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Overrated restaurants

Which restaurants have you gone to due to hype, publicity, or knowledgeable recommendations--only to be sorely disappointed? Which restaurants perplex and vex you? I, for one, have never found anything I've loved on the Highland Kitchen menu, though people do adore it. You?

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  1. Journeyman. I will post a better description when I have the energy. The most dollars to least enjoyment ratio I've ever experienced in Boston.

      1. The short-lived Think Tank. I read a bunch of enthusiastic reviews of their 'hip space', their Korean-inspired Seoul Burger, and their Tiki Tuesdays with Brother Cleve. Man, what a disappointment. The Seoul Burger was a dull hamburger with bulgogi sauce and an egg on it, the space looked like an awkward hipster loft, and the only good thing about Tiki Tuesday was the Sriracha wings; even the drinks from Bro. Cleve were disappointing, and each one took 15-20 minutes to be served. Not surprised they're not kicking around these days.

        I would mention that I've had a wonderful time at each visit to Journeyman. Engaging servers, fascinating food, great ideas; even when a dish flopped, it flopped with style.

        1. Russell House -- I may be misreading things but it's frequently touted as the best choice in the square. This may well be true and I haven't found anything remarkable here (though I love Flat Patties and Otto) but I haven't been wowed by Russell House. It's fine, but not outstanding or even remarkable. Maybe my expectations are too high? And I'll admit I've only had what I'd consider bar food (burger, etc.). My husband did love a chicken under a brick sort of prep.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ebaba

            I agree. It's fine, but not that good. And there is a ton of inconsistency across the menu and from visit to visit (on food and cocktails).

            1. re: ebaba

              I'm a big fan of the Russell House pizzas, and I also like their caesar salad, burger and lobster slider. I haven't explored much of the menu beyond that.

              1. re: Blumie

                Agree on the pizzas and the "dirty caesar", not sure I've ever had a true entree there...

                1. re: ebone

                  We don't ever order mains there, just order small dishes, and have a tapas-style meal. Eating that way, I really enjoy Russell House.

                  1. re: Indirect Heat

                    I am one of those Russell House fans. We don't make it there often, but when we do, we always have a great experience. I love the overall passion in that restaurant, evident from the chef to the front of the house, including the waitstaff.....
                    That being said, it's probably been close to a year since we've been there, but i never forget that amazing egg appetizer....

            2. Erbulace. but that has been discussed to death here and I respect everyone's opinion on the matter.

              Radius. Used to love the place, but have had 4 consecutive bad meals there, as have others (maybe they haven't all had 4, but everyone I know seems to think it has gone steeply downhill). Really seems like they aren't even trying anymore.

              P.F. Chang's. I know it is inexpensive and not trying to be much, but totally perplexing. Why do people go there ever when there are numerous just as cheap, but far better Chinese food restaurants in every city in this country? It's not like you need black tie or to know how to read Mandarin to go to most Chinese restaurants.

              19 Replies
                1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                  Radius peaked almost ten years ago. It's a waste of money now.

                  1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                    PF Changs customers usually want something more exotic than their usual Olive Garden, Chili's or Applebee's.

                    1. re: trufflehound

                      and they want to find it at upscale malls, when the wait at the cheesecake factory is too long.

                    2. re: ScotchandSirloin

                      Not just better Chinese in every city, but in the case of the Transportation Building one, dozens of superior restaurants just a couple of blocks away.


                      1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                        PF Chang's is convenient, consistent, and predictable. There definitely AREN'T better Chinese restaurants in every city in the country; for a lot of people, that's their only exposure to Chinese food. And for people somewhere like Boston, they may feel that an unintimidating, fairly-decent Chinese meal at a chain restaurant is far preferable to an unknown quantity that might be far better but could be far worse.

                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                          You'd be surprised at how many better Chinese restaurants there are around the country, in towns too small to even be blessed with a PF Changs. It may not be immediately evident, it may not be written up here or on Yelp, but a little bit of sniffing around often yields something better in the most unlikely of places. Which is what this board is supposed to be about. Not going for the lay-up at PF Changs (which I don't hate at all). Not sure we need to concern ourselves with the folks who are in search of the unintimidating, fairly-decent Chinese chain restaurant in a city like Boston. They don't have it that hard.

