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Saloon in Davis Sq.

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l0b0SKI Jan 12, 2013 08:53 PM

We walked through the door and noticed there were a lot of stairs to go down, with my Ma's bum knee we not happy to see this, We noticed a few hand made signs pointing to the elevator saying "elevator to The Saloon" we labyrinth down to the hostess stand and a man starts yelling at us!?

THIS IS NO WAY TO GREET YOUR CUSTOMERS! He yells that this is not an entrance and we are trying to sneak in. One: There were signs pointing to the elevator that someone from your restaurant must have made. Two: We were are all adults all over 35(and we look it) Three:We made reservations. Who at our age makes reservations and "sneaks" in a restaurant?

Our appetizer of short ribs were delicious, but cold we sent them back to get reheated and they came back room temperature.

When our plates were cleared after the appetizer the bus boy placed our dirty forks and knifes on our napkins leaving the napkins dirty and useless.

I was told the minute steaks were delicious, and the fries were too salty. the gnocchi was beyond bland and tasteless when the waitress cleared the table she asked if I wanted to keep the leftovers I told her no thank you, and that I found the food tasteless. Nothing was done: we were not comped nor any apologies were given.

The bar looked beautifully made with dark wood and leather and drink menu looked promising, but I rather have drinks at home where I do not get yelled at and my thermometer is calibrated.

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  1. l
    l0b0SKI RE: l0b0SKI Jan 12, 2013 08:55 PM

    Wow! Just noticed my punctuation. Please pardon my punctuation and bad grammar.

    1. Boston_Otter RE: l0b0SKI Jan 13, 2013 07:13 AM

      Having been there many times, it sounds like you had a bizarrely off night.

      There's stairs and an elevator. Both work just fine, and if you took the correct elevator and stairs, you'll end up right where you need to be. There's no reason anyone would "yell at you" if you were in the right place. Did you ask what the issue was?

      Your fork touched your napkin and made it "useless"? That makes no sense at all, but asking for a new napkin if yours is somehow soiled is a very simple thing to do.

      I've had their gnocchi, and it was surprisingly good. One of the best I've had in the city, easily, and anything but bland.

      I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but nothing you're describing sounds like Saloon.

      1. n
        nyc_to_ma RE: l0b0SKI Jan 14, 2013 08:25 AM

        If you're looking for a full dining experience, I think you'd be better served at Foundry upstairs. It's owned by the same people -- I believe they even share a kitchen -- and it's much more of a full service restauant. I like Saloon a lot but I don't think I'd choose it for anything beyond drinks and appetizers / snacks.

        2 Replies
        1. re: nyc_to_ma
          l
          l0b0SKI RE: nyc_to_ma Jan 14, 2013 08:41 AM

          Thanks, that does look like the case. I have gotten good service at the Foundry.

          1. re: nyc_to_ma
            Boston_Otter RE: nyc_to_ma Jan 14, 2013 09:21 AM

            While I've had some terrific entrees at Saloon, I've also had some really mediocre ones, so I'd agree with nyc_to_ma. Saloon's pickled peppers, devils on horseback, and cheese plate apps -- and their bourbon/rye liquors and cocktails -- are always good.

          2. yarm RE: l0b0SKI Jan 14, 2013 11:58 AM

            After my bad experience (which involved the hostility of a bartender in a way that I have never experienced in my years of booze writing), I am reluctant to ever go back. I did go back once when a friend of mine worked there briefly before fleeing the disfunctionality of the place.

            Other people rave about the food, drink, and service though.

            8 Replies
            1. re: yarm
              Unfoodie RE: yarm Jan 14, 2013 05:03 PM

              Do tell!

              The only times I've had slightly enjoyable experiences at Saloon and Foundry is when a friend was behind the bar. Now that they've all left, and the management hasn't changed, I would rather grab food and drink at Mikes Pizza.

              1. re: Unfoodie
                yarm RE: Unfoodie Jan 15, 2013 09:37 AM

                I was made a drink that was haphazardly free poured. It was an egg white Sour that was made with a squirt of lime juice and a squirt of pineapple syrup (I later learned that they were supposed to be 1 oz and 1/2 oz, respectively, instead I'm guessing that it looked more like around 1/8 oz and tasted as such). The gin and Green Chartreuse were overpoured such that most of it ended up left in the shaker and dumped down the sink (which then further even diminished the citrus content in the Sour by having the other two ingredients over poured). There was more Green Chartreuse poured by my count yet the real recipe had more gin. It had all the makings of a bartender who did not care (and it wasn't a new to the job bartender either) and a bar program that didn't really care to monitor how they made their drinks.

