Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Madame Secretary and the Pub

I happened to be strolling through Harvard Square one sunny early evening in the Spring and as I passed the Grafton Street Pub and Grill I looked over and noticed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sitting outside with a group of people dining alfresco. She must have been attending Harvard graduation I thought. I had just read her autobiography and loved her account of the realities of diplomacy but what really struck me that day was that I'd been saying for years that I'd wanted to try Grafton Street and had never gotten around to it. So recently I did.

No one could ever accuse this place of being haute cuisine and it's not intended to be anything other than good pub food. It's a popular spot in Harvard Square due, in part, to its location and attracts a loyal following of regulars who dine out regularly on gastropub food. It always amazes me how some people dine out five or six nights a week at these places, cooking at home as rarely as possible. I can't seem to go more than two, maybe three, nights before I crave my own kitchen no matter how great the food is. Some people, however, just never cook.

Now my reviews of all restaurants are all mini-reviews, just meant to give you an overview and flavor of the place. A proper review would include a minimum of three visits and sample several appetizers, entrees, desserts and drinks. Unfortunately I don't have a huge team of foodies working for me or the budget to hire them. In any case, I chose the fish and chip with mashed peas, which instantly brought back memories of London. Mashed peas, or mushy peas as they say, are the most popular side dish for fish and chip across the pond.

The first thing that bothered me as we sat down to peruse the menu was the loud banging noise coming from the other side of the dining room, which continued during our entire dinner. If I were Manager I'd have none of that. Any repairs or construction would be done during the off hours. It was annoying. Other than that, the atmosphere was what you'd expect. A homey place filled with mostly locals who seemed to be regulars. Many people were dining alone, indicating that they are "SNC" (single non cookers). And that about sums up what you can expect. It's a local place that you go for a bite and a drink when you don't want to go home alone. The food was decent, not stellar, and the service was spotty. After waiting forever for our check we finally just left the money and walked out. NOT a good sign for those dining there for the first time, or anyone else but a die hard who lives in the neighborhood.

Of all the choices in Harvard Square I have to be honest and say if friends asked me to go back or meet them there I would suggest somewhere else. There was nothing really to go back for. I wonder what Madeleine would say?

Grafton Street Pub and Grill
1230 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

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