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Olives in Charlestown Has Reopened

hiddenboston Apr 30, 2012 07:03 AM

I never thought it would happen, but Olives is open once again.

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  1. g
    Gabatta RE: hiddenboston Apr 30, 2012 07:19 AM

    Let the rabid bashing commence...

    I will pay a visit at some point, as I have fond memories of the original Olives (even some in it's waning days).

    1. hiddenboston RE: MC Slim JB Apr 30, 2012 09:59 AM

      And now, next up....Kingfish Hall. I called Todd English Enterprises several weeks back and they insisted that it was being renovated and would reopen. Since I know they wouldn't lie to me (or others) about this, I'm assuming that the place will be open once again at some point. Right? Right.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hiddenboston
        Science Chick RE: hiddenboston Apr 30, 2012 11:49 AM

        The website certainly does indicate "Closed for renovations" for the Charlestown satellite. As a side note, if you go to the "Food Tips by Todd" section, they are featuring "Fall Harvest" tips. I guess that says alot about how up-to-date the website is............

        1. re: Science Chick
          treb RE: Science Chick May 2, 2012 12:55 PM

          Website probably shoulda said, "Closed for Re-Invention"

          1. re: treb
            Science Chick RE: treb May 2, 2012 01:00 PM

            LOL very good!

      2. s
        ScotchandSirloin RE: hiddenboston Apr 30, 2012 11:12 AM

        In a strange twist, the Olives sign is gone.

        1. m
          Madrid RE: hiddenboston Apr 30, 2012 11:37 AM

          has anyone actually seen humans inside?

          7 Replies
          1. re: Madrid
            Bob Dobalina RE: Madrid Apr 30, 2012 11:43 AM

            Nope - only Todd - heh heh - j/k

            The website also does not have a menu posted for the Boston restaurant - for the uninitiated, what were the go-to dishes at Olives during its heyday?

            1. re: Bob Dobalina
              Alcachofa RE: Bob Dobalina Apr 30, 2012 11:44 AM

              Anything stacked straight up into the sky.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina
                Madrid RE: Bob Dobalina Apr 30, 2012 11:52 AM

                the pizza/flatbread, there was a salad with a "cascade" of blue cheese, the olives you got when you sat down were fantastic, and as I recall, any roasted pork and most shellfish dishes. The falling chocolate cake (lava). Paella. you can see how dated the menu became but back in the day, it was new, fresh, and exciting. And yes, tall.

                1. re: Madrid
                  teezeetoo RE: Madrid Apr 30, 2012 12:12 PM

                  My memory is akin to Madrid's on this: early on, it was gutsy, robust-flavored food, sort of East Coast Grill meets Gotham Tavern (yes, tall, as was the Gotham's signature food). particularly good on pork dishes and with excellent bread and salads. But then it went flabby and palid. It would be great to see the old Olive's in new form and fettle.

                  1. re: Madrid
                    Boston_Otter RE: Madrid Apr 30, 2012 07:48 PM

                    The last time I went there, the olives were nearly inedible (mushy as if filled with paste or rotten).

                2. re: Madrid
                  ScotchandSirloin RE: Madrid Apr 30, 2012 12:36 PM

                  There were humans inside when I walked by on Friday. Looked more like friends and family, but there were people with food and drinks.

                  1. re: ScotchandSirloin
                    Madrid RE: ScotchandSirloin Apr 30, 2012 01:23 PM

                    and were they carrying cupcakes? Sorry!!!

                3. MC Slim JB RE: hiddenboston Apr 30, 2012 01:09 PM

                  I'm looking forward to trying Zombie Olives, too, as I have fond memories of the last time it was any good, about 20 years ago. The makeover was much needed: the place was falling apart the last time I was in: ratty carpets, bathroom partitions hanging off the walls, giant bowls of deep-fried onion strings on the appetizer menu. Very sad.


                  25 Replies
                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    hondodog RE: MC Slim JB Apr 30, 2012 07:26 PM

                    What's wrong with giant bowls of deep-fried onion strings? I _like_ those alot and, frankly, it's hard to find them as well-executed as they were at Olives. The servings were over-sized, tis true, but I don't see how one equates excessive servings of well-executed onion strings with ratty carpets.

                    But, then again, maybe those of addicted to anything fried can't see past the ends of our greasy little fingers.

