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Craigie on Main-Lack of Sensitivity


Recently two friends of mine celebrated their wedding anniversary at Craigie on Main. They really enjoyed their meal only to have it spoiled by their dessert experience. One friend who is lactose intolerant, noticed that all of the desserts, except the sorbet offering, were dairy based. She told the wait staff of her condition and asked if she could have the fresh strawberries with sorbet instead of the accompanying buttermilk ice cream (the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies). They told her that they would ask the kitchen then came back to say that the chef refused to make the substitution. So much for accommodating people with food allergies. Needless to say they and their friends upon hearing of this experiences, will think twice about going back to Craigie on Main.

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

  1. that's an entirely unacceptable response and your friends should tell the manager this. no restaurant, high or low end, should refuse to substitute for a food allergy request. the restaurant owes them an apology and should offer to make it up to them in some way.

    12 Replies
    1. re: jgg13

      lactose intolerance is common. As Striper Guy has noted, a weakness at Craigie is their lack of sensitivity to customers who want exceptions - even if they offer to pay. Still, the food and service - other than that - is good.

      1. re: teezeetoo

        I completely disagree. The restaurant has every right to refuse substituting ingredients, just as every diner has the right to eat elsewhere ( this is coming from someone with severe stone fruit and nut allergies, btw).

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          Per the OP, "the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies". What's the point of putting this on the menu if simple subs will not be made.

          1. re: three of us

            I'd imagine it's so said food items a customer is allergic to don't make it onto the plate. There's no "....and let us know what you would like to have instead" addendum.

            1. re: LeoLioness

              This. ^

              I also believe it's the law now in MA that said sentence must be posted on all menus.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                Yes, it's the law. But it seems awfully douchey not to send out some plain sorbet. Personally, if I hadn't wanted to make the change, I'd have lied to the server and claimed the sorbet had trace amounts of dairy.

                1. re: almansa

                  Do I think it would've been nice had they substituted? Absolutely.

          2. re: invinotheresverde

            It is not as if the poster asked the chef to create a new item, he simply asked to have sorbet instead of ice cream. I would not go back to that restaurant. My husband, BTW,has a dairy allergy.

            1. re: wincountrygirl

              I'm saying this in the most polite way possible, so please don't take offense. If something like this would upset you (which it has every right to- I can't tell you how to feel), they don't want you back. For example, there's a restaurant in Worcester named Armbsy Abbey. They refuse to alter any ingredient in any way from the menu. I have food allergies, which they make no exception for, so I don't go there. We're not a good match.

              As I mentioned above, it would have been nice had they made the substitution.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                No offense taken at all. I just would not go to that restaurant and I'd tell everyone I know not to go too! The cheff obviously has issues.

                1. re: wincountrygirl

                  Please do tell everyone you know. I love Armsby Abbey, but it's also so frickin' crowded every time I go. If you can manage to convince people to avoid it, maybe that'll help my chances of getting a table.

                  Armsby Abbey
                  144 Main Street, Worcester, MA

            2. re: invinotheresverde

              from the OP
              "(the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies)."

              I've always felt that advice was meant to prevent cross alergy ingredients that might not be readily identifiable from the menu description. . . chef uses shellfish in the stock, or that dish cannot be prepared gluten free etc. I never interpreted it as a free pass for substitutions but rather a way to delete menu items that could be problematic. IMHO

          3. Allergy issues aside...

            If the dessert menu has "Fresh strawberries with buttermilk ice cream" and "sorbet", what is the consensus of asking: "Do you think I could have the sorbet with some fresh strawberries? Charge me whatever you feel is fair."

            I guess I just don't see the big deal with making up a dessert plate the way the person requested. It's not like they are saying no tomatoes in a marinara sauce (exaggeration), where the removal or substitution fundamentally changes how an item is cooked.

            Guess I see a big difference between cookery and assembly. This was just a request for a different assembly.

            What if the diner had ordered both desserts and worked around the buttermilk or asked for it on the side?

            1. Seems like too many restaurants these days are a bit far up their own backsides to be honest - absolutely convinced that they know best, and damn anyone who might be allergic to an ingredient that makes the dish "right". I get that some people make up stuff to avoid foods they don't like, but genuine food allergies and intolerances are not fun.

