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

5thAndNowhere Feb 27, 2011 09:53 AM

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!)

  1. j
    jamieeats Feb 27, 2011 11:38 AM

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

    1. p
      pathfinder Feb 27, 2011 11:40 AM

      Grappa in Watertown

      1. r
        robwat36 Feb 27, 2011 01:16 PM

        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
          DoubleMan Feb 27, 2011 01:38 PM

          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
            Luther Feb 27, 2011 05:09 PM

            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
              erinire Mar 9, 2011 09:02 AM

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

              1. re: erinire
                okra Mar 10, 2011 05:31 AM

                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
                  Bob Dobalina Mar 14, 2011 08:46 AM

                  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. w
              wontonton Feb 27, 2011 08:11 PM

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

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

              1. MC Slim JB Feb 28, 2011 03:03 AM

                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
                  mats77 Feb 28, 2011 04:26 AM

                  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
                    skc Feb 28, 2011 11:44 AM

                    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
                    5thAndNowhere Feb 28, 2011 05:54 AM

                    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
                      MC Slim JB Feb 28, 2011 05:59 AM

                      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
                        pemma Mar 1, 2011 04:32 AM

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

                        The Barking Crab
                        88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                        1. re: pemma
                          typhoonfish Mar 14, 2011 08:42 AM


                          1. re: typhoonfish
                            bgavin Mar 14, 2011 11:08 AM


                      2. re: MC Slim JB
                        cambridgedoctpr Feb 28, 2011 01:58 PM

                        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
                          MC Slim JB Feb 28, 2011 02:19 PM

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


                      3. Bob Dobalina Feb 28, 2011 03:33 AM

                        Sorry to hear that Savant Project merits a nomination - Haven't been there in a while, but always considered it to be pretty decent. What have your experiences been like recently?

                        I'll second Christopher's - I just don't get that place. Cambridge Commons just got a really nice review from someone here, so that might merit a revisit.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Dobalina
                          jgg13 Feb 28, 2011 02:09 PM

                          I really like cambridge common but i try not to eat there. View it as a bar and you'll be a lot happier. They have a much better than average beer list and their prices are pretty damn good compared to other beer bars. They add on a good presence in the beer community - hosting beer pairing dinners, and they recently opened a craft beer store.

                          Their food ... well ... is average at best. But hey, can't have it all.

                          1. re: jgg13
                            Jenny Ondioline Feb 28, 2011 09:40 PM

                            Tots. They have tater tots. That forgives all their other food sins as far as I'm concerned.

                            1. re: jgg13
                              emannths Mar 1, 2011 07:59 AM

                              Craft beer store? Which one? They don't have it on their site: http://www.christopherscambridge.com/...

                              1. re: emannths
                                rknrll Mar 1, 2011 08:08 AM

                                Well, they left Cambridge Common to open Craft Beer Cellar.

                                1. re: rknrll
                                  emannths Mar 1, 2011 08:12 AM

                                  Got it. Thought jgg13 meant the owners.

                                  1. re: emannths
                                    chickendhansak Mar 1, 2011 08:53 AM

                                    If I parsed what I saw on TV Diner correctly, the people I've always assumed were the owners of CC are the owners of that liquor store as well. So did they leave CC?

                                    1. re: chickendhansak
                                      jgg13 Mar 1, 2011 09:10 AM

                                      Judging from the CBC's web page, their bios have past tense when talking about CC :)

                                  2. re: rknrll
                                    jgg13 Mar 1, 2011 08:47 AM

                                    Oh, I didn't realize they completely left CC & Christophers. Also, I thought they had a larger stake (part ownership) in those two. Guess I was wrong.

                                    1. re: jgg13
                                      afty698 Mar 9, 2011 08:55 AM

                                      They were the bar managers at Cambridge Common, I believe. They left to open Craft Beer Cellar.

                                      CBC is fantastic, by the way. An incredible beer selection with top-notch service. I can't recommend it highly enough.

                                      Cambridge Common
                                      1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                      1. re: afty698
                                        myladyfae Mar 10, 2011 07:32 AM

                                        I second that rec on CBC. They're really great with the recommendations, and if they dont have experience with a particular brew, are never the least hesitant to just pop open a bottle and pass a round of tasting on the spot.