                    1. re: hondodog
                      charlestown_matt RE: hondodog May 1, 2012 07:03 AM

                      Went to Zombie Olives (great name, Slim) last night. They were having a soft opening with free appetizer portions of what I imagine are potential menu items. Our server told us the menu is not finalized yet. Pastas were very tasty, a chicken and mashed potato dish was too, some crispy mini meatballs were kind of a miss. It was free though, and not even an official opening, so who can complain? The space is much improved, IMO, although I'm sure some folks won't be happy about the televisions and expanded bar space. 10 beers on tap is a welcome change for me as well. I'm glad Olives is back as an upscale bar and grille style restaurant.

                      1. re: hondodog
                        MC Slim JB RE: hondodog May 1, 2012 08:09 AM

                        Onion strings on the Olives menu made me feel sad in the same way the shabby condition of the place did. When I want that kind of food in Charlestown, I'm going to the source: The Ninety-Nine.


                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                          Madrid RE: MC Slim JB May 1, 2012 11:11 AM

                          Slim, you are misinformed or outdated or both. Unfortunately for me, my son loves the 99 and we have our choice of the one in Charlestown or the one near Assembly Square. I haven't seen onion strings there for the last two years. However, the popcorn is free. The Mount Vernon on the other hand has excellent onion rings.

                          1. re: Madrid
                            MC Slim JB RE: Madrid May 1, 2012 11:46 AM

                            You are correct: I have not actually set foot inside a Ninety-Nine in ten years. But it still depresses me that the once-awesome Olives put that kind of dish on its menu.


                            1. re: MC Slim JB
                              ScotchandSirloin RE: MC Slim JB May 1, 2012 12:02 PM

                              Living in Charlestown I always felt the problem with Olives was not the menu, but rather the consistency. I always told people that in the last 10 years Olives was one of the top 5 restaurants in Boston 50% of the time. The other 50% the food was either cold, bland, too salty (which is almost impossible for my palate) or just completely uninspired. Not sure why that was, chef in the kitchen, cash flow issues causing lower quality sourcing or less staffing or just plain bad luck. Onion strings didn't bother me.

                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                Madrid RE: MC Slim JB May 1, 2012 12:46 PM

                                I'm glad I never saw it, and I'm not sure I want to mess up what were glorious memories for me in the early 90's. If I'd seen the place in that physical decline, I think I would have had to walk out.

                                My first experiences were at the location now known as Figs. I had no money in those days, not that I do now, but I moved back to my college town from the SF bay area after grad school and Olives was a beacon of hope in this old town at a time when not much else was going on and I was so sad at losing not just the produce of Northern Calif. but the other ingredients (the first chipotle chiles, blue corn polenta, pupusas, real ethnic food of all kinds, local goat cheese) and the excitement of homecooking there (I remember using a bon appetit magazine recipe of the period to make artichoke and chestnut terrine for a grad school potluck).

                                It's sad to see what's happened to Olives and to Todd. Such promise, such intensity in a good way, gone to Las Vegas. And then "beyond."

                                Todd and others on the famous Boston chef family tree got us where we are now (and even the 99 has chipotle that tastes like chipotle now except when they mix it with fake raspberry and chemicals for "salad" "dressing" or "barbecue" "sauce"). But maybe some iconic places, like people, should rest in peace.

                            2. re: MC Slim JB
                              hondodog RE: MC Slim JB May 1, 2012 09:07 PM

                              Tastes change, I suppose. Hamburgers used to be considered some sort of pedestrian fare and now, well, there's lots of expensive options out there and people go way out of their way for a wunnnnderful burger and there's places that get huge media coverage for openings of their extra super-duper hamburger outlets.

                              The Ninety-nine serves hamburgers. Does that make hamburgers bad or unworthy of attention? Obviously not.

                              So why pick on onion strings? They're difficult to make well (and most places don't even "make" them as they buy them pre-made, frozen, and just open a bag and dump into hot grease) and Olives does an admirable job with theirs.

                              Onion strings ain't low rent. Not in this neighborhood. Try them...you might like them!

                              1. re: hondodog
                                MC Slim JB RE: hondodog May 2, 2012 05:20 AM

                                Tastes do indeed change, but in my mind, there's a big difference between Craigie on Main doing what it does with a burger and Olives serving a gigantic bowl, really a grotesque portion, of something deep-fried. It would be like wandering into L'Espalier and seeing that in response to changing tastes, it had decided to offer nachos, which also are often ordinary, are frequently prepared in a pre-fab, desultory fashion, and could likewise be defended on the grounds that it's a very skillful rendition of the dish. I would find that a depressing, How the Mighty Have Fallen moment, too.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB
                                  hondodog RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 06:35 AM

                                  As you say, tastes change. Wind the clock back 10 or 20 years and attitudes then towards hamburgers are what you say now are attitudes towards onion strings; that is: no _decent_ place would _ever_ server <fill-in-the-blank>. My point remains that your idea of which restaurants _should_ serve which foods is stuck in time.

