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Flying in the face of "Chow Wisdom"

Because we'd never been and felt we were missing out on a quintessential old-school Massachusetts experience, my family and I went to Hilltop Steakhouse in Saugus last weekend.

I'll admit it - I really liked it. The iceburg lettuce with red-onion salad was gigantic, the New York Strip was flavorful and perfectly cooked, and the beer was cold. Couldn't really have asked for a more satisfying or reasonably priced basic steak dinner.

What experiences have you had (either good or bad) that would contradict the generally good advice on Chowhound?

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  1. I've had some good meals at Villa Rosa in Quincy (.....BRING IT ON).

    8 Replies
    1. re: hiddenboston

      I will take the hit with you on this one.

      1. re: hiddenboston

        I'm shocked, you had a good meal at Villa Rosa!!!! What could you have possibly ordered? Please share.

        1. re: Pegmeister

          I have to admit that this was 15 years ago but I recall that they had a very nice Chicken Parm plate. Maybe it is the hazy memory of youth (relatively speaking) or the many glasses of cheap red wine that led me to this conclusion.

          1. re: Northender

            It has been many years since I've gone to the Villa. I had my very first taste of pizza there, when I was 5 years old, and the take out came in a brown paper bag with little paper cups on top of the pizza so that the cheese wouldn't stick. It was actually quite good. The last time I was there was about 6 years ago. The service was horrendous and the pizza while edible, didn't make me feel like I would be running back. To their credit, they have been in business for over 50 years. Someone must like it.

            1. re: Pegmeister

              We went with some native-Quincy friends last year or the year before and the service was a little inattentive and my friend's wine glass hadn't been properly cleaned, but I thought the food was not the worst I've ever had. I had either eggplant or chicken parm, I can't remember which.

              I have decided though that for good Italian food I am going to shop the entrees at Alfredo's on Franklin Street and cook at home. Their stuffed shells were toooo delicious! And shockingly affordable, no where near what I was expecting.

          2. re: Pegmeister

            I have always liked their pizza, and occasionally like their pasta dishes, though the last couple of times they definitely weren't up to snuff.

          3. Despite riding the anti-chain train like a worn-out old hobbyhorse, I have had several not-terrible meals at the Park Square outlet of Maggiano's Little Italy. <ducks>

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            6 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I agree with you here. The Maggiano's salad is always a good hit and I really like their bolognese and meatballs for a good hearty meal. It's not a watery sauce at all. I've had really good bolognese and really bad bolognese. Theirs falls right in the middle - definitely satisfying.

              www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Definitely. It's not the finest Italian food, but it's more consistent than a lot of places. I love going for the full 5-course meal with friends - a true evening of gluttony.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Oh, Slim, I wish you had not disclosed that. I find their food horrendous!

                  1. re: Blumie

                    Context is all here. We're not talking guilty pleasures. Most of my experience with Maggiano's has been with corporate holiday parties, family-style, in downstairs private dining rooms. By that standard (nobody in my industry has been spending real money on this kind of thing for years), it has been a pleasant surprise, especially for the cost, with excellent service. Even the rooms were nicer than I expected for a casual-dining chain outlet. Especially for someone who regularly tries to talk people out of chain dining (in my Phoenix "On the Cheap" column), finding it not-terrible definitely runs counter to my own expectations, as well as (I think it's safe to say) conventional Chow wisdom.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                    i agree to this one. I actually have had nice lunches here. I'm a pretty big fan of their lemon cookies, but only when they've come right out of the over. Last time I was there, they were unfortunately cold and stale :(

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      I haven't been to the restaurant but we often do take-out via (Dining-In) from Maggiano's. I wrote about our favorite busy weekend comfort food order last year. We can make a number of meals from an order of roast chicken, a big salad, red potatoes and one of the pasta dishes.

                      http://www.bostonzest.com/2008/05/del...

                    2. Also, the Roadhouse in Brookline takes pretty big hits on this board as being really lousy BBQ. Maybe it is, but being from the North and never having been to the South for any "real" BBQ, I don't think it's all that bad - same w/ Red Bones which also takes big hits. I've never had a bad meal at the Road House and my hubby doubly loves it for the craft beer.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: kristinayee

                        I agree about Redbones - I love everything about it.
                        I also like the food I've had at the Sunset Grille & Tap. As far as pub food goes it was as good as I've found.

                        1. re: Pete Lyons

                          Will third on Redbones. Have eaten there several times and never had a bad meal there. It helps if you drown their side of beans (often less than stellar) in sweet BBQ sauce. Otherwise, no gripes here.

                      2. I like Fire and Ice, the Cheesecake factory, and Mount vernon......I am really ducking...lol

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Johnresa

                          I'll take the bait, just thinking about Fire and Ice gives me a rash ;-)

                          1. re: StriperGuy

                            I hate fire and ice with a passion. Those people were geniuses when they decided that they were going to create a restaurant where people had to go up and try to get their own food cooked.... and then actually pay for it.

                            Do that at your own home.

                            1. re: StriperGuy

                              I agree- I can say nothing good about fire n ice-My neice planned my brothers bday dinner there. Just felt dingy, and my other neice was a bit freaked out- she is one of those " don't like my food touching: so the thought of her food touching others food did not bode well. Have never been to cheesecake, and will admit, have had ok meals at the mt vernon ( use restaurant.com for a coupon)

                            2. re: Johnresa

                              Not to be ageist, but I've never met anyone over the age of 20 who liked Fire & Ice.

                              1. re: BobB

                                I think you are right- my nephew goes to school in Boston, and loves getting GC to Fire & Ice. And my neice who hosted my brothers bd dinner is in her early 20's

                                1. re: macca

                                  Mr Plumtomato liked it into his mid-late 20s, when I got a hold of him and introduced him to better places. He tried to take me there for lunch once but thankfully they hadn't opened for the day yet, and I looked in the window and said "nuh-uh" and steered him away.

                            3. Not Your Average Joe's in the Station Landing Plaza at the Wellington Station Stop in Malden. I loved their focaccia bread dipped in olive oil, parmesan, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Also their Ahi Tuna Wontons. I ate there the first week I moved to Boston from NYC and thought "oh my god what wonderful goodness chain restaurants have to offer...what have I been missing!"

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Suze123

                                I genuinely, unapologetically like Not Your Average Joe's when that's the sort of meal I'm in the mood for: their Cobb salad is a particular favorite.

                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                  Ditto Barmy. I always do well with the grilled tuna salad and one of their chicken sandwiches. It's great for kids as well.

                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                    Agreed - that is the best of the lot when I meet up with a friend at the Methuen location (exactly halfway for both of us from my work/her home). Have always eaten at the bar; good service, good basic food....and once they opened a Kim Crawford chardonnay for me for a couple of glasses (even though it's not on their by the glass menu).

                                  2. re: Suze123

                                    Station Landing is in Medford.