              1. "(the menu advises patrons to alert the wait staff of any food allergies)"

                You say this as if it is a guarantee of substitutions. It's not. It's so that the wait staff can advise you not to order dishes which contain ingredients you may be allergic to.

                It's too bad your friend couldn't get a dessert she wanted, but she was not entitled to it.

                5 Replies
                1. re: bobot

                  This isn't about entitlements or guaranties. This is about a very well-respected, not inexpensive restaurant that refused to accommodate a very reasonable request from a patron, which leaves a very poor impression in the minds of many diners (me included). See also Sam Sifton's review of Masa a couple of weeks ago: a truly great restaurant necessarily includes warm and welcoming service.

                  Craigie is free to serve whatever they choose, however they choose to prepare it, and the rest of us are free to conclude that the restaurant can tend to have an attitude that makes it a less than pleasant place to go. I don't think they'll notably suffer if I and a dozen other Chowhounders decide to skip them because we don't want to deal with that kind of attitude when we're splurging on a dining experience that we're paying to enjoy; but hearing about it is still helpful to me in deciding where to eat, because I don't like to patronize places that are run by pr!cks.

                  1. re: cjd260

                    Keep in mind though, this is a second-hand reports of this incident. It's quite possible that the exchange happened differently than what is actually being reported.

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      Also keep in mind that this is a restaurant with some fairly well established front of the house issues.

                    2. re: cjd260

                      Well, if you don't read entitlement into the original post, then we just have a difference of opinion. I'm lactose intolerant myself, and I just skip dessert or suffer the consequences when I go out and the desserts are mostly dairy-based. Most desserts are. I don't demand that every restaurant in the world accommodate me, or hold it against them when they choose not to.

                      1. re: bobot

                        Entitlement? What if the op'er has asked "Your strawberry dessert sounds lovely, but I can't have lactose - would it be possible to have it with your sorbet, instead?" People make much more absurd requests; I've been asked to make bananas foster (not called ahead, mind you) and I do. I've had people change the risotto accompanying an entree and expecting it to be done. I mean like ordering risotto as if it were pizza. "No we don't want the wild mushroom & chevre risotto; we'll have grilled asparagus & tomato with aged gouda." Hell, it happens so often the servers don't even bother to come to the kitchen to ask anymore. That's entitled.

                  2. A good chef (and waitstaff) would have had the following response to her request:
                    "The chef says that he can't make a substitution on that dish, but he'd be happy to put together a fresh fruit cup or a dairy-free sorbet for you."

                    It's the chef's right to serve their dishes the way they want, but it's also in their best interests to serve food that the patrons of their restaurant can actually eat.

                    1. While I agree that it seems ludicrous, special orders like that can sometimes have repurcussions. At a different restaurant, my husband asked if he could have the mixed berries from a different dish with his housemade belgium chocolate icecream rather then the house preperation. Well a bunch of people around us noticed it and all wanted the same dessert. It was a snowball effect that may have depleted the berries necessary for the crepe dessert.

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: Bellachefa

                        yes...but the counter to that is..if they are selling the berries and making profit (which is what they are supposed to do) it shouldnt matter what dessert people want..

                        count me in the camp that thinks if thats what somebody wants and will pay for it...i would make it...

                        are they chefs with creativity and expression...
                        or are they a warm body sticking prepackaged food in a microwave?

                        if i usually ask for something special off menu i pay for it and tip well and mention the good service to others...

                        1. re: Bellachefa

                          as described, this wasn't about a preference it was about a need: not to eat things that triggered lactose intolerance reaction. no restaurant worth the check refuses to accommodate such a need. yes, unfortunately, there are people who play the "can you substitute this" to death and who also invent allergies. But that doesn't let a restaurant off the hook for appropriately responding to customer needs. Might as well post on your menu "if you have special needs don't eat here."

                          1. re: teezeetoo

                            As I read the OP, the person with the lactose intolerance wanted strawberries and the chef refused.

                            If the chef also insisted the plate go out with the offending ice cream that's totally effed up. Is that what happened? Or was the person simply told "no strawberries for you"?

