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Jan 10, 2011 02:19 PM

DUMBO General Store - so frustrating

I've tried. I've really tried. But visit after visit to the DUMBO General Store confirms that it is simply unable to fulfill its potential.

In the few yrs. that I've lived in DUMBO., I've probably spent over $3k here btw. breakfast, lunch, brunch, and coffee. Early on, it was a perfectly satisfactory neighborhood cafe -- far from great, but still a comfortable spot that was more than serviceable. Congenial staff, cool cafe vibe, good music, and decent menu. Salads were plentiful; panini were tasty, and brunch was solid -- great egg sammies; fluffy pancakes; excellent bacon. But after a while, it just got stale-- a victim of laziness. Lesson #1 -- you gotta keep up.

For example, why no Caesar salad ever? Yes, it is a ubiquitous item, but none the less deserved its place on the straight-up menu. Or even an Iceberg Wedge. Something else. Anything besides the faux Greek, Goat Cheese, and House salad. Something refreshing and healthy w/ cranberries and apples and pecans and a grainy mustard dressing? Whatever! And where was a basic grilled cheese for the multitude of little kids in the nabe who frequent the joint with their parents? And why no chicken salad EVER -- esp. since they had chicken on hand for several other menu items? Where was the soup in winter in past years? Why did the baked breakfast items always stink? And who decided that all the dairy they add to your coffee will be automatically HOT despite no signage indicating that spin? If I want hot milk in my coffee, I will ask for it, thanks. And why didn't they ever fix the hulking air conditioner that leaks all over the entrance steps?

And then came the revamp v.1 -- they hired a chef who cooked Southern-inflected global food. The lunch menu remained the same, but now they had dinner (to replace Hecho which moved to the LES). A convoluted menu followed, but the locals didn't. The chef got axed and they replaced his menu with a severely limited (as in 3 entrees) dinner menu - steak, roast chicken, soft tacos, and pasta...snore. Then the breakfast, brunch, and lunch menu -- stale, but at least reliable -- got pared down. Uh oh...

The lunch menu overhauled the salads so that there is at least a market salad now, but the old goat cheese salad (greens, candied nuts, red onion -- now w/ pancetta) is priced at $14!!! Umm -- this is not Gramercy Tavern. FYI -- salads at far superior Tazza, for ex., top out at $9 or so, The paninis, meanwhile, remained the same except for turning their Cuban into a Pork panini. As for breakfast, the got around to baking in-house which is great and a big improvement. BUT, they now offer Greek yogurt with pistachios and honey...for $10. No fruit. WTF? What happened to the yogurt, granola, and fruit? Did I mention that you ca no longer order a half-order of pancakes for your toddler at brunch anymore? FYI -- DUMBO is toddlerville and it is seriously sucky that the reigning nabe spot neither offers any kiddie selections at brunc h nor allows for a half-order. I know times are tough, but you are biting the hand that feeds you and losing what were once loyal customers.

This rant can't end w/o mentioning the "specials" which are hardly special unless you think adding blueberries to pancakes (they feature "all day breakfast" 7 days per week) is something that wets the palate. They must have had six straight months where pancakes with some kind of berry was the featured special. Wow. Now, they feature a grilled cheese of the day (still, nothing for kids, though); an omelet of the day (usually lame); and a sammie of the day (which has been meatloaf for the last three months). On the plus side, they are finally cranking out soup. On the minus side, I would like to have Creamy Tomato Soup that a) has cream in it as the menu suggests or an acceptable sub that gives it creamy mouth feel; b) one that has passed through a food mill so I am not crunching on tomato seeds.

Lastly, takeout blows, here. I can't begin to cite the number of times that a key ingredient was omitted from a salad, or the wrong container was used for a menu item (i.e. soup in a coffee cup???), or bread wasn't tucked in the bag, much less a utensil, etc.

Final verdict: nothing inventive, blown opportunity for reasonable change, unreasonable prices.

Hey, DGS -- as you know, this nabe's residents are underserved by the paucity of restaurants. Get your act together! You could be riding the gravy train if you had a better-written menu, considered the kiddies, and offered a more inviting and interesting dinner (we don't need more steak or roast chicken, thx).

Rant over.

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  1. OK but tell us what you don't like. Seriously I miss Hecho en DUMBO - that was one cool, fun place to hang out in the evening.

    1. I remember when it was still a general / art supply store. This rant is kind of perfect for what Dumbo has become.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chorosch

        Just curious what it has to do with "what DUMBO has become?" Are you talking about the the influx of kids/families and the greedy price points, or are you taking a generalized shot at affluent 'yuppies?'

      2. Why should they have caesar salad or chicken salad? What is it, the fast food restaurant at the mall? And why do children need to eat grilled cheese sandwiches? Because that's what they demand? Sorry, this makes no sense to me.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Up With Olives

          A) the Caesar was simply an ex. of one of many salads (Waldorf; Cobb; Spinach) they could feature that would both make sense of their menu and be well-received. Sorry it is too pedestrian for you to make sense of it in the broader context.

          B) Last I checked, neither McD's nor BK had a chicken salad sandwich.

          C) You clearly don't have a toddler, one of the leading constituencies in DUMBO and one well-represented in the DGS on weekends despite the limited and inflated menu offerings.