Post-pandemic disappointments (or is it too soon?)

I think it’s important to judge based on the “new normal”, not pre-pandemic expectations. The new normal has higher prices and usually a more targeted menu. OTOH, I’ve found quality to go up in some ways, because the staff might not be getting pushed as hard. And there are more new people in the service industry, which is probably also a good thing. But that’s different (IMHO) than just letting bad food or service slide. Or, in the case of my most close restaurant, a place which has been closed with a “now open!!” sign out front for three months .


MDM Noodles in Brighton. Very consistent, as opposed to another restaurant close by(Hunan) that is good sometimes and was much more expensive…


You know I’m in nyc not Boston, but I think this is a common thread everywhere.

I think I’d be ok on (gentle) honesty about food, but I am letting (plentiful) service issues pass without comment for obvioius reasons.

That said, I haven’t actually commented negatively on anything at neighborhood places even if they’ve slipped.

My two favorite neighborhood wine bars had limited but tasty food - both have not recovered in that department since reopening. Still, I see familiar staff faces, so I’m going to keep going and assume that they will rehire when they can and these issues will get ironed out eventually.

At my favorite Turkish place, the food is still good, but I can tell the fritters are being refried when they were always made fresh before, and other nits like that. I am attributing this again to staffing woes. They were closed for a while, and I am just happy they were able to reopen - willing to give them a lot of rope to get back to where they were.

Friends were telling me that a not inexpensive Indian place they order from often had slipped on food, and they suspected that the chef was missing or had changed. They knew the owner well enough (from having patronized the place for many years) to tell him they weren’t enjoying the food because of it, and apparently he called them last week to tell them the chef had been switched - or come back? They ordered again, and indeed it had been the staffing issue.

That story made me wonder if I should say something - don’t think commenting on Yelp or Google necessarily counts as productive, though it may highlight to the owners that customers are not missing the issues… I don’t know… it’s a tough call for me.


Good point you make. This discussion reminds me of a comedy routine by Craig Ferguson where he poses three insightful questions that have yet to fail me in any situation.

Before saying anything that he may wish he hadn’t, his rule of thumb is:

  1. “Does this need to be said?”
  2. “Does this need to be said by me?”
  3. “Does this need to be said by me now?”

So if my comments wouldn’t actually be useful to help a dining establishment or its patrons, I do hold off right now. Things are in recovery and rebalancing mode.


A badly undervalued talent, in my opinion.


I tend to side with the folks saying it’s okay to give an honest assessment of your dining experience. Couching your critiques by mentioning possible pandemic/reopening issues ensures that future readers have access to the full picture. But no, I don’t think it’s too soon.

To that note: we were disappointed in a meal at the Chalawan near Porter Square recently. We’d dined there twice pre-pandemic and were wowed both times. This recent meal was less than stellar all around. Everything was okay, but no more okay than standard stir fried protein with a sauce piled on top which I would expect from any pan-Asian takeout joint. The composed dishes we remember from previous were mostly absent, and the prices remain at fine-dining level without the food to support it. Finally, there used to be a kid’s fried rice option which we all agreed was one of the best fried rice dishes we’d ever had, and not only is that no longer an option, the waitstaff claimed it never existed. When I asked if the chef might be able to do a fried rice or what would they suggest for adventurous kids who aren’t quite up to the entrees on the menu, we were told chicken fingers. D’oh.

On the other end of the scale, we went to Pagu in Central Square Cambridge for a rare kid-free dinner last week. I don’t have a point of comparison, but the food and the service both wowed. I actually told the waiter “you’re doing a fantastic job” which I’ve never specifically said to a waiter before, probably because I’ve always thought of that as something you would “say” by way of a tip, but thinking about it, we should all probably say that from time to time. My only comment was that the online menu was not up to date, listing whole categories of food that weren’t available. This is the kind of thing I’d chalk up to pandemic, but in an ideal world (which we very much don’t live in…) someone should be paying attention.
Editing to add: the menu is now up to date. Just checked. Our stellar waiter promised he’d mention it to management, and it appears he followed through and they followed through. What more can you ask?


I’d started this on the Boston board, but since we’re attracting responses from elsewhere, perhaps the mods might want to move it to another location. If that happens, I’d request that people mention restaurants they are discussing by name and location whenever they feel comfortable doing so, not simply say “my favorite place.”