                          1. re: Nab

                            I'm sure that a lot of cities have awesome Chinese hidden in little nooks, but as a dude who spent the first 30 years of his life split between Columbus OH, Cincinnati, and Kentucky, I think the best most of middle America has to offer are lousy strip-mall "Happy Dragon Garden" spots, for the most part. PF Chang's is a big step up :)

                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                              Often times it's the Happy Dragon Garden places that end up having a separate Chinese menu full of surprises. But yes, 30 years ago, hounding was a lot harder and we didn't have awesome websites like this to help us navigate places like Columbus: http://alteatscolumbus.com/

                              1. re: Nab

                                I know this is getting way off topic, but I totally agree that sites like that one (and this one!) are helping to encourage awesome foodie gems no matter where you are. I would even say that a Happy Dragon Garden that might've been scared to only offer Orange Chicken 20 yrs ago might be more willing to offer a side menu of genuine delights now that they're easier to be discovered and discussed. Kinda cool!

                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                  I'll continue the OT..:)

                                  Years ago I had a very good meal in a Chinese restaurant in SLC. I spoke to the owner for a bit. A lot of the railroad work done in the mid 1800's was done by Chinese; some of whom opened restaurants, many in places that most of us wouldn't expect to find good Chinese food. To survive financially, they had to cater to "Americanized" tastes, but this 1 was able to put out the real mccoy after we spoke.

                                  1. re: 9lives

                                    If you have not already you must read:


                                    on this subject. well written too as she is a journalist.

                                    1. re: 9lives

                                      Getting further OT, but if it's still there, would you share the name? We go to SLC to visit relatives once or twice a year and haven't found a good Chinese restaurant yet.

                                      1. re: corduroy

                                        I'd be happy to share the name but I don't recall it.

                                        The SLC dining scene has come a long way since then.

                                        I misspoke and it was a bit out of SLC., in a small town.

                                        Point of my post was to highlighlght how "Chinese" food became a part of American culture...and it's ties to the RR industry.

                                        Hyde, Thx, I loved the prologue and will read the book ASAP.

                                        1. re: 9lives

                                          Too bad. I will continue my quest! :)

                                          It is much better than it used to be. We found some yummy Thai recently.

                          2. re: ScotchandSirloin

                            Erbaluce was discussed to death on that bum steers thread. That being said, I'm still utterly confused why people like that place.

                            1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                              My neice goes to school in Boston, and she is a celiac. She goes to PF changs because she can safely eat there, and they deliver to her dorm!

                              1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                Not having been to one in many years I don't remember much but Where I live almost all the Chinese food is inedible to the point where I don't even go anymore. Central PA is the home of the fried buffet and unless seine has a good suggestion, I would happily welcome a PF Changs just to eat something moderately decent if not authentic or stellar. Heck, I would appreciate clean at this point.

                                1. re: melpy

                                  That's another big reason for PF Changs crowds. My family loves Chinese food but I can count on two fingers the number of 'authentic' Chinese places around them that aren't grimy strip-mall spots. PF Changs is clean, friendly, and a classy-looking place for a meal compared to most Asian spots around there.

                              2. Places i dont "get" that get a lot of press on here and elsewhere...
                                Genes flatbread cafe
                                East Coast Grill
                                Kellys roast beef
                                CK Shanghai

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: hargau

                                  C K Sau is an excellent chef, in my opinion, who will make great dishes but, sadly, not for everyone. When I see him, I get him to make special dishes which he never names. So, he is a treasure but a hidden one who does most of his cooking for not terribly adventurous suburbanites.

                                  But I have had some really great meals there, and i take my business partners from New York who really like the place.

                                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                    This sounds like what should be the beginning of a thread on how to get the good, secret off-menu stuff at places where the regular menu is merely okay or underwhelming. Wish I knew more of that kind of thing myself.

                                    Or is that like knowing what kind of places let you bring your own beer and wine: does talking about it online risk ruining it for everyone? I hope that's not true. Likely helps to be a regular, I'm thinking.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      MC, I think that being a regular and tipping well and showing appreciation for the food matter. CK responded to the fact that I told him that I prepare Chinese food reguarly at home.

                                      Though I can say that i tried to convince the nice people at Le Bernadin to bring wine, and they were adamant. Some places just have little or no give. I like Craigie on Main, but they will not do anything special for me. I even know that if you have the help of a wholesaler, you can get wine into a restaurant, but Craigie is tough and Nobu is easy.

                                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                        Craigie risks losing its liquor license if it is caught allowing BYOB, so I don't blame them at all.


                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          If you have a liquor license, you cannot byob? I thought that was what the whole corkage fee thing was about.

