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Pink Palace - womp womp

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How long has it been since they've talked about the Pink Palace turning into a sandwich shack? 3 years? I've been excited for the prospects of a Shake Shack or some local equivalent, perhaps one run by Todd English or Ken Oringer. Or just any good, affordable sandwich option in that area would be nice.

Nope.

Looks like we're getting some lame, corporate chain. I wonder who they beat out to get the lease. Maybe it's best not to know because it will just be depressing. Boston Parks Department FTL.

http://bostonherald.com/business/gene...

Maybe it will be good (I don't know because I don't dine at Logan very often), but I'm no longer excited.

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  1. How is this worse than some piece-of-crap brand extension for Oringer or English or Lynch to stick their increasingly devalued names on and then ignore?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Jenny Ondioline

      I buy that criticism with English but not with Oringer, and certainly not with Lynch. With the exception of La Verdad, I think all of the restaurants in those two groups still put out great food regularly. Price creep has made some, like the Butcher Shop, less-than-stellar values, but the food is still good. I don't think they've been ignored.

      Either way, I think a sandwich shop from a good chef would be more interesting than the Earl of Sandwich offerings (I admit that I have not tried their sandwiches, but their menu is very pedestrian).

      I'd personally love to see something like Cutty's, but any outlet from someone talented who cares would be best. Judging from their website, Earl of Sandwich is not one of those places.

      -----
      La Verdad
      1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

      1. re: DoubleMan

        It's a sandwich shop in a disused craphouse. Whatever opens here is going to be mocked mercilessly from day one. Why put in something good?

        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

          I highly doubt a good place would be mocked mercilessly. And it would be nice to have something good in a public space. It's worked in other cities.

          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

            Not sure I agree with the "why put something good" line of thought. I don't see how that is remotely constructive or helpful to those who live, work and visit the city. I am willing to bet that 90% of the potential customers of this place won't even have the slightest clue what the former use of the space was decades ago. The fact remains that either the city could have done better or there was little to no other interest. I never bought the Shake Shake rumors but I do think something original and/or something new to Boston would have been nice.

          2. re: DoubleMan

            Agree entirely. La Verdad is a Lyons Group / Oringer joint venture, so it should be judged accordingly. He's only a consulting chef on KO Prime; the rest of the empire is very solid. Lynch has long commanded a certain premium for her food; you can find it slightly egregious as I do, or be one of the many fans who pack her places most nights. English is in a class by himself, the poster child for what sucks about celebrity chef culture.

            I honestly don't care that the Pink Palace used to be a public rest room. I love Rendezvous in Central Square, and it used to be the city's filthiest Burger King, a place that moved more drugs than Whoppers.

            I think it would have been great to have a Shake Shack or some other well-run high-concept place from a chef that genuinely gives a crap about good food and hospitality at whatever level, the way Danny Meyer does. I don't know this Earl of Sandwich place, but it looks like a big national chain (based in FL, 13 outlets, including one at Logan), and I'm disappointed.

            I wonder what the Herald columnist who ridiculed the notion of a Shake Shack going onto the Common (in this pitifully provincial bit of hand-wringing: http://www.hubblog.com/2009/11/just-w... ) while obviously knowing nothing about Meyer's reputation will have to say about this choice.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            -----
            KO Prime
            90 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108

            La Verdad
            1 Lansdowne St, Boston, MA 02215

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I agree entirely. Particularly with the missed opportunity to install an interesting, well-run, and affordable option like Shake Shack in the space.

        2. Having actually HAD the food at Earl of Sandwich, I'm excited to have them in Boston. Not as excited as I would have been if it were a Shake Shack, but it'll be a nice addition to the Common. Despite the cornball name, they have really excellent sandwiches. The "Original 1762" is a genuinely well done roast beef, and their Earl Grey Lemonade is refreshing.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Boston_Otter

            Then the Earl could have opened somewhere else in town. Having a chain in a high profile location like that in Boston, one of the few remaining "non chain" cities, is an abomination.

