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Jan 3, 2012 05:02 PM

Eastern Standard Aging Gracefully

We go every couple of months because the roasted bone marrow is my husband's single favorite dish in Boston and we both love the bar and the oysters, which are impeccably chilled, briny, and delicious. This trip we ordered the frisee salad, a long time favorite that we haven't had here in a while. My husband mentioned to the waitress that he isn't a fan of the hazelnuts and prefers his frisee with croutons. This is an opinion and not at all a criticism of the kitchen at ESK. The bill came with the frisee salad removed. We told the waitress that we hadn't voiced a complaint, were more than happy with our meal, and my husband had merely expressed an opinion. She said she understood that but she wouldn't charge us for something that hadn't been thoroughly enjoyed. I love this restaurant! It refuses to get old, stale, and lose its attention to service and quality. So thank you ESK and we will, of course, be back.

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  1. That was very classy of them (and you and your husband).

    We haven't made it down there in quite awhile. Thanks for the reminder. My usual order is 1/2 dozen oysters, french fries and a salad.

    1. We love the frisee salad too. And, of course, the impeccably gracious service.

      2 Replies
      1. re: peelmeagrape

        i get that frisee salad nearly every time i go to esk. i call it the heart attack salad, lol.

        and i do love the place, especially at that lull time in the afternoon before the place is banging busy. no matter how slammed they are, the staff and management always remain gracious and the food is executed consistently. and, of course, the drinks and wine selections are some of the city's best.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          We have a membership to the MFA (and now also the Gardner) and when the weather is nice we will frequently walk back to Cambridge and stop @ Eastern Standard for drinks and a snack. I love that afternoon lull. It's one of the few bars/restaurants that looks good in daylight and almost empty. The first time we went it was super busy and we were overwhelmed by the drink menu. When the waitress found out it was our first time she carefully went over all the drinks with us. I was impressed by her knowledge of the menu and patience.

      2. I recently tried it for the first time and I can say, without question, that I will be back. The food and the service were among the best I have experienced. Gracious is a good description. I really felt, when I was there, that they go the extra mile. They seem to understand the concept of "the customer" as "the guest"...unlike Island Creek Oyster Bar who..although the service was decent..the overall attitude was that ICOB was doing me a favor by serving me.

        9 Replies
        1. re: BlueMagic

          I'd like to offer a differing opinion on the service at ICOB. As someone who has dined there with my 7 and 5 year old children several times, the staff at ICOB has bent over backwards consistently to make sure that we all have a great experience. My wife and I regularly cite them as having the best service in town.

          We also very much like ESK and its service, and have had consistently great experiences there.

          1. re: BlueMagic

            Have to agree in re kids at ICOB. It is not obviously a kid-friendly place, but we went there in the fall with our 4 yo and the waiter and staff could not have been more pleasant. The hostess purposely found a table with a comfortable bench for her to sit, not on a high bar stool. The waiter made a special trip over to say that while they had no specific kids menu, the chef would happily make anything in his power that our daughter would like. Luckily she loves fried fish, so she got a little portion of fish and chips and had a lovely meal, as did her folks.

            1. re: DrMag

              Ditto - we were there for Father's Day last year, and they made my daughter (5) a grilled cheese sandwich, off the menu, and couldn't have been more accommodating.

              1. re: DrMag

                Fair enough...Sunday morning was my first time there and with the phenomenal experience from Eastern Standard still fresh in my mind..that was just the feeling I got from the hostess. I will likely give it another shot since I enjoyed the food...perhaps I should bring my baby niece with me to insure I have a great experience ;-)

                1. re: BlueMagic

                  HA! I will add when t I've been there without my daughter, on my birthday last year, they tailored a menu for me to say "Happy Birthday," gave me a free glass of wine and a free dessert, in addition to being extremely attentive. By far the best service that I've had at a large-ish restaurant of its kind...

                  1. re: sallyt

                    It's so great when a restnt staff makes you feel so welcome. It's been like that for us these last few times at ICOB.

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      Yikes..didn't mean to make this a thread about ICOB..sorry to the OP! Obviously..ICOB has it's fans...but back to Eastern Standard...

                      As Viperlush so eloquently described..I too was impressed with the atmosphere of Eastern Standard. It seems the perfect type of place to enjoy on a cold winter afternoon..cozy and warm. I was extremely impressed by our server's knowledge..not only of the wines..but also of the menu and the ingredients in this dishes. I always ask about ingredients and in most places the server has to check with the chef. Not so at Eastern Standard. Our server was able to explain the dishes I asked about in amazing detail and in a very gracious manner. During and after our meal she was very attentive and just so nice.
                      To the clearly passionate ICOB comparison wasn't meant to cause controversy..merely to comment on the difference between the two places in terms of service based on my back to back experience at both last weekend.
                      I would be curious to know of any of the ICOB posters..have you been to Eastern Standard? If yes..what was your experience there?

                      1. re: BlueMagic

                        Having eaten at both (but having spent a lot more time in Eastern Standard), I have experienced wonderful service in both places, especially the bar at Eastern Standard, one of my favorite places in town.

                        1. re: BlueMagic

                          Eastern Standard and ICOB are managed and run by Garrett Harker. He is the reason why the service is so good at both restaurants. It's clearly a culture that he has cultivated and in my opinion a winning one. It's refreshing and unusual to have such warm and friendly staff and that is what sets these two restaurants apart from many others.

              2. I finally made it to ES for dinner last night with a group of friends. I have to say it was one of the best dining experiences I've had in Boston in quite some time. Most of the food was fantastic. The Roasted Bone Marrow was delicious. I also was blown away by the mac and cheese with the guanciale as well as "daily offal" dish we had, which was raviolis stuffed with blood sausage. They were tender, creamy, a bit spicy, with that irony blood flavor in the background.

                My only criticism was the Sunday Special pasta dish we had. It wasn't bad, per se, but it didn't live up to the level of the rest of the meal. The brisket was tough and a bit dry, and it was a bit too heavy with the salt.

                What made the meal really special though, was the level of service. Those servers knew every detail of everything we ate. There wasn't an empty water glass, dirty plate or empty bread basket the entire evening. My favorite part was that we avoided entirely the "plate auction" know, where the waiter arrives and says "Who had the chicken?" The dishes went straight in front of the person who ordered them without any comment. I don't know that I remember that happening in a Boston restaurant in my recent dining experiences.

                If that is what is meant by "aging gracefully", then ES definitely looks fantastic for its age.