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I am a Victim of Their Success

  • c

Two of my absolute favorites: JM Curley and Row 34. They are awesome. Except that I can not actually eat at either.

Yes, I get that I can reserve at Row 34 in the future - although even that is challenging for business dinners (e.g. four to eight people a week out). Curley is on my walk home, I just ... want ... a ... burger.

Anyway, *good* for them.

Any other places that, for you, are in this category?

[I have a Row 34 strategy that I will share if you don't tell anyone. Kitchen closes (mostly, they still have e.g. oysters and lobster rolls) between lunch and dinner. Get there 4:00ish, stake space at the bar, hang until the kitchen opens. Requires dining companions willing to drink and eat oysters at 4:00.]

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  1. Neptune Oyster, Toro, Drink, and Highland Kitchen are the only places I love and to which crowds limit my access. Maybe Picco, too. Coppa used to be tougher, but has eased up a bit, and I tend to go late in the evening there anyway. The bygone bar at Chez Henri would have made this list. The original Franklin Cafe, when the much-easier Franklin Southie didn't exist.

    I quite like Gourmet Dumpling House, but with Taiwan Cafe and Dumpling Cafe nearby (and both better, to my mind), I just don't bother, ever. Ditto for the cart dim sum places; I only do cartless now.

    Less important to me, but I like them, and they're routinely a pain if someone I know wants to go: the original Pizzeria Regina, the original Daily Catch, the rooftop bar at Legal Harborside.


    19 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      i am not in the restaurant biz, but if i had a huge line for my services, i would increase my prices. I guess that restaurants do not want to tamper with success.

      The new dumpling house in Cambridge had a line at noon today. Thankfully, i just live a hop-skip-and-jump from there.

      I never have trouble snagging a table at Bernadin,which was rated as the best restaurant in the country recently on a suspicious list; for a Buddhist, Eric Ripert is not shy about charging high prices.

      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

        it's common practice for new restaurants to let prices creep up soon after a successful opening.

        i only know one person who has braved the wait at the new ramen place in porter square. it was after 11:00 pm and he still had to wait 45 minutes.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          The new ramen place being Yume Wo Katare? Or is there an even newer place?

          1. re: maillard

            the place across from toad.

            my friend said it was AMAZING, but i simply won't wait that long in line for food.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              and last night we were prepared to wait BUT the ramen place was closed. lights out, doors locked, no sign. at 7:00 pm on a thursday.

              so, no line, no waiting, lol.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                that is random. In their defense/for future convenience, they do keep a calendar with when they'll be closed: looks like they've been closed all week (i'm assuming, of course, that they haven't edited that calendar after the fact in this case, but in the past i know it's been up to date in warning people)


                1. re: valcfield

                  it would be helpful to have a sign posted on the door, so it wouldn't seem so random. :)

      2. re: MC Slim JB

        I can't remember what day it was....

        it was a weekday and possibly a Monday holiday....

        We drove to Neptune and parked right in front and got in right away. Early lunch.

        If you've got stuff to do in the North End you enjoy (love that hardware store), and can repair to someone else's bar for your wait after you browse, it can be quite pleasant. Not during peak tourist season, and I've never tried dinner. Need to get home to the kid.

        Highland Kitchen, we loved. Can't handle the crowds and noise. So no more.

        1. re: Madrid

          You got a spot on Salem Street and then didn't get a ticket? I believe it's all resident parking. I hope you played the lottery that day

          1. re: libertywharf

            OK, now I remember....it was a Sunday, when the resident rules don't apply? Or it was a loading zone spot, available on Sunday? No, we didn't get a ticket. It was legal. We checked several times not believing our luck. Right in front.

            1. re: Madrid

              I always park on Salem St during the day.

              1. re: catsmeow

                Without a resident sticker, you have to be the luckiest person in the world if you get a space. I walk up and down Salem and never see an empty space,

                1. re: libertywharf

                  saelm and hanover both have visitor parking spaces. i have to be there often during the day. have never gotten a ticket.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I am in the North End quite often and I never bring my car for the specific reason that parking is always impossible. Kudos to the people who are lucky enough to find parking anywhere in the North End during the day because from what I see it simply doesn't exist.
                    Either that..or I suppose I could congratulate you on your patience. I've seen people circle the blocks repeatedly looking for parking. I do not have that kind of patience and would prefer to just walk.

                    On the other hand..I hope the easy parking in front of Neptune isn't an indication of slowing business ;-)

                    1. re: BlueMagic

                      I doubt it was slowing business. It was a loading zone not applicable the day and time when we showed up. We drove only because I was recovering from a hip replacement.

                  2. re: libertywharf

                    I don't have a resident sticker. I don't usually have a problem in the. North End on weekdays. I can usually even get parking on Hanover St. On weekends, I won't go near the neighborhood.

                    1. re: catsmeow

                      A lot of places validate for the Haymarket garage.

                      1. re: catsmeow

                        nights, weekends i do not attempt. i have flex time during the day so can have a drink elsewhere and wait for neptune or get into coppa no problem.