            1. re: Alcachofa

              If it had been a Shake Shack, as was rumored, would that have been somehow less of an "abomination", given Shake Shack's recent expansion to become a chain? Personally, I don't feel that every food location has to be a struggling independent start-up. I'd rather have an established company making quality food in that spot than another Dunkies, a Subway, or a vacant spot gathering dust. Just my opinion, though.

              1. re: Boston_Otter

                I would be outraged, regardless.

              2. re: Alcachofa

                What do you mean by "one of the few remaining "non chain" cities"?

                1. re: Gabatta

                  One of the few cities in the US which isn't dominated by a chain restaurant culture.

                  1. re: Alcachofa

                    Interesting perspective. I guess I never considered Boston a "non-chain" city. I suppose I should be thankful the situation isn't worse, but when you figure in the local 'pseudo-chains' (BBRG, etc.) in addition to the obvious national players, I have always felt like the Boston restaurant scene is somewhat bit chain driven and homogenous for a city of its size.

                    1. re: Gabatta

                      You probably just don't go to the chains when you're in other cities. They're there. Plus, we forget this often, but "city of its size" means Columbus and Charlotte, not Chicago.

                      1. re: robwat36

                        Exactly rob. We're not that big. We definitely punch above our weight.

                    2. re: Alcachofa

                      I think it's true that unlike some other similar-size cities, Boston has a lot of alternatives to national chains. But chains still suck up a lot of dining-out dollars here, and I think they put unwelcome pressure on customer expectations about low prices and big portion sizes.

                      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        I feel responsible for this sub-thread on chains, and want to make clear that I am glad to see anything in what is currently an eyesore. Even if it is related to Buca di Beppo. And Planet Hollywood.

              3. At least it's not a Dunkin Donuts

                1. This sucks, but I'll probably be too busy waiting in line at Falafel King to care.

                  You know what would have been awesome (but probably unsustainable considering the scale of the operation is a big reason why their food feels so hand-crafted and contains such quality ingredients)? A bigger Mike & Patty's.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: robwat36

                    Yes! Mike and Patty's is great. Going there last Friday and being told it would take 45 minutes for a sandwich was not fun, though.

                  2. 1. Tons of tourists
                    2. No competition
                    3. Open food stand monopoly
                    4. ???
                    5. Profit!

                    Bottom line, this place is going to do huge business.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      While we can wish for all of our favorites to get the nod, like any deal in Boston, this went through Mayor Menino's office, where money and connections speak loudly.

                      To my way of thinking, straight business calculations played a part in a chain winning out over a small operator.

                      For example, what's the per-square-foot rent on a 660 sq-foot space?

                      Who has the desire to ink a 15-year lease agreement? (15 years!)

                      While Bob D's points are accurate, does a ton of foot traffic = a ton of profit?

                      My sense is that smaller players were dissuaded by the length of the lease as well as the level of rent, while the larger, well-known players preferred to focus on ventures that generate more profits than a small place like this will. (Keep in mind that operators often look at profit on a per sq. foot basis.)

                      1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                        In an ideal world, the city would subsidize a local business to open in that spot -- say, Mr Bartley's Burgers or Dave's Fresh (sandwich spot in Davis Square) -- as our local answer to Shake Shack. But it sounds like the city wasn't looking at this as a PR opportunity and more as a profitable space-filling one.

                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                          On the other hand, the city would arguably get killed PR wise from taxpayer and citizen groups who believe government should never subsidize private industry. Not to mention that in the current budget-crisis climate, school marms and unions would go bonkers if the mayor cut a deal for a restaurateur. Come to think of it, the precedent would also be troublesome for the mayor.

                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                            Agreed. This would have been a great chance to highlight a local business.

                            It seems typical of this city, though. I feel like this city would rather see more national chains and Back Bay and Lyons Restaurant Group places (based on the incentives of the regulatory system here) than make this city more conducive to a vibrant independent food scene. The recent news coming out about the red tape for food trucks really exemplifies this attitude.

                            1. re: DoubleMan

                              I think it's really easy to make a statement like that when you're not in charge of balancing a strained municipal budget. And when you haven't spent a lot of time in, say, Jacksonville, Florida.

