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Mar 20, 2010 06:34 AM

Cookie-Cutter Cool?

Can't exactly put my finger on it or identify the trend that ushered it in but I've noticed (in Inman Sq. at least) that we seem to be getting these identical but different but identical (if you get my drift) kitchens opening. I'm specifically thinking of Starlight, Tupelo, and North by Northwest, all seemingly trying to be hip, casual, and quirky. I'm not totally knocking the food but not totally digging it either nor am I being that critical either. Maybe, there should only be one per neighborhood or maybe I was just obsessing on a place like Rod Dee's opening in one of these spaces.

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  1. Huh?

    I honestly have no idea what you're saying here.

    8 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      My point is that these places seem to be trying a little to hard. Sure, the food is OK but not great but more to the point there seems to be a formula at work. Look, I'm not complaining but these menus just don't grab me and I live in walking distance from all of them. Throw in the ECG and the ASSBar and I'm just a little bored by it all, mostly American, mostly comfort food, mostly priced beyond reasonable, mostly getting old. This neighborhood has no decent Asian food, especially Thai, which is not these other places fault...

      1. re: baldbert

        Sorry, I'm just having trouble buying the premise that a restaurant serving gumbo, chicken and waffles, and pulled pork is identical in form and spirit to a restaurant serving noodles, dumplings and scallion pancakes. Plus I'd argue that the food at Tupelo is considerably better than "not great" and I don't particularly consider $12-$18 entrees "priced beyond reasonable."

        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

 are the chicken and waffles???? Haven't been to Tupelo yet and am excited for good "New Southern" food...

          1. re: winecafe95

            I haven't had them yet -- brunch menu only -- but I enthusiastically endorse the gumbo and (especially) the fried oysters, which are some of the best I've ever had. Fried oysters are really hard to get exactly right, but these were neither under- nor overdone, and the accompanying remoulade and mixed pickles were outstanding.

            1. re: winecafe95

              the chicken and waffles at starlite are fantastic! but take it easy or you might waddle out of there having taken them down too fast because you were feeling like you needed that last bite of crispy, juicy spicy/sweet goodness when your body was saying STOP! you've gotta try them. Though they seem a bit overpriced at $17 (especially compared to the rest of the menu) I've gone back twice and can't help but order them

              1. re: pocketgarden

                Pocketgarden, I am happy you have more than two data point on the chicken and waffles. Thus, I will also have to try the chicken and waffles again! The one time I ordered the dish, the chicken was perfectly moist in the inside and crisp on the outside. The waffles, however, came out a little too soggy as if the chicken sat on the waffles for awhile. The serving is quite large and can be shared along with an appetizer or two to make a complete dinner for two.

            2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              Well, "priced beyond reasonable" means different things to different people (and different incomes).

              I can't altogether agree with the OP's take on the *quality* of the new restaurants around Inman - I'm a Tupelo fan for sure, and I don't have enough experience with the other new places to draw informed judgment. But I think s/he's right to note that even as the dining scene in Inman is gaining diversity in certain respects, it's stagnating or losing diversity in other respects (e.g., pricing).

              I'm glad it's possible to get quality gumbo in Inman, but I certainly can't afford to eat at Tupelo etc. more than once in a blue moon (and I'm the kind of college student who doesn't mind putting my extra dollars aside for food). I imagine the same is true for big families, lower income folks, etc. I also doubt that the urban chic atmosphere and more adventurous menus at a lot of these places appeal to the same ethnic/economic/age groups as, say, Cafe Casal (btw, is Casal closed or just renovating? does anyone know?).

              Again, I don't think this is an entirely bad thing, and in any case Inman is still a wonderfully diverse place, generally speaking. But IMHO, the new places in Inman definitely reflect the younger, somewhat wealthier, more cosmopolitan demographic that accompanies gentrification, and in turn, there are ways in which they're a lot more similar than different...and it does bug me sometimes.

              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                It was a demographic point i was trying to make, is all. No, these places aren't cookie-cutter, but they are pretty similar - up- to- date regional comfort food type places. In fact no one menu item would be out of place at Tupelo, ECG, Assbar, or Trini's Starlight (or whatever it's called.) Throw in the Midwest Grill and S@S and that's a lot of comfort food in a couple of block stretch. East by NorthEast (or Northwest) breaks the mold only by geography, serving as it does what amounts to Asian comfort food. So, yeah, back to my original point, enough with the comfort food already. Somebody open another inexpensive place like Unique Dumpling (see their Chinese Menu) that's open for lunch serving a healthier, lighter fare.

                Midwest Grill
                1124 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

          2. Yes, I agree. Chefs and restauranteurs should definitely lower their standards. It is a most unsettling trend that ambitious and food-savvy professionals would chose a slightly off-the-beaten-path neighborhood to, say, explore regional Americana or perhaps to offer up a highly personal riff on pan-Asian food. It's troubling that they would do so with attention to sourcing, and with an effort to create unique, welcoming environments that celebrate food. This should be stopped.

            1. Look at the clientele around Inman, itinerants with too much money.

              From your posts it seems like you haven't quite figured out Boston. Lower your standards or as one wise chowhounder put it "expectations are premeditated resentments".


              2 Replies
              1. re: fishmanator

                Barmy & Pocketgarden...thanks!!! They're both on my list of "nexts" after RW is over!
                Deglazer...excellent repartee!

                1. re: winecafe95

                  Thanks! But I should say, in fairness, that while I lived in nearby Union Sq. for years, I often longed for a good nearby falafel or bowl of pho.