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Why all the fuss? I just don't get it.

Have you finally gotten around to trying a place that others seem to always recommend, even rave about, and walked away after the meal wondering what all that fuss was about?

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  1. anyplace that recently bummed you out? or is that a random query?

    2 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      My meals at Rino's Place in East Boston were just not that good. Not horrible or anything, but not outstanding or memorable in any way. I've been there three times now (once for lunch, twice for dinner) and can't think of one reason to go back. There are much better Italian places minutes away that I've had better food/service at without the crowds.

      And I tried Mike's City Diner on Washington Street and, again, didn't get why this place seems so busy and is always being gushed about. My waitress was beyond annoying (had the same one on both lunch visits) and the food was meh, at best.

      What am I missing?

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I'll bite, even if there's another thread it's old.

        1. The whole "Kendall Renaissance" thing. Area 4: ok pizza and comfort food, whatever. Good coffee though. Catalyst: impressive space, OK bar, a lot of variability in the quality of the food, had a really unimpressive dinner there a couple of weeks ago. Abagail's: again, better than when there was just Sebastian's but nothing to go out of one's way for.

        2. Neptune Oyster. Was remarkable when it had no competition, attitude of the staff seriously makes me wonder if there are people that oddly enjoy abuse or think it adds to the cachè. ICOB in a heartbeat.

        (yes, I responded to the wrong post, can't figure out how to delete or I'd move it)

      2. I believe there's an old thread somewhere ... "bum steers" may or may not be in the title.

        1. I guess you should always be a little suspicious of the wisdom of crowds, even a crowd as passionate, informed, and curious as Chowhounds. (And I do mean curious in a couple of ways.) No one should wonder about their own opinions just because they don't follow some perceived conventional wisdom (though maybe you might give a place a second chance, pick up some tips on its strengths and weaknesses from what you read here after a disappointing experience.) You like what you like, and don't like what you don't, and that's as it should be.

          I find I get more consistent results in following not numbers of raves or pans, but specific individuals who seem to share my tastes, or clearly are much deeper in a particular cuisine than I am. Good writing, a sense of humor, an obvious fairness / reasonableness, no apparent ties to the industry or other suspicious biases, and lack of hubris are also good signifiers.

          At Rino's, I'm much more wowed by the specials, which skew to the chef's roots in Abbruzzo, than the more Italian-American everyday menu. I like Mike's City Diner, but I'd add a Bellicheckian "It is what it is": a solid, conventional diner in a neighborhood with few old-school breakfast options, and a price premium that the real estate cost demands that it partly justifies with more food on the plate than I can ever finish. I usually skip it if there's a line.

          But I wouldn't sweat holding your own maverick opinions. Maybe you'll find some kindred spirits who have felt constrained by not liking so-called board favorites, and your voice will encourage them to speak up. Keep posting and don't hold back, please: the stew of perspectives here can always use more contrary spicing.


          16 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            What does good writing have to do with anything?

            I agree on following the advice of individuals who seem to flow with your own tastes, but their ability to write clearly or make one laugh leads one down the dark path of opinion page writers who do not offer insight but only distraction.

            Pointing out a great hidden gem of a dish or a restaurant does not require an editor, thesaurus, or a SNL writing team...

            1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

              No, but there are certainly regular posters hereabouts whom I ignore largely because they apparently need six paragraphs where six sentences would do. For me, "good writing" consists primarily of being able to get one's point across vividly and concisely, with a minimum of annoying tics.

              If someone can do that, I'm much more likely to pay attention to their posts, which means I'm more likely to remember their recommendations.

              1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                Maybe we should start a thread critiquing writing styles.

                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                  Check the Site Talk board -- they are legion.

              2. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                I think you can be a less-than-skilled writer and still offer good tips, but as Jenny notes, it's easier and more enjoyable to follow folks who write clearly and succinctly. I note this even as I acknowledge my own tendency to rattle on here.


                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  This discussion of brevity is amusing me, since my own personal pet peeve is people who use so many abbreviations, acronyms, and shortened words that it's nearly impossible to even understand what they're talking about. I'd rather skim 6 paragraphs than have to decipher what on earth someone is saying.

                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                      Strongly agreed, although my bete noir is a poster who manages to combine extremely lengthy posts with a passion for cryptic abbreviations that leave their writing nearly unreadable.

