A lot of restaurants suck.
We know this. Yet we still find it worth it to try new places despite the fact that there's a good chance it will be disappointing. Since I've moved to Philly, this has happened far too many times - to the point where I am slowly beginning to understand why people go to chain restaurants.
So I thought I'd do a recap...at least on the ones I can remember.
Square on Square - last week Gary and I went downtown to try out Continental - a Starr restaurant. Global tapas. Good recommendation. Unfortunately, as we walked in at 3:30 in the afternoon, completely starved and just having spent twenty minutes trying to find a parking spot, the hostess cheerily told us that the kitchen had just closed and wouldn't reopen until 5pm for dinner.
We wandered into Square on Square, a block away, after a quick glance at their menu and having heard a good word about it before. The won ton soup was fine, the same generic won ton soup you can find at any Chinese restaurant or take out place. I had the seafood deluxe special: crab, shrimp, scallops with noodles and veggies in a white wine sauce. The crabmeat was imitation and had no flavor, the scallops were rubbery and they forgot to remove the foot on one of them. The sauce was bland. Gary had their version of General Tso's chicken and asked for it mild. "Mild" was still intensely spicy to the point where that was the only flavor you could taste. When we mentioned it to the waiter, he told us they had only used half the amount of chile pepper they usually use. At the end of the meal we were given some so-so almond cookies. Service was decent, food was boring and not very good - I'd rather not back.
Marathon Grill University City. I walk by this place on a regular basis, and it always looks busy. Usually, this is a good sign. Alas, it's just another example of how stupid people are and how much a nice location can help a business. It looks like a semi-classy place, but once inside when you get a closer look you can see how it's really just faking. The chairs and tables are scratched and worn, it's decorated to look like an upscale restaurant with prices on the menu to match, but the food isn't that great and neither is the ambiance. I had their Thai chicken salad with mixed greens: "Thai sweet chile crispy chicken," sliced red cabbage, carrots, black sesame seeds, almond slivers, orange segments, red onion, citrus-soy vinaigrette, and won ton strips. The chicken was surprisingly bland, there was too much dressing, and I was worried (partly because I'm weird about these things, I'm sure) constantly that I was going to get a black sesame seed stuck in my teeth. Overall unimpressive. Gary's burger was equally unimpressive. The gummy mashed potatoes on the side didn't help. I don't plan to return any time soon.
Philly Diner - I don't even know what to say. Shitty food with service that's even worse. I'm certain the only business they have are drunk college kids in the middle of the night because they're the only 24-hour place located by campus in University City. I'd rather lick the bottom of my shoe than go back.
Oregon Diner - a step up from the Philly Diner, but still nothing great. Seriously, Philly, where are all the decent diners? The only thing worth mentioning is that I tried bison for the first time here...and their pastries look like they're worth a try.
Saigon Maxim Restaurant - my biggest complaint here wasn't actually their food. The whole experience was a bit odd because they apparently were setting up for a wedding, yet seated us anyway as the only people in the restaurant. We sat at a little table surrounded by white fluffy stuff on the windows and numbers above each table, while several employees dressed in their black and whites set up tables in a larger room and yelled at each other in various languages. The pho was good though they didn't bring out a little plate of herbs, mung bean sprouts, and lime for me to add to my liking - the herbs and mung bean sprouts were already added and there was no fresh lime in sight. The general Tso's (they had a Chinese and a Vietnamese menu) wasn't bad either - nice and crispy instead of that doughy mush you get a lot of times. The waitress kind of stood around a few feet away waiting for us to finish eating which was a little awkward, and when we got the check we stood up to go because she had disappeared, and when we got to the bar to pay (since we didn't know where else to go), she reappeared toting a sliced orange for us to eat and we had to go and sit back down to have it. Overall I think the experience was just a little too strange to want to go back unless I'm in the neighborhood and don't have the heart to try a new place.
Next post: some of the good places I've been to!