Boone's in Portland Maine: Excessive cost for average food & service
Can someone tell me when a clam roll and fries came to cost $27? I realize clam prices are higher this year, but not so high as to warrant this price, esp given that other places are not charging nearly as much (the restaurant next door to Boone's charges $12.95 for a clam roll, I learned after the fact). I live locally and eat out a lot. I take pride in knowing something about good food, I cook and entertain a lot myself, and I will spend money on fine food. I'm not a miser when it comes to food, but I don't want to get ripped off. I took my son and a relative from out of town for lunch at Boone's because people were wanting fried clams. I had been there once before when it first opened this past year after the rehab and it was a pleasant environment. Prices then were not so outrageous. We took an outdoor table and sat down to order. The clam prices were not listed, simply said "market price". It didn't occur to me that I should inquire about the "market price" for fried clams because I have been eating them all of my life in New England restaurants and they are usually pretty reasonably priced, even with year to year price fluctuations. Big mistake. We waited to order. The service was slow and a table beside us, seated after us, was tended to first. Annoying. Finally ordered, and then the food came--all three of us ordered the clam rolls with fries and some clam chowder, no drinks other than water. The food was ok'ish, nothing to write home about, just pretty average all around but satisfying enough (and I make a better chowder myself). The clam rolls were filled with an ample amount of clams but not exactly generous. When the bill came, I was shocked to see a total of $116! I looked at the itemized tab and verified with the waitress that the amount was correct. Clam rolls and fries were $27 per person (so, $81 just for the 3 clam rolls!), plus the chowder we had. I was appalled--and angry. Seems to me that Boone's is taking full advantage of tourist season in Portland and the waterfront location to exploit customers for all they can get. A $27 clam roll is absurd and Harding Lee Smith should be embarrassed for charging such obscene prices. This was lunch, not dinner, and these are fried clams in a hotdog roll, not lobster, fois gras or caviar. I shudder to think what they are charging for a lobster roll! I will never go back again. Made me feel robbed--and foolish.
I've been to Boone's a number of times now and have mixed feelings about the place. While I believe the food tends to be better than average (some things not so good - I dislike their chowder for example) and some things very good (some of the apps, the oysters, and most things cooked a la plancha), I agree with you on their pricing - it's all over the place - and the service which has been inconsistent from the start. DW got the crab cake when they first opened with something like a $16 price tag and one small crab cake (which was good but not $16 good) which resulted in a "WTF" chorus from all at the table.
Their oysters, while very fresh and good, have different prices for each oyster, i.e. one variety might be $3.10 each and the next $2.70, etc. Why not just round them all to $3.00 or $2.75? My theory, which I think may explain the $27 clam roll is that they just go with a 25% (or some percentage) food cost and simply multiply by 4 their cost to come up with the "market price" without regard to the idea that $27 might be outrageous. Most places do this to an extent but when they realize that the retail price is going to get into the ridiculous range they make an adjustment and figure "we're only going to be able to mark up the clams by 40% today" or they don't serve that particular product at all. But apparently not Boone's, and as they do have standing room waiting with a line at the host desk I guess it's working for them - at least until the tourists leave.
With all that being said, I've gone back but I'm pretty careful with my ordering. Happy hours (early and late night) are very good and reasonable as are some of the apps. And when it's 80 degrees out and I want a beer on or real close-to-the-water in a little bit more upscale environment than some of the other waterfront venues, it's a tough spot to beat. But, yeah, you got burned and I'd be pissed too.