Food At Salem Jail Improved, But Not By Much

Posted: April 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: American, Great Escape, Italian, Salem, Seafood | Tags: | 7 Comments »

Salem has so many new restaurants that we are having trouble keeping up. Last Sunday night, we stopped into Great Escape for dinner, curious to check out this unusual space—the site of a jail built in 1813.

The décor is indeed wonderful, with a high ceiling, a gorgeous stone floor, and whimsical jail-related art. Unfortunately, other than the dessert, the food was a disappointment. The menu is well written and has a good selection of appetizers, salads, pasta, seafood, and more. But the kitchen is having some obvious issues with ingredient quality and technique.

We started with a caprese salad ($10) and the eggplant tower ($10). The salad was an unappetizing plate of watery tomatoes sandwiching flavorless mozzarella. There was a good-tasting balsamic glaze, but it wasn’t enough to save the dish. I realize it’s not tomato season, but I’ve been buying hothouse tomatoes at Stop & Shop that were far better than these. The eggplant tower had flavor, but the eggplant was too thick, the prosciutto should have been cut instead of put in as a slab, and it was literally drowned in sauce.

Our entrées weren’t much better. We tried the papardelle dish with seafood and mushrooms ($19). The pasta and the mushroom reduction were fine, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly, but the scallops were rubbery, and the sauce had some grit (presumably from the seafood). The steak tips ($16) came with flavorful broccoli rabe, but the meat was not good quality, with some pieces quite chewy.

Surprisingly, our last course was great. The coffee was very good, and the tiramisu was plenty for two and very well done, with delicious sweet cream and great mocha flavor. The service was also commendable, although I was served the wrong wine. I wondered why my pinot gris lacked flavor until the bill came and I saw I’d been served pinot grigio.

There were few patrons dining the night we were there, so we’re guessing word has gotten around that the food is lacking, and we’re sorry to have to confirm it. We hope a revamp is in the works because a great spot like this deserves cuisine that matches it.

Great Escape
50 St Peter St, Salem
(978) 745-5022

Great Escape on Urbanspoon


7 Comments on “Food At Salem Jail Improved, But Not By Much”

  1. #1 kathie said at 2:22 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    Why did should a lousy restaurant have to go into a brilliant space?
    I’m a restaurant industry professional.
    When The Great Escape was doing open interviews back in the Fall, i stopped in with my resume & was told to fill out an application by one of the construction workers. huh?
    I sat at a table & when i was finished, over comes this grossly overweight, sloppily dressed (food stains on the T-shirt & all), messily unkempt guy.
    It was kinda too late for me to get up from the table since he was headed my way.
    The interview was a JOKE!!
    He asked about my current employment & wanted to know about 9 At Home.
    I told him that it was Barbara Lynch’s catering company & that we cater events & private dinners.
    He didn’t know who she way!
    I mean, c’mon. if you are an industry professional in the Boston area, you should know the top name chefs.
    I can’t wait until the restaurant fails & something worthwhile goes in there as a place to eat & work! :)

  2. #2 Foodie said at 2:28 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    Your review is right on the money.. unfortunately.. was expecting great things from this place.

  3. #3 Geoff said at 3:18 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    I guess I’m glad I haven’t made it in there yet. This isn’t the first meh review I’ve seen. I always think the menu sounds delicious, but people keep saying they can’t pull it off. Too bad.

  4. #4 JR said at 3:59 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    I agree, Kathie. It’s hard to imagine anyone involved in any way with food in the Boston area not knowing who Barbara Lynch is.

    Geoff, that’s it exactly. Great menu but not great execution.

  5. #5 Crack-a-Lackin' said at 4:04 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    Unfortunately, we also had a similar experience. For us, I would give the food a slightly more positive review but I found the service and atmosphere well below par. Although we dined soon after (2+ weeks after) it opened, the server was generally clueless about the menu and it took way too long to go from appetizer to entree. Further, the restaurant was not busy upon arrival (it did get busier) and we had a reservation — however, getting seated at a table that could easily accommodate our group of 6 was far more challenging than it should have been. Further, the restaurant was super loud. I haven’t been back since and don’t have plans to visit again any time soon.

  6. #6 Jeff said at 10:44 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    One of the most mediocre restaurant experiences I have ever had. And that’s not good enough for Salem, which has a good number of very good to excellent restaurants. The decor is whimsical, but for a really top notch version of a converted jail, see the job done with the Charles Street Jail in Boston. Why couldn’t there have been a Parker Brothers museum in that spot instead?

  7. #7 JR said at 12:59 pm on April 7th, 2011:

    Jeff, I was at the Liberty Hotel/former Charles St Jail a couple of months ago. I agree, it’s really worth seeing. They did an outstanding job with the decor.

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