of people in the immediate area who weren't interested in going there since the food sounded "different." It's too bad, because I think the place is really good.

          Between this and the apparent closing of Sala Thai up the street, Arlington Heights is suddenly a restaurant-poor neighborhood. I generally like Jade Garden, and I've heard that I Chef is good, but these two closings really put a dent in the food scene there.

          1. re: hiddenboston

            The food sounded different? much for being an enlighted left-leaning blue state.

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Perhaps it's just that the food wasn't Asian... which is "different" for the area...

              1. re: Parsnipity

                Keep in mind that Arlington Heights tends more towards takeout food and Arlington Center dine-in, but they quickly went to sit-down service at night (and it can be weird walking through a dining room to get takeout). The web site more prominently displayed the catering menus than the dinner. Luther might be right that just having counter service, delivery, and buying the number 87s-tew-goat they could have done better.

                I also wonder if theyknew how to reach out to the community. Arlington is a pretty saturated market, but their grand opening was a Cambridge reunion rather than an Arlington event. Catering orders can come from far away, but most Cambridgeites (hounds included) are going to stop at Gran Gusto or the Chez Henri bar and so on, before treking out to Arlington Heights. So you have to figure out how to fit into the neighborhood and I didn't ever see that, although they _did_ try.

                Bob -- our catering data point is just one and they have been doing it for years with many satisfied customers including hounds. Perhaps going back to just that will allow them to even improve that. However, in our case we certainly would never use them for a sit down dinner again. Appetizers and stew, they probably would be on the list.

                1. re: itaunas

                  Thanks, Itaunas. What was bad in your experience?

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Guessing that Bob has read the story of our misadventure with catering, but I feel the on-topic comments in the original post above are sufficient. And as I said its sad they are closing the restaurant!

                    1. re: itaunas

                      Thank you again for the detail - that pretty much sounds like a nightmare.

                      1. re: Bob Dobalina

                        If I were to do it again, apps and soup from Something Savory might still be a possibility, but I would take a page from almansa and find someone to grill brandt beef prime skirt steaks with chimichurri + veggies over charcoal to serve. :-)

                        1. re: itaunas

                          Yum. And plus, you'd invite me.

                          1. re: itaunas

                            Me too. Just say when and where. :-b

              2. re: hiddenboston

                Local resident and big fan of SS and Jade Garden here (but not missing Sala one bit...), however, Jade Garden seems to have slipped even for a middle of the road, Americanized Chinese spot recently - we got an inedible shrimp dish (not remotely fresh) and some standards have been oily and flavorless - I hope this is not a continuing trend and something good (not a vacuum repair or wig shop or mediocre pizza joint, for example...) moves into at least one of those vacant spots - perhaps Moulton's needs an Arlington satellite...

              3. re: Bob Dobalina

                If there were indeed locals who were scared off by the menu, then that certainly proves my point- by trying to please everyone you end up pleasing very few. For more detail, see any episode of "Kitchen Nightmares" (UK version).

                Every restaurant must fit into a clearly-defined concept, even if that concept is unique and nontraditional. You can't successfully execute any business without a strong plan.

                About the service: I'm not a wealthy person, and I don't really find it charming when I have to pay 15% for service that adds nothing to my dining experience.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  I never thought they billed themselves as Caribbean. Neighborhood place with Caribbean accents, more like. (I was one of the grousers about it not being Green St., but boy that would *not* work in Arl. Hts. I think they were smart to tone it down.) I think they were just a little too pricey for the dine-in experience. Never had a bad meal but did not go all that often, either.

                  1. re: Aromatherapy

                    "I think they were just a little too pricey for the dine-in experience."
                    My sentiments exactly. I always enjoyed their food, but came away feeling like I spent too much for eating in a sub shop with plastic utensils. (I think they probably got real dishes at some point, but they'd pretty much lost me by then. Eating steamed mussels out of a plastic bowl with a plastic fork was not the best experience- tho the mussels were v good.)

              4. The food was very good. I would stop in for lunch when in the area.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lergnom

                  I agree. This is too bad. I had lunch there about a month ago, and it was terrific. I had the cuban sandwich, and my husband had pulled pork. I was willing to overlook the oddity of the space for the delicious-ness.

                2. That is terrible news for me. My office is moving from Watertown to Belmont which opens Arlington as a viable lunch option. I was so looking for to introducing my office mates to Something Savory.

                  1. I'm sad to hear this. I only got over to eat there a few times, but I was always happy with the food and didn't mind the quasi-sandwich shop vibe. Their fish chowder was awesome, and was a go-to when hitting up Penzey's across the street.

                    1. That is really sad. We enjoyed our meals there, and I kind of liked the space. I do think they would have done better if they had kept some of their lunch sandwiches and their burger on the dinner menu, give how casual the atmosphere was.