                When I asked the only one of the 4 bartenders who used a jigger if I could trouble him for the recipe, he started getting hostile and asking who I was (a bartender, a writer?) and why I was asking. I hadn't even told him that there was a problem with anything at that point. After he got me annoyed enough, I answered him that I was trying to figure out if the drink was even worth writing about since I wasn't served what that recipe was. Keep in mind that I've asked with bartenders for recipes at over 50 bars in Boston and may be two dozen bars across the country without an incident or attitude.

                His hot headedness didn't surprise my friend that went to high school with him or my other friend who worked at Saloon for a while (his stories were better but are not mine to tell).

                Other people have come up to me asking me about what I thought of the place and not knowing my experience. The best was the Old Fashioneds that were made by the bartender squishing the fruit in his hand instead of using a muddler (they were smart enough to stop the bartender and switch their order to whiskey neat).

                While I have had a few places where people ask what the good nights to go to a place are (because the service is a little random), Saloon has taken that wariness a step further than that.

                With that said, there are still big fans of the place so they must be doing something right.

                1. re: yarm
                  l
                  l0b0SKI RE: yarm Jan 15, 2013 09:49 AM

                  I have noticed that a lot of people like the place and wonder what they did to get better service than others did. I have worked as a server and cook for the past 20 years and like to think that I treat people as I would like to be treated. My Ma who also works in the food industry thinks we may have too high expectations.

                  I would like to point out that on the phone everyone was nice and friendly and this gave me high hopes, but being yelled at as we walk in just put me off the whole place.

                  1. re: l0b0SKI
                    Boston_Otter RE: l0b0SKI Jan 15, 2013 11:06 AM

                    All I can say is that I've been there quite a lot and have never experienced any of the issues mentioned here. I've chatted with bartenders and asked questions about drinks, and never had anyone get remotely hostile. I haven't seen bartenders spilling liquor haphazardly or sloppily free-pouring, except for one time when a bartender was showing off for a small group of cheering folks at the bar by tossing bottles around and doing the whole goofy Tom Cruise routine.

                    I maintain that the issues mentioned on this thread seem like weird aberrations and outliers; every place has an off night or the occasional sloppy server or disgruntled employee. If you don't care to go there, that's totally fine -- more table space for me and my friends :)

                    1. re: Boston_Otter
                      davis_sq_pro RE: Boston_Otter Jan 15, 2013 03:47 PM

                      Or maybe your experiences are the outliers? Are you exceptionally good looking, good natured, and/or do you tip incredibly well? :-)

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro
                        Boston_Otter RE: davis_sq_pro Jan 16, 2013 06:21 AM

                        I definitely make it a habit to Not Be A Jerk to my servers, so I'm sure that helps! But I'm kind of baffled by all of the people reporting horrible experiences. It's as if there's two different restaurants: the one I go to and this other Saloon that's full of abusive employees, incompetent bartenders, and terrible cooks.

                        I've had mixed experiences as well -- I've had several cocktails that weren't remotely worth the money, and while they mix a fine Old Fashioned, some of their prices are kind of silly, depending on what kind of whiskey you choose. Their entrees are usually quite good, but I had the pork belly not long ago (no longer on the menu) and it was downright poor. A fatty hunk of pork isn't automatically awesome any more than a plate of bacon is, even though they're both 'trendy' at the moment.

                  2. re: yarm
                    k
                    Klunco RE: yarm Feb 24, 2013 12:04 PM

                    We were in Davis last weekend and stopped in for a drink. I remembered this thread and ordered a whiskey neat, but friends ordered cocktails. The whiskey selection is extensive in Bourbon and very poor in Scotch. Also the pricing seemed high and somewhat random for bottles that are the same price retail. I was also suprised that of the five single malts offered (vs say 40 bourbons), one was a special Lagavulin priced at $30. It felt odd to have only five and then have one be prohibitavely expensive for most people.

