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Green Street Grill, maybe the kitchen was having an off night?

Went out here with a fairly large group the other night, and I want to preface by saying the front of the house was great, good service, very good drinks, so we still had a nice time, but there were some concerns. For our app, me and my wife split the lobster and crab cake, of which there was no discernable lobster, and only one cake....at $12, we were sort of expecting two cakes. My wife ordered the mac and cheese (and so didn't one of the little ones we were with), and both found it to be kind of inedible. There were diced tomatoes in the mix that was just, wrong textured, and the sauce tasted too heavily of white wine. The cheese in it was grainy as well, as some cheddars tend to do when worked into a cheese sauce. We had also had the grilled calamari, and that was a bit off, and tough to boot. The evening was hardly a disaster (again, due to great front of the house service, and great company), but was wondering if anyone else has had a simular experience, or was this isolated? We used to come to the GSG back in the 90's, when the menu (and decor) were vastly different, and loved it back then, but I don't have a problem per se with the current iteration, I just feel like they need to try a little harder at what they are aiming for in the kitchen. Does that make sense?

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Green Street
280 Green St, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. That's been my experience of late - great service, great drinks, and a nice vibe, but the food is a weak spot. I find many of the dishes to be too ambitious and the overall execution to be very hit and miss.

    I love the place; I just don't eat there nearly as much as I used to.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DoubleMan

      That's exactly what I've found. The food is very hit or miss. The hits are really delicious, but there have only been a few lately. So now I just go for cocktails and yucca.

    2. I'm not generally a fan of either the service or the cocktails at Green Street, but they do have the best potato leek soup I've ever had (hard to screw up, but theirs is fantastic). I remember having the mac & cheese there about a year ago, a different iteration than yours, just mac plus cheese, I think. It was smooth and tasted fine, but I like my m&c to have sharp cheeses, and theirs was kind of bland. (The one at Picco is my gold standard.) Like at most places in Boston, the food can be hit or miss, which is why I often do what I used to make fun of my mother for doing: keep ordering the same dish I know I like at each restaurant and panic when they take it off the menu.

      5 Replies
      1. re: pollystyrene

        Good lord, how can you not like the cocktails at Green Street? I've never been to a bar anywhere that's executing classics with that level of skill at that price point.

        1. re: robwat36

          I don't know. I've yet to have a cocktail I really liked at Eastern Standard either, if that tells you anything. You have a good point about their prices, but I'd rather pay $12 for a great one than $8 for a mediocre one. It's been long enough that I can't say specifically what I didn't like about them, but I've tried several on their short menu and was underwhelmed.

          Places where I consistently enjoy cocktails are No. 9, Drink and Gaslight, so maybe with the exception of the last one, I don't qualify as a total cocktail Philistine. This past weekend I was pleasantly surprised at having terrific cocktails at both Sandrine's and Russell House, although they were stingy with the spirits at the latter. So maybe my booze buds are off; more likely, it's just preference. What are your particular favorites at Green Street?

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          Eastern Standard
          528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

          Sandrine's
          8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, MA 02138

          1. re: pollystyrene

            The first step at Green Street is to not restrict yourself to the short cocktail menu. Upon request, there's a much longer one that covers an astonishing range. The owner even gave me a photocopied version once, which was kind of like finding the Soup Nazi's recipes in an armoire. My go-to there is the Diamondback, which features rye, applejack, and green chartreuse and is remarkably clear and balanced.

            Next time you're at Eastern Standard, order an Old Cuban. If that doesn't do it for you, I don't know what to tell you.

            1. re: robwat36

              I"ve tried the Old Cuban at ESK, and was disappointed. It pales next to the original at the Pegu Club. The only one I've had that came close was made by Ben at Drink--he's no longer there--but the one the bug-eyed bartender with the round glasses made me there recently wasn't too good.

              I never bothered to ask for the long cocktail menu at Green Street because I figured they weren't putting all the bad stuff on the public menu and keeping all the good stuff secret. That seems like a counterintuitive business move.

              1. re: pollystyrene

                I don't think they think of it as "bad stuff." Nor do I. And I think it rotates anyway.

      2. Wow, I was actually just thinking the exact same thing. I've been going quite a bit this spring and have been surprised by how much I like their food (especially the beet salad), but last time I went everything was just off. We had an octopus appetizer that was basically impossible to cut and inedible because it was so chewy, and the mains were salty and just underwhelming. Their cocktails do remain amazing.