                              1. re: robwat36

                                Of course I don't know much about the specifics of the deal, and this is just the ramblings of a disappointed eater. I don't deny that it's easier to make a statement like I did from my position, but I think it's also possible for me to criticize from my position. I think the city has not done a good job fostering innovation in this area.

                                For example:

                                http://boston.grubstreet.com/2011/03/...

                                "But participants say that aid hasn't been forthcoming. Other food-truck owners lament "lack of cohesion" when it comes to food-truck permits and complain about trouble finding operating locations."

                                Not good. I'm not sure how that's a smart way to close a budget gap.

                                I'd also be surprised if the deal made with Earl of Sandwich is something that was multiple times greater than what another outfit could offer. Going with a business that may be more likely to lead to long-term enhancement of an area and attract larger crowds seems like it would be a better deal than a more generic option that will be solidly profitable but attract little special interest. I don't know who else was vying, but this result compared to what we heard earlier about who might be interested is disappointing.

                                I'm not sure what point you are making about comparing Boston to Jacksonville, but if it's that Boston is doing a better job, I don't disagree. But I also don't want decisions that could lead us to being more like Jacksonville.

                                1. re: DoubleMan

                                  I think the food truck example speaks more to a failure of execution than intention, though. It sounds like the city created unrealistic expectations around the amount of financial and technical support available, which often happens to well-intentioned government initiatives when the rubber hits the road. That's not the same as preferring to fill the city with national chains and Lyons Group outlets.

                                  1. re: robwat36

                                    The food truck example strikes me as a half-hearted attempt with no real change, and reflective of a city that isn't trying to make this a good place for the small guy.

                                    It's not surprising that well-heeled, well-lawyered companies can better manage the bureaucratic maze, but I don't think Boston (or the state) has done a good job trying to level the playing field. Not everyone can afford McDermott, Quilty & Miller, afterall. In that way, I think the city prefers chains and large group restaurants.

                                  2. re: DoubleMan

                                    I am not some crazed, right winger tea-partier, but I don't think it's the city's job to foster innovation in the food service industry. If they cut a deal for some local chef and turned down higher bids from a chain, they would be criticized for playing favorites and under-the-table dealing. On the bright side, they took a decrepit unused building and at no cost to the city are turning it into something that will be lively and useful.

                                    1. re: pemma

                                      I think it is the city's job to foster a vibrant business environment, especially in the tourism-related industries. They should try to choose what is best for the space and the city. (And maybe they did, but I am still skeptical.) We still don't know that there wasn't under-the-table dealing for this deal, or if the Earl actually made the highest bid.

                                      I think most hounds would agree that it's better for cities to have a quality, diverse restaurant industry to attract visitors and make life in the city more enjoyable. The city should try to promote that, and I think generally having lower barriers to entry would accomplish those goals better than the current regime.

                                      Yes, it's better than nothing, but I was hoping for something more exciting.

                                      1. re: DoubleMan

                                        Why not see what this place is about? Try it at Logan and let us know if it's any good. They have 13 locations--Shake Shack presently has 7. Shake Shack is excellent but also very expensive, perhaps a price point that is only sustainable in the locations it has chosen--Miami Beach, Saratoga Race Track, and Manhattan. No one would have complained if the Pink Palace became an In-n-Out, which is certainly a chain, even if it is beloved. I agree that something really original would have been nice on the Common but am not sure that one can generalize quite as much as is happening here.

                                        We don't know who else competed or what the city's demands were. I'd assume that the city issued a pretty conservative RFP asking for management with a proven track record, solid financials, and something slightly less conventional but still with broad appeal. It sounds like that is what they got.

                                        1. re: hckybg

                                          Unfortunately the location at Logan is behind the security gate in the international terminal, so unless folks are heading out of the country soon, they'll have to wait. I've been to the location at Disney World, and the roast beef is pretty excellent.

                          2. re: Bob Dobalina

                            Even if it's bad!
                            CocoDan

                          3. Hey, I'm willing to give them a shot. Sure there may have been other, better options but I'm hoping that this will open up competition and maybe we'll get some decent food carts on the Common.