                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                            Welcome to Massachusetts, the land of counter-intuitive laws.

                                            If a restaurant has a liquor license, it cannot allow BYOB, by state law.

                                            If a restaurant has no liquor license, it can allow BYOB as far as the state is concerned. However, it may still be subject to local city/town regulations prohibiting the practice.

                                          2. re: MC Slim JB

                                            this problem can be handled legally though perhaps we should discuss how by email though you are clever and experienced; you should be able to figure it out .

                                      2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                        im sure he is... and the guy from fireflies.. Steve.. has won a ton of bbq competitions, but that isnt what is served at his restaurant. And the Gene's flat bread guy makes a unique cuisine for this area but his tiny little restaurant with 5-6 items total on the menu is underwhelming to me.

                                        1. re: hargau

                                          for those people whom he favors, CK makes some of the best food in Boston. For the rest, he is a competent suburban chinese cook.

                                    2. Sichuan Gourmet in Brookline. After all the hype and praise, we went. It only made us miss Chef Chang's Peking Duck more. The pork belly was gross. The server's attitude very patronizing.

                                      I just went to HK for the first time, and loved it. The goat stew is really good.
                                      I've had some very good dining experiences and drinks @ RHT.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: CookieLee

                                        The Ma La Lamb I had last week from Sichuan Gourmet in Brookline was one of the best dishes I've ever had at any Chinese restaurant anywhere! I've had it many times at the Framingham and Brookline locations, and at restaurants in NYC, but Saturday night's preparation just nailed it!

                                        1. re: Blumie

                                          Alright Blumie, I'm going to give them another try on yr rec.

                                          1. re: CookieLee

                                            Wow, that's a lot of pressure! I've generally preferred the Framingham location over the Brookline location, but still have been happy to go to the Brookline location. And as I said, the Ma La Lamb I had on Sat night was awesome!

                                            1. re: Blumie

                                              I won't hold it against you. :) Since I live within walking distance of the Brookline locale, I'll be going there.

                                      2. For us it was Gran Gusto. I was so excited by the reviews I read on Chowhound that I picked it for my (family) birthday dinner (as distinct from the fancier "couple" birthday dinner I also get to partake in). I was so disappointed in the food and service.

                                        I got to do a "do over" at Pizzeria Posto which hit all the notes I had been looking for.


                                        1. metropolis, and all the other restaurants on tremont owned by that same company.

                                          1. How about Legal Seafood? Including the test kitchens. Was meeting a friend at SS Plaza and after ordering a beer in the bar while waiting had sticker shock this past weekend at the prices. Having just returned from London, sad to report the prices were actually cheaper on the other side of the pond.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: fanonscudder

                                              I've found that Legal's varies depending on the location. The one in Braintree is horrible however I've never had a bad meal at the Legal's in Chestnut Hill. The one in Copley Place is also pretty bad but the one across the way in the Prudential is much better. I could never understand why there isn't any consistency between the locations.

                                              1. re: fanonscudder

                                                Beer is relatively expensive in the Boston area - at the bar or at a retailer. And these days you have to know your stuff to know if you are being ripped off or if its a reasonable price as markup isn't applied evenly across all selections. No longer are the days you can just order any beer and expect it to be priced about the same as anywhere else or the about the same as all the other selections. I find Legal's prices for Julius Echter to be pretty reasonable at the Burlington location.

                                              2. Soundbites. I don't know why, but it seems to have a cult following. I tried it a few times to give it a fair chance (and because I live right down the street), but have yet to find anything worth eating. Last time, my food was almost inedible.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: CulinaryColleen

                                                  I've always had great experiences with their benedicts, their homefries, and their waffles topped with fruit salad.

                                                  1. re: CulinaryColleen

                                                    I feel a bit like this too. Not quite that I don't like anything, I just don't love anything. To me it's just like most breakfast places.


                                                  2. Ive had some bad food at Eastern Standard.

                                                    And had both excellent and disappointing food in the same meal at ECOB

                                                    Scampo's seating perplexed me. The gentleman to my left was pratically sitting in my lap. It ruined the whole meal.

