The next day, we did something silly but kind of interesting: we ordered the exact same thing at the Hideaway Restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall in Middleborough. And it was delicious.
In fairness to White Tablecloths, we love their food, and they were clearly having an off night, because none of the four of us was happy with our meal. Chicken piccatta was bland, a blackened salmon over ceasar salad was too salty, and pork chops topped with vinegar peppers dish was weird.
The Hideaway is as far from white tablecloths as you can get. Gina and the Big Dog sat at a corner of a bar which winds around the interior of the room. Its worn formica surface was soon covered with paper placemats advertising, among other things, a gun shop and Big Dog Plumbing (no relation). One of the Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne movies was playing in our corner, and something funnier was airing on the opposite side of the room, judging by the occasional laughter we heard.
The chicken parm ($9.99) was as far as you could get from the white tablecloths’ version, too. White Tablecloths featured chicken breasts pounded to paper-thinness, coated in a bland breading, and overcooked, served on mushy room-temperature linguine, with a lifeless tomato sauce and no discernible cheese. Granted, that version came with a house salad (also off) and bread, but for the same amount of chicken and pasta, it cost more than twice the Hideaway price.
By contrast, the Hideaway chicken was fork-tender. The linguine was cooked al dente and served in a separate hot casserole dish. The breading was slightly crisp and kept the chicken moist. The tomato sauce was rich, and the dish was bathed in mozzarella. What a treat in an unexpected setting!
That was Gina’s lunch. The Big Dog ordered a build-your-own burger. It was very good, and it was a bargain at $6.70, plus 50 cents for the addition of lettuce, onion, and American cheese (and Dog’s usual combination of mayonnaise and mustard, both served in little plastic cups on the side). As they say, it was all that and a bag of Lays chips. He asked for it to be cooked medium and it came out more like well done, but he was happy with it.
He was equally happy with his margarita, a refreshing blend of Cuervo and the usual other ingredients ($7.25). Gina had a forgettable cabernet ($6.50).
At White Tablecloths the four of us split two bottles of good cabernet, and we enjoyed the evening out with friends we don’t see often enough. At the Hideaway, we got engrossed in the Jason Bourne movie and it was really just a quick pit stop on our way back from an errand.
The two experiences represented an interesting contrast. White Tablecloths felt like a disappointment, especially unsettling because we’d only gone there because we know it’s so dependable. The Hideaway felt like a great value and a surprisingly good experience. We were delighted and will return with higher expectations.
The Hideaway Restaurant
9 Station Street, Middleborough