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Dec 16, 2009 01:39 PM

Abolutely Fabulous Melrose

Any good? Word on the street is good food, terrible service. Pricey. What do Chowhounds think? I am tentative about trying as the service stories are truly horrible. See here:


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  1. I've only looked at the menu in the window. To me it looked like a decent option in the town, certainly more expensive, but I found the prices quite fair for what the menu promises. The food is approachable, but not too terribly dull, and some things sounded quite good. As a Melrose resident I can't see myself going more than once in a long while, but AF is certainly a big step up from Turner's and Stearns & Hill.

    5 Replies
    1. re: almansa

      How do you now it is step up if you haven't actually eaten there?

      1. re: Chris B.

        I can only compare menus; I can't actually comment on the execution, but it's easy for me, anyway, to imagine something more appealing than Melrose's other eateries. To my taste, they set the bar pretty low.

        1. re: almansa

          I am curious why you don't like Turner's (or any other Melrose place). I have always had a decent meal there. Also, we enjoy Mexico Lindo. The new Chinese place (Feng Shui) is HUGE improvment over Dragon Chef. Bobby C's is good. I could go on.....

          1. re: Chris B.

            I am curious too. I like Turner's a lot. I especially like to go for lunch on Saturdays and sit at the raw bar. I also think Mexico Lindo is quite good.
            What is good at Feng Shui? With Fuloon 5 minutes away and willing to deliver I can't imagine going elsewhere, but is there something in particular at Feng that is recomended?

            1. re: drbangha

              For the record I don't dislike Turners. My experiences there have been fine, adequate, as good as they needed to be. Turner's does a perfectly fine job delivering on its promise, which is to be an inexpensive, family-friendly, casual, fun spot for a beer and some fresh seafood. AF seems to promise something different - shooting for a more urban, gastronomic experience - and time will tell if it succeeds on fulfilling its proxy. It's certainly the first venture of its kind since I've lived in Melrose. As for Mexico Lindo, I think that some things are better to order than others. For instance, I love the albondigas, but I bet they rarely serve them.

    2. I don't get the lack of a website in this day and age for anything other than places like sub shops, pizzerias and Chinese counter-only take-out. When I've driven by to look at a menu, there's been no parking, so I've skipped it and probably will continue to.

      15 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        Let me clear up a few things.

        1. Absolutely Fabulous is not a new place. They have simply moved to main street. They used to convert a diner down by the tracks into a pretty nice space on Friday and Saturday nights. It only seated about 20 people. If you search this board for "Absolutely Fabulous" (use quotes) you will find many, many positive reviews. It used to be BYOB. It closed in June 2009 while they searched for new space and then built the new space out.

        2. Absolutely Fabulous moved into very nice new space on November 27, 2009 on Main Street. They now have many more tables and a full liquor license.

        3. If you are looking for parking, there is generally plenty in the lots behind the stores on Main Street.

        4. I find the yelp review highly suspect for a couple of reasons.

        First, it was written well after old Absolutely Fabulous closed its doors and shortly before new Absolutely Fabulous opened. Usually I don't wait a 5-6 months to write a flaming review with lots of little details about exactly who said what and when, etc.

        Second, it is completely inconsistent with my experience. Is the food the greatest I have every had? No. Is it good? Yes, quite good, certainly a lot better that Stearns and Hill. The service at old Absolutely Fabulous was sometimes rushed because of the very small size and the sizeable demand, but never ever rude. We''ve probably eaten there 20 times.
        Third, my instincts from the tone and the timing of the post is that somebody has a dog in the fight and its not just a case of a dissapointed diner.

        5. With all of the above said, we went on the opening night of the new Absolutely Fabulous and it was very apparent that there were kinks that needed to be worked out. I won't go into a lot of detail because opening night is never easy and I don't think it is fair to judge a restaurant on that basis. Suffice it to say, we were so eager to get in some AF that we decided to risk opening night- it wasn't a disaster, it just wasn't the same excellent experience we had expected.

        I'd encourage anyone in the area to read the other reviews and comments on this board and then give AF a try and report back. We will be back notwithstanding 5 above.

        I have absolutely no affiliation with AF other than I liked to eat there, hope the new location works out, and, if it does, think other people will like AF too.

        1. re: drbangha

          Competely agree! i have been to AF a few times when they were at Cedar Perk, and enjoyed all of my meals there. I also read the review on yelp and disregarded it, as it was so far off of what I experienced there. Am looking forward to trying the new location.

          1. re: drbangha

            I know about #1; I never went because it was not good times and location for me.

            My reference to parking was just that I am lazy when I just want to see a posted menu, and I wanted not to have to do more than pull up on Main St and look - each time I remember to try, no parking. Hence my irritation with no website, which was the point of my remark.