                            1. re: LeoLioness

                              No. All of the items were dairy based except the sorbet. Strawberries with buttermilk ice cream was one of the offerings. Sorbet was also on the dessert menu as a seperate item. The diner asked if she could have the strawberries with sorbet instead of the ice cream (which she is alergic to). Yes she could have had just the sorbet, but this is strawberry season and she thought that fresh strawberries would make for a nice end to an otherwise fine meal.

                              1. re: chuck s

                                Is it possible that the berries were already incorporated in the dessert and the patrons were simply assuming there was a big bowl of fresh berries available?

                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                  No, they did agree to serve the ice cream in a seperate dish. So if they could do that, why not just give her the sorbet.

                                2. re: chuck s

                                  What flavor was the sorbet???

                                  1. re: chuck s

                                    Like others here, I am very sympathetic to the diner's plight, and it seems like a modest request. But I do think that the situation is a bit more understandable because sorbet was already an option on the menu. The restaurant did actually have a dessert option that was okay for lactose intolerance, and the diner was asking for that item to be modified. I don't have a problem with chefs saying no to such requests when the exception is already accommodated with the menu; but I also think it would be wiser to make a modest adjustment (such as this one) than risk a 60 post Chowhound thread bringing negative publicity upon the restaurant.

                                3. re: teezeetoo

                                  "if you have special needs don't eat here."

                                  That's exactly, intentionally, what they're saying.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    I don't think this case is a very good example, as the person could have merely eaten the sorbet, no?

                                    It is always nice when a restaurant accommodates mixing elements from different dishes, but I can understand that some would not want to do so. As someone else mentioned, it can throw off the inventory of items forcing a dish to be changed or 86ed when one particular element runs out but not the others.

                                    1. re: nickls

                                      Yeah, I would've just ordered the sorbet.

                                      1. re: nickls

                                        Ultimately this is my take on it as well. While it would have been nice of them to add some fruit to the non-dairy sorbet, there WAS a non-dairy dessert on the menu. That dessert didn't come with fruit, and the restaurant refused to add fruit to an existing dessert that didn't come with fruit. Had there been no non-dairy desserts available, would the OP's friends expected them to whip up someting special for them? Could it have been handled better? Sure. Was the restaurant within their right to not change the existing non-dairy dessert option becasue the OP's friends wanted something more than that? Sure.

                                        1. re: kimfair1

                                          I guess what's missing is whether or not Craigie would have served the sorbet alone. I assumed no, but I could be wrong.

                                          1. re: almansa

                                            From what the OP has written it seems that there was a sorbet choice, but that choice did not come with strawberries. The strawberries came with the ice cream (dairy).

                                            1. re: kimfair1

                                              Correct - OP asked for sorbet with strawberries.

                                              There is no one right answer here as a matter of policy - the customer should always be right.

                                              But when that saying was first formulated, people did not have as many allergies. And chefs were considerably lower on the totem pole...

                                        2. re: nickls

                                          I do get that, but I think there's also an element of "I know what tastes best and if you don't want to eat it how I make it you can't have it at all."

                                          1. re: Muchlove

                                            If you don't think the chef at a $100+ per person restaurant knows food better then you do, why are you paying those kinds of prices?

                                            1. re: bobot

                                              I never said I was ;)

                                              Anyway, the chef may well know better some of the time. But this person wasn't saying that they knew better than the chef, they were saying "That sounds delicious chef, but I'm allergic. Can we compromise?" And the chef just blocked that possibilty out.

                                              Having said all this, I did not realise that there was a possibilty for the person to just have the sorbet. Probably would have gone with that myself rather than complicating stuff too much.

                                              1. re: bobot

                                                Your statement on it's face is fairly absurd. By that logic someone who is quite knowledgeable about food (ahem) with never eat out at all.

                                            2. re: nickls

                                              nickls wrote: "it can throw off the inventory of items forcing a dish to be changed or 86ed when one particular element runs out but not the others."

                                              Someone wants sorbet (which is already on the menu) with strawberries (which was offered on the said ice cream that the OP is intolerant to). Say Craigie goes ALL out - serves the sorbet (which the OP apparently was willing to purchase separately) AND the strawberries too. Maybe I'm not very good at math - but that tells me the only thing different about the inventory is they now have an extra serving of ice cream.

