Bina Osteria: Aggressively Pricey, or Just Right?

1229623979There’s a spirited fight discussion currently raging on the local Chowhound board regarding Bina Osteria, the newish Italian eatery opened in Downtown Crossing by the folks behind Lala Rokh and Bin 26 Enoteca.

No one’s taking issue with the quality of the food itself: Indeed, when Chowder sampled the menu a few weeks ago, every morsel was exquisite, perhaps even some of the best cooking going on in the city right now, courtesy of (super-young) chef Brian Konefal, who did time at Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Eleven Madison Park, two of Manhattan’s finest restaurants.

The issue is the cost. Are the prices outrageous? Depends on whom you ask. One poster writes:

[I was] pretty shocked at the prices. I certainly cannot afford a ramekin sized portion of pasta for 17 dollars…. most people would find this place to be quite unaffordable, especially right now.

Then came a smattering of retorts, including two that got to the heart of the matter:

While Bina is sort of objectively expensive, relative to the city, it’s really not so outlandish. I would consider it to be, in terms of price point, on the top end of the middle range or on the bottom end of the top range.

And another poster:

If large portions are important to you, go to Joe Tecce’s. I won’t be going to there or to any other chain or food factory at a time like this because I don’t value what they do. If they don’t survive they will be replaced by a clone when the economy comes back.

So who’s right? In Chowder’s opinion, they all are, at least to a point.

First off, it’s hard to find a smaller portion of pasta in Boston for $17 (nor one as perfectly executed). Even Rocca, in the South End, which was serving similar sized pasta dishes when it first opened in 2006, has over the last year shunted them into the Appetizers section and created another category called “Entree Pastas” for those expecting heaping platters of noodles.

Pricewise, though, Bina’s $17 Cappelli with Housemade Ricotta, Beets, and Mustard Greens is an outlier. Both Rocca and Bina keep their appetizer-sized pastas in the $13-$15 range. There’s a precedent.

A bigger issue, in Chowder’s opinion, is the price-versus-portions ratio in the dishes labeled “Secondi,” a designation that most Boston Italian restaurants reserve for the Entrees. At first glance, then, $35 for the hay-roasted quail with foie-gras bread pudding and chestnut puree sounds reasonable—the upper end of many a mid-priced menu in the city. (On the other hand: Not out of the realm of, say, Hamersley’s or even Clio, for that matter.)

But wait until you see the portion, a meaty yet diminutive roasted bird served with accompaniments that are closer to plate decoration than true sides. This was possibly the best-tasting quail Chowder’s ever eaten—salty, tender, with a subtle smoke from the hay roasting—but we’re clearly not in normal entree territory, for Boston or anywhere.

You don’t have to be a Joe Tecce’s-and-Cheesecake Factory acolyte to think that this is essentially a $35 starter, aggressively priced compared to anywhere in the city, barring O Ya, perhaps, but not L’Espalier, often the exemplar for pricey Hubside dining.

Can Bina (with its somewhat misleading tagline of “Osteria,” the Italian word for midpriced bar or tavern, which this place is not) sustain these price points? Or will it have to make some capitulations to the way Americans and, specifically, Bostonians have been programmed to order and eat in restaurants, as Rocca and so many others have done before it?

Only time will tell. Food this good is worth the splurge, in Chowder’s opinion. But in a struggling economy, even those who agree philosophically may not find themselves in the financial position to cast a vote.

  • PJM

    It’s amazing that so many chow “hounds” (as they seriously refer to themselves) have been complaining for years about the lack of sophistication and quality when it comes to fine dining in Boston. Now Bina opens and the same whiners, many with no restaurant industry experience, are “experts” on quality, quantity and “value” at the high end because we’re in a recession. These people just don’t get it. Bina raises the bar, and is a tremendous addition to Boston’s very limited, fine-dining restaurant landscape. I seriously believe that some of the people complaining aren’t happy until they can find something to bitch about when they dine out, and later post on the internet. The self-fullfilling negativity sucks as Rick Pitino would say. Maybe the problem isn’t with the concept or the restaurant, but rather with the diners (whiners) themselves. Oh, but don’t tell them that, they know it all. We should be encouraging and supporting newcomers like Bina if we ever want the words ‘Boston,’ ‘world-class,’ and ‘restaurants,’ used in the same sentence.

  • MC Slim JB

    A lot of hostility to Chowhounds there, considering most of them are open-minded, dedicated supporters of Boston’s restaurant scene, both with their words and their wallets. And despite my own industry experience, I think it’s hardly a prerequisite to judging a restaurant’s value. The market decides, and many diners will question the wisdom of opening restaurants with $40+ entrees in the midst of the worst recession in 80 years. In any event, although Boston is probably too small and provincial to support a world-class restaurant scene, it’s still a better place to dine out than 90% of the country, with many unique joys and strengths. Online amateur reviewing is here to stay: smart industry people use Chowhound as another input on their value prop and service levels, rather than being thin-skinned about the criticism.