                    2. re: MC Slim JB

                      But I hope folks don't misconstrue this to mean we should all distill our thoughts into 140 characters - which I realize is not what you and Jenny are saying (plus you're both highly-skilled writers).

                      I, for one, appreciate lots of itaunas-like detail and only wish I could convey it all as clearly.

                    3. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                      >>>What does good writing have to do with anything?<<<

                      I'm more inclined to read good, rather than bad, writing.

                      1. re: Jay F

                        Yep. Among other things, good writing is simply easier to read. I'm more able to glean information from a simple, well-written report than from one in which I'm constantly being tripped up by garbled language, weird abbreviations and acronyms, and so on.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          And may you never be led astray because you chuckled at a succinct review that ends up having nothing to do with reality.

                          This isn't the New York Times or Atlantic. Good writing makes it easier to digest the information being presented. But if I'm looking for tips and ideas about new restaurants or interesting dishes, I want reliable information first and captivating writing last.

                          So MC has it right when he wrote: " You like what you like, and don't like what you don't, and that's as it should be."

                          But gets off the point when he begins a sentence: "Good writing, a sense of humor" that ends "are also good signifiers." They signify some writing talent and say nothing about that individual's taste, impartiality, or subject matter knowledge.

                          And MC, yes you rattle on here and in the pieces you did for the non-Phoenix free weeklies. The Cheap Eat articles I found invaluable. The others...not so much. I always figured you had a stronger editor at the Phoenix.

                          1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                            I agree: writing well and having a sense of humor say nothing about the quality one's tastes, but as I already mentioned, those people are just plain easier to read.

                            For better or worse, none of my editors touches my prose much. Glad to hear you like the Cheap Eats stuff. It's frankly closer to my heart, especially the food of ex-pats cooking for other ex-pats. Wish I had more time to do more of that.


                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              For every topic where I might disagree with you on this board, I really do miss the equivalent of your Cheap Eats articles down here in DC.

                              Everyone (MSM and bloggers alike) wants to review the hottest new thing. But deep diving into the lowest price category of establishments and highlighting those that hit it out of the park is a true service to those of us who want value but can't possibly hit every hole in the wall while hoping to find a diamond in the rough.

                              (That last sentence an awful example of what not to include in a review, just to draw out that string...)

                              While in Boston, more than a few places were inserted in my regular rotation due to your hard work. So thanks.

                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                        I hate verbose comments - as stated above - one can make their point concisely and get their message across.

                      3. Absolutely -- the prime example for me being the Cubano (and Veggie Cubano) at Chez Henri.

                        After repeatedly hearing that it was the best sandwich in Boston, I finally tried it, and to say I was underwhelmed would be mild. Mediocre sandwich, poor service... why anyone would eat that lousy thing when a much better cubano could be had at Dave's Fresh Pasta without all the attitude is beyond me.

                        1. Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe is one for me. Its in my backyard (Chelmsford), I love the idea of regional Chinese places opening up around here, and the owners seem really nice and I wish them well. But, they offer about 7-8 dishes (apart from a few standard Americanized items), some of which are only available on weekends, and the one's I've tried don't live up to the hype. Yeah, chewy noodles with tons of garlic is a good thing, but so are meat and vegetables. The soup I tried tasted like Campbell's with sinewy meat and five spice powder. I want to give them business but outside of the tiny lamb skewers, nothing is really worth it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Dinsdale45

                            Im with you on that one dinsdale...The greasy/weak soup with the veggie medley in it really is a downer!

                          2. Everyone has their own taste preferences. I figure out which restaurant critics or chowhounders enjoy the same dishes that I do, and I follow their recs.

                            1. Just last week as a matter of fact! A BBQ joint that the locals love so much there's even a sign outside that tells you while you're standing in line how many minutes until you can get inside to order - like the kind they have for rides at Disneyland.

                              The man and I didn't care for it at all. There was not one element of the meal we'd like to have again. But at least we can say we tried. :)

                              1. Yep, I'm certainly with the OP. I go to places that have been raved over and leave feeling cold (or, at least, a bit chilly) over the experience. It doesnt happen often, but it does happen.

                                But then I rave over places and folk go and I know it's left them cold.

                                Such is life when you're talking about something inherently subjective

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Harters

                                  I'm coming to the conclusion that nothing is more subjective than gustatory taste. Verily, one man's muck is another man's manna.