                        that being said, for a long time on this board the only seafood restaurant rec was "NEPTUNE OYSTER!!!!!!". gah, it seats like 30. whaddya expect? thank the baby jesus icob and row 34 are picking up the slack. for a city on the ocean we were sham for seafood.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          i love the pan roasted lobster at Jasper's summer shack. there are some other good things, too.

          2. Highland Kitchen is my biggie on this list. Time was, you could get in and out in a quiet hour if you showed up right when they opened, but no chance of that these days - you can still get in, but you’ll be bumping elbows.

            3 Replies
            1. re: enhF94

              Oddly, Saturday nights at Highland Kitchen (after 9) tend to be one of the quieter times.

              1. re: enhF94

                We eat pretty regularly at Highland Kitchen on Tuesday and Thursday nights. We've never had a problem getting a table right when we walk in.

                1. re: gini

                  You will now - bwa-ha-ha! I’m takin’ your seat.

              2. Definitely JM Curley. The last time I was there (on a weeknight) I snagged the last bar stool at about 5:20.

                I've given up on Neptune Oyster after I tried to go for a late weekday lunch and was quoted a 45 minute wait time.

                1. Like Yogi Berra once said: "That place is too crowded. Nobody goes there anymore"

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: newhound

                    We were in line at Neptune one day, and a lady in front of us was throwing a fit because there was an hour wait. Her exact words, "This place is never going to last if everyone has to wait like this." Huh??

                      1. re: maestrette

                        Nobody goes there anymore..it's too crowded :)...oops, Newhound beat me to it!! Should learn to read previous posts!!!!! Can I delete a post?

                    1. The Hawthorne. I miss the early days when you could have a top-notch experience there even on a weekend. I wish they'd lower their max. capacity because the crowds they allow in turn it into just another overbearing, crowded bar scene. With the decor and talent it can be so much more. And it seems they could make just as much money keeping fewer customers happily well-oiled than having a bunch of stuffed sardines trying to flag down an overworked bartender.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: pollystyrene

                        This is why my favorite time to go to The Hawthorne is at 5pm Mon-Wed. We sit at the bar, generally alone for a while, being able to talk to Nicole, Mike, Katie, and all my other favorite staff.

                        1. re: kimfair1

                          And don't forget Dan and Carrie! Are they still there? The last time I attempted a visit, I ended up waving to the bartenders from afar, shrugging and leaving.

                          1. re: pollystyrene

                            I would never forget Dan or Carrie! I first met Carrie at Craigie on Main. Since my wife and I both work in the hospital area, the 5pm thing is almost always best for us. We did go in about 7pm on a Friday not too long ago, but it wasn't bad yet. Pretty crazy when we left, though, and we did score the last two seats at the bar.

                        2. re: pollystyrene

                          I agree. Going at 5 is just not always practical (or frankly, desirable). I love the drinks and service and interior, but the last three times I've been at the standing bar. It makes it hard to appreciate any of these things.

                        3. JM Curley and Highland Kitchen are the two biggest for me, though I've had some decent luck getting a table at JM Curley pretty recently. Brick & Mortar, though there are still times when it's pretty quiet.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: maillard

                            Just like he Enormous Room before it, B&M went from "I dig this" to "way too crowded for my tastes" pretty quickly. I don't do crowded bars.

                          2. I have a Row34 strategy ..........

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: Carty

                                My friends and I indulge at R34 a couple times a month (or more).

                                We eat early. One of us arrives around 5 and asks if we could be seated at 5:30 -- essentially making a reservation . It has worked every time. But now they know us, so that might be a factor

                              1. Cutty's. I live a 2-minute walk away. I'm lucky to have it as my local sandwich shop, but it's not the easiest place to go. A few years ago I could casually drop in for lunch or for a delicious breakfast egg sandwich with a short line and a cozy table to sit at. Now I always call to order ahead -- sometimes picking up my lunch at 10:30 on Saturday to avoid the line -- and I certainly don't plan to sit down. And while I dearly love Bagelsaurus, I wouldn't mind a quick egg sandwich some Saturday mornings without a line of 30 people who've driven miles to make a bagel pilgrimage.

                                That's without mentioning the decreasing convenience of fried chicken Sundays -- there was barely a line the first few times they did it!

                                I should say that Cutty's is amazingly good at processing orders quickly, and has never made a mistake with one of my orders even when they're churning through 50-person lines. An efficient 20-minute wait is much less painful than an inefficient one.

                                1. After having two horrific experiences at Gallaria Umberto when there were afternoon Bruins games, I make sure there isn't a game before going on a Saturday. Guess I won't have to worry about that for a while, unfortunately.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kimfair1

                                    Surprised no one's mentioned Rino's - I miss being able to drop by early for dinner. Last time I was there "early" (about 4:45PM), there was already about a 2 hour wait.

                                  2. Island Creek. How far in advance do I have to call, a year?!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Splendid Spatula

                                      the 'eat early' option has always worked for us at ICOB (last time we only made reservation 2 days out.) But i know that's not always desirable or possible for many.