  • Baskerville

    Interesting that someone who unabashedly promotes himself as a restaurant review, albeit amateur, would make such a misleading, inaccurate statement without checking his facts first. ‘MC Slim’ hound notes that “…many diners will question the wisdom of opening restaurants with $40+ entrees in the midst of the worst recession in 80 years.” That comment is in response to, and in the context of, an article and discussion about Bina’s pricing. I’ve dined at Bina five times since it opened, including last night, and have never seen an entree priced at $40 or more. In fact, the price range for entrees last night was from $26-$35, with the average being just over $31. That average is hardly “eye popping,” comparatively speaking, as slim has also described Bina’s menu pricing to his homer hounds. The lack of responsibility in slim’s reporting is an insult to the “open-minded, dedicated supporters of Boston’s restaurant scene” on chowhound who view him as their deity, or “hound with a halo.” Perhaps the flock will proceed a little more cautiously, instead of blindly following the lead dog…

  • MC Slim JB

    Sorry, Baskerville, I didn’t mean to imply that Bina charges $40+ for its entrees.” In fact, I didn’t say that, nor did I mean to imply it, but I can see how a reader with more than a customer’s interest in Bina might read that into it. (You do seem awfully heated about the topic for someone not connected to the restaurant.)

    Either way, you’re missing both the point and the context of my comment. I was responding to PJM’s snide comment that broaches two ridiculous ideas: 1) that you need industry experience to have a valid perspective on a restaurant’s value, and 2) that Chowhounds air critical comments simply because they like to complain. I couldn’t let those pass unchallenged. My broader context was the long, multi-thread discussion going on at Chowhound’s Boston board, some of which you clearly have read. It mostly focuses on Sensing (I raised an online eyebrow at their $20 mid-shelf vodka martini), but has also touched more lightly on Bina (the post that this blog entry cites).

    It’s probably worth noting that I’ve been a loyal customer and vocal supporter of the Bina siblings since the Azita days. But I had to say: Bina Osteria is rather pricier than I expected. I have looked at its menu on the premises and online, and read Nadeau’s Phoenix review, so I’m well aware of its price range. On Chowhound, I said I found those prices eye-popping. That’s because it styles itself an osteria, which to me implies a more modest menu (as I put it, “more like an Italian Bin 26″). I wasn’t saying “bad value”, just “surprisingly expensive.” Maybe you have different expectations of an osteria. Maybe you’re independently wealthy. But you seem out of touch with the average Bostonian if you think it’s crazy for any of them to express surprise at a string of new restaurants opening at this particular moment in time with over-$30 and over-$40 average entree prices.

    In any event, you need to take that big chip off your shoulder about Chowhounds. I think most of them are passionate diners of above-average sophistication, the kind of folks that restaurants should want to cultivate, not ignorant complainers. If you keep reading the board, you’ll find that just as many people disagree with me as like what I have to say. I’m no opinion leader there. One of the very few things that Hounds have in common besides their love of food is their suspicion of self-styled or externally-anointed authorities.

    So I’ll say it again: smart restaurateurs don’t waste time trying to shout down Chowhounds and Yelpers and other online amateur reviewers. They take those opinions (filtering out some noise) and use them as another source of feedback from current and potential customers. I think you’d benefit from doing the same. Meanwhile, I hope this response has cleared the air about Bina’s prices.

  • Baskerville

    No, I’m clearly getting your point, and you’re clearly evading my assertion that a regarded restaurant reviewer, you, should not make misleading, inaccurate, and inappropriate comments. It’s irresponsible to imply something, implicitly or not. The context of your comment was in response to the article above titled, “Bina Osteria: Aggressively Pricey, or Just Right?” The article alludes to “…a spirited discussion currently raging on the local chowhound board regarding Bina Osteria….” It goes on to say, “No one’s taking issue with the quality of the food itself…,” “The issue is the cost. Are the prices outrageous? Depends on whom you ask…” Your personal “broader context” that you reference isn’t germane to this discussion because you’re assuming that everyone reading the discussion related to this article is aware of your context, i.e., the “Sensing” threads on Chowhound. You need to own that presumptuous fact.

    In a recent article ranking Boston’s 50 best restaurants, Boston Magazine refers to you as one of chowhound’s most prolific and popular members of the Boston chowhound community (according to the site’s “People Reading Me” rankings.) Out of the 5 “hounds” (I still laugh when you refer to each other that way) mentioned in the article, you take the lead dog role with 114 people reading you. Limster (including his international admirers) has 94 people reading him, and it drops off precipitously from there, with 36 people reading yumyum, and so on. My point is, you have a lot of lemmings drinking the “MC Slim” hound Kool Aid, and only a handful of free-thinkers willing to challenge you. (The ‘slim stroking’ is nauseating.)

