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Feb 27, 2011 09:53 AM

Boston Kitchen Nightmares... And the nominees are.....

After watching the Davide episode, was thinking... where else could Ramsay take his cliched, barechested martyrdom.... Leaving out the easy pickins of Faneuil Hall and the North End, I'll nominate:

Christopher's and the Cambridge Common - decent locations, both with coveted outdoor space, same owners and same exceptionally average menus.
Savant Project - menu and service are horrible and its too bad because this area could use another good nom spot and the vibe is fairly cool (and its got a PATIO!)
Jacob Wirth's - the bones here are great but the menu needs to be deAmericanized
Blue Wave Cafe - With all the bigger names moving in to Fort Point, Blue Wave needs to go byebye. Crappy food, crappy service, crappy vibe.

(by no means exhaustive or most in need, just 5 that come to mind!)

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  1. great topic! i'm interested to see the nominations.

      1. Savant Project is a good one. The Friendly Toast--massive portions of mediocrity and a stressed, unpleasant FOH operation (at least it was before I quit going). Tavern on the Square for taking up so much prime real estate as generically as possible.

        5 Replies
        1. re: robwat36

          Second Friendly Toast. Also second Cambridge Common, Christopher's, and Jacob Wirth.

          Tavern on the Square is a spreading cancer in our restaurant scene, and they've gotten worse since changing the name of all locations to Tavern IN the Square - solely they can have the hilarious acronym TITS.

          Cambridge Common
          1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

          Jacob Wirth Restaurant
          31 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116

          The Friendly Toast
          1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

          1. re: robwat36

            Friendly Toast... looks like a dog's dinner.

            Too bad they're raking in the $!

            The Friendly Toast
            1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

            1. re: robwat36

              Holy crap, Tavern in the Square sucks so much. I'm horrified that it even exists.

              1. re: erinire

                The Quality of Life index drops another 1000 points every time one of the TITS abominations opens, which seems to be every 3.24 days. Laminated menus of 100% research driven, pre-arranged/portioned crap. Such a waste of space....

                Tavern In the Square
                730 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA

                1. re: okra

                  Not a fan, but I will give them some credit - they have made it longer in that space in Porter Square than the other past 4-5 restaurant iterations...

            2. Ken's Steak House. That would be a hoot.

              Ken's Steak House
              95 Worcester Rd, Framingham, MA 01701

              1. How many of these places are actually struggling? Leaving aside the fact that you'd be taking turnaround advice from a chef/owner whose own empire has many money-losing outlets, you have to be pretty desperate, heading toward what looks like inevitable failure, to take this step. A lot of the nominated outlets here seem to be doing okay (the terrible economy considered).

                I'd nominate a place like the Red Fez, but for that to work, the owners would have to care that they're empty most nights, and I don't think they do. Generating business there just doesn't seem to be a priority, possibly because their overhead is much lower than restaurants that don't own their building.

                Any way you look at it, it's a Hail Mary pass. As I put it in my annual Devil's Dining Awards, "[t]he show's dirty secret is that Chef Shouty McSpittlefleck never addresses the business management issues at the root of most restaurant failures. So Davide will likely suffer the same fate as most of Ramsay's Cinderellas: a brief bump in popularity after the episode airs, failure within a year or two anyway, and the eternal afterlife of its public humiliation on YouTube. If you're a restaurateur in similar straits, consider preserving your dignity by just closing quietly."

                Having watched the episode, I feel for Davide's owners and staff: they seem like good folks, and I hope they reverse their fortunes. But Ramsay's track record is pretty pitiful.


                9 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Good call on Red Fez. Haven't been in a long while but even when I was there it was pretty empty.

                  1. re: mats77

                    Ditto on Red Fez. My wife and I had our first date there ( late 2004). The food wasn't terrible (I mean, how bad can a hummus plate be? Don't answer that.) But it was very sad and extraordinarily empty. For the life of me I can't remember why we picked it.

                    I second the Savant Project. We went there three times -- once on our own and twice with groupons, and three times it wasn't very good, so we're done until it changes. I really want it to be better than it is b/c I like the concept. I'm glad other people think it needs an overhaul b/c I'm still not sure why it's so popular.

                    Red Fez
                    49 Peck St, Providence, RI 02903

                    The Savant Project
                    1625 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02120

                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                    when i posted wasnt really thinking of the checklist for passing a producer's full vetting (financial downslide, questionable quality, unquestionable execution, poor service, infighting). more like, this restaurant has some or all of these issues OR is a total waste of foodie real estate: "I wish there were something else here". Well located restaurants with outdoor space and BAD MENUS really bother me!

                    1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                      I see what you're getting at. I guess I don't mind restaurants that I think are bad but are successful at filling some clear need in the market. Or at least, it seems ungenerous to complain about them. If someone asks my opinion, I'll offer alternatives I think are better, but I don't necessarily wish them out of business, even if the owners strike me as hateful, exploitive jerks. They're keeping people employed, at least.

                      I do occasionally think, "Why that bad place near me when something I like could be there?", or "There's a shameful waste of a great location" (like, nearly every waterfront restaurant in town). And I lament the pernicious influence of national chains, like how they encourage acceptance of mediocrity as long as it comes in enormous portions. But if they're bringing in any kind of crowds, that makes them different from the kind of places that Ramsay targets.


                      1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                        Based on that criterion, Barking Crab is an obvious choice.

                        The Barking Crab
                        88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                        just because the owners of the restaurant own the building that just means that they are losing money through opportunity costs - or will be when the economy improves

                        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                          Or it could be a money-laundering operation. It's been dead like that for years now.