Is The Saint James 'Disappointing?'

The Inquirer weighs in on the new Suburban Square restaurant. Share your own thoughts on the Ardmore bistro.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently weighed in on Suburban Square's newest restaurant, The Saint James, giving it a less than favorable review.

A clumsy waitstaff, overcooked meat and forgettable cocktails were among the complaints of Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan, who visited the restaurant on more than one occasion before penning his review.

The Main Line rejoiced when it was announced that Sampan's Michael Schulson and Rouge's Rob Wasserman would be opening an American bistro-style restaurant in Ardmore, but since the restaurant's opening in October, many have commented on the restaurant's poorly trained waitstaff and less than memorable food.

Despite "having debuted with such obvious promise," LaBan writes of The Saint James, "I can only hope this proven team of competent restaurant veterans figures out a fix, and fast."

According to LaBan, Schulson said finding skilled restaurant workers in the suburbs has been "painful," and the restaurant experienced an 85 percent turnover in the first three months.

Schulson also notes the low wages for a line-cook as a contributing factor, to which LaBan adds, "the culinary passion that drives many young chefs through that rite of passage is especially scarce outside the city."

Read LaBan's full review at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Read more coverage of The Saint James on Ardmore Patch:

  • (Dec. 4, 2012)
  • (Oct. 5, 2012)
  • New Suburban Square Restaurant Opening Early Fall (Sept. 4, 2012)

What do you think?

What's been your experience at The Saint James? Do you agree with the Inquirer's review? Is skilled waitstaff hard to find on the Main Line? Tell us in the comments.