    You fashion yourself as the ‘value’ restaurant guru in Boston. How about adding some value to this discussion, and answering the question posed by Jolyn Helterman, instead of speculating from the sidelines? My interpretation of the intent of her question is, “Does Bina deliver good value for the products they produce, compared to comparable dining establishments in Boston?” From what I’ve read, you have an awful lot to say about Bina, and Sensing for that matter, without dining there. (Please don’t use the, “You don’t need to visit the North Pole to know it’s cold” theory…)

    Who cares whether Bina’s interpretation of an ‘Osteria’ was literal when they named the place? A quick Google search reveals that many restaurants use Osteria in their name, when in actuality their version differs from the strict definition. Stating that the menu pricing was “eye popping” when you first glanced at it, because you expected traditional “Osteria” pricing is a week back peddle, and nit-picking in my opinion.

    Regarding your comment that “I need to take that big chip off my shoulder about chowhounds,” and that most chowhounds “….are passionate diners of above-average sophistication….,” there are a handful of pontificating, suck-up, “homer hounds”, you included, who need to get off their high horses. It’s hard to take an adult who refers to himself as a “hound” seriously.

    PS- Don’t even get me started about the ‘chowhound manifesto,’ and the ‘chowhound’ vs. ‘foodie’ debate…

  • Baskerville

    Jolyn- I apologize for assuming that you were a female. I take full responsibility for inappropriately assuming such after Googling your name… Please forgive me.

    The girl’s name Jolyn j(o)-lyn, jol-yn is a variant of Jo (American) and Jolene. See for origin and meaning of Jolyn.

    The baby name Jolyn sounds like Jalyn, Jolynn, Jolan, Jolyne and Jolyna. Other similar baby names are Jozlyn, Joslyn and Joly.

    Jolyn is a common female first name and a very rare surname (source: 1990 U.S. Census). Displayed below is the baby name popularity trend for the girl’s name Jolyn. Compare Jolyn with related baby names.

  • MC Slim JB

    Here, breathe into this paper bag for a few minutes, Baskerville. I’m not sure I should continue to wrangle online with someone who is clearly either a restaurant sock puppet or attention-seeking Internet crank – you seem kind of increasingly unhinged here. But I’ll offer a few more comments on this nearly-dead horse. Using bluster and insults to try to shout down a discussion most people would consider reasonable – do those prices look expensive to you? – doesn’t really work online anymore. You can’t arbitrarily tell people, “Don’t call that expensive, and don’t expect an osteria to be cheap when other restaurants abuse the term, because, I, Baskerville, deem it misleading, inaccurate, or inappropriate”. Those are opinions you’re getting all splenetic about, comments on a blog entry and Chowhound, not reporting. Nobody is asking for your validation of their opinions.

    I have never styled myself a “value restaurant guru” here or anywhere. (Feel free to cite evidence to the contrary.) You might consider the possibility that many people read my Chowhound postings and yet are still capable of independent thought. I frankly don’t see the sort of deference or stroking you refer to; it’s always a lively discussion, and lots of people routinely disagree with me. And yes, there’s some silly jargon in use on Chowhound, but you’re a hidebound dumbass if that blinds you to the fact that there’s a lot of passionate, intelligent, useful commentary about local restaurants going on over there. Mostly we get our facts right, and when we don’t, we’re willing to say, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to give you the wrong idea there”, especially when the correct information is a Google-click away. But mostly we’re just offering opinions. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to recognize that they’re not going away, no matter how much you splutter and fume about them.

  • Baskerville

    Slim- Your feeble attempt at using smoke and mirrors to avoid culpability is amusing. The “breathe into the paper bag” comment makes it apparent that you don’t respond well to those outside of your flock who don’t hang on your every word. I live a short walk from Bina, and I’ve enjoyed some great meals there. I would like to see them do well, and to be fairly represented. Their menu provides some creative and refreshing new options for Boston diners. In my opinion, the quality of the food, for the price, is an excellent value. Just because I’ve called you out (and you continue to skirt the issue), that doesn’t make me a puppet or a crank. Your insinuation that I am, coupled with your “unhinged” comment, is one of the oldest tricks in the book to steer the conversation away from addressing my point, and the point of the article. Please stop beating the drum that I am connected to the restaurant. I am not. Believe it or not, there are people in Boston, besides you and your ‘hounds,’ who are passionate about food, drink and dining in Boston, without being “connected,” or calling themselves a cutesy name. Your repeated attempts to discredit me via that insinuation are worn-out.

    Also, please stop portraying yourself as the voice of all ‘hounds’ by using ‘we’ when speaking ‘for’ them. My beef here isn’t with any other ‘hound,’ it’s with you. In fact, I respect the opinion of many people on chowhound, especially the humble contributors.