                                                    1. Topping my list, hands down, is Hungry Mother - drinks consistently unbalanced to bad, food mediocre, and a lot of hype not lived up to, coupled with erratic service every time I've been

                                                      Santarpio's pizza has never wowed me though I really want it to - much better to wait at Regina North End - the grilled stuff is better but not worth the effort to park and wait

                                                      Chacarero - earlier locations as well as now - just never that great for me - neither the beef nor chicken nor sweet potatoe fries and just don't enjoy the huge fluffy, flavorless bread used

                                                      JM Curley - reluctantly listing this after only 3 visits - super friendly, great service, but the food and cocktails are simply good, not great for me - doesn't merit braving the crowds and hype

                                                      Clear Flour - the baguette is too airy, without enough flavor, and not crispy enough - refer to PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet for the real deal

                                                      10 Replies
                                                      1. re: rlh

                                                        Scutra in Arlington. A local fav for some. Don't get it.

                                                        1. re: rlh

                                                          Did you try the standard baguette at Clear Flour (which is also the one sold at supermarkets) or the Ancienne? If the former, I concur, but I would highly recommend trying the latter. The Ancienne is the real deal and is a superlative baguette that could stand proud in France and is the best Boston has to offer. It is only sold at the bakery.

                                                          1. re: Klunco

                                                            2nd the Ancienne baguette at Clear Flour. They are not available in the mornings, just the afternoons.

                                                            1. re: Klunco

                                                              Thanks - I have not had it and will seek it out!

                                                            2. re: rlh

                                                              Wow, rlh, you're going after some of my faves!

                                                              1. re: rlh

                                                                man, i thought i was all alone on the 'Hungry Mother-NOT' bus, and same w/ Santarpio's.whew!
                                                                Scutra- had the worst meal of my life, along w/ Dali and their rabbit w/an entire can of cinnamon in it. But those were relatively cheap disasters. The single not cheap Never Again spot is Clio.

                                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                  Every time I have a 'special meal' I almost head to Hungry Mother, but then demur after looking at photos of the food; I've always thought "well, it doesn't look like much, but everyone raves about it.."

                                                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                    I always felt like it was a place where the menu didn't sound like much, the food didn't look like much but then you eat it and it tasted great.

                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                      I thought maybe I wasn't ordering the right thing at HM. Only went twice....the fried oysters were great but the rest was just over priced pretension......I wanted to like it and was so disappointed...I cook better "new southern" food myself. I guess I was expecting it to be like a simplified, much more focused version of the Magnolia Cafe in Durham, NC.....or some other such type .... but no, just boring.

                                                                2. Just tried Red Pepper in Framingham because I heard (on this site) that it's better than Sichuan Gourmet. Long story short, it's nowhere close, will not be returning.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: BuffaloJill

                                                                    I agree. I have always been underwhelmed with Red Pepper and the service is horrible.

                                                                    1. re: hargau

                                                                      Spouse and I ate here once and both of us were terribly ill later that evening. Have not been back.

                                                                  2. Like the OP, I think HIghland Kitchen is just okay, but I'd go back. Three I wouldn't go back to are: Scampo, Antico Forno and Franklin Cafe (So. End). I've had bad food at all three and rude service at the latter two. Antico Forno: just say you don't take reservations instead of pretending to!

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: pollystyrene

                                                                      Franklin Cafe was a big disappointment to me as I tend bar. If you don't know the bartender you are treated to the staffs of various establishments talking about their shifts to the EXCLUSION of unknown guests being served.

                                                                    2. Scampo. Dined three a few times and while the food was not bad, I was expecting a "wow" based on what I had heard, not a "meh".

                                                                      1. Neptune Oyster. Although the lobster roll is good but not great, the fried clams are pretty bad. Between ordering them myself and then trying a friend's order at a second visit, I found them to be clumpy and soggy both times. On top of that, the last time I was there I sat at the bar and the waters/waitresses kept bumping into the backs of people(including me) sitting there. It became a topic of conversation between several of us that were dining there independent of each other. None of the diners going to or from their tables bumped into us. It was like the waitstaff didn't care.

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: catsmeow

                                                                          the neptune oyster "you should be happy you are eating here" vibe has always been a favorite of mine (also, i have not recently re-mortgaged my house to afford the bill).

                                                                          people seem to love it and they can have it.

                                                                          1. re: hyde

                                                                            I was waiting for you to be Mr. Reliable and proclaim your N.O. stance. Now I can be Ms.Reliable and proclaim my stance on Taqueria el Amigo in Waltham: I was so yeched out by the bland nada food at this place that I continue to block out its name and think " there's a new Waltham taco place i have to try" every time someone recs it on CH!

                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                              ah, we disagree again! my only remaining caveat would be that when you are disappointed at neptune it costs you 100 dollars, at TeA its 25.