                                2. I have a similar post about my cynicism. While I don't dine out often, I know that I "know" food. It seems to me that 90% of the country likes rather bland unseasoned food and is enthralled by the idea of good portions. Even more disconcerting is the average person's ability to overlook bad food if the service is good. I've found that if a place doesn't have a ten year following and is mobbed every night, it's probably awful to mediocre. If it's quiet, but not dead, it's probably a home run. The most popular place in the town I live in is absolutely awful. A place right around the corner serving the same food, is dead...and very good

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: jhopp217

                                    >> handing jhopp a pager for when a table is ready @ the cheesecake factory. please feel free to wander the pru until we buzz you. :)

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Don't get me started on Cheesecake Factory? Cheesecake Factory is to food what Jerry Sandusky is to child development. Sorry for the analogy, not taking his actions and those awful things done to the kids lightly, but it's set food back 100 years.

                                      1. re: jhopp217

                                        Interesting. I was at a CF for the first time about a year ago. It was better than I expected. The food didn't suck. It wasn't the best representation of that dish but it didn't taste bad

                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          I've never been to a CF, but I've heard nothing but good things about it.

                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            Me too before I went. It's franchised corporate food covering a wide range of cuisine and like I said it's not the best representation of that cuisine but the food wasn't as bad as some make it out to be. Better than Applebees, Chilies and Fridays but that's just this snobs impression.

                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                              Agreed. I wouldn't put Applebees, Chilies, Fridays, Outback, or Olive Garden on par with CF. It's not the most unique, subtle, or sublime dining experience you'll ever have, but the food is decent, and they are remarkably consistent from location to location.

                                    2. Here's what I have been wondering lately. Do you think that people who don't cook are more impressed with mediocre food than those who do cook? I find in my Weight Watchers group that the non-cooks like chain restaurants and processed food. Is this typical in the general population, amongst people who don't have food issues?
                                      Often at a restaurant, I am underwhelmed because I feel I could have made the dish better at home.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                                        Not necessarily. Someone who doesn't cook should hopefully be able to still tell if meat is dry, veggies are soggy, et cetera.

                                        1. re: jmcarthur8

                                          JM, I completely agree with you. I am an average, or should I say, less experienced cook, but my mother was borderline gourmet chef. When she passed away and my father moved. I was shocked upon visiting him, just how wonderful a cook he is in his own right. I find that people who don't cook or even more so, people who cook, but not well are very impressed by sweet sauces and large portions more so than delicate flavors and technique.
                                          I have often been the subject of nasty comments, because of my jokes about Italians not being able to make Italian food very well. I have tried many things at Italian restaurants that I have made better on the first try and have for the most part given up on Italian as a dining out cuisine.

                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                            as someone of italian descent, i find most "italian" restaurants in this country offer weak representation of the cuisine(s). americans perceive it as one big polyglot of an ocean of red sauce and globs of mozzarella cheese over a mountain of food, and have little idea that each region offers its own food.

                                            opinions on this board regarding erbaluce are a great example. love/hate, ya know?

                                            i don't know when americans started to think dinner wasn't a "good value" unless the portion was enough for two meals. yuk.

                                            eta: i see this got moved from the boston board. sorry if my references now are difficult to understand.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              Hotoynoodle. I've had some truly wonderful classic Italian dishes and some pretty darn good Italian-American dishes....just very rarely in Italian restaurants and sadly, I must confess, even more rarely prepared by actual Italians. This is not meant to be a blanket statement as nearly all my friends who went to Italy had their eyes opened to real Italian cuisine. Some likes it and some the shock (they were Italian) was too much. I am an average cook, but I know flavors and American Italian restaurants are awful

                                          1. Sometimes the expectations we bring to an experience can have a kind of "reverse" effect upon it. Those instances when we stumble upon a place we have never heard of before may be the only chance we have to truly judge it.

                                            1. That's pretty much how I felt in Las Vegas.

                                              1. Why the fuss? I don't get it either. My wife calls me a food snob

                                                The restaurants that get me excited are usually the small non chain independent that just does something so right food wise. I'm not into flash or gimmicks. I don't need to sear my tuna on a pink block of salt at my table. Okay that maybe passe

                                                1. All...the...time.
                                                  Not that I'm blaming the recommenders...I just think hype hurts expectation.