                                              Of course the OP could have simply eaten the (plain) sorbet - just as well as Craigie could have SIMPLY given them the !@#$% strawberries.

                                              But what the heck. Maybe a restaurant doesn't have to worry about bad PR (such as this thread), and they can just sit way up there above us mere mortals...

                                      2. The thread was about something very different than my Craigie dining insensitivity experience.

                                        The one time we dined there (not drank at the bar) was at their old location. After dropping two bills on a pair of vegetarian tasting menus and a bottle of wine, Tony Maws came over to his acquaintances sitting at the table next to us. He then proceeded to rail against vegetarians and how he didn't get them. He'll cook the food and how his brother was a vegetarian but he had little respect for it. We just sat their drinking our last glass of wine and shaking our heads.

                                        Regardless that his veggie food was rather good (even in the colder months), we decided that we would rather settle for a restaurant who enjoyed what they were serving us.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: yarm

                                          Have you been to True Bistro yet? Red Lentil?

                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                            Yes to both a few times each. Also Pulse Cafe and Life Alive. Eagerly awaiting Veggie Galaxy in a few weeks.

                                            1. re: yarm

                                              I am not a vegetarian myself but I have great respect for those who choose to commit to that kind of diet. It annoys me when chefs who "don't get it" insist that it's somehow an invalid dietary choice simply because they don't understand why someone would choose not to eat animals. Anthony Bourdain, whom I otherwise admire, is one of the worst offenders.

                                              1. re: aphonik

                                                Personally I don't even mind if they don't get it and/or look down on it - as long as they stand by their stance and don't bother catering to the vegetarians. If they're going to be all high & mighty in the manner being discussed here, you'd think that they'd not "ruin their vision" with a veggie plate. At least then the info is out there for the public, who can decide whether or not to frequent them or not, as opposed to not realizing that the chef is privately hating you (as Yarm found out)

                                          2. re: yarm

                                            Red Lentil rocks and Tony's is a weenie.

                                            Red Lentil
                                            600 Mt Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

                                            1. re: yarm

                                              Wow, how incredibly rude of him. The public flogging of vegetarians is so obnoxious, not to mention tired. See also: Anthony Bourdain.

                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                never mind the food allergies or the insensitivity or the high price of the dinner. how about simple customer service? many years ago, when we were young things just discovering fabulous french food we dined at Leon de Lyon. We were working our way through French cheeses, each new one amazing and palate-delighting. We had a superb meal and the enormous cheese tray went by (literally the size of a kitchen table) and my husband sighed audibly and said he wished he had room because he bet they had the best st. marcellin ever. the waiter overheard and, a few minutes later, a little plate of ripe and dazzling st. marcellin was delivered. My husband thanked him and our pleasure was obvious. When the bill came, my husband noted to the waiter that there was no charge for the cheese. The waiter looked at him and said " but of course not - it was just a taste for you." This was a celebrity restaurant with a celebrity chef in a country people bash for its snottiness. So the hell with Craigie.

                                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                                  Wow. Amazing - how I would love to experience a restaurant like that! For me (and, I'm sure, plenty others) the experience of fine dining goes beyond just what the chef creates. How I wish this was someplace in Boston - but who knows - maybe I'll fulfill my dream & actually get to France. (and hopefully I could afford to dine at Leon de Lyon - a name I won't forget!!

                                              2. re: yarm

                                                This doesn't surprise me at all. I had the veggie entree last time I went to Craigie on Main (mixed veggies) and it was way overbuttered and overseasoned. There was no distinct flavor or mouthfeel other than melted butter.

                                                Even short of the great all veggie restaurants out there, look at the vegetarian tasting menus of high end restaurants these days (Alinea, L'Arpege, French Laundry, L'Espalier). Not being able to come up with an original vegetarian dish not just sauteed mixed veggies over rice, in my opinion doesn't speak well for the talent of a chef. Even if you hate vegetarians, if you're going to offer a veggie dish and you're a talented chef, wouldn't you strive to make the best veggie dish you can? If you hate vegetarians and they're an afterthought to you, why even offer a veggie dish? After two visits, I found Craigie overrated and pretentious (and I'm someone who loves very formal restaurants with dress codes) and will not be back.