                            1. Seems like a very negative point-of-view. Anytime a spot that was not being used at all (and in incredible disrepair) is revitalized that is a good thing. It is no surprise to me that a chain of some kind went in there (glad it was not a Mickey D's) as the rent I am sure will be high.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: bigthree

                                rent is outrageous and the mayor refuses to allow even a beer/wine license in there. it would be very difficult for an indie operator to float. people like oringer and garrett harker did sniff around, but yes, the city is more interested in generating revenue than wooing local business owners.

                                in this economc climate, if any sort of subsidies had been offered, menino would have been chased out of town with torches and pitchforks.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  You say that like this is a bad thing...

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    No license of any kind definitely sinks the business case for an independent; it explains a lot.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      There may not be a beer/wine license but there are plenty of other sustances readily available in the immediate area...and the seller don't have licenses..:)

                                      Hopefully the presence of a thriving biz and law abiding citizens will help drive off some of he undesirables.

                                      The presence of Sal's Pizza on Tremont has already started that and the renovation of the old theaters has helped to do that; as have Suffolk and Emerson.

                                      -----
                                      Tremont Cafe
                                      418 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116

                                      1. re: 9lives

                                        am a huge booster for the development and vitality offered by by both colleges in that formerly forlorn area. while i feel safe in the commons, it can seem "dodgy" at night.

                                        a wine/beer license would go a long way, imho, to making this not just a lunch stop, but an evening one for grown-ups as well. although never mind, now that it's to be a sandwich joint.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          Agreed: huge mistake on Menino's part not to at least make this a beer/wine spot.

                                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            Agree. He's also forgoing huge tax revenues from alcohol sales.

                                            Some years back, Tom Kerstaw set up a small concession on theFrog Pond . They had a walkway and a stand set up maybe 30 ft into the water for live music. He closed after a year of 2 becauseKershaw couldln't make $ withno liquor license.

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              Boston (really all of Massachusetts) is one of the unfriendliest places in the non-Arab world when it comes to serving booze. Very limited supply of liquor licenses, a very overbearing licensing board, no happy hours, early closing times, no T, no Groupons, etc. I remember first moving to Boston and wondering why I needed to be wristbanded and corralled into a pen to drink a beer at a BBQ festival. (I also wondered why City Hall plaza was so barren and ugly, but that's another story).

                                              I don't see this changing anytime soon, and given how hard it is for a bar to get approved to serve me a beer, I see no chance that somewhere outside (gasp!) in a public park (yikes!) with no fencing would ever be allowed to serve beer/wine. You can't even have a beer at your campsite in a state park, a regulation I'd never thought I'd see enforced, until they made my wife and I (30 something couple without a radio) dump our beers into our campfire.

                                              1. re: JoeM

                                                Amen. It's really bad here.

                                                It's possible to protect public safety without the unreasonable restrictions we have here. And it's bad for the economy (and the food scene, I think).

                                                1. re: DoubleMan

                                                  Here's an example.

                                                  http://www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/ar...

                                                  Olives may lose its liquor license because it hasn't reopened quickly enough? The system needs a complete overhaul if this sort of thing can happen. I don't see why there isn't an unlimited supply of licenses with a price set sufficiently high to raise revenue and scare away nonserious restaurateurs, but not so high to have a unreasonable barrier on independent businesses.

                                                2. re: JoeM

                                                  It often looks simply like a matter of clout and palm-greasing.

                                                  See the BoMag article on the insider-y law firm that escorts high-end restaurants through the licensing process for big fees: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/article...

                                                  And the fact that Fenway Park will start serving weak highballs this season: http://www.boston.com/news/local/brea...

                                                  But no beer on the Common. Heavy sigh.

                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    I'll settle for a bar cart on my way to the MBTA platform. I'll never forget the looks I got when I asked where I could get a beer to bring on the train. South Station unfortunately is no Grand Central... not even a Penn Station.

                                      2. I've never eaten an Earl of Sandwich product and they may be great, but I can't say that I was particularly excited when I heard an interview on WBZ with Robert Earl when he said that he is a co-founder/co-owner of Buca Di Beppo.

                                        -----
                                        Buca Di Beppo
                                        20 Waltham Street, Lexington, MA 02421