                                                                              I have finished chopping on neptune, if folks want to eat there, fine. It stood out boldly in contrast to most of my experiences in the boston area and seems to receive untoward praise on this board, so be it.

                                                                              as with my experience with professional sports, you will never get people to stop spending extraordinary amounts of money for something that, to you, seems a total waste of time, so at last, all you can do is vote with your feet. i thought maybe another voice on said restaurant would be welcome, but obviously it has become annoying.

                                                                              hence, i shall just forget about the place entirely and continue on with my life. somehow.

                                                                              1. re: hyde

                                                                                i always find the fuss about lobster rolls interesting: I love them but I can't think of any food easier to make as long as you don't mind cleaning lobsters. As to TeA, recent post loving it confirms my own experience there which, while only occasional, has been happy and cheap. And hyde, since this post is about places we find overrated, your weigh in on NO is as welcome as any other opinion. I, for example, suffer the slings and arrows of being a big Erbaluce fan but I no longer take up the cudgels on the issue.

                                                                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                  Same here - I'm another big Erbaluce fan, but I know that there are many who don't get it and I don't argue the point too much except when someone is actively trying to steer a newbie away from trying them out.

                                                                                  Hyde, you're just as much entitled to your opinion as anybody else here, especially in a thread like this one.

                                                                        2. I agree on Highland Kitchen. It took me a while to get there and afterwards I couldn't figure out the big deal. We had a rude and not very friendly bartender and the food while fine was nothing special and certainly not worth travelling or even waiting so long for.

                                                                          Prezza was another big bust for us. For the price, I found the service disappointing, the atmosphere dated, and the food good but not great. At those prices, comparable to a place like Craigie or Bondir or ICOB, I just don't get it. But I guess I feel that way for most of the North End restaurants; different strokes for different folks I guess.

                                                                          I would also add CK Shanghai and Xinh Xinh in Chinatown for Vietnamese although that may deserve follow up as it could've just been an off day.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Klunco

                                                                            Yes on Highland, too. I'm interested in the pancakes, now that they've been mentioned in that pancake thread, but I've eaten there twice and it felt totally unremarkable both times.

                                                                            1. re: FinnFPM

                                                                              there are some restaurants that feel to me like the product of corporate jigsaw puzzle-making: what concept and demographic will respond to this? even when their food is ok and their concept is good, I'm responding to the vibe in a negative way: this would include Metropolitan and its sisters, Myers and Chang, and most of the Aquitaine group. Nothing horrible, but nothing that isn't covered with PR tinsel either. Clio has fallen into that category for me though it didn't originally feel like it started there whereas L'Espalier and Hamersley remain personal even when I don't have a great meal there. The ultimate in personal for me are Strip-T's, Erbaluce, and Shanghai Gate. Yes, I know lots of folks love m & C and hate Erbaluce. That's what makes the world go round.

                                                                          2. Eastern Standard. While the bar program and staff are quite extraordinary I find the kitchen to be lacking in many respects. The best thing about the kitchen is that they serve food late. However after 6 or 7 meals I would rather go the frozen pizza route. Every time I've eaten there the food is most unremarkable dropping one step down from "meh". My last meal at E.S. was the steak frites which came out lukewarm, over cooked with zero seasoning (not even a pinch of salt) and cold soggy fries. I choked down half of it and promised myself to never eat there again.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Unfoodie

                                                                              I agree that the food is a pretty big letdown from the remarkable cocktail program and the incredibly underrated, and absurdly well-priced wine list. I've found the food a lot more serviceable than you have, though. I like the steak tartare quite a bit. If they brought up the food a few notches and were consistent from visit to visit, I think they'd be a near perfect restaurant given their huge strengths with beverages and service.

                                                                              1. re: DoubleMan

                                                                                Completely agree with everything you said DoubleMan. Love the well priced and interesting wine list, love the service, love the cocktails. We find the food serviceable by sticking to things like the tartare, mussels, calamari, and salads.

                                                                            2. I thought Fuloon was pretty bad.... Just didn't get the hype at all.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: phatchris

                                                                                Even back in its heyday -- which in board terms was several years ago -- the trick at Fuloon was to go when they had a special menu (CNY, etc.) or arrange something like the CH get-togethers several of us went to back in the day. When the chef knew you wanted the good stuff, he put it out there. (The cold tofu app remains one of the most exquisite things I've ever eaten in this city. Order off the regular menu and you'd get the dumbed-down stuff.