I had the good fortune to dine at T.W. Food and Craigie on Main on successive nights this Saturday and Sunday, both at 8 PM,
The food experience at both restaurants were terrific and reminiscent of each other --- interesting, creative, seasonal, local, artisanal dishes. New England fare with global sensitivity, perhaps?
The scrambled egg appetizer at T.W. Food was rich and luscious, and the salted cod entree had a beautiful texture and an unusual set of flavors that really complemented the fish. The fish itself was reminiscent of a Chinese style, but with obviously Western accompaniments. I was really looking forward to the scotch and cigars dessert but it was uninteresting --- the tobacco flavor was barely detectable, and the scotch was very sweet. The fruit sorbets and peach ice cream were nothing special, my DC described them as "Trader Joe's" quality. But the appetizer and entree were excellent beyond fault.
The sablefish appetizer at Craigie on Main was interesting and had terrific flavors (especially the miniature flowers) but the fish itself was bit lacking. However, the skirt steak entree was one of the very best beef dishes I've ever had, combining multiple beef tastes (perfectly cooked skirt steak, beef tongue, and marrow) in a harmonious fashion. I tasted the terrifically light and sharp halibut as well. A side order of gently prepared fiddleheads was out-of-this-world. The sorbets of the evening, meyer lemon, mango and grapefruit were exquisite, and the candied kumquat, limequat and mandarinquat were an amazing touch. The tea --- both Jasmine and Earl Grey, at least --- were among the best cups of tea either of us has ever had in a restaurant.
So both restaurants had excellent, if not quite perfect, food, in a very pleasant setting and at a reasonable price for that level of food.
However, both restaurants served this food via atrocious, albeit well-meaning, service.
To be fair, both restaurants were full, but this does not justify the twenty-five minute wait between taking drink orders and reappearing at T.W. Food, or the twenty-one minute wait at Craigie Street. It doesn't justify bringing the wrong appetizer (Craigie), not refilling water glasses ever until prompted (T.W. Food), describing the sorbets incorrectly (Craigie), not bringing bread until prompted (T.W. Food), not describing dishes (or even announcing their names) when serving them (both), delivering french-press coffee before it was ready (T.W. Food), or (twice!) ten minute waits between asking whether I'd like another glass of tonic water and actually bringing the glass (Craigie), directing us to our table by pointing across the room while seating another party (T.W. Food), or upselling the wine by calling the Burgandy by the glass "unsophisticated" (Craigie). Interactions with the waitstaff at both restaurants were somewhat stilted, as if they hadn't worked in restaurants before yet neither was particularly young.
There was nothing malicious or ill-tempered about the service, just confusion and disarray. Craigie on Main definitely seemed more chaotic, with many servers running this way and that, and others loudly calling across the restaurant for "RUNNERS!" to pickup food from the open kitchen. T.W. Food is smaller and more subdued, but the service was even slower.
Both are very fine restaurants, with their craft of food at a very high level. Admittedly a Saturday night and a Mother's Day evening are not where service might be expected to shine, but both places ought to improve their service to match the excellent food.
I will also add that I was wary of T.W. Food from reading some other posts on this board, but the food was terrific and I won't hesitate to return I'd been to the Craigie Street Bistrot several times in the past, but not yet to their new location. I was expecting excellent food, and the food exceeded my high expectations.
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