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I think this is somewhat fair, but for me as a general skinflint there’s a certain pain threshold that is rapidly approaching in eating out. As an example, I generally bring my lunch to work four days a week and eat lunch out the fifth day as a treat. But when that fifth day lunch out starts to almost never cost less than twenty bucks and sometimes breaks out over thirty, I start considering whether maybe I should just bring my lunch every day.

I don’t blame restaurants for raising prices due to input inflation and wage increases, but for me there might come a time where I just don’t play the game so much anymore when I know I can make my own meals for a far lower price point.


@Parsnipity Thank you for the timely review. I had mentioned Chalawan to the friends looking for an anniversary takeout joint that I’ve been wanting to try it forever. I certainly would feel terrible if they chose it and had a disappointing meal.

There is definitely value in giving honest reviews. I think most of us on this board are pretty forgiving towards restaurants during these trying times. One bad meal may not necessarily keep me away, but I would proceed with caution. And keep hoping that we all turn this stoopid-a$$ corner soon.


And that’s ok. Lunch out might be an every other week or once a month treat instead of every week.

I just think a lot of people need to let go of the idea that a burger should not cost more than $X or a burrito should only cost $Y. It costs what it costs, and the business needs to charge accordingly. If we are not privy to their financial details, we can’t judge.


I always get a kick out of offering those to our dog when he is begging for my Guru food- the look on his face is priceless! I would rather eat fermented shark or cut open some durian in a windowless room.

Whoa. I wonder how you feel about very ripe kimchee?

The riper the better! Something about those guru pickles really bothers me, and my Schnauzer.

Thanks for your report/warning about Chalawan! We have been meaning to try Chalawan since they opened and never got there. We love food from that region of the world and there’s so little of it in Boston. I had my eye on the beef rendang in particular. I eat meat about once a month so it would be a treat for me and I’ve made rendang at home several times. Now I don’t see it on their menu, at least no mention of “rendang” and I also don’t like that the online menu does not include prices.

And we loved Pagu the two times we went pre pandemic. Must return or get take out. And I really respected the required immunizations for indoor dining. I wish the tortilla was still on the menu…it was at least as good as the best versions I enjoyed in Spain.

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Just read that the Financial District location, D’Guru, has closed. Maybe they can re-focus their efforts in Somerville now.

This is (surprisingly where I am). I have allocated a very large portion of my disposable income to dining out in Boston for the past several decades. However, I have been saving my shots for things I can’t make, splurge meals, dining while traveling, etc. I know many others who are doing the same. I suppose we may be aging out a bit and being replaced by younger diners. It will be interesting to see how things evolve.

To be frank, Boston was right on the margin of providing enough variety before the pandemic. The somewhat limited upper end, and overpriced middle tier was offset by just enough good values and ethnic spots. We were in NYC last week and had one epic meal in k-town and another at a downtown sushi place. All in, less expensive than our last 2 meals out in Boston and infinitely better. We enjoyed ourselves immensely but were a little saddened by this fact on the train ride back. It’s never been fair to compare NYC and Boston dining, but the gap may be widening. We’re sort of resigned to saving some dining dollars for quarterly trips to Portland and NYC.

On the bright side, I had a delicious sausage and peppers from The Sausage King outside of Fenway last week.


Where did you go? Always so happy to hear about epic meals!

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Cho Dang Gol - I will post more about this when I have time. THIS was exactly the meal we had not enjoyed in 18 months and needed at this time. We ordered too much food, feasted and everything was spectacular.

Sushi Azabu - With our local standby (Cafe Sushi) still closed for indoor dining, this was our first proper omakase in quite awhile. It did not disappoint. 15 East used to be our NYC go to, but it’s not quite the same since chef Masa left for Thailand. We will be back to Azabu soon.

2 thoroughly satisfying meals. The city still feels off, but the addition of all the outdoor dining spaces is a huge improvement to many neighborhoods. I hope they stick.


Yes, I have similar feelings, especially now that even non-spectacular beers frequently pass the $10 barrier.

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Hah! Glad to hear they are alive and kicking!

The old upstairs at Azabu used to be a favorite lunch haunt - first time I encountered “Tokyo Italian”!

Been ages (even pre pandemic) since I went to Cho Dang Gol - I get stuck in a rut, so it’s nice to have a glowing rec to mix it up.