Boston Restaurant Blog -- May, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
When reviewing a restaurant, it is never a good idea to say "I really wanted to like the place" after going there, as it implies a lack of objectivity (and yes, I've been guilty of saying this a couple of times in the past). But a restaurant we checked out a few nights ago almost had me saying just that, as it appeared to be the type of spot that tends to make me love doing what I do. Indeed, being a lover of old-school, unpretentious townie places that are completely off the radar (and in this case I do mean completely), I almost found myself rooting for George's Cafe in Brockton while there, but in the end, this working-class Italian eatery didn't quite measure up, mainly because the food seemed rather average for the most part.
George's Cafe is a very old restaurant, first opening its doors to the public more than 70 years ago, according to their website. In fact, it is the oldest family-owned restaurant in this gritty industrial city south of Boston, which is saying a lot, because there are definitely some old dining spots scattered throughout Brockton, including the Greek restaurant Christo's on the other side of the city. George's Cafe is a sprawling place, with several rooms and two bars, with a small cozy section by the back door that has the feel of an old Italian espresso bar or cafe. The restaurant is rather dark and cave-like in spots, with beamed ceilings, wood-paneled walls, classic old ceiling fan lights, and carpeting that looks like it has seen its share of spilled beer and tomato sauce. Also, there are more than a few picture of local boxing legend Rocky Marciano on the walls, as Marciano was apparently a bit of a regular here. The overall vibe is not unlike The Chateau in Waltham, Villa Rosa in Quincy, Greg's in Watertown, or perhaps the original Mount Vernon restaurant in Somerville, even though the latter is by no means an Italian spot.
We arrived at George's Cafe during the height of dinnertime on our recent trip to the place, being seated at a booth in the room directly facing the back door. Our server (who was friendly, funny, and top-notch throughout) brought us a couple of beers and some decent rolls, then took our order, soon bringing out a cup of Italian meatball soup and a tossed salad. The soup was very salty but the tiny meatballs were delicious and textured nicely, and the inclusion of acini di pepe (tiny little pasta pearls) acted almost like a thickener for the soup. The salad was pretty basic, but the Italian dressing was quite good, with a real tanginess that added a nice zing to the salad. Our meals came out just as we finished the soup and salad, with neither dish being particularly inspiring. The steak tips Italiano came with steak sauce, which was good because the tips had little taste and weren't particularly tender. Not much better was the lasagna with meatballs, as parts of the pasta were dry and crunchy, and the sauce was rather watery and bland. As for the meatballs themselves, they were extremely dense and the meat was smoothly ground, giving the meatball little texture, while the herbs and spices mixed in didn't really stand out enough to add a boost to the taste. Toward the end of dinner, we had another round of drinks, including a Rob Roy that had a perfect balance of scotch, bitters, and vermouth, and a rather generous serving of ouzo. Prices were generally quite reasonable at George's Cafe, service (as mentioned earlier) was excellent, and the parking lot out back seemed a nice touch, especially for those of us who live near Boston and don't generally see many restaurant parking lots.
Overall, I had mixed feelings for George's Cafe; it is certainly the type of old-fashioned neighborhood eatery that I tend to love (and is the type of spot that is becoming increasingly difficult to find) and the service and prices were big pluses. But the dinner entrees just didn't seem to measure up, which makes me think that perhaps it would be best to return here for drinks and perhaps a burger or pizza at some point, soaking up the classic atmosphere while going the simple route, food-wise.
For those who want the address and phone number for George's Cafe, here it is: George's Cafe, 228 Belmont Street, Brockton, MA, 02301. The phone number is (508) 588-4231.
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