In general, I skip a chain restaurant and prefer to go to a small, local independent restaurant whether I’m at home or in traveling to another city. With social media sources for information such as Yelp, Chowhound,
Urbanspoon Zomato, my Facebook feed full of food loving folks, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, I can get a good sense of a local spot without having to live in a particular city so seeking out local gems isn’t that difficult. Recently, in the South End Barcelona Wine Bar opened and my daughter and I have been thinking about trying it, but then I read that it was part of a group of restaurants; what I would consider a small chain of restaurants. In the South End there are tons of options for local independent dining so we decided to skip Barcelona Wine Bar. I had been to Toro, The Butcher Shop, B&G Oysters, among other restaurants located right next to Barcelona Wine Bar, and dream about the food at each of those places, so Barcelona Wine Bar was just going to have to wait. It was the ever-present food blogger dilemma of too many good bites on this side of town and too few meals in a day (not to mention budget).
A year or so ago, the kids and I found ourselves at Chuck E. Cheese’s (an unfortunate situation but as many parents understand its an occasional necessity). After Chuck E. Cheese’s we usually go to HMart for dinner, but for whatever reason we decided not to and instead we raced across the parking lot in the pouring rain and escaped into try Papa Razzi. Papa Razzi is another chain that I first saw because I remember always passing this restaurant along Route 2 as we drove to Vermont year after year. I’d seen the chain here and there and I have to admit I thought it was like a Bertucci’s or a standard pizza joint.
In both these cases, my assumptions were turned on their head.
I decided giving Barcelona Wine Bar a chance after a local chef mentioned to me that they actually do a good job finding a chef and give their chef a certain amount of control over the menu. I made reservations and dined with three fabulous food loving bloggers (A Beautiful Bite, Capability Mom and KimWorld). Our reservations were for 6:30 and I believe we left at 10:00 our bellies filled with fabulous foods and having had a wonderful time all around. I will still go to Toro and PICCO and Coppa and my favourite local spots, but what I like about Barcelona Wine Bar is convenience, and the price. Barcelona Wine Bar is a much larger restaurant than many other South End spots so the wait may not always be as long as elsewhre. Price-wise, because Barcelona Wine Bar is a mid-sized, well-established chain, they have the advantage of business experience and being able to purchase beautiful product for all the restaurants at once which may help with cost. Most of the dishes we ordered were fabulous. There were a few little misses. The Paella wasn’t perfect, but it was still delicious. The shocker at the end of the evening was the bill (much less than expected). We actually had to double check it because we were sure some items we had ordered were left off the tally. I cannot wait to go back again, and I’ll definitely keep it in mind when I’m meeting a group for dinner that can’t be accommodated at some of the smaller restaurants nearby.
And now for something completely different… Papa Razzi, which apparently was known for it’s fine dining look and white table cloths is actually nothing like a Bertucci’s or a pizza joint like I asssumed. My kids and I stopped in for lunch/brunch and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the service we experienced. It was a meal we all really enjoyed. I was recently invited to Papa Razzi to celebrate the launch of their new “Metro” look and vibe.
The white table cloths are gone (I’m not missing them but I hear people who have been going to Papa Razzi for years are having a little trouble adjusting) but the food is still excellent. The more casual environment isn’t reflected in the food, even if you’re popping in for their weekday power lunch.
What I really liked about Papa Razzi was that, once again, it is a larger space and the food is reasonably priced. I take my children to fine dining, tiny restaurants I take my daughter to tiny, high end, local restaurants because she dines well there, she appreciates the food and she can handle the setting. My son on the other hand is not as comfortable in that type of setting. At a restaurant like Papa Razzi, I can have good food and the children have options they like as well. I don’t feel like I’m wasting money on poorly microwaved food served on a fancy looking plate. Instead, I’m getting freshly prepared food and being served by a staff that seems happy to be doing what they do ( you can’t usually fake this stuff and that says a lot about the company to me.)
What have I learned? Don’t judge a book by its cover…or rather don’t judge a restaurant because it is a chain.