    I’m not trying to shout down a discussion that most people would consider reasonable, I’m trying to encourage it, and promote accurate reporting.

    The quibbling about the use of the term, ‘Osteria’ is a waste of time. There are plenty of restaurants around the world that acknowledge that they are styled after and Osteria, but have created their personal visions by building onto the traditional definition. That doesn’t mean that they “abused the term.” (We could get into a protracted debate about ‘bistro’ and ‘brasserie’ here.)

    What I was getting splenetic about was your ‘inaccurate, misleading’ reference to “restaurants with $40+ entrees…” in the context of a discussion about Bina’s food and pricing. A lot of people read your opinions, and in my opinion, you dropped the ball inserting that comment inappropriately.

    As far as the value comment, I don’t know of any chowhound poster who has used the word ‘value’ ad nauseam, more than you. If I have to dredge up the “Wines by the glass at the Butcher Shop,” thread I will…

    Lastly, your egocentric pontificating that you are in denial about, has fueled a lot of amusing bar-side banter, in addition to entertaining and sarcastic, ‘spluttering and fuming.’

    Slim: “I frankly don’t see the sort of deference or stroking you refer to…”

    Yes you do.

    Here are some recent posts on chowhound;

    Topic: Favorite Boston Food writer 1/29/09

    bachslunch: “I especially like what I’ve read of chowhound regular MC Slim JB’s print entries in the Weekly Dig and the Phoenix…”

    MaineRed: “MC Slim JB writes for every local publication, but is a chowhound through and through and my favorite critic not just in Boston but most cities.”

    MC Slim JB: “You chowhounds saying nice things about me are total homers. (and your checks are in the mail!)”

    HarpOOn: “Well then call me a homer as well. As I said on a New England board post, there are many good to great Hounds posting here but we all know who’s first among equals.”

  • MC Slim JB

    Oy. Let’s see: I’ve already acknowledged your point about the potentially misleading comment about Bina’s prices, tried to clear the air about that. I’ve underlined the obvious distinction between reporting and commentary; that seems to be bouncing off, too. I point to thousands of Chowhound discussions over a period of years where hundreds of Chowhounds routinely (often vehemently) disagree with me; you cite one post with three compliments on my professional food writing. Suggesting that I would try to speak for Chowhounds is similarly obtuse; I’m saying that you can’t make online opinions go away simply because you disagree with them (a point I thought was thuddingly obvious, too.)

    But let me apologize for insinuating that you’re some kind of raving, spittle-flecked thickwit. It’s impolite to say aloud, and is effectively the kind of ad hominem attack that comprises most of your argument. Shame on me for stooping to pig-wrestling: I should have let your grade-school insults and gnawing over minutiae speak for themselves. But your most revealing comment is your sneering dismissal of the question of value in restaurants. You’re right: it’s a hobbyhorse of mine, also absolutely fundamental to Chowhound, also something most sensible diners consider even in better economic times. I won’t ever get tired of that one, and I now wonder what on earth I’m doing bandying words with someone who would ridicule that idea.

  • Amy Traverso

    I don’t want to wade too deep into this fray, but I will own up to my own confusion about the use of the term “osteria” by quoting our October ’08 “To Eat List” (written by yours truly):

    “WHAT Bina Osteria/Bina Alimentari, a new Italian resto and market from Azita Bina-Seibel and Babak Bina, the sister-brother team behind Lala Rokh and Bin 26 Enoteca.
    WHY The concept is casual and neighborly (in Italy, an osteria is a wine tavern), and for all its touted “revitalization,” Downtown Crossing’s still short on worthy grub.
    WHERE 581 Washington St., Boston, 617-956-0888, binaboston.com.”

    Like many, I assumed, wrongly, that Bina would be more of a mid-priced restaurant. I now understand that the owners chose the word to evoke a feeling of relaxed comfort and warmth, rather than promising a literal recreation of an Italian tavern.

    In any case, Bina is certainly not the most expensive restaurant in Boston — in fact, the prices are similar to those of another American “osteria” — Marc Vetri’s (hey!) Osteria in Philadelphia (http://www.osteriaphilly.com/menu/). However, there is one key difference: Although entrees top out at $35, the smaller portions are meant as part of a three-course meal (not including dessert), making a “full” meal at Bina slightly pricier than, say, Hamersley’s. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t order less expensively, or that Bina isn’t priced as it should be, given the setting and the quality.

    So, in summary, yes, “osteria” was a bit confusing at first, but now we get it. A full meal can cost a lot, but so can a meal at No. 9 Park or Aujourd’hui. And I think we all want to see Bina succeed.

