When Joanne, Patsy and I arrived at our destination on Saturday night, we were on the outskirts of Boston. Like about 5 minutes away. It was after 8 pm and we had just checked in to our hotel. And hadn’t had dinner. After stashing our bags in the room, we headed downstairs to the front desk to ask for recommendations. Because, you know, they’re from the area and should be an excellent resource. Ike at the front desk said “there’s a good seafood restaurant about 5-10 minutes away on foot.”
Seafood? Boston? It was a no brainer.
Our first mistake was asking Ike. Our second was thinking we were on our way to an awesome seafood dinner. We were soon to find out our adventures that evening had just begun.
First, the directions were as hazy as the weather, and after 15 minutes in one direction, in a hundred degree heat, we realized there was no restaurant to be had.
We walked the other way, passing Mystic’s namesake along the way.
Up a residential street. A hill. “We’re walking off our delicious seafood dinner!” we thought.
Passing a pizzeria that smelled of oregano. I half-jokingly suggested grabbing a slice and a Diet Coke and heading back to the room. But how could we pass up seafood?
We passed a group of rowdy bachelors and politely demurred when they waved us over for beer and food.
We finally reached the top of the hill, rounded the corner and saw sparkly lights in the tree. Ah, this must be the place. That walk up hill in the steam bath called Summer in New England was starting to pay off.
It wasn’t especially clear which door was the entrance, but we found it. As soon as we threw it open, the smell of fresh seafood hung in the air. This was looking better and better.
We slid into a booth and were handed menus nearly immediately.
Side bar: If you walk into a restaurant on a Saturday night and there are only a few tables occupied, that would be an important clue.
We all perused the menu, each description sounding better than the last. We all chose seafood. I mean, c’mon, seafood restaurant in Massachusetts, how could we not?
The waitress asked if we wanted popovers or Italian bread with our meal. Joanne and I exchanged looks. Popovers don’t really fit with the seafood theme, but sounded intriguing enough that we took a leap of faith.
Quite overdone, we dove in, broke them open and each took a bite anyway. No flavor. No salt. Just a whole lot of nothingness. We pushed them aside and asked for the Italian bread.
The salad arrived. Standard issue. Iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumber, not-quite-ripe-enough tomatoes. But ok.
Then it started to go rapidly downhill from there.
Joanne’s Lobster Macaroni and Cheese arrived. As did Patsy’s Baked Stuffed Shrimp.
The hostess arrived a few minutes later and asked if everything was ok. I pointed to my empty place. “My dinner hasn’t arrived yet.” Did you order an entree? “Of course.” She went to go check with the waitress, who came to see what was going on. The waitress asked what I had ordered “Baked Stuffed Salmon,” came the answer, and she went to go look.
The hostess came back and asked again how everything was. I again pointed to my empty place. She asked what I ordered and went off looking for it. Again.
The waitress came back with my food. I went with baked salmon because it was clean eating. But also because the description said “piled high with lobster.” When the plate was set down in front of me, and the waitress left, I motioned to Patsy. “It’s been awhile since I had lobster. Has it become invisible?” Because, you know, there was none.
Hostess comes over. I explain the problem. She brings the menu so I can point out exactly what I ordered. “Baked Salmon piled high with lobster.” Plate goes back in the kitchen.
It comes back out. With a sauce and two tiny pieces of lobster. Again, a problem. “Is it ok to eat grey lobster?” I pushed it to the side and decided to focus on the salmon and the vegetables instead.
I slit open the baked potato.
That would be the time the hostess comes back. “I’m afraid to ask how everything is.”
She takes it away, apologizing, and comes back with a new one. A potato she slit in the kitchen to make sure it was ok.
Joanne’s Lobster Mac and Cheese? Well, after about ten minutes, she gave up trying to find lobster and just couldn’t get past the processed cheese taste. The best part were the crumbled Ritz crackers on top.
When I took a bite of the broccoli gratin that each of us had ordered, I looked at Joanne. “Oh yeah, I wouldn’t try that,” she said. Too late.
At this point, the waitress comes and notices all our plates are pretty full with largely untouched food. They get cleared. The hostess comes over and offers to replace our meals. She ends up comping two of the three entrees.
The hostess asked about our meal. We hesitated. Really hoping she wouldn’t push the issue. But we weren’t about to be let off the hook. She wanted details. We gave them to her.
In a nutshell, our general consensus was that it appears they have an oven issue, for starters. Everything was coming out really well done. And there appears to be a chef issue.
As we neared the door to leave, the hostess (Jean), apologized again, explained they had a fill in chef and said it’s usually not like that. We looked around the empty restaurant and said nothing. She said she would give us a certificate for a return meal and when she learned we weren’t from the area, she felt even worse.
Joanne looked at her and said, “It really wasn’t very good.” And then she mentioned we were food writers. Nail meet coffin.
During the meal, I swear I kept looking for Allen Funt to rise from the dead and the hidden cameras to be revealed. I mean, if three food writers in Boston can’t get a decent seafood meal…
As we began our walk back, I suggested that we nominate the restaurant for Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.
We looked for the bachelors on the way down the hill, but sadly they were winding down and well into their kegs.
And we popped into the pizzeria, now hoping for one of those slices. Eleven minutes after they closed up shop with nothing leftover.
When we arrived back at the hotel, we waited to speak to Ike, to share our experience about his recommendation.
“Really? I’m surprised to hear that. I send lots of people there and nobody has ever said anything. I’ve never been there myself.”
To which I offered that that would have been helpful information to receive in the beginning.
The hotel restaurant? Closed fifteen minutes before we got back.
So we ask for vending machines. Yes, it had reached that point.
I think even Top Chef contestants would have had a tough time creating a meal from this during their Vending Machine Challenge.
Although our meal was completely disastrous from beginning to end, I do want to make sure to commend the waitress and hostess. It was clear the problems did not lie with them and they did everything in their power to make it right, short of cooking the meal themselves. Towards the end, the waitress was reticent to even come back to our table, and we made sure to tip on what our meal should have cost had two entrees not been comped, and we expressed our appreciation to the hostess upon leaving for both their efforts.
Seafood in Boston will have to wait for another time.
Aiming to have a post here for y’all tomorrow … either a Yogurtland review, a steak restaurant review, sponsorship info or photography tips. Decisions, decisions…
And before I forget, thanks for the kind words on yesterday’s post – you guys are the best! xoxo