                    I also found the up-charges for Manhattans and Old-Fashioned's kind of odd. Something about charging a couple bucks more on top of the whiskey cost for an old-fashioned seems cheap to me. Take that Lagavulin, $30 for neat, or $35 for a Manhattan (or really a Rob Roy). I kind of hope someone isn't ordering a Rob Roy with that, but honestly you're going to charge them $5 more just for an ounce of vermouth? On the other hand, if you order a cheaper whiskey, the upcharge is only $3. So because you are buying a more expensive whiskey you should be charged a higher amount for vermouth?

                    While we all agreed the layout of the place was poor, all our drinks were well made. I watched the bartender make all of them WITH jiggers and saw the other bartenders doing the same thing. The bartender who served us was friendly and efficient despite how crowded it was.

                    All that is to say, maybe they have heard the complaints and responded. Davis is too far from us to for this to be on rotation and I didn't like being so squished, but if we're in the area I would go back.

                    1. re: Klunco
                      yarm RE: Klunco Feb 24, 2013 07:49 PM

                      There has also been a lot of turn over of the staff there, so comments -- positive or negative -- from a year ago or from a few months ago aren't as reliable. And I believe this includes the bar manager.

              2. enhF94 RE: l0b0SKI Jan 15, 2013 10:11 AM

                While OP's service problems seems unusual and off-putting, I am pretty sure I recall several folks in the original Saloon thread noting that jiggering vs. free-pour was a matter of which bartender was working that night.

                I chalked this up to correctly reading the Davis Square market as folks who want a cool cocktail but are not cocktail weenies (I honestly say without judgment).

                My food experience has been consistent through time, but variable by what I ordered. Bubble and squeak was very nice, well seasoned, warm, filling three different visits. Slider trio was dry, dull and boring on two different visits. Gnocchi was well-seasoned, sharp and tender two different visits.

                Foundry and Saloon are both a step up from Joshua Tree, but only one step. (Okay, maybe two steps or one big step.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: enhF94
                  hotoynoodle RE: enhF94 Jan 15, 2013 03:08 PM

                  they have churned through a number of chefs, the first several of whom were simply not up to the task. foundry was doing insane volume almost from the moment it opened.

                  it took a while to get it right, but they seem on more steady footing now. agree about the inconsistencies at the saloon bar. have had some great drinks and some awful ones. not a place i go for dinner though, just for bites.

                2. ponyboy RE: l0b0SKI Jan 16, 2013 06:46 AM

                  I have not gone back since I got served a shaken Negroni. That is cocktail bar 101, if you get that wrong, you have no business serving craft cocktails.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: ponyboy
                    davis_sq_pro RE: ponyboy Jan 16, 2013 10:23 AM

                    You think that's bad? I was once served a shaken Sazerac. At a bar named "Sazerac!"

                    1. re: davis_sq_pro
                      l
                      l0b0SKI RE: davis_sq_pro Jan 16, 2013 12:36 PM

                      Ha! you just reminded me, once at a bar(I think it was in Central Sq.) I asked if they could make a margarita with out sour mix (maybe it is the Mexican in me but sour mix in a margarita does not make sense) and the bartender said "oh, then you do not want a margarita you want a martini."

                      What? you are bartender, you should be ashamed of yourself.

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro
                        yarm RE: davis_sq_pro Jan 16, 2013 05:00 PM

                        Re: shaken Sazerac. Surprisingly New Orleans bar culture is pretty low on the technique especially in the classic spots. For example, at the Carousel Bar, they have no problem with a request for a Ramos, mainly because they shake it weakly for 15 seconds or so; or the Vieux Carre (invented at that hotel) which is built in a glass with ice and presented with a swizzle stick so you can stir it to chill and mix better. The newer places like Cure, Belloq, and Bar Tonique have outside influences that keep up to modern day high standards.

                        1. re: davis_sq_pro
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                          LStaff RE: davis_sq_pro Jan 17, 2013 06:58 AM

                          Reminds of the bartender at a brewpub named Hops in FL that had no idea what an IPA was or what hoppy meant. I had to point to the whole hop cones that were imbedded into the bartop as illustration. Asked if he was new here and he said he had been working there for over 6 months. Way to pay attention there buddy..

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