  • Baskerville

    Slim hound- Nothing’s ‘bouncing off’ at all. It’s apparent that you’re not pleased that you’ve been exposed, and I understand why. Your comment wasn’t “potentially misleading,” it WAS misleading. You should have exercised more thought, caution, and restraint before posting it. (Kind of like my assumption that Jolyn was a female.) You have also repeatedly downplayed and minimized the importance of your comment and its impact on your readers, and the public.

    I only cited one post where the hounds had their noses up your ass, but the sucking up is a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. I’ve read every post on the Boston board over the last 5 years, and the zeal, tone, and frequency that is used to kiss your ass and stroke your ego is juvenile.

    It’s not at all obtuse to suggest that you are trying to speak for chowhounds when you use “we.”

    I’m not trying to make online opinions go away because I disagree with them, not at all. I’m just holding you accountable. For example, your last post states that my “…most revealing comment is your sneering dismissal of the question of value in restaurants.” THIS IS THE HEART OF THE ISSUE HERE. I never dismissed the importance of discussing value when it comes to dining, and I’m not ridiculing the idea. I’m only ridiculing you, your condescending tone (“stooping”), and the stance that you’re ineptly trying to defend. You’re only hearing what you want to hear, and rationalizing away your irresponsible, knee-jerk responses. Of course everyone knows that value is a critical component in evaluating and choosing a restaurant. That’s why the article was written in the first place!! Several other variables go into the decision on where to dine as well, including location, parking, ambiance, music, service, personnel, theme, full bar vs. wine/beer, and many, many more. The meat of this discussion centered around the question in the title, “Bina Osteria: Aggressively Pricey, or Just Right?” In my opinion, in order to weigh in thoughtfully and intelligently, a poster would need to have dined at Bina, at least once (not walked by and glanced at the menu), and also have a good, current, working knowledge and experiences at similarly-priced, independent, boutique-type, restaurants in Boston. My personal list of these types of restaurants includes the likes of #9, Clio, Mistral, Sorrelina, Via Matta, L’Espalier, Rocca, Hammersley’s, Mooo…, Davio’s, and KO Prime, to name a few. I believe that if you wanted to add value to this discussion, you would have dined at Bina, and then commented on the quality, originality, and ‘value’ of the meal compared to your list of comparable entities in Boston. To throw in an outlier comment about $40+ entrees into this discussion, and make a comment about ‘eye-popping’ prices on chowhound (compared to your Osteria expectations) was irresponsible, in my opinion.

    I’m assuming that “raving, spittle-flecked thickwit” are included in your smurfspeak glossary of terms and CH neologisms…

  • MC Slim JB

    “Never wrestle with a pig; you just get filthy, and the pig enjoys it.”

    I guess I should thank you, Baskerville, for continuing to demonstrate my general contention that you’re a hyperventilating crank whose primary mode of discourse is juvenile, creepy ad hominem. But I am sorry to have given you a platform for your ludicrous distortions about local Chowhounds. Any normal person without the ax you apparently have to grind can read the Boston board and see that the cult of personality you allege is a mirage. (Go ahead, present evidence to the contrary; see if you can cherry-pick more than a handful of overt compliments about me over the past five years, out of the thousands of posts I’ve contributed to, versus the number where Chowhounds do what they actually do: express independent, contrary opinions that don’t defer to anyone, least of all paid restaurant reviewers.)

    You are an adolescent troll, and I am not going to feed you anymore.

  • Baskerville

    That’s funny slim. It’s also exceedingly lame. It’s ironic that you would “butcher” the pig quote, regardless of whether or not you were using McCormack or Shaw’s version. It’s apparent that you don’t take criticism well as evidenced by your repeated attempts to divert attention away from the original point. Your use of the term, “ad hominem” is perfect for this discussion, however misguided. Your attempt to attack me, rather than addressing the substance of the argument, is transparent. I wouldn’t have engaged you if you were a little more magnanimous and a lot less of an elitist, know-it-all, douche. Anyone who reads chowhound regularly, and is honest, knows that you have a lot of worshipers on the boards who treat you like an evangelical minister preaching the world according to slim. Suffice it to say that that I’ve seen several of your blathering, pontificating, diatribes followed by your “cult” following’s praise. One of the major problems with your ego and narcissism is that you can’t see it. Your solipsistic tone and style indicate that you actually believe that you are the authority. Maybe next time when a new poster asks for your 3 favorite restaurants in Cambridge, give them three, instead of naming 20 and trying to show the world how much you know. It really gets old. You remind me of the kid in grade school who used to raise his hand, waiving it violently every time the teacher asked a question.

    That’s enough mud-slinging for now, let’s get back on topic.

  • MC Slim JB

    I forgot to say thanks, Amy, for your comment about osterias; that was a refreshing breath of Not-The-Crazy.

