Restaurants with which you have a love/hate relationship
I hate Friendly Toast. I hate the faux kitsch. I hate the bad attitude of many servers (although, in fairness, they have many excellent ones, too). I hate that most of the menu items have one (or more) too many ingredients. I hate that a breakfast place serves such bad coffee. Yet I keep going back. Maybe it's because the food is just good enough and there's no other place (at least that I know of) walkable from mid-Cambridge for a reliable breakfast.
Starbucks is another place that I hate but keep going back to. (Though we're not s'posed to talk about chains on this board!)
What places in the Boston area do you loathe, yet keep going back to?
The Friendly Toast
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA
If the question is "voluntarily", I'd say none. Life is too short to repeat bad experiences. Against my will, there are many places I have to patronize as part of business dining. I had to meet clients recently at the M.J. O'Connor's in the Seaport, which I might call one of the very worst options in a neighborhood that finally has some decent ones, but couldn't really say anything about it, as it was their idea. It would have been rude to try to correct their choice.
Ditto for most luxury steakhouses (I really dislike Abe & Louie's, for instance), expensive and mediocre Italian joints like Strega, underwhelming celeb-chef joints like Olives (so glad they've been closed recently) and Radius and Blue Ginger, any number of Legal Sea Foodses (though the new Harborside one at least has a great view).
If I have a say, I will lobby against these, but I don't always get to offer an opinion, and when I do, mine doesn't always prevail. And I'm not in a position to say, "I'm a Chowhound: bow to my superior knowledge." (And that would not be a Chowish thing to say, either.) It stings sometimes. You have to smile politely and pretend to enjoy, and sometimes pick up a big, ugly check. Blech.
Abe & Louie's
793 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116
379 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113
For me, just about any place with good beer. The fries at CBC have been lousy for the last decade, the bumped the cubano from the menu, and there's no Reuben. At Sunset Grille, almost every beer comes as a 13oz pour instead of a pint. And all the food seems to be cooked at about 225F, so you get pallid fries, rubbery, half-melted cheese, etc. And Lord Hobo charges $6.50 for pint of Sierra Nevada. Most of the time I'm at these places it's because I'm meeting friends there, but the beer is still a draw, even if I often loath the prices.
Silver lining--I've been to Christopher's in Porter a couple times recently and have been pleasantly surprised. The burgers and sandwiches won't win any awards, but they're inexpensive and the beer selection is perfectly nice and priced about as well as anything in town ($5 for just about any average ABV beer).
Cambridge Brewing Company
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
Sunset Grill & Tap
130 Brighton Ave, Allston, MA
1920 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140
92 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA 02141
I'm not sure what "faux kitch" is, I have to be honest. To qualify for "real kitch", does a place have to have its original furnishings that time has made kitchy? I personally dig on the Pee-Wee's Playhouse look of The Friendly Toast, but I can see how some folks can see it as twee.
As for love/hate, I'd say Diesel in Davis Sq. Despite the high prices, ultra-hipster attitude, and way-overpriced ever-stale pastries, they still have the best coffee in the area, so I keep going back.
not sure if this counts, but i was a star market fan for years, then they becames shaws and ugh! but i think i may have a slight addiction to shaws fried chicken, when its fresh it is pretty good and seven bucks gets you a couple of work meals.
I hate to love Legal Sea Foods but I do, about 3X a year. I love to hate Starbucks and don't really ever go there because it is just simply contemptuous. I hate to love a Chinese Buffet, but I do hit up Mandarin Reading at least 2X a month.
Mandarin Reading Restaurant
296 Salem St, Reading, MA 01867
I'm not a Boston 'hound, but Starbucks is "contemptuous" because their coffee is overroasted, if not to say burned. Seattle's Best has been far better, but they've been bought out by Starbucks, and I'm waiting for the coffe to either 1) disappear, or 2) become a secondary grade of coffee even worse than Starbucks'.
Gotcha. With so many excellent local roasters/houses, I don't see much need to visit Starbucks, but at least the local S'bucks have Clover machines, which can make a very, very fine cup of coffee indeed. As for Seattle's Best, they aren't going away; Starbucks has rebranded their coffees and are planning to open many 'mini-cafes' in the next few years.
i find servers harried (and everyone can have a bad day) but usually pretty nice. What i do not like about Starbucks is that there coffee is charred thus charbucks. That said, i do not mind get an espresso and never have felt any contempt from these servers.
and the only time i had a minor problem with upselling was at Alain Ducasse in Paris where the sommelier did not want me to drink Alsatian Riesling and preferred that i drink corton charlamagne. But he made up for that by coming by and giving us a 1/2 bottle of burgundy for free ( someone else left 1/2 of the bottle)
There are two in my list of love/hate: Legal Seafood and Tango (Arlington). Legal is not the same restaurant I knew when I visited Boston for the first time back in '96. When I moved here in '98, it used to be our favorite place for birthdays and celebrations, not anymore. First of all, they dramatically reduced the portions, secondly, they used to have the most amazing and knowledgeable wait staff. While the waiters now are polite and polished, they're not at the level they used to have, they knew the menu inside out and were always able to recommend a good wine to pair with your meal, NOT ANYMORE. As for Tango, while their service continues to be outstanding, I feel that the food is not what it was a few years ago, it is just OK. I continue to visit since they are still favorites but I am not as enthusiastic about them as I was a few years ago.
Trina's Starlite Lounge falls into this category for me. It's within walking distance of home, the people who own it are terrific, the service is generally good, the space is fun....but I think the food is dreadful, the cocktails are very hit-or-miss and the crowd can often be the types that are more interested in photographing/FB posting about their night than actually *enjoying* their night. I keep popping in periodically and to keep my expectations low, but even then I'm sometimes disappointed.
Trina's Starlite Lounge
3 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143