                                                774 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199

                                                Craigie on Main
                                                853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                1. re: Klunco

                                                  That's a shame -- it used to be wonderful. Craigie (the old location) was the first time I'd ever really had French food -- it's not, in general, terribly veggie-friendly, and I've been back several times and been pleased.

                                                  But if they've gone off the deep end and/or are resting on their laurels, oh well. There are plenty of other restaurants around the city.

                                              3. I'd defend Maws's right to serve only the food that he wants to, and not to bend to his customers' wishes regarding substitutions, even under the seemingly-reasonable rubric of food allergies or aversions. It's his place, he presumably has put a lot of thought and work into the integrity of his dishes. Obviously, that's going to upset some customers, who are also within their rights to say, "I'm never going back," and to post about it online.


                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  If he feels so strongly about the pairing of buttermilk ice cream and fresh strawberries to blow off a customer request, then I'll gladly forego his restaurant, for fear of pairing my entree with the wrong soft drink and incurring the chef's wrath.

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    if he said please don't order a caesar salad if you don't like parmesan cheese, order something without parmesan cheese, I'd be more sympathetic to your view MC. But the difference between ice cream with strawberries and sorbet with strawberries strikes me as monumentally immaterial to a chef, regardless of the purity of his principles.

                                                  2. I'm trying to find a way to say this that doesn't seem to be criticizing your friends, chuck: but a kitchen refusing to accomodate something wouldn't spoil a meal for me.

                                                    Yesterday we stopped at a bar/restaurant before a concert, wanted drinks and apps. We asked to move from barstools to one of the tables in the bar for the apps, only to be told that we'd have to order a full meal at the table. No biggie. Finished our drinks in a leisurely manner and found snacks elsewhere.

                                                    If it were us at Craigie, we'd have ordered the buttermilk & berries, plus the sorbet. You said the restaurant was willing to serve the ice cream in a separate bowl; so then I dump the berries onto my sorbet, he eats the ice cream.

                                                    It's a shame it felt spoiled to them. As others have stated in this thread, we pay good money at higher-end places for the chef's creativity and vision. He spends time planning the best marriage of flavors. If a particular combo sounds unappealing to him, he has the right to refuse.

                                                    1. After reading all the comments here, I keep flashing on Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces in the restaurant asking for toast. I don't really want that scene running through my head, but I just can't stop it!

                                                      14 Replies
                                                      1. re: hondodog

                                                        Only this time it's the chef telling the customer to hold it between her knees.

                                                        I'm on the eff-this-jackass train, myself. He's well within his rights to refuse that request, but the other side of that is that it's well within our rights as customers to tell him and his restaurant to cram it with walnuts. I'll give my money to Charles Draghi or Jason Bond or someone else who doesn't treat customers as a impediment to their almightly chefly vision.

                                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                            hahaha.. can't. stop. laughing...

                                                            (will never look at walnuts the same after reading what you wrote, btw...)

                                                            1. re: threedogs

                                                              I can't claim credit for "cram it with walnuts" -- those are the deathless words of one Homer J. Simpson. That said, while I don't buy that the customer is *always* right, this exchange as presented fits in with other complaints I've heard over the years about preciousness and unnecessary dickishness at Craigie.

                                                              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                Do we really know whether the waitstaff communicated the allergy aspect clearly to the chef? Also, although this might indeed be an instance where the restaurant exhibited a lack of generosity, I have experienced and observed numerous instances where the restaurant has sent out unsolicited free dessert samplings (a beignet here, a small fruit salad or panna cotta there, not to mention the usual demitasse of hot chocolate). Not to mention the usual amuse bouche either. And I'm not some famous food critic or blogger. I've seen others at the bar experience the same. Same spirit of generosity is seen at the bar when it comes to drinks, wine, beer. I have also on occasion requested small modifications to the menu and been accomodated, no problem. so the restaurant is quite capable of generosity, in fact I would say it's more the rule than the exception.

                                                                1. re: barleywino

                                                                  Thank you for pointing this out. I read through this entire thread and by about the halfway point Tony Maws had been metaphorically anatomized (i.e. labeled a "d#ck" and other variants), construed as an arrogant, self-righteous, passive aggressive vegetarian hater, and had his restaurant dismissed for its pretensions, rigidity, lack of customer service, etc. All on the basis of chuck s's initial complaint.

