Perhaps I'm growing increasingly jaded in my old age, or maybe its just poor decision making in restaurant selections, but I just feel more and more like I'm having less than favorable things to say about recent dining experiences. In the case of Mt. Washington Tavern, it was a downright poor experience.
I have been to Mt. Washington Tavern on several occasions to meet friends for a few drinks at happy hour, maybe nibble on some bar snacks. Everything has always been at the very least serviceable. So when some friends came up from out of town and the tavern was brought up as a group dinner option. I figured why not. A perusal of the website before our night out didn't show anything particularly exciting, but nothing that a restaurant of 31 years should be able to screw up too badly either.
To start off with the pleasant, our reservation of eight was greeted politely and seated quickly. Our server was prompt, pleasant, and accommodating throughout the entire meal. The ambiance of the dining room was quite inviting, and the noise level wasn't invasive at all, though it was quite sparsely populated for 7pm on a Saturday night.
Then there is the not so pleasant, the food. I don't know if this is an owner leading a kitchen staff astray, or a kitchen that thinks its smarter than it is. The offerings are uninspired, way overpriced, and in some cases even just flat out incorrect. Tuna Tartar is described as "rare sushi grade tuna with sesame, over endive" - lets stop right there. So you are cooking a tartar.....interesting. I then inquired about the Fruits De Mer "Pan-Roasted Jumbo Gulf Shrimp,Day Boat Scallops, Littleneck Clams, and Rockfish in a Light Tomato Broth with Garlic Crostinis." The menu description was a little odd, and the server confirmed my suspicions. This Fruits De Mer is served as a hot entrée.......hmmm. Great dish? Perhaps. I'll never know because I wouldn't order a dish that is tagged as something that it isn't.
Ok, so enough of what I didn't have, what did I actually eat? I opted for the Steak Frites, medium rare, figuring it was a safe option. Rather than the more traditional flat iron, this offering was with a NY Strip covered with a "wild mushroom demi-glace" (someones being too clever) "and served with either sweet potato fries or roasted red potatoes." I ordered it with regular fries because it is listed on the menu as STEAK FRITES. All of the steaks at Mt. Washington Tavern are described on the menu as "Aged USDA Beef Selections," whatever the hell that means. Dry aged? Wet-aged? Sat out for week in the trunk of a car? Who knows?!! What I was served was without doubt, the worst steak I have ever had in a restaurant. This piece of beef had either been frozen and then quick thawed, or had been sitting unused for a very long time(perhaps this is where the aging part comes in) until it became oxidized to death. The cowhide slapped on my plate was so tough that I actually chewed one bite for several minutes to no avail, then tried to just hunk it down in one large swallow. This resulted in about 30 breathless seconds before I finally dislodged it from my throat. YUM!
A friend across the table didn't fare much better with The Tavern Steak. This, a pepper encrusted piece of leather, served with crispy onions and cheddar grits. The grits were like a molded ball of Playdough. Tough and tasteless rather than rich and creamy. I did try a bite of one of the Artisan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Which was decent enough. I would have been amazed if they managed to screw a grilled cheese sandwich up.
Want a nice place to stop by for a pint after work? Go for it. If you are looking solely for decent ambiance and good service. This is your place. Want good food? Get the hell out of Mt. Washington Tavern.