There may be something I am missing. Or, maybe it is the other people who are missing it, or them, rather.
What am I talking about?
Since Chris and I moved to Medford we have been searching for good restaurants. When we lived in Portland eating out was a common activity, a hobby you might say. And it was a delightful hobby to have… in Portland. There are thousands of restaurants, eateries, pubs, hole-in-the-wall places and food carts to choose from. Any kind of food you want, you can probably find a decent to absolutely delicious place to eat it. Not so much here in the bustling metropolis of Medford.
Yesterday was Chris’ birthday. Like many, we tend to celebrate by going out. We decided to try a local restaurant that has literally received rave reviews. They have received accolades from various local newspapers as “Best of Medford” for years! Best steaks, best wait staff, best bar, best restaurant and in 2010 best retailer. The most recent edition of the “Sneak Preview” a local paper that has an annual “best of” survey for all different local things including parks, businesses, hairdressers, doctors, restaurants and more, listed this restaurant as the “best place to take out of town guests”. Huh. I would only take out of town guests here if I wanted them to never come back!
We did not have a good experience.
The restaurant is called Porter’s. It is a renovated train depot. It has the idea of a great fine dining restaurant, that should have a fun atmosphere, but the idea is lost in the translation of implementation. Our reservation was for 6:30 pm, smack in the middle of the dinner hour. It was very loud. We were seated at a two-top table along the edge of one of the dining rooms. A long bench ran down the length of the room with tables situated about 12” apart from each other and chairs on the outer side. Literally, there was hardly room for a person between tables, which meant that most of our attempt at conversation with each other was drowned out by the conversation of the foursome at the table next to us.
Things we learned: She is Jewish. He is Irish. His father is Black Irish (black hair instead of red?). She has a whole lineage family-tree book. It was her birthday. They were going somewhere after dinner that had a time frame. They were drinking diet soda. They argued over who was paying the bill. They didn’t want dessert because they were too full. They decided on a lemon tart to share, but only a couple of bites were taken because it was at the same time too sweet, too tart and they were full. Mmmhmm…way too close together tables.
Our waitress, Carla, was inattentive to put it mildly. While she did ask if we had ever been there before, to which we replied no, she didn’t appear to go out of her way at all to make sure we had a successful dinner. In addition, during the reservation I had stated it was a birthday dinner. The table next to us received a free dessert due to one of their guests celebrating a birthday, but we were not even asked about the birthday, nor were we offered free dessert. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
I felt we were a little bit rushed to order our drinks. I had never been there before for dinner and wanted to look over their wine list. They also have several beers on tap and I had given the drink menu to Chris to peruse first, being it was his birthday. Our drinks ended up being ordered separately because the waitress took Chris’ beer order even though I had not decided upon a wine.
Both the beer and wine list, along with the spirits menu, offer a good selection of items. The downside is the pricing: $10 for a glass of wine, $8 for a Tricerahops, on tap. Porter’s is also known for their martinis. I did not order one, but they had several classics on the menu, but the average price was $9. I may be cheap (okay I am) but I feel that $8 or $9 for a beer or mixed drink is pushing the bounds of price range. $6 or $7 is more reasonable to me.
We ordered essentially the same dinner with a couple of minor differences. We started with the seafood chowder, which is an up-charge item. Dinner comes with soup or salad, but the chowder is not included as the soup option. When we received our small cup of chowder, it smelled quite good. It was a white, thick chowder style soup, served with oyster crackers. The downside: barely warm temperature. By that time of evening the soup should have been nice and hot; steaming. It was not. I would describe it as tepid or lukewarm. I will give props to the bread, though. It was warm and spongy sourdough and it was very tasty.
We both ordered the small cut of the Rosemary Roasted Prime Rib, which comes with choice of starch and vegetables for $19.95. A fairly reasonable price for a 6 oz cut of prime rib. The menu states that the meats are all custom cut from grain fed, specially aged beef. I don’t know where they are sourcing the meat from, but the menu does NOT say anything about USDA Prime or anything like that to signify the quality of cut. My cut was fatty and grisly. It was also cold. I ordered mine medium rare and it was reasonably accurate; Chris order medium and his looked to be about the same doneness as mine. The horseradish was more like some sour cream with a dab of horseradish for flavor. I actually salted my prime rib in the hopes to infuse SOME sort of flavor to it. Chris’ cut seemed better than mine, less fatty anyway.
We chose different sides, I ordered the garlic mashed potatoes and Chris ordered the baked potato with butter and sour cream (which was served on the side). The garlic mashed potatoes were disgusting. Truly, I didn’t know mashed potatoes could be messed up that badly. They were whipped and placed into a canister so they could be pressed out (like a cookie press) and served with the top decoratively swirled. I’m not even sure they were real potatoes. I took a couple of bites and left the rest. I also only took a few bites of the prime rib and left the rest.
The “vegetable” side was also a joke. Baby carrots (more like the remnants of baby carrots-tiny pieces, more like nubbins), some red onion, some red pepper slices (my serving had exactly one) and some zucchini. The carrots were tiny, and not cooked while the zucchini was cooked to mush. They also had no flavor.
A really dismal meal that felt like it came pre-packed to the restaurant and all they did was attempt to heat it up and put it on a plate. Add that to the fact that the waitress was inattentive, she let Chris’ beer run dry and had to be asked to bring another, never came to ask how our dinner was and upon taking my mostly uneaten dinner away did not ask how I liked it, and we had a pretty poor experience. We did not order dessert nor after dinner drinks, which we very likely would have had the experience been better.
Overall the meal was bland, cold and disappointing. The prices were too high, the wait staff uncaring, and the atmosphere loud and uninviting.
The positives were the bread and the liquor offerings, though pricing was high on those as well.
Upon leaving Chris made the following statements: “I have no desire to ever go there again.” “We could have had a better meal at Red Lobster.” “I would rather have eaten at McDonalds.” “Marie Callender's had better prime rib, and cheaper beer, too!”
I feel like I should make a prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes and vegetables and take it in to them so they can taste what a dinner like that SHOULD taste like. I would then charge them at least $19.95.
In addition to our meal being poorly crafted, the menu overall is a bit dated and lacking. The fish is mostly fried or crusted with something. When I asked the waitress what the house specialties were she told me the Parmesan Crusted Halibut had been on the menu since day one and was a very popular entrée. She also suggested the Hazelnut Encrusted Steelhead. She made no mention of the steaks, but did suggest the special sheet baby back ribs. There is no “grilled” fish on the menu. There are a handful of steaks, a couple of pasta dishes, served with heavy cream and cheese sauces, a couple of salads and a handful of starters. It seems that Porter’s menu would have been very comfortable in a fine dining establishment in 1985. They need to get with the current century and update their menu with fresher fare.
I will give them credit for claiming to use many local ingredients, including local wines, potatoes, fruits and cheeses.
Unfortunately, my taste buds are alive and well. They were assaulted by the meal I was served at Porter’s.
I’m sorry Porter’s, but you don’t rank “Best of Anything” in my book, and I certainly won’t be bringing out of town guests.
Unless they have no taste buds.