                                        I used to go to Cambridge Common reasonably often in the summer since I've worked in the area for a decade or so, and recognized the ladies when I went in to CBC, so we had a conversation about CC too actually. They definitely were not owners (just long time bar managers) and have definitely severed ties with CC to open the CBC...which in my opinion is all to the good! :D

                                        I will say though...a hidden gem and redeeming factor at Cambridge Common is actually their salads. They have some surprisingly tasty and creative salads on that menu that I'm pretty sure noone but me ever order!

                                        Cambridge Common
                                        1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                              2. re: Bob Dobalina
                                tomjb27 Mar 9, 2011 09:16 AM

                                I'm a little surprised to see Cambridge Common on this list. Sure, if price isn't an issue, it wouldn’t even be part of the discussion. And for what it is, you probably wouldn’t go far out of your way to go there either. But as someone who lives nearby, I can say that for a comfortable, neighborhood place serving decent pub grub at good prices, it more than holds its own. Add to that the truly EXCELLENT beer list (certainly a tier down from beer-centric places like Lord Hobo, but on average, cheaper, and certainly a much better list than most neighborhood restaurant/bars) and I can't find a reason to lump it in with failed establishments. I don’t think you can make a place like that into a foodie destination without fundamentally changing it from what it is – a casual, affordable option for local grad students, young professionals and families. CC more than ably serves its purpose.

                                Cambridge Common
                                1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                Lord Hobo
                                92 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02141

                              3. massgirl Feb 28, 2011 11:30 AM

                                I have to disagree with Blue Wave (if you're referring to the place on A Street), mainly due to the fact that it is predominately a bar/club, not a restaurant. If you've ever been on a Friday or Saturday night the place is packed, and it's one of the few places in Boston that places decent hip-hop, R&B, and reggae on a consistent basis.

                                While the food isn't spectacular, it's decent for an after work crowd. I don't like their nachos at all (they use cheese whiz type stuff instead of real cheese), but every else I've had was passable. The fries are awesome too :)

                                Blue Wave
                                343 Congress St Lbby 2, Boston, MA 02210

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: massgirl
                                  Alcachofa Mar 14, 2011 10:52 AM

                                  No, the food is not passable. It is flat-out bad. Sorry I disagree with you there. I've been a few times. Not good in any way.

                                  I do agree, however, that really the Blue Wave is more a "club" and therefore criticizing the food is almost irrelevant (or the bartending, for that matter).

                                  Regarding both Christopher's and Cambridge Common, they are very good at what they set out to do. Disagree with those nominations. Although, I've never seen Kitchen Nightmares, so maybe I'm way off.

                                  Cambridge Common
                                  1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                2. massgirl Feb 28, 2011 11:31 AM

                                  Sorry, I meant Congress Street, not A Street.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: massgirl
                                    5thAndNowhere Mar 1, 2011 05:35 AM

                                    i used to work in the FP area and coworkers would opt for blue wave over luckys for lunch and for after work almost every time. its just so... exceedingly average. i had to dig - on a very long menu (first sign) - for something that was worthy of repeat orders (fries do not a menu make! :) the service is bad, kitchen always mucked up orders and weeknights after 8 it is dead. the drinks are decent, agreed. so if its a bar its a bar. but dont hand me a 4 page menu under the guise of offering me decent food. luckys is a great bar with great food. good to hear they hop on the weekends - was always off enjoying a nice meal somewhere else on fri and sat! - but i stand by nomination! with all the names pouring into the area, they should step up on the food.

                                  2. n
                                    nickls Mar 1, 2011 07:27 AM

                                    It's easy to bag on places, but really why these particular places? Christopher's and Cambridge Common both have good beer lists and some halfway decent pub grub. Could they have more interesting menus? Yes, but they are far from disasters.

                                    I think the Friendly Toast is one of the better breakfast/brunch places around. I like the bread, the home fries, and they do a decent job cooking eggs. If I want a breakfast that will see me through until dinner, I think the Friendly Toast is a fun place to go.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: nickls
                                      MC Slim JB Mar 1, 2011 07:40 AM

                                      Friendly Toast inspires a lot of enmity here and elsewhere that I've never understood. I haven't been back very recently, but have gone every few months since it opened, and have never encountered any of the typical complaints: miserable service, dirtiness, ineptly-prepared food. It's been very good to me.


                                      The Friendly Toast
                                      1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                        scotty27 Mar 1, 2011 07:51 AM

                                        I agree. It's a lot of fun and the food is good. Great place for large crowds.


