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Restaurants everyone loves--except you

So I stole this topic off the MSP and Manhattan boards. Not trying to be a Negative Nancy but would like some conversation on the board besides just restaurant recommendations, And ok, I like to complain sometimes. Not trying to call places out, just pointing out what may be my own taste or ordering deficiencies. Would love to hear counter-arguments or suggestions on how to better enjoy these places.

I'll start.

Dmitri's. Only been to the Fitler Square location but have been there several times. Never had an outstanding dish and the dishes they are most known for, the Grilled Octopus and Shrimp Pil-Pil, I do not like at all. The grilled octopus in particular is some of the worst I've had anywhere (to my taste). Swimming in oil, too much lemon, and no charring whatsoever. Pil-Pil just tastes like fried shrimp and is not spicy to me. It's also greasy and I do not like that it is just a pile of shrimp with nothing else to balance the flavor.

Vietnam Restaurant. I don't get what the big deal is. Some of the dishes are good but the menu is limited compared to Nam Phuong in South Philly and the prices are higher. The Pho is just bad. Maybe I am biased because most of my Vietnamese experience is from a friend's home cooking and Nam Phuong.

Tinto. It's actually good, but every meal I have had there is a let down compared to my experiences at Amada. I still recommend it to people because I know the overall dining experience is good and everybody else likes it. Maybe Basque isn't for me.

Mercato. Long waits, crowded and uncomfortable, standard Italian food though the Olive Oil flight is fun. What's the appeal?

Pudge's Cheesesteaks. Only went once. Service was atrocious. Not rude but efficient like Pat's/Geno's but slow, painful and indifferent. Waited 15-20 minutes to be approached by waitress, and she seemed just about ready to jump off a bridge. The steak was average; seemed to put emphasis on the size of the portion rather than the flavor.

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  1. Whenever I get into a conversation about restaurants, everyone always talks about how much they love Buddakan. But I just don't get it. To me, it's like "fast-food fine dining."

    3 Replies
      1. re: Philly Ray

        I'll agree that it's "fast food fine dining," but you can't hate on the edamame ravioli. Those are legitimately good.

        1. re: Philly Ray

          yes! agreed--was taken there for a birthday dinner a couple years ago (which was terrible for other reasons too) but aside from tasty cocktails, the food was just 'meh'. i mean, cod with miso? that's supposed to be interesting? plus, my companion, who is a vegetarian, was given some ridiculous oversized bowl of fried vegetables. he loved it, actually, but to me it just spoke to how little care went into it.

        2. Heh. I know what you mean about the service at Pudge's. I always get it to go. But the rolls are fresh and delicious, the cheese is nicely melted and the mushrooms are fresh and plentiful. Once in lansdale I got a cheesesteak with mushrooms and it came with One canned mushroom slice. My friend loves Pudge's roasted peppers on his steaks and dreams about them when he is away at school. I like their steak meat too. I remember in their old location, the next shopping center over, my friend and I were regulars and we we didn't show up for a couple of months because we were so busy, the owner or manager asked us in a very nice way. "haven't seen you two in awhile, was there any problems?" I melted like cheese on hot steak. Not sure if he is there any more. My main problem with Pudge's used to be that the steaks came out so hot that it was agony to wait until they cooled enough to eat. I used to burn my tongue regularly. But for over rated I would list a lot of the pizza and chinese places in the 'burbs, too many to list, I think people just go to which ever one is closest to them. My one friend used to rave about Perkasie Pizza until I asked him to provide a few details.

          1 Reply
          1. re: givemecarbs

            Yes great point about the steak being so hot. Actually, as I was eating it I wondered if I was missing some of the flavor because it was so f'in hot. But I was on a lunch break from a job and after waiting 20 minutes for my order to be taken I really couldn't wait any longer to eat. If I'm up that way again maybe I will give them another go, call in the order, and let the sandwich cool. FTR I wasn't impressed with the bread, though.