            Btw, I agree that the complaining person appears to have a bone to pick, as he posted the same comment elsewhere, in a kind of vengeance attack.

            I still stand by my complaint about a lack of a website for restaurant of this sort. It sends a signal of unseriousness.

            1. re: Karl S

              Totally agree on the website. I will see if I can take a picture of the menu and post it here some time.

              1. re: drbangha

                I don't get why a new restaurant of this sort would not have a website either. Like Karl, most of us won't make a special stop just to "check out" a restaurant's menu, but a quick visit online is way easier. Get the word out!

                1. re: Chowzmeister

                  Actually Absolutely Fabulous does have a Facebook page so there is some online presence. I would assume they will eventually have a Webpage. My only trip there was on a Tuesday when they are closed. My wife and best friend have been. The food is definitely a step up from the rest of the neighborhood (at least the salmon & Chicken Parm leftovers which I had later that evening were tasty) Portions were large which is normally the case here in the Burbs. Service was an issue but not a disaster the night they were there. Apparently the back bar area serves a tapas style menu in addition to the regular menu but they don't do the tapas in the front (I guess still trying to keep the bar feel from the old Blues Diner which had music back there) which does seem strange. In any event nice to have something else in town, especially one that is only a very short walk from home. I'm still waiting for that great little neighborhood bistro to appear in Melrose.


                  1. re: jeff Turton

                    Well, they have half of the important information: hours. The other half - the menu - has no web presence. It mystifies me in this day and age that a place trying to be a successful restaurant imagines that web-availability of the menu is incidental. It's like saying: we don't care what you don't know. Not propitious.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      I agree Karl. The Facebook page is good - in this case it conveys some info about the place and gave me some interest to stop in. However, without seeing the menu and knowing a little more about the place, I wouldn't go out of my way to visit. Word of mouth is nice, but it's hard to be successful these days without more that that.

                    2. re: jeff Turton

                      Again, I must reiterate my puzzlement over the snobby tone in reference to the other Melrose eateries. ????

                      Bobby C.'s
                      Mexico Lindo
                      Feng Shui

                      All quite good.

                      1. re: Chris B.

                        We went for dinner on Saturday. It was quite busy, and we were seated back in the bar area. Food was quite good, and I told Lena she should try and get the menu up on the facebook page while the web site is being built. Service was an issue (I finally just went to to the bar to get a second glass of wine), but all in all it was a very nice experience.

                        I share Chris B's confusion about the other eateries.

                        1. re: drbangha

                          Facebook is a patch, but they should realize tons of people aren't part of it (and many people are leaving it due to the shifting policies); moreover, they don't show up in Google as easily that way. They should soon have a site of their own. It's not terribly expensive, and it's worth it.

                          1. re: Karl S

                            Agreed- she said they were working on it but obviously working on it is not the same as having it.

                          2. re: drbangha

                            Seems to be the story. Food is good, service is meh.

                            Reminds a lot of Pauli's. They started as as small take out place with a good reputation and eventually moved into a bigger place (now occupied by Mexico Lindo). Due to crappy service, they were out of business a year later. (A friend that we were dining with found a plastic wrapper in his mashed potatoes. The owner/manager acted put out and didn't even offer to comp his meal.)

                            I hope AF can fix this.

                          3. re: Chris B.

                            Like I said, there is a difference in what AF is attempting. That doesn't mean the other restaurants aren't good; it just means they are offering a different sort of experience, and to me, AF seems to be taking a big risk. I've never been to Bobby C's, and I have yet to visit Feng Shui, although I will someday, but I told the Boston Globe that Mexico Lindo is a personal favorite, so I'm not really dissing the local scene. And like I said before, when it comes to contemporary, creative cuisine - be it in a gastropub, bistro, whatever - well, Melrose has none. It's not a value judgement; it's a reasonable, objective observation.That's what I mean when I say the other restaurants set the bar pretty low. AF is trying to fill that void, but if there's no demand, then it will fail.

                            1. re: almansa

                              Thanks for clarifying. The thing is, for me, most contemporary, creative cuisine is too pretentious and snooty. Sadly, it appears that AF is living down to that perception.

              2. My experience - (1) appallingly bad service; (2) mediocre food; (3) unpleasant, uncomfortable atmosphere. I've elaborated on the service on Urbanspoon. Regarding the food - (1) delicious bread - some of the best in town - I assume they bring it in; (2) just okay red pepper dipping sauce (hot pepper at the start of the meal messes with the palate for the rest); (3) lamb on croutons just okay; the lamb tasted fine but was cold and certainly not delicious, the salad beneath was a wet wilted mess of not special greens; (4) eggplant involtini a big gloppy mess on a gigantic bowl of cold pasta topped with not special marinara that was not properly blended with the pasta. Server knew absolutely zero about wine nor the specials, asked if we could use our bread plates (with the film of hot pepper oil still there) for the appetizers (mind you - not a busy night at all), forgot my husband's salad order. Throughout the night staff kept opening the back door, letting in freezing cold air, and walking through the dining room with trays of prepared and unprepared foods from the outside into the kitchen. Not a fun way to spend a cold December evening.

