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Snap Review: Neighborhood Services

Over the break, I took my long-suffering mother to Neighborhood Services for what turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve had in months. We went on the Tuesday before Christmas. The place was packed. For some, I’m sure the place is too loud. But seated at a booth near the kitchen, Mom and I were able to hold a conversation without any trouble — save for periodic interruptions from Uncle Nancy, who wound up sitting in the booth adjacent to ours. (I think Nancy has taken to eating at NS four or five times a week now.) The place has a comfortable, yet high-energy, buzz to it. As for the food and the rest:

On the ricotta and lobster fritters: after I told Eric how light and airy they were, he said, “So they’re like little fried burps from God.” The description should go on the menu. Because that’s exactly what they were like.

On the Berkshire spareribs and onion rings: Nancy’s first interruption was to share hers with Mom and me. I’m happy she did. The spareribs were a delight. The batter used to fry the rings was delicate, and even though the onion was thick, it was easy to bite through without pulling it out of its fried casing, as so often happens with lesser rings. Alas.

On the seared sea scallops: Teresa Gubbins, I’m pretty sure, would describe their centers as “quivering flesh.” They were perfect. Mom ate at Chamberlain’s Fish Market Grill a few days later and had their scallops. She said NS’ were superior.

On the cider-brined pork porterhouse: I ordered it medium rare, and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t exactly the way it was prepared. It made me happy to be a carnivore and was more than I could eat.

On the three jack and mac gratin: I went to the gym this morning and weighed myself for the first time in two weeks, after having avoided all forms of exertion over the break. I’ve gained 5 pounds. I’m certain that the jack and mac gratin is partially to blame. And yet I refuse to blame it. Because I love it too much. I was a big fan of Nick Badovinus’ mac and cheese at Hibiscus. This stuff is better. It’s spicy.

On Nick Badovinus: speaking of the flaxen-haired food slinger (yes, I just typed that), he told me a funny story when he stopped by our table and I complimented the well-designed pint glasses in which they serve beer. Let’s see if I can remember the story. Um. Okay: when Badovinus was outfitting his joint, he, too, fell in love with the design of the glasses (thin rim, delicately curving shaft (hey!)). So he ordered enough to stock the restaurant. Here’s the part I can’t recall. Either Badovinus did the math wrong, or he misheard the price, or something. When the bill came, he was rather surprised by how high it was. And he was out of money. But he loved the glasses so much that he went ahead and put the cost on his personal credit card. To him, I say, “Kudos, sir.”

On the service and the clothing worn by those who provide it: this will have to change in warmer months, but right now, everyone wears white button-up sweaters with a Neighborhood Services crest on them. Just like the name of the place, they’re a bit goofy. Which is why I want one. (The name, by the way, comes from the zoning jargon applied to such an establishment. It falls under “neighborhood services.”) Our server was prompt and friendly without trying to be our friend.

On the one thing that wasn’t perfect: for dessert, Mom ordered a chocolate cupcake, and I ordered another beer. The beer was the better choice. The cupcake was bland and dry, a disappointment. My mother will eat anything made with chocolate. She left her dessert half-eaten.

On one thing I wish I’d noticed while I was there but only just now caught when I was going over the menu that I stole: they serve Mickey’s in a bottle. Genius.

22 comments on “Snap Review: Neighborhood Services

  1. I went there the other night and the food was so so. No restaurant in this city is a worth a two and a half hour wait…

  2. Good thing it was just you and your mom…

    We tried to go there one Monday night, about 10 of us, and were told, “We do not take large parties.” when we called. I even asked to do two tables of five and they responded the same.

    We took our little party of ten, who can eat and DRINK alot!! over to Shinsei in the same neighborhood and had their “services”?

    Perfect and thoughtful and oh SO welcoming.

    But that being said, I am sure I will give in and try this place out. He is cute and his food is always great. I will just make sure it is just me and one of my cute friends… not ten.

  3. My husband and I ate there right after it opened, after overhearing some moms at my Y talk about it. They raved about the chocolate cupcake, so of course we ordered it, but were less than impressed. The mac and cheese, however, was amazing! But, it’s so overpriced for so little to offer.

  4. I’ve been twice… first time, food – not so great, second time – much better. I’m not sure I agree with you regarding the lobster fritters. It felt like I was biting into a fried cream puff – I was hoping for more lobster. And, I don’t like how it’s served with cocktail sauce – I think our group might have enjoyed a remoulade instead. Both times, the service and atmosphere was wonderful though… I’m sure we will be returning soon – just not to order the lobster fritters.

  5. We tried to go Sat nite (the required allotment of six of us!) – 2 and 1/2 hour wait! They need to take reservations for large parties… we ended up at Cafe Italia.

  6. The longest I will wait is 30 min max. There are too many good places to choose from to put up with 2 and 1/2 bs.

  7. Great review. Tells me just what I need to know with some inside information (beer glasses) and leaves out the rambling food descriptions that are so often a brain drain. Tell me what you had for lunch Tim.

  8. My husband and I dined there Saturday the 28th after seeing the crappy Benjamin Button movie. We loved it and loved the people watching (hi Roger Staubach!). I had the schnitzel and spaetzle special (say that three times fast) and it was delish. I got pretty drunk on the cocktails but I remember it being really good. Except the cupcake, it was not worth the calories.

  9. @ TLS: I had jambalaya of my own making for lunch. The shrimp, sausage, and corn used therein were leftovers from a backyard boil I did Saturday night. I ate at my desk. The service was prompt, but the ambiance left a lot to be desired.

  10. Being that Hibiscus and The Porch are 2 of my favorites restaurants I assumed this Nick character could do no wrong. Finally had a chance to make it to NS last Tuesday night, put up with the ridiculous wait, and left rather disappointed. The crab dip tasted like… well nothing. Caesar tasted like Cardinis. The scallops were not that special. The waitress told my wife that she had other reds to recommend, but “they were out of my price range.” There’s this snootiness about it, but you can’t help but laugh at how silly the wait staff looks and at the cheesy accents such as hanging jeans in the restroom. In an effort to be different in so many ways (menus and atmosphere) the result is that nothing sticks together. Either Nick missed here, or I haven’t been giving Consilient enough credit. All this being said, I will try one more time (see first sentence).

  11. tick, tick, tick, the fuse of greatness is very short in this town. I like it when new spots open, it makes the old spots easier to get into…until they close.

  12. I wouldn’t wait 2 hours either – let alone wait and be served attitude de jour in any price range, mine or the servers.

  13. we tried to get in saturday night AT 6:30 and there was already a 2-1/2 hour wait! Ridiculous! Ended up at Bijoux & had an amazing dinner. We will wait until the hype dies down. Thanks for the review, though!

  14. Let’s see … next week Wick does a review of his meal at Neighborhood Services. Then Eric, the following week. Then Adam, Zac and the rest of the crew. By June, we’ll be done with NS and will be reading about Badovinus’ new chain, National Services.

  15. Went to NS for New Years Eve. It was amazing. The mussels to start are amazing. No one writes about them and I don’t know why. I had the shrimp and grits and the person I was with had a burger. They pronounced the burger, the “best in dallas.” Great beer menu, too. Definitely would run back…except the wait is long, but that will go down with time.

  16. People endure long waits because they expect something rewarding to ensue, and St. Nick delivers the goods. How exciting to have another completely local creation that people are returning to and waiting in line for. Congratulations and thanks Nick.