Restaurant Rant: Not a Grain Bowl

Allegedly a grain bowl.

Am I insane for thinking that a grain bowl should have a decent proportion of, uh, grain?

I went out to dinner with friends on Saturday night to a Dorchester neighborhood bar and restaurant. I’m not going to name it, because I don’t like trashing places. The one time that I did, they kept contacting me to go back so they could make it up to me. I didn’t want to go back and the whole thing was very uncomfortable. Lesson learned.

But this has been sitting on my mind and bothering me for days now. The only way to get it out of my system is to write it out of me.

Looking at this dish pictured above, does this look like a grain bowl to you? It does not to me. It’s a green salad masquerading as a grain bowl. I know it’s almost Halloween, but I didn’t plan on getting tricked by my meal!

When I read the menu it seemed pretty straightforward. Here it is below from the website with slight descriptive edits.

“Grain Bowl: couscous, chickpeas, baby kale, feta cheese, cucumber, cherry tomato, Kalamata olives, pickled red onion, and tahini dressing with pan roasted salmon.”

The salmon was an extra that I added on, so the whole meal was $26.00. Not cheap, but a fairly typical price for dinner.

As someone who cooks a lot at home, I’m always very hopeful that what I have at a restaurant is way better or at least as good as what I could have prepared myself.

Based on the menu description, I expected that at the very least, a quarter to third of the dish would be grains and chickpeas. I often make this type of dish at home. I love harvest bowls! There was literally just a dusting of couscous and very few chickpeas underneath the greens. It was basically all greens.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had some not great meals at restaurants, so I haven’t written about them. But this just seemed ridiculous.

Overall, the meal was good. This green salad was good. It’s just not what I ordered and not what was described on the menu. I even told our server. She asked to take it back, but I said that a side of couscous would be fine. I expected to get a fairly generous portion. Maybe a half a cup? Instead, I received about a quarter cup, if that.

I was shocked. Did they run out of couscous? Rationing chickpeas? Was it a new cook who didn’t know what a grain bowl was and didn’t see the menu description? Good lord why?!

The place had a nice ambience, our server was very attentive and friendly, so I separated my thoughts about the meal from her tip. It wasn’t her fault.

I was so looking forward to a night out with friends. And the three of us had somehow managed to arrange this dinner at the last minute. It was like a miracle! I hadn’t seen them in a while and the most important part was our gathering together. With all that’s happening in the world, the news breaks our hearts a little more everyday.

But my sadness won’t make things any better. So it’s especially important to enjoy my loved ones while I can.

In the greater scheme of life, this grain bowl fiasco could not be more trivial. But the restaurant industry takes the customers as they find them and I was looking for at least what I had seen on the menu.

Crow’s Landing Restaurant in Hingham

Most of my life I’ve lived on the South Shore. It feels familiar. Like home.

Living in Quincy, I’m close to some great South Shore towns — like Hingham. Which is where a friend and I went for brunch a couple of weeks ago at a restaurant called Crow’s Landing.

I was invited to try a meal and was happy that I got to bring a friend. J and I grew up in the same town and our families have been friends forever. So it was nice to catch up over a meal and talk about things from back in the day and what we’re both up to now. She started out with a nice glass of wine.

It was a rainy cold day, but Crow’s Landing has a cozy welcoming atmosphere, so we were both glad that we had ventured out. The art on the walls is warm and colorful, adding to the comfortable feeling.

It was J’s first time trying the salmon burger and she said that it was a hit! I had the classic breakfast.

My thoughts always quickly turn to dessert, so I was very happy to try the vanilla bean crème brulee! Very hard sugar crust on top and such creamy goodness underneath.

J had the warm soft chocolate cake. She said that it was super chocolaty! I love the creativity of the plating. Like a work of art!

If you’re in the Hingham area and you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, head over to Crow’s Landing for a cozy local eatery.

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Disclosure: The two meals were complimentary. Thank you Crow’s Landing!

Birthday Dinner at Back Bay Social on Boylston Street

Birthday cake with a candle.

This post has been a long time coming. Especially since my birthday was in September. But I wanted to make sure that I blogged this dinner and restaurant.