    Funny story: I’m at a lunch the other day with one of my many editors to talk story ideas, and I bring up this BoMag thread: “This one guy’s saying stupid stuff about Chowhound, and I’m giving him what-for about it. Then this other dude Baskerville jumps in, and — get this — he’s emailing me and other Chowhounds his posts to make sure we read them, because, you know, what normal person follows comments on a BoMag blog entry from last December? Not sure what made him an MC hater – failed food writer, waiter who blames me for getting him fired from somewhere, who knows? Anyway, I’m having fun arguing with him about the rights of individuals to call expensive restaurants expensive.”

    My editor shakes his head. “I’ve been in that spot before, MC, and you really shouldn’t do that. You can’t expect nutbags to engage in a nuanced, rational discussion. All they care about is the attention — it’s like oxygen to them. You’re just feeding some childish nobody’s delusion that someone gives a rat’s ass about what he has to say. Trust me: it doesn’t reflect well on you to be seen taunting the mentally defective online.” I just chuckle and go back to my sardine sandwich.

    But I finally connected some dots, today, Baskerville. You’re one of those posters who’s been banned from Chowhound because the moderators don’t tolerate hateful ad hominem attacks. (You sound a lot like this one guy, FrankieSandals, who was livid that his insult-based, bomb-tossing posts, so similar in their bitchy, self-absorbed Miss Thing style to yours, kept getting removed.) So of course in your mind those Chowhounds are all a bunch of jerks. Also, many of them are mindless zombies, slaves to the awesome, irresponsible power of MC. (Never mind that anyone reading the board for a few days would see this as patently ridiculous.) That’s why you’re here haranguing and insulting and emailing Chowhound regulars with your teensy, obsessive little grudge-match; those meanies booted you out of their clubhouse.

    To my editor: sorry, boss, you were right about this one. I owe you a cocktail. Let’s do it at the bar at Bina. $12 a pop, pricier than you might expect, but totally worth it.

  • fortfitou

    WOW!! This is great back and forth!! I am a resident of the (Bina) neighborhood, and a fond supporter so I have been following this quite intently. It’s entertaining to say the least. While I do have to say Baskerville does seem heated and angry yet, made his point that he is not “connected” to the restaurant, he may have an axe to grind with you Slim. So be it. As you mentioned, a succesful journalist (I presume) should never debate his angst ridden haters, as one of your many editors has so correctly instructed you.

    The overall message that I got from reading this originally was the $40 entree comment pertained to the aformentioned restaurant. That was how I read it, and I have been there. And apparently Baskervilles message wasn’t clear (or maybe it was hard to hear over his screaming)because you then go on in your last post to comment about $12 cocktails. While I have consumed well over many a $12 cocktail at Bina, it was my own doing. There entire specialty cocktail list is $10. While $12 may not be unreasonable in most places at this same level, it’s not impossible to spend less. You again report incorrectly, and as Baskerville (may he soon go away) states in a more threatening tone this same fact, I believe it is worth chiming in to note this so as not to sway others.

  • Baskerville

    slim- Thanks for the “Miss Thing” reference. My partner especially, got a good laugh from it. Just for the record, never a food writer, waiter, or chowhound poster. I read all the sites, have managed and owned restaurants, and enjoy dining out. I have a lot of respect for several chowhound posters, and have enjoyed their helpful commentary.

    slim: “I’m at lunch the other day with one of my MANY editors…” That’s funny. If it wasn’t an attempt at humor, it’s even funnier and solidifies my point about your pretense.

    True story: I was in the North End the other night and ran into a principal of one of Boston’s restaurant groups who reads all of the restaurant boards and knows you by sight. We were laughing about this exchange and he said, “He is the quintessential douche bag. He’s one of the most pretentious, high-maintenance, assholes I’ve ever met. It’s obvious that he keeps trying to change the subject because he hasn’t eaten at Bina, he’s wrong, and he got caught.” Amen.

  • fortfitou

    In fact I was there last night. All of the cocktails, with the exception of one, which I believe they just added (grappa fizz) is $10. The grappa fiz is the only $12 cocktail of the 10 of their printed specialty cocktails. The Paddy Wagon is $10

  • MC Slim JB

    Forfitou, I’m looking at the receipt from one of my dinners at Bina, at I’m getting charged $12 for what I know is one of the specialty cocktails (Paddy Wagon, if memory serves). Is it possible that they raised the prices since you last looked?

  • MC Slim JB

    Ha, I got overcharged, then! It’s listed as a “Tanq martini”, and I have only ordered specialty cocktails there. It’s a decent list, creative, not too much vodka, a few spirits I hadn’t seen before, some unusual amari.

  • bina581

    hi… i am a member of the bina team and i had to interject. a “tanq martini” does not exist. we unfortunately do not serve tanqueray nor is there a drink called a “tanq martini”. MC Slim JB, If you were charged for such, we would be more than happy to reimburse you for being charged incorrectly.

