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A Rendezvous revelation

I've been to Rendezvous many times and have always enjoyed it. Last night, my 12-year-old daughter and I left the house to walk to All Star Sandwich Bar, our fallback, when I thought for a moment and said, "Let's go to Rendezvous instead." She readily agreed, and we turned right on Prospect St. rather than left. We each started with the Boston lettuce salad (apple slices, Shelburne Farms cheddar, spiced pecans), and then she had the orecchiette with meatballs, and I had their cheeseburger. I also had a Delirium Tremens, a wonderful Belgian strong pale ale.

So what was my revelation? I decided that Rendezvous is one of my favorite Boston-area restaurants. There's something about the place -- the wonderful service (without being obsequious), the fresh tasting food, the relaxed ambiance -- that just adds up for me, kinda in the way that Union Square Cafe or other Danny Meyer places in NYC do. It's not that the food is cutting edge, but it's really good nonetheless, and the overall experience provides me with that warm, comforting and inviting feeling that I'm looking for in a restaurant. Very little glitz. No pretentiousness. Reasonable prices. What's not to like?

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  1. Yes. Exactly. Just doing it right with no fanfare or googly hype. Thanks for this post.

      1. Completely agree, there's nothing earth shattering, yet, everything is really well done. We generally sit at the bar, and have had really good cocktails, and attentive service. Also, that toasted orcheiette with meatballs is pretty fabulous!

        1. Agreed, and they pull off that elusive trick of making it all look easy, which it's obviously not.

          1. I agree. It's a great restaurant that doesn't surprise you or challenge your taste buds. But it's solid and easy to enjoy. Only one bad dish out of five (?) visits.

            When the BF's parents come up for a visit we always take them to Rendezvous the night they arrive. After ther long car ride up it is the perfect walking distance from our apartment and right around the corner from Buckaroo (their favorite store in Cambridge). BF's dad is allergic to (intolerant of) garlic, gets very impatient when hungry, and not that adventurous. Thankfully he loves Rendezvous because their cocktails are very good, they don't fool around with his garlic intolerance, and the service is attentive.

            And I know that people look down on going out for dinner on NYE, but this past one we had a wonderful meal at the bar. Special menu in addition to their regular menu, didn't feel rushed, and the food was as good as ever.

            1 Reply
            1. re: viperlush

              Add us to the list of admirers. One of our favorite standbys, year in and year out, and perfectly comfortable in their own skin, doing their own thing.

            2. I'll heap on the praise. I've saved many a grumpy Monday by popping in for their dollar tapas and drinks at the bar, and I learned just a couple of weeks ago that the orecchiette dish (the first meal I ever had there a few years ago) still holds up.

              1. We have a friend who lives around the corner from Rendezvous. We take her out to dinner when we visit. I always ask if there is someplace else she wants to go but secretly hope that she is fine with Rendezvous and she is. I wish there was something like that on the Cape.

                1. great to see the support here.

                  1. Would you say it would be comfortable to order a similar meal on a Friday or Saturday night, even if you are not sitting at the bar? That's one of my favorite things about East Coast Grill, that if we feel like good bbq sandwiches and a cheap dinner, we can go there and not feel like we are frowned upon for having a low check. On that note, how much did a dinner like yours run with tax and tip? I've not gone to Rendezvous largely because it seemed beyond my usual price range, but I'd love to go for a dinner like that on a lazy weekend night.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: hckybg

                      I've never gotten a vibe like you should have ordered more. When I take my chowmom every year sometimes we'll split a few things and skip dessert. Never had attitude. Also there is a prix fixed deal on Sundays I think that would be a good value.

                      1. re: hckybg

                        'frowned on for having a low check'? yikes, that sounds terrible that you would have had boston experiences that would make that a major consideration of yours. shame on those frowners; the polite paying customer rules.

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          You don't need to venture into Boston. One can just pop down the street from Rendevous to Craigie for that treatment.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            i have never had a problem at Craigie; the servers have always treated me wekk, small or large bill. I understand that some people feel that they are not treated well; I am surprised by that.

                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                              Which is it? Can you understand it, or are you surprised by it?

                              1. re: Gabatta

                                I understand; i am merely surprised given my experiences.

                            2. re: Gabatta

                              on my last dinner at craigie, my server said that i should pop in and try some things at the bar such as the burger rather than sticking with the more expensive tasting menu. So my experience with Craigie has been uniformly quite good.

                            3. re: opinionatedchef

                              Yeah, I wouldn't say it's something I experience a lot, and maybe it is mostly my own paranoia. But on a night when a $25/plate restaurant is slammed and I feel like ordering the 12 dollar burger and a beer, I'd say I don't always feel like my server is thrilled with me.

                              A recent experience that I can point to was lunch at the new cafe in the atrium at the MFA, where between the four of us we ordered two pizzas and two salads to share and no drinks. The waiter made his unhappiness evident, but I didn't make my want-to-punch-you-in-the-face evident.

                              1. re: hckybg

                                I think this is the feeling I hate more than any other at restaurants. My girlfriend and I are both light eaters in general, and sometimes I want to say "I'd rather tip you higher and have us not feel sickly full than just order something else and give you a mediocre tip." We don't ever order food we don't want, I just dislike when you get waiters who are visibly disappointed and try to pressure you into ordering extra food.