        1. We had dinner there last night with friends and all the food was good and on par with previous visits. The food isn't anything mega creative, but we always it to be good neighborhood fare prepared with quality ingredients and priced right.

          The oysters topped with tuna tartar to start are always a crowd pleaser. As for the entrees, the tuna special was one of the nicest pieces of fish I have seen in awhile and cooked perfectly (not much at all). One DC enjoyed the always flavorful roast chicken. My burger was on par with previous visits and they managed to cook the thin patties MR as requested. We enjoyed the side of nicely charred duckfat fingerling potatoes.

          Service and cocktails were excellent.

          1. Bummer about the octopus: there's a bell curve from raw to cooked to well-cooked, and the bit in the middle is inedibly tough.

            I've only eaten from the bar menu on my last few visits, so I don't have a great sample, but I haven't detected any downward trend from prior visits under this kitchen regime, whose food I like but isn't the main reason I go, which is pretty often.

            Their tacos are very tasty -- I think Wednesdays are the night they get their own specials sub-menu -- though a recent special of a deep-fried egg was a delicious filling that had no business resting inside a tortilla. Chacuterie and offal offerings remain really good, and their housemade chips and dip is a near-perfect snack alongside their truly first-rate cocktails. I can't think of many places that combine that level of cocktail craft (and decent wines and seriousness about beer) in a very casual, affordable neighborhood hangout.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            18 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              When you call it affordable, do you mean just in regards to their drinks? I have a hard time applying the "affordable" label to a very casual, neighborhood hangout with $11 apps and $20 entrees. Affordable compared to what? It's only a bit cheaper for food than a place like Rendezvous.

              Green Street is one of those places that I think should be way cheaper (and hopefully better). Keep apps around $7-8, add more sandwiches, and keep entrees around $14-18. Trina's does it, Highland does it.

              I think GS's cocktails are spot on in quality and price, as are the beer and wine, but the food really misses on quality and value.

              1. re: DoubleMan

                Highland is a good comparison. Trina's not so much, in my opinion, because all of the food I've had there has been straight-up bad. I agree with Slim on most of those points, and with you on the pricing issue. But it is kind of lovely to have a mellow place that does cocktails, beer AND snacks well. A shockingly rare combo.

                1. re: celeriac

                  I agree about Trina's; their food stinks, but it is cheap. Except for an odd duck dish, all entrees are $16 or less.

                  I don't know if it's shockingly rare. Highland does it successfully (though I guess with less beer focus), as does the Indo (more with their previous menu than current one, I think) and Deep Ellum to an extent. I agree that it is too rare, though. There should be dozens of places with good cocktails, beer, and wine (or at least two of the three) with tasty food, preferably in the mid-teens. And maybe because there isn't, Green Street has no problem filling its seats at their food price and quality level.

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                  Deep Ellum Bar
                  477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

                  1. re: DoubleMan

                    I agree with you, but it's hard to say what things "should" cost when you're not actually running the business. I wish my rent was lower and my health insurance cost less, but the market's the market.

                    And in Green Street's case, if on-the-expensive-side food subsidizes a cocktail program that's one of the best deals in town, I'm all for it.

                    1. re: robwat36

                      The place is full most nights, so there are obviously a lot of people willing to spend the money for that food. I'm not one of them. If your place is full, there isn't much incentive to change, even if there are a number of people like me (and others on this board) who don't eat there much anymore.

                      I would be very surprised if their food subsidizes the drinks. I suspect that the drinks are making Dylan most of his money - especially when on weekends after 9, the bar is 2 or 3 deep and everyone is drinking cocktails or draft beer (and there is also almost no food to be seen in the bar area).

                      I'd welcome more competition in this style (good beverage places trying with food, on this side of the river), and maybe that could help everyone step up their game. I worry that we'll see more TiTS open than more Green Streets, though. I'm anticipating the opening of Abigail's Restaurant in Kendall.

                      1. re: DoubleMan

                        Me too! Anyone know when they are opening?

                        1. re: somerville01

                          Judging by pics on facebook I would expect sometime this summer. They seem to be moving very quickly and already have a beautiful rough hewn wood bar built.

                2. re: DoubleMan

                  My main point was about top-tier cocktails in a relaxed setting. I'd say the only similar place might be Deep Ellum. My other favorites (Drink, No. 9, ESK/ICOB, Clio) are rather fancier.