  • MC Slim JB

    Can’t believe I overlooked another cheap-shot post here! Of course, this could be just another fable from the sweaty brow of Baskerville, but I half-believe that story: critics always have restaurateurs who hate and say nasty things about them. But I wonder: what critic trying to maintain an anonymous low profile would call attention to themselves by being high-maintenance? What person who’s worked in the industry and knows what sometimes happens to the food of asshole customers would behave that way? Just wondering.

  • bina581

    hi… i am a member of the bina team and i had to interject. a “tanq martini” does not exist. we unfortunately do not serve tanqueray nor is there a drink called a “tanq martini”. MC Slim JB, If you were charged for such, we would be more than happy to reimburse you for being charged incorrectly.

  • MC Slim JB

    Thanks, Bina; I appreciate the follow-up. I can fax you the receipt if you want to verify that it’s possible for your system to charge a customer thus. I’m not worried about a $2 overcharge; just hope you understand how I could think your specialty cocktails cost $12.

  • bina581

    By no means necessary to fax the receipt MC Slim JB!This was a follow up to correct any errors (minor or major) that you may have encountered in your experience with us and that upon a return visit we can rectify that.

  • Server Sam

    “What person who’s worked in the industry and knows what sometimes happens to the food of asshole customers would behave that way? Just wondering.”

    A pompous douche.

  • MC Slim JB

    Not only an unoriginal taunt, Server Sam, but one that completely misses my point.

  • Baskerville

    Anyone reading your verbal diarrhea in this thread, then listening to your “electronically disguised” voice during the WFNX interview linked in your new blog (what a joke), knows that you are a pretentious douche bag. You can’t see it because you’re living it. You are immersed in this fictious “MC” character, with such an obnoxious inflated image of yourself. Every industry worker, invester and owner who knows you and reads your posts on chowhound thinks you’re a know-it-all douche bag. It’s futile to argue or attempt to divert the discussion away from that point. It is fact. Try a little experiment, and ask servers what they think of “MC” on chowhound. You’re in for a rude awakening. I’ve done it many times, and the concensus is that the DB moniker is a common refrain.

  • MC Slim JB

    Some restaurateurs take public criticism (professional and amateur) as a useful input into what their doing. Others would rather respond by dismissing their critics out of hand as “pompous douchebags” and the like. It’s easier and cheaper than actually fixing middling food or substandard service.

    Critics are inured to the idea that bitchy third-hand slurs just come with the territory. Meanwhile, smart restaurant owners find value in criticism (whether from professionals or amateurs on sites like Chowhound and Yelp); they listen and use it to improve their product. Others are impervious to criticism: if you can’t see how awesome they are, then you just don’t get it. I get harangued by the second type by email pretty regularly, and I increasingly see their proxies masquerading as ordinary posters on public forums like Chowhound and this one to attack their critics.

    Creepy, stalkerish types like Baskerville are probably just sock puppets for restaurants of that second type, but who knows? Maybe, as my editor suggested, they’re just sad sacks who crave attention of any kind, however negative. What makes it easy for me to ignore the online cranks and bagmen are the industry folks and consumers who reach out to me regularly to tell me they respect my food writing and think I’m fair, even if they don’t always agree with me.

    Good restaurateurs don’t fear their critics. And readers will make their own judgments: if the critic steers them right, they trust them; if not, they don’t. Most are sophisticated enough to see ad hominem attacks for what they are: the surest sign that the attacker really has Got Nothing.

  • Server Sam

    Blah, Blah, blah…

    slim- Of course you take more stock in your ego strokers than your critics. That’s why you’re in this game. It’s so transparent.

  • MC Slim JB

    It takes a special kind of fool to conflate “respectful disagreement” with “ego-stroking” — the same kind who creates a second online persona and doesn’t change a whit of their voice or style or line of attack. That’s something you could call transparent.

  • Server Sam

    Blah, Blah, blah… conflate this.

    It takes a special kind of egotist to be all that is “MC Slim JB,” including the electronically disguised voice in the radio interview. That was one of the best laughs I’ve had in a while. It’s hilarious that you actually think it was important to disguise your voice.

    Your reviews would be a lot easier to like if you didn’t love yourself so much. Some of the content is great, but the whole package is too hard to root for. The disguised voice just takes the cake.

    More blabbering blowhard bullshit.

  • MC Slim JB

    Got it, Server Sam Who Is Also Baskerville: I’ll put you down in the category of “qualified fan”. And thanks for drawing attention to the blog. Doing that FNX interview was a blast, even if the content was just recapping stuff that was already in the Phoenix feature that I had just done on neighborhood restaurants. Maybe I should do a blog post on the concept of a pen name and why a food writer might attempt to protect their anonymity. You know, for the slow learners.