                                On the complete opposite note, last weekend I ate at Chez Panisse in Berkeley when we wanted to split three apps for lunch, the waiter didn't bat an eye and even asked us if we'd like to course the the three so we could take our time and really enjoy the meal. He even brought out extra bread just in case we wanted it. As you can imagine, he was tipped very well. I wish more waiters understood that and didn't just think, "sell more food, get more money."

                                It reminds me of my least favorite way to start a meal: when a waiter comes over and says, "Can I start you with a bottle of sparkling or still water?" without even offering tap.

                                All that said, I will definitely be checking out Rendezvous.

                                1. re: Klunco

                                  I went to Marco in the North End a few weeks ago and the waitress actually encouraged everyone to order half-portions (c. $15 each) instead of full portions (c. $25 each) because she thought that would be a pretty good amount of food alongside the appetizers we ordered. And you know what? This is the third time on Chowhound I have sung their praises, because that impressed me and I wanted other people to have the same good experience.

                                  Bondir is another place that is very gracious toward the customer, no matter how much he or she orders.

                          2. We've been impressed at how friendly and involved the owner Steve Johnson is in making the place a warm and delightful place to eat. We've been impressed with the food as well as the drink -- especially bartender Scott Holliday's old-timey charm.


                            1. Count me in as an agree. I have only been two or three times but each time I think, "gee, I should come here more often..."

                              1. Add me to the Steve Johnson fan club. I haven't made it to Rendezvous lately but liked it a lot last time. Blue Room, where he was an owner with Chris Schlesinger, advanced the dining scene in the Boston area. Many great meals at the bar overlooking the kitchen..Maybe the first 1 in Boston; and definitely food that was tremendously innovative.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: 9lives

                                  The influence of Chris Schlesinger is truly amazing and deserves an article at some point. Just off the top of my head I know he had a hand in, worked with, or trained the chef at: East Coast Grill, Jake and Earl's, Blue Room, All-Star Sandwich Bar, Highland Kitchen, Tremont 647, Rendezvous, The Back Eddy, Abigail's, and B-Side Lounge. I am sure there are others, not to mention the restaurants you periodically encounter where you look at the menu and think, "This chef had to have worked for Chris Schlesinger at some point." One of my very favorite restaurants, Thee Red Fez in Providence, has a menu that always makes me think of ECG.

                                2. Yet another long time fan. My husband and I have been following Steve Johnson since Marais. He is a total professional in every way. He cares more about making each person in each seat in his restaurant happy than he does about hype and PR.

                                  He has been nominated for Best Chef in the Northeast which speaks well of the James Beard group for having found him since I'm sure he didn't campaign for the award.

                                  Yes, as food lovers, we all need to pay more attention to the people, like Steve, who care about us and spend less money with those who are more interested in being called super stars, appearing on TV shows, and writing cookbooks.

                                  Thank you, Steve for all the wonderful meals you have put in front of me over the past 20 years. You are my idea of a person of real value and I'll always value you more than the so called celebrity chefs.


                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: BostonZest

                                    Did you see the nice piece about his house boat in the New York Times last year?

                                    1. re: hckybg

                                      I sure did! And have to agree about your post upthread on Schlesinger. He's trained a lot of young talent thru the years and you can taste it on the plate. As an aside he was at aguacate Verde (formerly tacos lupita) last time I was there chowing on a huarache and reading the paper. My tacos were crappy. I hope his meal was better.

                                      1. re: yumyum

                                        Inman Square celebrities include former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and Globe architectural critic Robert Campbell. In the past year, our bars have hosted Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen. But my favorite person to see on Cambridge Street is always Chris Schlesinger (though I would of course be equally excited to see Lady Gaga or Springsteen).

                                      2. re: hckybg

                                        I saw the Steve Johnson houseboat article, too. I have made the accompanying bluefish recipe to much acclaim (for which I never take credit)! It's a deliciously simple recipe that allows the bluefish to shine. Give it a try next summer!


                                        I just wish Rendezvous would open for lunch. Since Central Kitchen stopped (yet again) serving lunch, us biotech types in Central have to look elsewhere for a nice-ish lunch.

                                        1. re: digga

                                          Wouldn't it be great if Rendezvous would serve a simplified lunch menu? Miracle of Science doesn't do it for me......

                                          1. re: Madrid

                                            seems i usually agree with you, madrid. miracle of science was a bum steer for us last wk. guac had nothing in it, no spark; just avocado does not a great guac make. Burger was o.k. noth special. Such a limited boring menu. but lord knows it has a big CH fanbase.

                                    2. Pretty Things Jack D'Or is a very nice local Saison style beer they carry at Rendezvous as well. Good for before or during the meal.

                                      1. Yup-Love this place too! Also a great date spot, I think.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Trumpetguy

                                          I actually had my first date with my wife at Rendezvous.

                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                            Very Nice!

                                            Steve Johnson is such a welcoming host :) seems like a great guy!

                                        2. I've sung Rendezvous' praises many times and I will sing them again. I have enjoyed my dinner every single solitary time I have been there and even with all the new places popping up to try I find myself back there again.

                                          1. Thanks for the reminder. Our family loves Rendezvous as well. We have meat eaters, vegans, people who are lactose intolerant and all of the other crazy issues that many families cope with. Rendezvous has always treated us well, from the 82 year old steak lover to the 21 year old vegan. The bar is also a comfortable place to eat if you are dining alone.