                11 Replies
                1. re: jeant


                  This place sounds like a mess. I'll pass. Thanks everyone for the input.

                  1. re: Chris B.

                    I walked by Tuesday night, and a sign said they were closed until 1/13. Maybe they'll try for a re-launch.

                    1. re: jeant

                      Hmm. Very strange. Any indication why?

                    2. re: Chris B.

                      Ouch! I'll give it a try, anyway. Playing restaurant one or two nights a week where expectations aren't too high - like a supper club - is way different than running one everyday. Hopefully they can find someone with some experience.

                      1. re: almansa

                        We were huge fans of AbFab when it was at Cedar Perk, so for a large gathering of friends we were excited to go to the new location. Let's just say I agree with all the bad postings above. The service is awful. Forgetting entrees and then substituting because it would take too long to cook the original order, then delivering the substitute cold. And that is just the worst example of a failed dinner. I feel so bad because they fell and fell fast. I was worried when I saw the size of the new space and hopefully the closing is an opportunity to get it all together and get back on track. I think the largest reason for the failure of competent service is it appears to all be friends and family.

                        1. re: kate used to be 50

                          This is the same family that owned Pauli's, yes? Pauli's is the site of one of my three worst-ever meals. Hmmmm. Perhaps the issue is the size of the place. Maybe the simple answer is they are not good with anything over 20 seats?

                          1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                            No relatinship to the owners of Pauli's. The connection is: The owner of Absolutely FAbulous used to rent space on the weekends at Cedar Perk. Cedar Perk if owned by the same family who owned Paulis.

                              1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                I never liked Paulis wither. Never went to their sit donw restaurant, but gotr take out from them when they had the small space near Melrose Drug- now it is a gift shop.

                              2. re: macca

                                See my post above. Pauli's was one the worst experiences we ever had.

                            1. re: kate used to be 50

                              Like you, I enhoyed all my meals whe AF was at Sedar Perk. But I never experienced any service issues. Will have to make a trip when they open. Hope they get the kinks out, as I enjoyed the food.

                      2. The original comment has been removed
                        1. The problem is that the stories of bad/snooty service persist, even "on the street". My neighbor (not a foodie) had a very bad experience there. I don't know. So far, nothing that I have read convinces me that the place is nothing more than a pretentious wanna be. Let's see where they are six months from now........

                          1. re: tpsii86

                            They obviously are having growing pains. I have decided to wait six months. If they are still there, I'll give it a go. They are too expensive (for me) to take a chance.

                            1. re: Chris B.

                              OK so if you read the above you will probably realize that we were AF devotees in their previous and much smaller location. Our experiences in the new space were mediocre at best, and after reaching out to the owner and getting no response about of concerns regarding the new spot, we basically abandoned ship notwithstanding our love of the original location and our putting up a little bit of dough to help with the new location.

                              But last night we decided to give it a try again. In short, it was excellent. Service was spot on, food was delicious, and all around we had a great, orderly, relaxing time. I want to test it again once or twice before I can officially recommend it again, but my instincts are that they have worked out the kinks and this will again be a great neighborhood spot. I'd be interested to know if any of the folks above have given it a try recently.

                              1. re: drbangha

                                glad you like it, but this menu issue is really strange and makes me wonder about them... Its been a long time now, and they have apparently gone to great lengths to make a fancy online flyer for open mic, and post some info on wesite and facebook so why do they refuse to ever add a menu? What do they say when you ask?? Given that you helped fund them, i would think some sort of answer would be appropriate! So any more to the story?

                                1. re: chompie

                                  I'll sum up the menu: lots of Joseph's Pasta with the cream sauces you would expect; escargots; meatballs in sauce (rather good); ginormous salads; huge portions of proteins, starches and vegetables with sauces that people like to refer to as demis; cooked shellfish; garlic; some fried apps.

                                  1. re: chompie

                                    Just to be clear, by "a little bit of dough" I meant a really little bit of dough, certainly not enough to give me license to seriously question what is presumably a business decision. But next time we are in there I will definitely ask what the rationalle is and note that people sure are curious. I agree it is a strange.

                                    1. re: drbangha

                                      I certainly refuse to go to a place that can't post a menu when it has one (as opposed to the rare places that actually reinvent their menus on a truly daily basis). It's a powerful signal of inhospitality. May not be intended that way, but in this day and age, there's no credible excuse.