  • Baskerville

    Give him a gold star for deductive reasoning. Can I also count on you to bring the potatoe salad to the Mensa picnic? Your capacity to block out anything you’re in denial about is a clinical case study. Even the “slow learners” (beneath you of course) understand the premise of pen names and why a food writer would want to attempt to protect their anonymity. It’s comical that in your case, with your inflated ego, that you think the stakes are so high that you need to disguise your voice. I’d bet good money that Mat Schaffer doesn’t disguise his voice when he’s in a restaurant, despite his frequent radio gigs. A simple google search will reveal photos and/or radio and tv interviews with Corby Kummer, Charles Mokriski, and even Frank Bruni and J Gold, without “electronically disguised” voices.

  • MC Slim JB

    The only slow learner I was referring to was Baskerville, someone desperate enough to diffuse the whiff of The Unhinged that they’d pose as a server. Not enough Axe in the world to cover that one.

    Actually, Bruni and Gold both take pains not to be photographed or reveal their visits in advance, though photos and unmodulated sound interviews do exist. Most industry folks I’ve spoken to on the subject are frankly amazed that Kummer and Mokriski don’t take greater pains to conceal their identities and presence at restaurants. Schaffer works at it, and is known to demonstrate pique when he senses he’s been spotted. I’m not sure how well Devra or Nadeau are known.

    As for the voice change, the FNX folks loved that idea and ran with it partly because the effect was so comical and disturbing. It is an odd thing to experience: you can’t listen to your voice on headphones or your natural voice lowers to try to mimic the processed sound. Freaky.

  • fortfitou

    mc slim jb… seems as though you have been exposed. baskerville aka server sam or whoever he may be (and as unraveled as he has become) has got you. really? i was watching the movie ransom today and when the scenes came up when gary sinise’s character used the same tool you did to diguise his voice, i couldn’t help laugh. so what if kummer doesn’t hide himeself. mokiriski the same… but the whole voice thing? come off it… it’s laughable. what restauranteur that you refer to is actually listening to your voice on the radio to match it up with the thousands (hopefully) who visit their places each week. you have got to be way self absorbed to realize this. please admit this was overkill and not blame the FNX characters for putting you up to this…. if so, good for them!

  • Server Sam

    Slim- Just admit you’re out of bullets. Someone finally called you out for the condescending, elitist douche bag that you are. Some lemmings worship you, and there are true-blue industry folks who know you for the up-tight, perfect pocket-square blue blazer douche that you are. I’ll cite JG as a perfect example. The charade is over. You’ve been exposed, and your pathetic responses prove it.

    You forgot to mention that YOU suggested and authorized the “electronically disguised” voice on WFNX.

  • MC Slim JB

    Which one are you again? The Baskerville that’s not connected to the industry, or his alter ego Server Sam who imagines he is? Or a flunkie for some restaurant I once said something unkind about? It’s hard to keep track of that particular charade. Let’s just call you the Guy That Responds to Everything With Sputtering, Red-Faced Venom.

    It’s a little unnerving, because just a little while ago you almost said something nice about me. And the grade-school insults: so little imagination. If ad hominem is the one rhetorical tool in your kit (a comically overinflated sense of your own importance doesn’t count), couldn’t you at least mix it up once in a while? I think having an Internet comments stalker who only knows the phrase “douche bag” kind of reflects badly on me.

  • Baskerville

    slim hound- “The quintessential douche bag” captures you best, but you missed a few other insults about you and your comments within this thread;

    - pathetic
    - amateur
    - misleading
    - irresponsible
    - evasive
    - inaccurate
    - inappropriate
    - presumptuous
    - hound
    - “lead dog”
    - speculator
    - high-maintenance
    - asshole
    - back-peddling nitpicker
    - obnoxious
    - egocentric
    - pontificator
    - inflated image
    - in denial
    - misleading
    - condescending
    - inept
    - lame
    - egotist
    - elitist
    - know-it-all
    - blatherer
    - narcissist
    - solipsistic
    - “authority”
    - pretentious

    And for good measure, here’s one that you should shoot for, magnanimous. You’d be so much easier to root for. Such a wasted talent otherwise.

  • MC Slim JB

    Ah, the Internet: a place where you can get psychoanalyzed by attention-starved, stalkerish creeps, given the pulse of the “true-blue industry” by pretend waiters, and enjoy banter lifted from the middle-school playground, with witty ripostes like “blah blah blah” and “you’re a douchebag”. So endlessly entertaining, and free to boot! It gives so much, asks so little, and any lonely nutbag with a keyboard and a squeegee to wipe the spittle from their screen can contribute! Thanks, Internet!

  • Baskerville

    Ah, the internet: a place where bloviating blowhards can blather incessantly. A place where anyone can set up a blog to showcase their drivel, including their “electronically disguised” voice to “protect their anonymity.” The almighty has probably already considered this, but if not, you could go onto the internet and change the name of your blog to, “All About ME.”