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What's happened to the Common Man

c
carl sbergensis Jan 22, 2011 08:29 AM

We used to enjoy the one in Lincoln, N.H., and I once had a great buffet at the Plymouth location, so we visited the one in Windham (I had a hankering for prime rib). Granted, it was on a weekend night, an iffy time at restaurants, but everything was horrible. A Sapphire martini did not taste like Sapphire; the second was no better after asking the waitress to make sure it was, indeed, Sapphire. Escargot was glopped up with too much cheese and I believe bacon (it's been a while, I've had trouble accessing this site). Prime rib tasted as if it had been steamed. A barbecue dish, pulled pork, I believe, (as I said, it's been a while) was cloyingly sweet with maple flavor. Whatever vegetables we had we forgetable. The whole experience was on a par with a chain such as Chilis.

Has this place gone downhill or is it just the Windham location, which is enormous?

  1. b
    basketwoman Jan 22, 2011 10:38 AM

    I haven't been to that location, but we have been to several Common Man restaurants (the original in Ashland being the best) and have never had a bad experience. The food and the service has always been tops. Hopefully it's just that one, and perhaps it was just a bad night.

    1. g
      gryphonskeeper Jan 23, 2011 03:21 PM

      The first time I went to the Common Man, I was very happy with everything... it was like eating at a "Mom and Pop" where they cooked everything themselves, and the children served it, and they cared how you felt about the meal. The last time I went, I felt like cattle being served in a trough. The server brought out my food before I took one BITE of the salad bar that I opted for with the meal. The meal itself was slopped together on the plate like the dishwasher scraped leftovers into the pigbucket. I was so disappointed. Seems they are getting too big for their britches,

      3 Replies
      1. re: gryphonskeeper
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        basketwoman Jan 23, 2011 05:40 PM

        which location was this? I hate hearing that they are going down hill.

        1. re: basketwoman
          g
          gryphonskeeper Jan 24, 2011 03:23 AM

          Concord, NH. Right off Main St.

        2. re: gryphonskeeper
          s
          sablemerle Jan 26, 2011 07:46 AM

          Salad bar??? When did they start this?

          FWIW, we've only been to the Windham location once, and had a bad experience. Have always had good meals at Lincoln and, more recently, Portsmouth.

        3. s
          snl1129 Jan 30, 2011 09:56 AM

          Just went to Common Man in Concord this week, and was not impressed at all. Ordered the salad and quiche of the day. The salad greens were wilted and had that "starting to go bad" smell. It was supposed to come with balsamic vinaigrette, which was very scant. The quiche was like eating rubber. It was not fresh by no means, and tasted like it was frozen and reheated several times over. Will not go back again anytime soon.

          1. crowdingthepan Jan 30, 2011 10:19 AM

            I don't recall the Common Man ever offering anything but institutional grade food. I do remember the Common Man Diner in Concord, but back then it was standard fare reheated Sysco truck diner dreck. My wife actually waited tables at the Concord outpost when she was in grad school, so I know all the dirty little culinary secrets. For instance, the spongy prime rib arrives at the restaurant par cooked in a cryovac bag filled with "jus". People seem to love it, though. It's cringe inducing to hear the term "fine dining" bandied about by the unwitting clientele.

            1. b
              bewley Jan 30, 2011 01:52 PM

              I think the owner of the Common Man is an absolute genius and I tip my hat to him. He has the right formula and plays well to his customer demographic. The name says it all as he's catering to the common man--the everyday Joe who dines out occasionally and wants free cheese and crackers. Yes, indeed, there's nothing fancy or upscale about the place, and they do a tremendous business because they lack pretension. I hear the new location in Portsmouth is always busy, while fancy Mombo (around the corner) is not. I mean, come on, they have over 7,500 fans on Facebook. So they get away with serving mediocre Sysco food and they laugh all the way to the bank. I don't blame the Common Man and I don't even blame their clientle at this point. It is what it is. Live free or die. Amen.

              3 Replies
              1. re: bewley
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                eatalian Jan 30, 2011 02:50 PM

                Sigh, this can be said of too many places in NH. Places get away with serving mediocre food because people like it...as long as it's cheap and you get a lot of it, most people are happy.

                1. re: bewley
                  crowdingthepan Jan 30, 2011 03:02 PM

                  What you're saying is absolutely right, but no one here is critiquing Alex Ray's business acumen. Food doesn't have to be expensive and pretentious to be good. As is the case with music, film and all of the other areas where artistic/artisanal endeavors meet commerce, the restaurateur who panders to the lowest common denominator usually walks away with the largest market share and the biggest bag of cash. I don't make a ton of scratch, so food value is VERY important to me. That's why I usually end up eating at places run by value minded immigrants who care deeply about their recipes, heritage, and the quality of food they produce. I'll often walk out of an interesting regional Chinese restaurant stuffed to the gills, with four more meals worth of leftovers and a wallet that's only $35 dollars lighter.

                  1. re: crowdingthepan
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                    bewley Jan 31, 2011 01:47 PM

                    I agree wholeheartedly and respect your approach to eating out.

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                  purchaser1 Feb 5, 2011 04:35 AM

                  We haven't been to the Common Man in years because last time we went we were so underwhelmed. Nothing was inspired or memorable. I do remember waiting a looong time between courses with an empty glass. I have a few friends that have worked at the Windham location ( one as a cook, the other as Kitchen Manager) and they both said the same thing. The food is mass produced and most of it goes into the steamtable to hold for service. Some items are understandable, but not everything. Just another example of mediocrity being acceptable.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: purchaser1
                    r
                    rmsoul Feb 5, 2011 05:48 AM

                    Visited the Windham location about a month ago. First time ever that we actually left a restaurant after being seated because nothing on the menu interested us.

                  2. s
                    starrfields Feb 5, 2011 01:28 PM

                    I've been to the Common Man in Claremont three times, and unfortunately it's disappointing. I really wanted to like it, because the room, in a renovated mill building, is so gorgeous. The food doesn't begin to live up to the atmosphere. I keep thinking that with just a little help, the place could be great.

                    1. l
                      lexpatti Feb 5, 2011 08:29 PM

                      the ashland location was fabulous back in the day, today I only enjoy Largo in meredith and Church Landing in meredith too - all others I would pass.......

                      1. lepetitechef Mar 14, 2011 03:08 PM

                        I remember when the first one opened in Ashland -- they were all the rage for their "down home cooking." But over the years, as their domain expanded, they've become increasingly inconsistant and disappointing. Sometimes I feel bad for Alex, the owner, because I know how difficult it is to find good management and staff and to keep tabs on things especially when their network has grown to the size it is now. Even with SYSCO supplies, one can turn out an impressive meal, but it really depends on the commitment of the people you have working in the kitchen.
                        One thing I know for sure, if Alex is in the building, he will make certain you will have the most incredible meal... every time I'm in one of his places, and he's there, I notice the quality of the food amps up 10 notches.

                        1. r
                          rizzo0904 Apr 9, 2011 10:02 AM

                          Went here for the first time Thursday night. Went to the Merrimack location. Completely average. I would go again, but not seek it out. It's one of those places that if I was nearby and my kids were screaming for food, I'd go. But I would never request a night out there.

                          I do like the cheese and crackers. With 2 toddlers it was a great feature to keep them entertained for a while.

                          Bread basket - The ciabatta is not ciabatta....but the maple walnut bread is good.

                          I had the pot roast...it was satisfying. I enjoyed it. Hubby had the wild salmon special and it was fine. Again, decent food, but nothing memorable.

                          Baked apple for dessert....meh.

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