Why ruin such a good thing? Formerly Zebra Bar and Wine Bistro, a beloved culinary staple in downtown Medfield for 17 years, owner Craig Neunecker inexplicably decided to revamp his fine dining eatery into the playfully named Nosh & Grog Provisions, an unabashed gastropub that the owner undoubtedly expected would attract a broader segment of customers. Gone were the formal white tablecloths and famed zebra themed-upholstered chairs, replaced with more rustic exposed brick walls, industrial artwork, and wooden light fixtures. Quality food, however, doth not a re-invention make.
Don’t tell that to the throngs of customers waiting at standing tables and along the U-shaped bar on a busy Saturday evening (Reservations are not accepted, so perhaps after witnessing customers waiting for over an hour following a 6 PM arrival might prompt Neunecker to reconsider that policy). While awaiting our table, we order poorly executed, small, exorbitantly priced cocktails (at $12 apiece, with several arriving in tiny copper mugs that allow for a mere few sips), including the Spicy Valentine, a promising blend of chili-infused tequila that is excessively spicy with seemingly little tequila and zero balance, a tepid-flavored sangria, and a maple-infused bourbon cider that lays on the bourbon, but again, packs little sweet cider flavor as a counterpoint. (My recommendation: order from an extensive selection of beers that include a Kentucky bourbon-infused ale and a potent, passionfruit-tinged Finch Chimera IPA). These are ominous precursors to the meal to come.
White bean hummus ($8.50) consists of woefully overcooked naan while a white and chickpea hummus’s offputting flavor is attributed to a heavy-handedness of basil oil. Jonah crab Rangoon ($12.50) consists of three large, overly-doughy wedges consisting of a filling dominated more by cream cheese than crab (is it even there?), whose underlying house duck sauce is all liquid with little discernible flavor that’s unable to stick to the rangoon’s limp, uncrunchy exterior (makes me clamor for Chinatown’s much less fussy, smaller, yet far superior version).
Entrees are unequivocally disastrous, beginning with Nosh & Grog’s signature OH S#%T Burger. At $15.75, the burger sounds promising enough, with bacon aioli, caramelized onions, and mesquite ketchup. The burger, however – small in stature – arrives grossly overcooked not once, but following a message to the owner, twice, one initially ordered without cheese arriving with (but with no onions) and the other with half-melted American cheese and what looks like a sloppy application of mayo, not bacon aioli. The fries are oversalted and served lukewarm, accompanied by a small container of ketchup that’s a quarter full. I sadly yearn for a Big Mac in lieu of what should more aptly be called the Completely Overpriced, Utterly Mediocre Burger. Another dining companion’s chicken sandwich is likewise rendered dry, overcooked, and utterly inedible. The entire meal is comped by the incredulous, apologetic manager, but too little, too late.
What a shame. Our party would have been far better served at nearby Avenue, a new, eight-month-old, contemporary eatery where we decided to grab dessert. A dreamy, piping hot blondie brownie sundae and double espresso later – along with an attentive, affable bartender who was the polar opposite of our friendly enough, yet utterly inattentive waitress who disappeared for long stretches and left water glasses unfilled – and it almost…ALMOST made up for our forgettable dining experience minutes earlier. While Nosh & Grog is distinctly a pub, it’s kitchen’s lack of refinement and execution make the gastro elements of its new concept both literally and figuratively difficult to swallow. If this establishment continues to fail in its execution of even the most basic dishes, it’s path will lead it to a much gloomier Avenue: closure.