                                    2. Oleana. There are NEVER reservations available, and I have trouble planning a month or more in advance.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: nyc_to_ma

                                        I've gotten reservations for a less than a week out by calling Oleana directly.....when Open Table said they had nothing. I've also walked in and sat at the bar more than a few times. Granted, these have always been earlyish, before 7:15.

                                      2. I know what you mean. I don't think I've been to Toro or Neptune in a good five years because of this. I know, I know, I could skip work or eat at some bizarre hour, but that's just not my thing, nor is hanging out for 2-3 hours. I'm happy that they're successful but they're too successful to me.

                                        ICOB is a favorite and we go often, but I really have to plan ahead if I want to get a table. Otherwise, I've found, even on friday/saturday it's not too long a wait for a bar seat.

                                        I've been to JM Curley twice, but both times were later at night and we happened to score a table without an issue. Reading about it on here though, I'm realizing that was probably just luck and was before they got so popular.

                                        Cutty's is a good call as well. I love it and the line is efficient, but I don't know how you get a table there. I have never seen one available. Granted, it's so crowded every time I go, I'm not sure I'd want to sit at a table, I'm happy with taking it to go.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Klunco

                                          Cutty's actually had a lot of tables at the last Super Cluckin around 11am. Most folks were taking them to go or eating outside instead.

                                        2. Giulia definitely falls into this category. You have to book at least a month out for a weekend table and more than that for the pasta table.

                                          Cafe Sushi also. Not so much that you can't get a table, but the omakase has become a bit of an assembly line production with more people ordering it. There isn't as much chef interaction as previously, and the omakase is more set. We used to get some variation based on what they remembered we liked. This can still happen on quiet nights, but not as often. The omakase is still a great value, but the overall experience has suffered.

                                          I have a Row 34 strategy, just check back periodically for cancellations. I called (one time) last Wed for a table on Saturday night, and got a table for 4 at 7:30p. The shellfish platter is tough to beat there, but it would be nice if they had a full bar.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: black_lab

                                            Good call on Cafe Sushi. I really miss a year or two ago when we could meander in for dinner on a random night and be able to get a seat at the bar and talk with Seizi. It was always relaxed and tasty. I liked that we could go and do a full omakase or just have a few bites and a roll for a quick dinner without having to plan ahead.

                                          2. I feel this way about Teresa's in Middleton. I used to go there for dinner with friends all the time and always had a great meal and service. Then..they started appearing and advertising on the Phantom Gourmet. All of a sudden the customer service went downhill. Where they used to accommodate reservations for any size party, then it became only 6 or more..so if you wanted to go there on a date or with a friend you were out of luck unless you felt like waiting an hour or more...sometimes only to be seated in the Martini Bar area where the service was abysmal.
                                            I probably could have lived with all of the above if the quality of their food had not diminished.
                                            I haven't been there in well over a year and probably will not return.

                                            1. I was so pleased that my neighborhood would be getting a great local restaurant after Highland Kitchen replaced the dreadful Madison’s on the Avenue. Unfortunately, I’ve totally given up on the place since it’s impossible to get a table without waiting an hour (unless you show up right at 5p when all the young families arrive with their kids) and then once seated you can’t carry on a conversation because of the ridiculous noise level.

                                              Does anyone remember the “Irish Home Wrecker” (10” sausage braised in beer) that they served when Virgie’s occupied the space?

                                              1. Drink, Barcelona, and Island Creek are the big three that I really enjoy going to but can't really stand the waits.

                                                1. Does Row 34 ever use their giant side room for regular dining when they aren't hosting special events? The bar layout is not great, and although the rest of the space feels big, it's really not very many seats. That's the biggest for me right now, as it would otherwise be convenient. Toro and Neptune aren't quite so convenient or as high on my list, but I can see them being difficult.

                                                  I've had better luck with JM Curley lately, even on Sat., and Drink has been relatively quiet my last few trips there.

                                                  I definitely stopped going to Brick & Mortar when it started to regularly have a line (and Misty left), but it also seems to be better lately. It may also be easier in summer with students away.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: CportJ

                                                    If I'm not mistaken, Row 34's side room there is used for regular seating Fri-Sat. I can vouch for it as a nice space for a private event.


                                                  2. Rino's in Eastie. Had several family members (6) last year and checked in about 5:00. Four hours later (and shame on us for waiting)....we're still across he street with way too many drinks in us. Asked for stuff to go--an extra hour. Service was surly. Food remains exceptional.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: rosiebcook

                                                      i do not care how good it is; 5 hours is ridiculous. Is it better than any other italian place in the Boston area?

                                                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                        I wonder if it's still possible to enjoy Rino's in peace at lunch. I've had some great meals (pre-DDD) there that way without any waits. Better to go toward the end of service when the more traditional Italian dinner specials are available. (The Italian-American stuff is very good of its kind, but not worth waiting an hour for, let alone four.)


                                                      2. re: rosiebcook

                                                        what the hell is worth waiting 4 hours for dinner? lunacy.

                                                      3. I just want to reiterate Row 34 here... I just called (rather than simply looking on open table) and couldn't get a reservation for 2 people on a Friday or Saturday night for a weekend in AUGUST - more than 6 weeks from now. That is just absurd.