Jamaica Plain’s restaurants and cafes are really something, aren’t they? We have quantity, quality and great variety here. JP’s eateries help make shopping districts and sub-neighborhoods into destinations, so they increase and promote business and lively activity.
The number of restaurants seems to be expanding. If you count coffee shops that serve food and takeout places, they are also becoming distributed nicely around the neighborhood.
I recently overheard some people considering buying a place to live in JP. As they reviewed addresses, the first thing they mentioned was how close they are to various restaurants.
Most of JP’s food establishments get four or five stars from me. So I say with great hesitation that some—not all, but enough to drive a frequent diner to hesitate—exhibit some strange characteristics that make eating at them unnecessarily difficult.
1. Way, way too much salt. In various JP eateries in the past year I have had eggs, a veggie stew, meatballs and—yes, believe it or not—a salad, that had so much salt on them I had to stop eating. (Not easy to send it back when a friend invited you there.) Foolishly, I assumed the eggs were a mistake and ordered them again the next time. It was like ingesting a wave at Revere Beach. Please watch the amount of salt you use, restaurant folks. It can be as unhealthy as fat and sugar, and it tastes much worse in large quantities.
2. Holiday holidays. There is just no good business reason to close on most holidays, as the clever restaurants and cafés that stay open can attest. Certainly, Coolidge Corner delivers the message louder than this column could. On Memorial Day or pretty much any Monday holiday, restaurants and nearby stores in that Brookline neighborhood are teeming. Meanwhile, frustrated JP residents can be seen pulling on locked doors at some restaurants and cafés all over the neighborhood.
3. Mystery hours. It feels silly to have to say this: Owners of eating places should put the hours they are open (and cooking) prominently on their websites and other publicity. It seems so obvious, more natural than publicizing the menu, but it is surprising that some JP restaurants keep their hours a social media secret.
The deal is that people often plan with others to eat out and don’t just walk by and decide to drop in. Or, because of their schedules, they want to eat at, say 9 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. or 3 p.m. or 10 p.m. and need to know if the place will be serving. Calling restaurants and cafés to ask when they are open is a huge hassle and often doesn’t work (ta-da!) because they are closed when you call. (I had to do it twice recently to accommodate friends’ schedules, so I know.)
Folks in JP want to eat at and support their wonderful local restaurants. Some food places just need to do a little more to help them do that. Bon appétit!
Sandra Storey was the founding editor and publisher of the Gazette and lives in Jamaica Plain.