Sunday, October 11, 2015

Dining out in Concord MA

Although the best places to eat in Concord are in the next town over (Bedford - good sushi at Ginger and decent burritos at Chipotle) sometimes we like to stay close to home. There are some pizza places on Thoreau Str and a place at the depot that changes owners every few years and currently is too expensive for my purposes. Also, West Concord has several places - but that is farther than Bedford and we don't go over there. Let me focus my comments on Main Street.
There are three places on Main Str. we know well and one new place.
 - The new place looks like they serve sandwiches to teenagers with imported mineral water. Split personality? Looks too dark inside and we have not tried it out.
 - The Colonial Inn is a good standbye. Atmosphere: There is lots of genuine atmosphere - the place has several hundred years -worth of food smells, baked into its walls. The crowd is international, non Concordian. Food: The food is pretty good. Great burger, good chowder, and where else can you get Indian Pudding? It has been while since we had a roast beef dinner there - but it is the kind of place where you can expect it to be decent. Service: spotty, usually bad. We sit down and the wait staff stand around talking instead of bringing water and menus.
 - The Main Street Cafe is a good place for a beer or to meet a friend for lunch. Atmosphere: Always busy with the hum of energy that tourists and people out from Boston bring. As a result, the place is a bit chaotic. With an open mic night, this is about the only place in downtown Concord that might be said to have "night life". Food: Only so so. Burgers are not great, salads are a bit heavy. I guess there are a variety of lighter fares and vegetarian items. Service: Spotty. Owner tries to do a good job but wait staff is careless.
 - Helens is as good place for a malted, with the little league team. Usually almost empty by 7:30, no tourists. One wonders, why the tourists are at the Colonial Inn and Main Street Cafe but not here, just across the street. I suspect tourists read the internet and do not hear anything too positive about this place. Atmosphere: Sterile. Don't take credit cards. Food: This used to be some of the best food in town. It was the best burger in town until the Colonial Inn got its act together. Seems like the quality has gone downhill lately. Service: extremely fast but surly - service with a scowl.
Update: So we tried again a few weeks later at the Colonial Inn and the service was non-existent (worse than bad). We were seated and then left alone, with no menus, no water, no nibbles. After five minutes we decided we might do better in one of the other seating areas so we moved. Again: seated promptly then abandoned. After a few minutes we noticed there were more than 10 occupied tables, 1/2 of which had people with menus. One waiter put in a brief appearance. Five minutes later we walked out, commenting to the young man who seated us that: it is a no brainer that the waiters should be in the room with the customers are...not off "somewhere". So that is it for us. No more Colonial Inn. No more Helen's either, their burgers are no longer worth the scowl. Main Street Cafe is still viable but, so crowded, poor food, make it a second choice.
Why is service so miserable in Concord? They all hire high school students and, apparently, minimum wage does not require job training. Good lord! It would be so easy to do it right, why aren't there some decent managers? Advice to Main Street Cafe: get rid of some tables and don't be so greedy - improve your food quality. Advice to Helen's: enjoy your credit-card free zone. Advice to Colonial Inn: hire a decent restaurant manager who knows how to instill vigilance. I would be happy to train them.

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