                                  And, yes, the serving size of the onion strings at Olives is too darn big.

                                  If onion strings are such a naughty food for the mighty to serve, why do high-end steakhouses all serve them? My fave rendition of them from a high-end steakhouse was at Harris' in SF...from the late 80s (yes, their serving size was spot-on and not huge).

                                  1. re: hondodog
                                    Bob Dobalina RE: hondodog May 2, 2012 06:55 AM

                                    Isn't this debate all sort of summed up by the dialogue from Big Night, after Secundo asks his brother to take the risotto off the menu, and Primo comes up with a new menu idea:

                                    00:13:46 What do they call it? You know, It's... Come se dice?

                                    00:13:50 Manicotti?

                                    00:13:54 Is a (h)ot dog?

                                    00:13:56 Hot dog. Hot dogs.

                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                      hiddenboston RE: Bob Dobalina May 2, 2012 07:25 AM

                                      "A guy works all day, he don't want to look at his plate and ask, 'What the f--k is this?' He wants to look at his plate, see a steak, and say 'I like steak!'"

                                      1. re: hiddenboston
                                        MC Slim JB RE: hiddenboston May 2, 2012 07:38 AM

                                        I love pretty much every moment of that movie, but I must point out that it was set in 1950s New Jersey.


                                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                                          Bellachefa RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 01:05 PM

                                          I thought it took place at Grotto! LOL!

                                    2. re: hondodog
                                      MC Slim JB RE: hondodog May 2, 2012 07:24 AM

                                      I think of high-end steakhouses as the epitome of the dull and middlebrow in fine dining: not your best counter-example.

                                      For a fine-dining place to elevate a dish out of "we'd never serve that" territory, it has to make it special: better ingredients, new formulations, something creative. Not just a burger: a blend of short rib, flap, brisket, suet, marrow, and dehydrated miso paste, cooked uniformly through to medium-rare in a C-Vap, flash-seared on a super-hot cooking iron, topped with three-year-old Vermont cheddar, watercress, fried onions, and mace-scented ketchup, and served on a housemade bun.

                                      Yep, technically that's the same dish that the Ninety-Nine is serving, but in reality, it makes you regret every minute of your life that you ever spent in a fast-food or casual-dining chain outlet. It's a burger that's worthy of one of our best local chefs, one of the few with a national reputation who actually deserves it, not unlike what Todd once was.

                                      Aside from a competent fry job and presumably unfrozen onions, there was nothing special about Olives' onion strings. Worse, Olives built its reputation on multi-layered pileups of bold Mediterranean flavors, and a four-pound serving of deep-fried salt, oil and crunch has exactly zero to do with that.

                                      It just looked like ill-conceived pandering to me, lameness, tonally dissonant with what the restaurant was about. Sad, I thought: a perfect reflection of how little English gave a shit about the place anymore.


                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                        hondodog RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 10:25 AM

                                        I can't wait to see how you describe what Craigie did to the concept of a doughnut when they added that to their menu as well.

                                        Your description of the Craigie burger reminds me of the words "there's a little too much going on in that burger for my taste". That was written about the Radius burger.

                                        Maybe I'm just a sucker for deep-fried food. One of my favorite restaurants growing up was a place that fried hamburgers in lard. This was a "nice" place, a destination restaurant. So maybe, if L'Espalier deep-fried their nacho plate, I'd be happy.

                                        "Regret every minute of my life spent in an ... outlet?" I don't need Craigie for that. I suspect you don't either.

                                        "There was nothing special about Olives' onion strings"? It's dang hard for me, a great lover of all things deep-fried, to find better onion strings around. Perhaps you could point me in multiple directions so I could see the errors of my Olives-strings-loving-ways. I would be grateful for that.

                                        1. re: hondodog
                                          MC Slim JB RE: hondodog May 2, 2012 11:13 AM

                                          Again: no aspersions on a well-made onion string per se. Kudos to anyone who can do that, as mediocre ones are the norm. But at Olives, a place I once considered the best restaurant in Boston? It's a question of seemliness: pedestrian pub food, done competently but not innovatively, in a place that used to be thrilling, would once have never put something that dull and run-of-the-mill on its menu. That bummed me out. It was an Ozymandias moment.

                                          And I don't think much of the Radius burger, which is considerably less involved a production than the Craigie one. Sometimes less is more, but not always.


                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                            hondodog RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 12:16 PM

                                            Ah, slow me. I get it now: "But at ... a place I once considered the best restaurant in Boston?"

                                            *sigh* A lost love. A most bitter fruit.

