I really want this place to be good: it's in my neighborhood, a big, attractive space with a lovely patio that's not too close to the nearest busy street, affording a view of summer minor-league baseball games in the public park across the street. There's free parking for my friends who drive in. The food, a slightly updated take on Middle Eastern and North African food, has been mostly good over the past few years. They serve big cocktails, occasionally if not reliably made with reasonable craft. There's a big-screen projection TV for watching the odd Sox or Pats game. Sometimes the music (recorded) is good, and the crowd is often interesting, almost always with a good neighborhood component.
I started noticing a big decline in the food and service about a year ago. All my favorite FOH folks had left: I suddenly couldn't get a decent drink. The menu took some weird shifts. The quality of a couple of dinners -- we always order a lttile mezze feast -- dropped off sharply. After two or three bad experiences, we gave up, stopped recommending it. Big bummer.
I gave it another shot a few months back despite my misgivings: I was out with a friend who'd always wanted to try it, and it was close at hand. I was happy to report here http://www.chowhound.com/topics/343618 that it had regained a step: we had a fine meal, good drinks and service. I was really hopeful of a swing back to its old reliable self.
I'm sorry to report a not-so-fresh feeling on a recent visit: bad cocktails and an inexplicable issue with the food, namely, a place serving Middle Eastern classics (hummus and baba ganoush) with no pita. Our mezze came instead with a very weak, fluffy, commercial focaccia. We tried a bite or two, but with that lame bread, it just wasn't working for us (the Fez always serves pita with these mezze).
This was very early in the evening on a weekend night. I flagged our server: "May we have some pita?", I asked. "Sorry, we ran out" "Really? No pita? At six pm on a weekend night? That's a shame. If we'd known that, we probably would have ordered something else. Please see what your management might do to rectify this." (Incidentally, there's a supermarket a couple of blocks away that sells pita.)
Our waiter brought our check, with nothing comped. We left most of our food on the table, paid the bill (tipped well -- it's not our hapless waiter's fault, after all), and left. And we ain't going back anytime soon. I'm a little puzzled as to what's going on here. There's only about a dozen new competitors already open or coming to the neighborhood this year, including a slightly-refreshed Franklin Cafe, which I was happy to see re-opened tonight with a fresh coat of paint and some attractive new lighting.
But I've officially had it with the Red Fez. No más. I can forgive the departure of reliable servers and our favorite dishes (chicken brik, muhammara). I am inured to the fact that many restaurants will hire barrtenders can't make basic classic cocktails. But a management and ownership that just doesn't appear to give a rat's ass, that I can't abide or support. No más.
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