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Nov 16, 2010 05:28 PM

Olives in Charlestown--gone?

Just heard that the windows at Olives in Charlestown were covered in brown paper. Anyone know anything?

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  1. It might be gone, but it could just be getting an overdue face lift. The physical plant was in very rough shape the last time I was in.

    1. it's a refurbishing and renovation that was begun behind schedule and is running very long. has passed several eta's already.

      1. I'm planning a trip to Boston in February. Do you know if Olive's will reopen by then?

        7 Replies
        1. re: VinnyRW

          As a long ago Olilves fan, just wanted to fyi that many boston restaurantshave been/are more highly praised than Olives these last few yrs.

          1. re: VinnyRW

            So... no Olive's for my February trip. But sounds like it had gone downhill anyway. Some friends who recently visited Boston recommended Oleana in Cambridge, or Scampo in the LIberty Hotel. what are your thoughts on those two restaurants?

            215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

            134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

            1. re: VinnyRW

              Definitely skip Olives, even if it reopens.

              Oleana is excellent, a fine dining Mediterranean restaurant, focusing on the cuisines of the eastern Mediterranean, notably Turkey and Syria. Excellent vegetarian dishes, even if you aren't a vegetarian.

              In the summer, the outdoor patio is my favorite al fresco dining spot. In the winter, I'm less enamored by the tight indoor space, but it is cozy and adorned by a wood-burning stove.

              I recommend it.

              I am less in love with Scampo and would not recommend it given alternatives. Scampo receives a lot of attention because it is helmed Lydia Shire, once Boston's dame of cooking, and it is in a trendy and popular hotel. But I think the hype derives more from Shire's PR prowess than the food. While good (you can certainly do much, much worse) it isn't where I'd go as a visitor looking for something special (try Craigie on Main for that), nor as a local looking for good Italian (try Erbaluce). If you do go to Scampo, the flatbreads, pizzas, and other items out of the tandoori-esque oven are good. The wine menu is poor; stick to by-the-glass.

              Wherever you go, enjoy!

              215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114

              134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

              Craigie on Main
              853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

              69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

              1. re: VinnyRW

                Others can chime in about Scampo...I love Oleana. It's a quite distinctive place and the menu will either appeal to you immensely or it won't. In fact, i'm going tomorrow night if the clean up from today's blizzard allows. The mezze are remarkable and the desserts are even more unusual than the rest of the menu. Reservation needed. The vegetable tasting menu is 5 mezze plus dessert for $45 and a bargain. They encourage sharing. I've always found her fish especially impressive though these days it's hard for me to get past the mezze. There has been a recent report of an off night on this board...I've experienced that only once, and it was a night when chef Ana Sortun was not in the kitchen. The waitress noticed we were less than ecstatic and offered us a free dessert or free extra wine. It was a few years ago and I don't remember what day of the week it was and in any event it was before her daughter was born so she may well have a different schedule now. She gets vegetables from her husband's farm and imports spices; the space can feel cramped and the bar stools are uncomfortable but the overall experience is very special.

                134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

                1. re: Madrid

                  I forgot to mention it in my comments, but Madrid nailed it: The vegetarian tasting menu (again even if you aren't a vegetarian) is excellent and worth it. I have not been able to convince myself or my dining companion to order anything else since we first enjoyed it.

                  1. re: rlove

                    and the veg tasting is easily supplemented by one or more meat mezze....the tamarind glazed beef is great (though someone here recently found it not up to par)...and someone else here got the cheese selection for dessert with a surcharge. Often the server will bring out a mezze special that wasn't on the menu.

                2. re: VinnyRW

                  Thanks rlove and Madrid. I just made my reservation at Oleana!

              2. It''s been shuttered for over 6 months. It closed Memorial Day weekend due to an exaust fire. There was a write up somewhere a couple months ago that he was revamping it into a more casual, neighborhood friendly place called "Fat Olives". Not sure if that is still the plan...

                1 Reply
                1. re: thewildturkey

                  live in the neighborhood and I haven't seen any evidence of renovations....none

                2. Kind of sad how the once-mighty (English) have fallen....wouldn't hold my breathe waiting for a grand re-opening of Olives - the ace servers they had for so long have surely moved on by now.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: rlh

                    apparently he's batting around a few ideas, and the space is not yet dead, although re-opening as the original concept is unlikely.

                    consider how many more irons in the fire and high-profile projects he has now vs. when he opened olives. back then it was olives, then the first figs. not the multi-headed hydra of an empire he has now.

                    his kids a re bigger now too, and away at school, so no paternal need for him to be tethered to boston.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Not true. My friend chatted with him at LGA last week en route to Logan. He is fully engaged in Boston still.

                        1. re: Small Plates

                          yes, i have friends who work for him and we all do socialize. i did not say he is leaving -- he still has businesses and a home here. no offense, however, what he says to a stranger/fan at an airport may have very little relationship with the truth.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            They are friends - ran into each other at airport. My friend is a chef in Boston.

                      2. re: rlh

                        The way I put it in a blog bit I did a while back on The Todd: "We understand his real motivations perfectly, and we don't fault him for grabbing the brass ring. But the bottom line for Bostonians is that a chain -- no matter how gifted the man at the top, nor how skillfully and glamorously he markets it -- is still a chain. Maybe you can fool your new fans, but it's tougher to put one over on the old ones."


                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          MC, What do you think of Market as a chain? I have not eaten there because I eat at J-G in NYC about once per month. I would think that Market probably is about the outer limit of what a chain can strive for. Oh, and i rather like Brasserie Jo - which is also a (very small) chain.

                          As pointed out by Anthony Bourdain, talented sous chefs need their own venue or you will lose them. J-G lost Ken Orringer who lost Tony Maws.

                          Brasserie Jo
                          120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

                          1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                            In my limited experience, Market is like much of J-G's empire: the outlets vary in quality, and vary in quality over time, depending on the J-G lieutenant currently in charge. And those folks tend to move on frequently to their own venues: if you're feeling your oats, you inevitably want to build your own brand, not burnish Todd English's. I think that's one positive of having these chains here: they serve as training grounds for up-and-coming talent. You might want to wait till they move on to somewhere else, though.


                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                            I was a friendly colleague of Todd's when I was living in Boston, and a big fan of (especially) the original Olives. Always found the "bigger and (supposedly) better" Olives way too noisy for the fine dining they wanted to portray, but the food was always great.

                            I've been in new York for almost 17 years now, and he's opened (and closed) several spaces, none of which have ever been really well regarded. I had lunch a few times at the NY Olives, and it was good, but pale by comparison to how I recall the original.

                            I wish he'd choose a place and do another really great spot. We all know he's capable of that. He just needs to get over himself.