                                            Well then, a toast to new adorations! Drink deep and drink often!

                                            1. re: hondodog
                                              MC Slim JB RE: hondodog May 2, 2012 01:32 PM

                                              I'd say it's more like seeing a much-admired professional athlete overstaying their welcome and tarnishing their legacy with brutal declining years instead of retiring at their peak. Every underwhelming meal at Olives diminishes a fond memory from a long time ago. Better that English had shut the thing down in 1995, once he got past five or so restaurants. How many chef/owners preserve their quality beyond that level of expansion? It's clear he couldn't.


                                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                Bob Dobalina RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 01:35 PM

                                                So basically....Olives is Willie Mays?

                                                1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                                  MC Slim JB RE: Bob Dobalina May 2, 2012 01:39 PM

                                                  Ali is the uber-example in my mind, but I wouldn't go that far with The Todd. Maybe Allen Iverson.


                                                2. re: MC Slim JB
                                                  Bellachefa RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 01:37 PM

                                                  Is it true that he has lost KingFish?

                                                  1. re: Bellachefa
                                                    MC Slim JB RE: Bellachefa May 2, 2012 01:44 PM

                                                    I don't know if "lost" is the right word, but I believe KingFish Hall is completely done, despite the English PR team's protestations to the contrary. I've heard that he worked out a settlement to break his lease at Quincy Market and has channeled his local resources into Zombie Olives.


                                              2. re: MC Slim JB
                                                Bellachefa RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 01:09 PM

                                                I once wondered if it was out of spite to Olivia as Olives was their lovechild.

                                        2. re: MC Slim JB
                                          opinionatedchef RE: MC Slim JB May 2, 2012 11:57 PM

                                          A beautifully eloquent response.

                                2. k
                                  KevinJF RE: hiddenboston May 12, 2012 08:42 AM

                                  I went to Olives last night. I dropped in for a late night drink and a snack. The bar is the focus of the establishment. The room is dominated by a large rectangular bar in the center of the room. Tables surround that bar. The music was loud, and there were TVs on the wall and behind the bar.

                                  I ordered veal meatballs, which were quite good.

                                  However, I shall not be back. It had the atmosphere of dining at Clarke's at Faneuil Hall, except with older peeople.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: KevinJF
                                    opinionatedchef RE: KevinJF May 12, 2012 10:40 PM

                                    TVs????Yuckola. thx for telling us.

                                    1. re: KevinJF
                                      ScotchandSirloin RE: KevinJF May 13, 2012 07:57 AM

                                      Atmosphere of Clarke's is better than anything else Charlestown has to offer. If the food is good, I will go, no matter the atmosphere. Charlestown has 52,000 dry cleaners and 0 good restaurants.

                                      1. re: ScotchandSirloin
                                        opinionatedchef RE: ScotchandSirloin May 13, 2012 01:55 PM

                                        wow, s and s, i had no idea.I remember back to Olives' original location and it being the draw that was followed by so many restaurants (relatively speaking) there. So there's nothing there now? that Moroccan place, sorella's, duckworth, the historic house tavern-like place? all gone or mediocre, huh? (I obviously haven't been back since a year or 2 before Olives closed.)

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                                          ScotchandSirloin RE: opinionatedchef May 13, 2012 03:03 PM

                                          I don't really want to rip on Tangerino, because at least they are trying and Warren Tavern is what it is (but as for historic really touristy places, I would rather eat at Union Oyster House, if that gives you some feel). Otherwise there is nothing, Figs is just as bad as all of the other Figs. Sorelle is an ok coffee shop (Zume's is better for coffee in that regard), but if you order real they take a premade thing out of the fridge, unwrap it from its plastic wrap and put it on a panni press, so not really fine dining. Max and Dylans and Tavern on the Water have terrible food (I used to like there slightly upscale cousin in Beacon Hill, Scollay Square, until the financial crisis hit and Brad seemed to have started using cheaper ingredients). There's Navy Yard Bistro and Paolo's, but IMHO you can get much better food just over the bridge, so really I think many would agree with me that it is a restaurant wasteland. The interesting thing is that many of the people who live in Charlestown and want better restaurants are young professionals with lots of disposable income. If Olives can't make it here, it is Todd's fault. Put a cool gastropub like JM Curley or a place with really good carry-out, heck even a burrito joint, on Main St. in Charlestown and it would make a killing.

                                          1. re: ScotchandSirloin
                                            opinionatedchef RE: ScotchandSirloin May 13, 2012 03:26 PM

                                            sands, thx much for the informative update.V. helpful. (sorry to hear it, btw.)

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