Two friends and one of my cousins met me after work for dinner at Back Bay Social in Boston. We had a really nice time and loved the food. A million times I passed this place and assumed it was a private club, so I ignored it.

For some reason, in my head, I added the word “club” to the end of the name. Or maybe it was there before? I have no idea. I’ve spoken to others who thought the same though, so it’s not just me.

When I was planning our dinner and I looking for places near the Prudential Center, I started looking more closely. After researching, I found that Back Bay Social is a regular restaurant and not a club. Plus, they are famous for their chicken and waffles! Who knew?

In all my years on this earth, I had never had chicken and waffles and was starting to feel it was a deficit that needed to be remedied.

My birthday dinner of chicken and waffles.

Ta da! I tried it!

Chicken and waffles do go together. The first time I heard about it, decades ago, it seemed a bit odd, but I was intrigued. This combination has lasted and only seems to become more popular with time.

I was also treated to slice of birthday cake — their orange blossom cake. Yum!

The restaurant has outdoor seating during the warm weather months and we were seated outside. It was one of those warm end of the summer nights. Celebrating with some of my favorite people. It was a really good birthday.

Lunch at VERTS Mediterranean Grill in Copley Square

Lunch to go from VERTS Mediterranean Grill.

This was my lunch today! I had a chicken quinoa bowl from VERTS Mediterranean Grill. It was quite good and I have some leftovers for lunch tomorrow too.

I took my food to go and brought it back to my office, but took the picture while I was still in the restaurant. While I didn’t eat inside, the space is open and airy, plus there is outdoor seating as well.

VERTS is similar to other places like b.good, where you get a bowl and decide what you want in it. They have a menu that you can choose from or you can build your own bowl.

I love this concept, because it’s a really healthy way to eat. You get a lot of vegetables, protein and a healthy carb.

The only off thing was the utensils. They only have forks — no knives or spoons. A bit odd, but maybe it’s an oversight that they’re working on correcting.

Outdoor seating for lunch outside at VERTS.

VERTS has greatly expanded in Boston over the past year and they now have three locations — this one on Boylston Street, one on Summer Street and one on Washington Street too. If there is one close to you, definitely check them out!

As I wrote about VERTS before, they are based out of Texas, with several locations in Austin, Dallas and a Houston location as well.

With all the devastating news we’re hearing about Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out to everyone impacted. The stories are unimaginable. I hope that everyone in all their Texas locations are safe and weathering the storm.

*Updated 7/30/2020* It appears that VERTS may have closed and is possibly under new management.

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Disclosure: Food was compliments of VERTS. Thank you!

Hey Boston! Free Food on November 4th at VERTS Mediterranean Grill!


If you’re looking for some free food, then you may want to check out a restaurant that’s new to Boston.

VERTS Mediterranean Grill, which is based in Austin, Texas, is expanding north and opening a new location at 95 Summer Street this Friday, November 4th.

I learned about VERTS from reading two blog posts. Boston area food bloggers, Georgina of A Noted Life and Tina of Carrots ‘N’ Cake were both invited to Austin and wrote about their trip and the new Boston location.  The details of the free food are below.

After opening 34 restaurants in Texas, we’ve finally made it up north. And we can’t wait for you to try our fresh, customizable Mediterranean fare.

Our doors open at 95 Summer St. on November 4th and we’ll be giving away free entrées all day: pitas, salads, and bowls. All loaded up to your liking with your choice of protein (beef + lamb, chicken, pork, beef meatballs, falafel), toppings (sumac onions, pickled jalapeños, quinoa tabbouleh, grilled veggies, and feta, among others), and our delicious sauces. Try the tzatziki. Then try to spell it.

Our flavors will transport you to the Mediterranean. Until you look outside and see that it’s snowing. We hear it does that here.

The first 200 people in the door will leave with a bag of VERTS goodies: gift cards, recipes, and swag, so stop by early.

If I get a chance, I may make my way over there and try some food myself. I love Mediterranean food and can always use a free lunch!

*Updated 7/30/2020* It seems that VERTS has closed and may be under different ownership.

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Image: VERTS Mediterranean Grill Facebook Page