                                                                  As barleywino notes, none of us were there, none of us know the context of the circumstance, none of us witnessed the interactions between diners/servers/chef.

                                                                  Personally, when I read something like this- "They really enjoyed their meal only to have it spoiled by their dessert experience" - the first thing I think is "uptight." I mean, really, the whole meal was "spoiled" because someone couldn't have strawberries on their sorbet? There's a red flag there that suggests to me that the patron in question is just a wee bit too tightly wound. But that could just be me reading into it.

                                                                  Nevertheless, these sorts of threads are always troubling when there's a rush to judgment about something that none of us witnessed/experienced.

                                                                  That said, I do understand that some/many of these comments may be from people who had similarly unpleasant or disappointing experiences at Craigie. But to castigate the chef, the staff, and the restaurant itself based on one person's hissy fit, er, I mean, reasonable complaint, seems pretty unfair and not really that helpful in evaluating the establishment in question.

                                                                  1. re: lescaret

                                                                    If you are a real chowhound regular you will understand that Maws has a LONG, LONG track record of at times overt disdain for his own clientele. Some of his own posts and emails elsewhere are downright hostile to the people who pay his rather hefty prices.

                                                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                      I think I conceded that point in my post (i.e., that many posters probably do have first hand experience with the Maws Monster). But your reply misses my point, which is that extrapolating too much from a single poster's complaint doesn't really serve any of us well.

                                                                      If other people have had similar negative experiences, it would lend more credence to the veracity of the initial complaint if they elaborated on them. Or, if other similar anti-customer practices have been documented elsewhere, then link to those threads.

                                                                      And perhaps you can define for me what "a real chowhound regular," please. I've read your posts for years, StriperGuy, and appreciate them and have learned from them. But just because I don't have as many posts to my name as you doesn't mean I'm someone who just happened onto this site last week.

                                                                      1. re: lescaret

                                                                        Do a little searching on the site then. There are many other instances of folks, myself included, describing the Maws mistreatment of, and at times overtly disparaging his clients.

                                                                    2. re: lescaret

                                                                      I wouldn't call it a "hissy fit." It seems perfectly reasonable to me that a meal could be spoiled by a chef's refusal to grant an extremely simple request that essentially involves no effort at all on the part of the kitchen. That unwillingness to make allowance for a diner's dietary needs would stick in my craw, too, and I can understand how that would taint what might have been an otherwise lovely experience.

                                                                      I would completely understand the chef's unwillingness to change a recipe or alter a preparation in some substantial way, but the distinction here is simply scooping a frozen substance from container A rather than container B. A refusal of that sort seems really hard to justify, and would leave a bad taste in my mouth, too.

                                                                      1. re: aphonik

                                                                        To Maws' credit, when accepting his James Beard Award this year, said, "This [the award] won't cook dinner. I'll be back on the line tomorrow night." Take it for what you will.

                                                                  2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                    Ah, good ol' Homer. I have years of reruns to catch up, someday in the future.

                                                                    1. re: threedogs

                                                                      I think that Tony Maws has forgotten that he is in the hospitality business not just the business of creating menus and cooking.

                                                                      1. re: edgewater

                                                                        And forgotten about treating his employees kindly.

                                                            2. There was a long thread about "chef-is-always-right" restaurants on the LA board about some of these issues. It started with not accommodating a celebrity's request for dressing on the side at Gjelina (Victoria Beckham was dining with Gordon Ramsay so the story got a lot of ink);

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Kunegunde

                                                                The "arrogant chef who will do exactly nothing to accommodate his paying customers" story is a recurring and popular one. Recently, the NY Times ran another one: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/nyr... Bruni wrote this very entertaining take on chefly arrogance and self-aggrandizement in 2007: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/24/din...

                                                                I guess I'm willing to forgive some level of dickishness if the dick in question has got real talent. It's not how I like to conduct my own business, and maybe there's a karmic burden being accumulated here that Maws might not enjoy one day. But in the meantime, his food is still more interesting and better executed than that at many, many places where they kiss your ass. I've got room in my stomach for both.