                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                          5thAndNowhere Mar 1, 2011 08:07 AM

                                          do you go at high times? 1030-230 on weekends? its painful.

                                          1. re: 5thAndNowhere
                                            MC Slim JB Mar 1, 2011 08:50 AM

                                            I've been right at the beginning of service on a Sunday, which was just fine. Must admit I'm not a big brunch person anymore. If I get up that early on weekends, I'm looking for Angela's or Mike & Patty's or Restaurante Montecristo or something similar: small and not particularly brunchy. J.J. Foley's Cafe suits me that way, too: Guinness and a burger for a late breakfast.


                                            1. re: 5thAndNowhere
                                              Jenny Ondioline Mar 1, 2011 09:23 AM

                                              But isn't the answer to that problem...just...not to go there between 10:30 and 2:30 on weekends?

                                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline
                                                jgg13 Mar 1, 2011 09:32 AM

                                                I'm not usually looking for french toast and eggs at 10pm on a tuesday.

                                            2. re: MC Slim JB
                                              jgg13 Mar 1, 2011 08:48 AM

                                              I've never not had painful service there.

                                              Except for a couple of screwups in the early days, the food's all been fine. Not as great as it was made out to be, but I like it.

                                              I thought the dirtiness was a (misguided, IMO) complaint of the Portsmouth branch?

                                          2. r
                                            rknrll Mar 1, 2011 08:11 AM

                                            Amelia's Kitchen in Teele Square is pretty terrible.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: rknrll
                                              somervilleoldtimer Mar 8, 2011 02:25 PM

                                              Oh, I can't agree, although it's true that I haven't been there in a year or so. What didn't you like?

                                              1. re: rknrll
                                                Small Plates Mar 9, 2011 10:22 AM

                                                We love it! The owner is a hoot. We have been two or three times in the past 6 months and have really enjoyed the food. And, the free movie on Friday. Mayor Curtatone has been there at least four times we have gone in the past 2-3 years - so HE likes it - haha!! Inexpensive, quirky, good food. Not a fine dining experience by a long shot, but a decent neighborhood meal with friendly service.

                                                1. re: Small Plates
                                                  somervilleoldtimer Mar 9, 2011 03:28 PM

                                                  I completely agree. I am happy to have it nearby.

                                              2. d
                                                David_A Mar 9, 2011 11:33 AM

                                                I would like to nominate Rudy's in Teele Sq. Even though they get good business, their food is just so mediocre.

                                                1. t
                                                  three of us Mar 9, 2011 02:44 PM

                                                  Chef Ramsey could have a season's worth of shows w/out ever leaving Billerica.
                                                  Sure there's Sichuan Gourment and The Pongol, but even the McDonalds and Wendy's here are especially terrible.

                                                  1. C. Hamster Mar 9, 2011 03:49 PM

                                                    I know my friend pegmeister has been waiting for me to say this...

                                                    But Sonny's Adams Village in ... wait for it... Adams Village just might make for THE MOST EXPLOSIVE (and hilarious) KITCHEN NIGHTMARES EVER!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: C. Hamster
                                                      Small Plates Mar 10, 2011 08:03 AM

                                                      That's too bad. I have fond memories of Sonny's from the late 70s/early 80s - though not so much for the food, but for the hang. We were young then, and it was always hopping. An alternative to the Irish bars/buckets of blood on Dot Ave - it seemed "grown up" at the time. Haven't been there in 25 years, but I'm sad to hear it is so disreputable.

                                                    2. f
                                                      FeastNut2008 Mar 12, 2011 04:44 PM

                                                      I nominate Frank's Steakhouse. Horrid restaurant!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: FeastNut2008
                                                        somervilleoldtimer Mar 12, 2011 05:13 PM

                                                        I haven't eaten there in many years, since the two times I ate there the food was so extremely unremarkable. However, I do hear good things about Jimmy's Steerhouse, in Arlington.

                                                      2. Unfoodie Mar 14, 2011 09:28 PM

                                                        Christopher's, C.C., Frank's, T.I.T.S. Savant...ect all make money. They are not the failing businesses that are highlighted on K.N. Just because they have average menus doesn't mean they need a complete overhaul considering they're PACKED on the weekends.

                                                        Prose would have been great. Those two characters hashing it out would have been TV gold.

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