Win/Fail Fridays, Burger Edition: Yay for Capital Grille, Nay for Towne

Welcome to Win/Fail Fridays, where executive editor Donna Garlough mouths off about her latest dining-out adventures.

This week’s WIN: Splitting it up at the Capital Grille

When a burger craving hit me late last week, I took it an excuse to pop in on the shiny new Capital Grille on Boylston Street. (The longstanding location on Newbury Street is closed; much of the gorgeous interior woodwork from that space was salvaged and will be re-purposed at Saloon, a new bar in Somerville. See pics here.) Our lunch started with a minor hiccup: After being seated, we had to flag down a server as everyone assumed someone else had already taken our order. But after a kindly gent realized the mistake and apologized profusely, service hummed along fine for the rest of the meal. And when we placed our order — my companion would have the chopped salad with chilled shrimp, and I’d get the burger, cut in half, please, so we could share — he noted our plan to split the food. When the order arrived, everything was neatly divided into half -portions on separate plates, without our having to ask. While the burger wasn’t amazing — less smoky bacon flavor than I’d hoped for, and a slightly too-cold bun — it hit the spot. More important, though the attention to detail made the experience a clear win.

This week’s FAIL: In the raw at Towne

I’ve been trying to like Towne; really, I have. It’s so close to my office, there’s a nice patio in the warmer months, and I respect chef Lydia Shire’s unapologetic affection for carbs, meat, and butter. But yesterday’s lunch put this summer’s bread incident to shame.

Again craving a burger (maybe I’m iron deficient?), I headed in for the “deluxe all American bacon burger,” which I ordered medium-rare in defiance of the menu, which specifically says “rare please.” Not that it mattered; when the burger arrived, I took a bite and nearly gagged. The flavor was so funky that I was certain the meat was off. Maybe I got a bad bite, I thought, taking my chances on a bite the other side. It wasn’t nearly as bad, but something still wasn’t right. Then I cut into the center of the burger and realized it was completely raw–not just rare, but gluey, red, and wet. Needless to say, I was all done; whether or not the meat was actually past its prime, I wasn’t going to chance eating it uncooked. I clued in the server and he whisked it away, aghast, promising a replacement in short order. Fifteen minutes later said replacement arrived, and while it was cooked to medium-well — the kitchen was playing it safe, I suppose — the flavor was just as funky as the first. The manager dropped by shortly thereafter, letting us know it’d be taken off the bill and offering dessert, but we passed. Some things a dish of “xtreme chocolate pudding” just can’t fix.

Stay tuned for next week’s Win/Fail!