                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                  While I agree that restaurants can refuse service to anyone they like, and I agree that if you have dietary issues you should check with a restaurant before going, I disagree that talent is an excuse for being a dick. (I decided that when, "but he's really good" was the excuse for a director throwing a table and laptop at an assistant on a TV commercial set.) That said, "no substitutions" has been seen on menus for decades. I've seen it on greasy diner menus, not just celebrity chef kitchens or fine dining.

                                                                  Little things like the dessert exchange seem ridiculous to refuse. No, I wouldn't ask for the stew without cumin or for risotto with a different cheese, but I've asked that an item be left off a salad that I know they will be assembling just for me. If they refuse, I'll either order something else or pick off the offending item. I think 'no substitutions' is a reaction to ridiculous special orders. I have a friend who does this, and I avoid eating out with her. Sending back fries at a diner for being cooking incorrectly, then abandoning that order for an order of French toast instead is embarrassing. It's why I can't order my salad without walnuts. Someone always takes it too far.

                                                                  Some places, like Eastern Standard Kitchen in Boston, can offer great food and still accommodate folks. We stopped in for drinks, and a friend decided she needed some food to cushion the excellent cocktails. She asked if they had anything to accommodate her serious food issues (based on recent health issues, not being picky), and the chef made her an off-menu vegan risotto that was divine. She was expecting a plate of frites or some simple offering and was blown away by their efforts despite a crowded dining room.

                                                                  Eastern Standard
                                                                  528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215

                                                                  1. re: cherie72

                                                                    Not the first I've heard of their awesomeness. Eastern Standard once worked with some friends of mine who have a mutual friend with serious health concerns (a whole list of things that can trigger her mastocytosis into going haywire). They apparently did a great job listening (it was a week or so before) and crafting a menu for that person.

                                                              2. Maws can do what he wants. And so can I. Crossing Craigie on Main off my lists for future trips to Boston. Don't need or want service like that - ever.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                  Charlie Trotter wrote of his decision to fire his customers, not change his vision, so to speak - the opposite of the customer is always right. Then he could ensure that he wound up with customers he wanted to feed. It would appear that Tony chooses to go the same path.

                                                                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                                    I don't get this at all. It didn't happen to you. You have no idea of the circumstances. You are not grieved. Why boycott Cragie because they *may* or *may not* have treated a customer *you don't know* poorly.

                                                                    Why do you feel so strongly about this post that you have to take a stand?

                                                                    1. re: ac106

                                                                      Anyone in this thread who wants to boycott Craigie should do so. Then maybe I'll be able to get a seat at the bar more easily. Seriously, I can't think of any other place in town that would create as much angst in a thread where no one, not even the original poster, was actually there to see/experience what happened on the fateful night where dinner was ruined by a lack of berries.

                                                                      Don't like Tony's food or policies, you are free to not eat at his restaurant.
                                                                      Don't have an issue with them, or like me, have never experienced anything like any of the things he and his staff have been accused of by many, then eat away.

                                                                      1. re: ac106

                                                                        I worked hard for my money and I'm not affluent. Fine dining is a rare treat and privilege for me. When the food and service are good at a top notch restaurant I'm very happy. However, when there is an attitude, which there seems to be here (notice I said seems, I understand there is another side to the story), it turns me off a place. Completely. I don't have the time or interest to spend my hard-earned dollars at a place that can not accommodate a reasonable request.

                                                                        Compare Craigie to Scarpetta in NYC, where I dined a couple months ago. My husband and I ordered the prix fixe which came with a dessert. Because I am off sugar I told my husband to order a second dessert. As he was mulling the choices, our server asked me if I would like a fruit plate - if so he would ask the chef to see if he could make one for me. I said, yes I would love a fruit plate... The server went to the kitchen, came back and said the chef would be happy to make a fruit plate for me.

                                                                        In my book, this is an example of a restaurant going above and beyond the call of duty as far as customer service is concerned. It's just one more reason that Scarpetta has become my favorite restaurant. The customer service exceeds expectations and guests are made to feel special and welcome no matter who they are.

                                                                        As I said, Maws can do what he wants, it's his place. Just doesn't appeal to me.

                                                                        By the way, the fruit plate at Scarpetta was excellent. Pictured below.

                                                                    2. It seems like everything there is to be said on this subject has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.