          2. Fun idea! For me it's Lee How Fook. Nothing I've had there has been very good, and certainly not as good as the same or similar dishes at Shiao Lan Kung, which I think of as in the same general category. Even their famed hot and sour soup doesn't do it for me. I just don't get it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

              I love LHF, but I'm not into their hot & sour soup at all. Also, they've slipped in the last few years, ever since they renovated the dining room. They're still good, IMO, just not AS good.

            2. Audrey Claire's doesn't do it for me on a number of levels: Server didn't understand what rare salmon means; Mama's highly-touted cheesecake doesn't hold a candle to mine; don't get the charm of eating cheek-by-jowl with the other diners or on the narrow sidewalk on Spruce Street. And then there was the restroom I couldn't get into because the dishwasher was occupying it for his smoke break.

              While Modo Mio has fabulous food at reasonable prices, after several visits (and being told the owner likes it this way) I've come to accept the noise level is too high for my comfort.

              Bebe's serves nothing approaching real NC-style barbecue (and has the annoying practice of putting too much meat on a sandwich). Real NC-style barbecue is cooked slowly and basted with a vinegar-based sauce as it cooks to the point it will fall off the bone. The taste is piquant and permeates the meat. The biscuits on Sunday morning, however, are quite good.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Seeker19104

                Seeker is there anywhere in the area to get the NC barbecue with the vinegar based sauce? I haven't had it since I moved here from NC. Whimper.

                1. re: givemecarbs

                  Bebe's does offer a NC-style vinegar-based sauce (no tomato) on request. Actually it is Eastern NC according to Mark C there, he says in West NC they put a drop of tomato in the sauce. I might have that backwards.

                  They definitely don't cook the meat with sauce though. It's dry rubbed and smoked overnight, so no basting.

                  1. re: barryg

                    Thanks! No tomato in the Raleigh area, at least when I was there.

                    1. re: givemecarbs

                      Alas, Mark talks a good game at Bebe's, but fails in the execution. I did have the aforementioned vinegar-based sauce; however, the resulting sandwich was a huge disappointment.

                      I do an ersatz version of NC-style barbecue in my crock pot that is superior. The meat actually absorbs the flavor of the sauce which mimics the traditional slow roasting of a whole pig over an open pit with frequent basting.

                      1. re: Seeker19104

                        What cut do you use? How long do you cook it?

                        1. re: barryg

                          Pork shoulder or chicken thighs, depending on who's coming to dinner. At least six hours on high in an older crockpot. The new ones would take less time as they get hotter. PS It's better to cook this a day or two ahead and let flavors meld even more.

                  2. re: givemecarbs

                    We like Carolina Blue in Pitman New Jersey, worth the drive from Philly, busy bar, great smoked items, reasonable.

                  3. re: Seeker19104

                    I liked Audrey Claire a lot...the restaurant has a minimalist atmosphere with no tacky decorations and an open kitchen in the back....I found the entrees to be seasonal and delicious. Plus, I love dining with the windows open in the summer time.

                    Elaine from http://www.elleats.com

                  4. I actually really like some of the places you mentioned....
                    Dimitris, in particular, is one of our go-to spots. I really like the shrimp 'special' that they have (it's a great dish, but i do admit that it's odd that, while not on the printed menu, they have it every night). i also sometimes find that eating there tapas-style is the way to go. some of their apps are better than their entrees.
                    as for vietnam, i like the food there. my favorite vietnamese food in philly, though, is a food truck on temple campus; hard to go elsewhere when you can get good chicken bun for $4.50.

                    as for my own pics:
                    -Roast pork sandwiches at DiNics. Just don't think that they're that great.
                    -I would say Standard Tap, although a thread a few days ago shows I'm not alone in this
                    -I ate and Matyson once, and liked it - but really don't get the big fuss.
                    -not sure what the general opinion is on Alma de Cuba, but I'm not a big fan. do like some of their drinks, though.