                  I definitely like the value of Green Street's drinks (mostly $8.50) and the bar menu ($3-5 snacks and tacos). As I said, it's been a long while since I ate off their dinner menu. $8-13 starters, $11 burger, $17-24 mains: that is indeed not far off from Rendezvous' $8-13 starters, $16 burger, $21-28 mains, $9-12 cocktails.

                  I agree that Highland Kitchen's food is a better value (Green Street's former chef, incidentally) and better overall. I'm less impressed with Trina's food, but it's hard to complain at their prices. Both have very good bartending, but I'd put Green Street above both. (Rendezvous' bar manager is terrific, but he's not always there.) I suspect both Highland and Trina's have a significant real-estate cost advantage over Green Street.

                  I'd give Highland a lot more business if it weren't comparatively remote via public transportation.

                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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                  Highland Kitchen
                  150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I want to again make it clear that the drinks were top notch (particularly fond of the Kingston), and the beer they were serving was also excellent (I had a very hoppy IPA that was on special that night, and it was fantastic), and the service was great to......just too many misses (and some hits mind you, I ordered the burger and was perfectly happy with that), serving bad smelling squid is just wrong, and speaks to the quality control, and again, the mac and cheese was inedible that night, and my wife LOVES mac and cheese. Lastly, there was seriously no lobster in the lobster and crab cake. I have worked in food service for a long time, the bulk of which in places that served lobster and seafood, I know what it looks and tastes like, and there was none in our single cake, not cool. MC Slim JB is probably right in that one should not go the full menu route, but stick to the bar menu, but that does not excuse the full menu and it's price for subpar food

                  2. re: DoubleMan

                    I like Trina's. A lot. There's no way I'd ever compare Trina's & GS in terms of food, they're not even remotely aiming to be the same thing.

                    I've come to accept that places along the lines of green street are a heck of a lot more expensive than they were 10 years ago. C'est la vie.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      What do you like at Trina's? I've gotten to the point where won't bother ordering food there because literally everything I've had has been bad. Not okay for the price point, but straight-up bad. Granted, I haven't eaten there in about a year because of this, so I might have missed some positive changes.

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        I had a shockingly good heirloom tomato and burrata salad there last summer. Maybe go back in August?

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          I think you didn't quite understand what I meant when I said that I like it a lot but it's not intended to be competing with Green Street. This might be a crazy concept to some, but there are a lot of reasons to go to a bar that don't involve haute cuisine.

                          Anyways, I don't eat there a ton, but when I do ...
                          - I often enjoy the dog of the day, doubly so when they're being extra inventive (e.g. the 'general gau dog', the 'biscuits & gravy dog', etc.
                          - I enjoy their sloppy joe wednesdays
                          - I enjoy their chix & waffles
                          - last time i was there they had some sort of pork 2 ways thing that I thought was fine (not great or anything, but not bad)
                          - I've had some specials now & then
                          - For a while they were doing a bunch of cool special events, e.g. the hot dog & wine pairing, those were always a great time

                          I think pretty much everything is more expensive than it should be, but see the second statement I made in the message you replied to, that's just a sign of the times.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            Not crazy at all--I still go for the drinks (and service behind the bar) myself, after all. I do think there's something in between "haute cusine" and halfway decent food. I haven't had either there.

                            1. re: LeoLioness

                              I would say that 95% of the time that I eat it is usually a DotD with some drinks. Or chili cheese fries with some drinks. I keep meaning to get back there on a wednesday, I did like the sloppy joes the couple times I had them - and at least at that point they were a real bargain. I eat quite a bit and I would be happy to split my plate, which was ~$10-11

                              1. re: jgg13

                                I'm with you about Trina's, and about eating in bars in general (but that's surely OT for CH). Their newish cubano and banh mi offerings are both disappointing (and expensive). Dogs and fries are good.

                                I like the brunch, though, and think the food quality is a bit higher there.

                    2. re: MC Slim JB

                      Wednesday is indeed their taco night

                    3. I have loved Green Street for years and years in its various incarnations - that said, I think the cocktails remain top notch (though I continue to miss Misty behind that bar... and it can be hard to access her station at Drink on many nights)

                      The food has slipped in the past few visits. Some is really good (like the sinful double cheeseburger) but some has been just bad (the octopus and some of the special tacos involving seafood mostly). I think the simpler, bar-like fare is the safe way to go and the specials are definitely a crap shoot.

                      I also had an undrinkable cocktail recently where my facial response to the first taste was noticed by the waiter who promptly exchanged it for a different, reliably delicious one. I think the front of house and wait service, along with the bar, remains solid.

                      Has there been kitchen staff turnover?