Bob Guzzardi January 27, 2013 at 01:11 PM
The Golden Bowl on Rittenhouse is outstanding. Exceptionally friendly servers. Very attractive decor and ambience. Extensive dselection. I went with two friends who were repeat customers. Reasonably priced.
Jeffrey Vicki January 27, 2013 at 01:45 PM
I have to agree with Bob. Golden Bowl really is a fantastic place, and everything I've heard about Barbacoa has been overwhelmingly positive too.
Bob Guzzardi January 27, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Where is Barbacoa and what kind of food. Thanks for information.
Steve Yassky January 27, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Who is the market? Fodies, people who go into town to appreciate great food with inspiring aspirations or those Mainliners who merely don't want to cook and are looking for an acceptable meal under $20.00@ head. I respect LaBan's critiques and welcome his criticism. I hope it drives the market to become better & better. St. James, "Get your act together. Make it the best it can be."
alex green January 27, 2013 at 04:00 PM
I was so looking forward to St. James' opening, but, what a letdown! Mediocre food that is way too expensive for what it is. Supercilious, pretentious, management-- though friendly wait - staff, and cold, unappealing, decor. I would not return!
Neil January 27, 2013 at 04:05 PM
We dined at the Saint James on opening night and experienced some of the disorganized service that Le Ban comments on. The place was also very noisy. Have not been back to eat but in walking past have observed a busy bar.
Neil January 27, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Barbacoa is down the street from Golden Bowl on Rittenhouse. Great for takeout if you are a meat eater. Vegetarians should be wary!
db January 27, 2013 at 04:38 PM
The St. James is definitely disappointing. The food was not that interesting and way overpriced, and the service was inattentive, to say the least.
Patricia January 27, 2013 at 05:42 PM
I disagree with owner's comment about the lack of skilled wait staff. Other area restaurants such as Golden Bowl, Primavera Restaurant, White Dog, Plate or even the former Sam's Grill do not have or had this issue. As for St. James Place, my daughter & I went there for lunch a couple weeks ago. We thought it was very good. We gave it a 'B+'. Our waitress was very friendly & she provided very good service. We had the 'famous' chicken wings. They were delicious. For our main dishes, we ordered two of their big salads--- also delicious! My daughter added the grilled salmon to her salad and it was grilled to perfection. We topped off our lunch with dessert---bread pudding. It was AWESOME! There was a delay between our appetizer & our main dish and between our main dish & dessert. We didn't receive an explanation for the delay with the main dishes. Not sure if it was due to the kitchen or our waitress. Our waitress did provide an explanation & an apology for the delay with the dessert. It was due to an error in the kitchen and they were remaking it. We appreciated the explanation & apology. The wait was worth it! The service is not comparable to other area restaurants. It does need improvement if it is to be successful on the Main Line. In any case, we enjoyed our visit & will return to St. James Place. New ventures needs time to work out the kinks. It has the potential to become our regular spot. Looking forward to going there for a Saturday or Sunday brunch.
Susan Packel January 27, 2013 at 08:00 PM
We ate the Saint James shortly after it opened. It was noisy, the menu was limited, the food was not so good, the service was awful. The prices were sky high! Nuf said? We will never of back. Craig LaBan is right once again.
Tim Rabbit January 27, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Constantly advertising for line cooks on Craigslist is an indicator that they are cutting corners on wages for their staff. You get what you pay for. Stiffing your waiters and kitchen staff is not the way to go, while charging $38 for an entree. Never been inside, don't intend to pay $38 for over salted mashed potatoes. Time for SS to boot them out and start over. Or maybe bring back Victoria's Secret.
Guy January 27, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Just because you know how to turn on a stove, does not mean you know how to cook. I live within walking distance to every eatery and pub in Ardmore and I've eaten at everyone of them. We ate at St. James. I love the atmosphere but our 2 hamburgers took longer than it should and they were hockey pucks by the time they were set in front of us. I think there far too many eateries that do not know how to serve a hamburger. In a word or two, Johnny Rockets does. A burger should come with "THE WORKS". Lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo BOTTLE OF KETCHUP. As soon as I see the tiny tin cup of ketchup, I know the place is CHEAP! For $15 that burger better show up "dressed to the nines". Think about it restaurateurs, "what ARE you giving your customer for $15?" I know where to go for GOOD burger and a beer. Make me come BACK for more and more.
Meg January 28, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Sadly, LeBan is spot-on. On our first visit (dinner+wine), we found both the food (roast chicken/crab cake salad), atmosphere and waitstaff underwhelming for the $130 tab. My college-aged daughter encouraged a second visit on a Saturday for $70 lunch (mushroom soup/salmon/chopped turkey salad with a sorbet dessert). Our waiter was attentive, but shortly after our food arrived we felt rushed to eat and vacate - likely so they could turn the table over quickly. I doubt it was just my impression as I overhead the gentlemen next to us tell the waiter TWICE that he was a 'slow eater' and planned to take his time. As we walked to the car, my daughter said she would have enjoyed lunch at Sweetgreen more!!!
Josh January 28, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Horrible does not begin to describe St. James. My wife ordered the most expensive lunch item, a lobster meat of sorts served on a roll is what it turned out to be. I had a SALTY burger- realize what that means? Of course you do- a kitchen covers up poor meats with salts, very common 'insider' BS. We both puked, plenty. Two other friends we know who went for dinner had the same bottom line, horrible experiences and one ill. Not a surprise to any of us, however, as lifers we knew what to expect. All will be shocked if this place stays open much longer. Why did Iron Hill pick a strip mall vs the square? Bring back the panties.
Martha January 28, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Great dining - more options the better in Ardmore, especially since Plate has gone down hill in the past few years. Hopefully the compeititon will make both better!
Gwen Olitsky January 28, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Ours is just one experience, and we loved every morsel of food. St James was newly opened, so we were not surprised that the waitstaff wasn't great, but we figured they were still disorganized. Drinks came out "wrong" and that should never happen. They quickly corrected the mistakes. Four of us had dinner, and tried different items, I'd have to say, again, that every plate was wonderful, from the ultra fresh oysters, to the tuna tartare, roasted veggie platter and beet salad for appetizers to the entrees, including chicken pot pie, roasted salmon and flat iron steak (two orders, rare and medium, each done perfectly). The "brussels bacon" was one of the best side dishes ever, huge serving, and we all loved it. Desserts were delicious, and more than ample for sharing: the pecan pie and the sweet potato pie. I hope the Inquirer review serves to bring the food "back on track" to where it was when we ate there, and to inspire the owners to do some intensive waitstaff recruiting and training. We can't wait to go back, and hope it will be as wonderful as our first visit.
Janice January 30, 2013 at 10:44 AM
The Crossbar in Havertown has awesome burgers.
Raji Mohan February 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM
I ate at St James last night. It was my second time there. I had an Old Fashioned, the first two sips of which were great, but then the excess of crushed ice watered it down quickly. I expected better. The mushroom soup and grilled scallop entree were nicely done. The wait staff was friendly and attentive, but I agree that they need to be trained to interpret what is going on at the table. An empty soup plate clearly means that the patron is done with it. The question, "Are you done?" is redundant. On the other hand, if my fork and knife are positioned in a way that indicates that I am taking a break from eating, if my plate is half full, and if only about 15 minutes have passed since I was served, the same question sounds as if the staff is urging you to hurry up.....


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