Saturday: Lunch at MaMa Lou's and a Relaxing Massage

Several weeks ago I had a somewhat disappointing and overpriced breakfast sandwich at MaMa Lou's on South Avenue. You can read about this in an earlier blog entry. At the time I decided to give them a second try for lunch as the sandwiches sounded interesting.
This happened yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised. I had the "Big Lou", which is an Italian meats sandwich on focaccia bread. The full sized one for $7.50 is clearly generous. You can get a half size for $5 which should satisfy a normal lunch appetite. The meat (prosciutto, cappicola, sopressata) was very tasty and had a tender, very pleasant texture (not the cheap supermarket type quality). In addition you get real mozzarella and succulent flavorful red peppers. The focaccia bread wasn't bad but nothing too special either. The sandwich comes with a small bag of chips. Service was friendly and attentive.
In summary, Mama Lou's is certainly not a bad place for lunch both for a normal portion and if you are hungry. Even more so when you want to take advantage of the nice outside seating area in the shade.

In addition to lunch at Mama Lou's I also decided to indulge myself with a relaxing massage, something which I hadn't done in a while but truly enjoy. I feel it helps me to relax and to release tension in the neck and shoulder area that builds up over time. For the last year or so, I have been a loyal customer at "Natural Therapy of Westfield" at South Avenue and Boulevard.
Originally I was a big fan of the Dharma Center at Lenox Avenue that unfortunately closed more than a year ago. Neil (the owner) managed to create an atmosphere that was relaxing, warm, welcoming and a bit spiritual while at the same time providing professional high quality massages. And for a while I was a very loyal customer and went there once a months or so. So when it closed (I understand they lost their lease) I was really sad and hoped they would reopen somewhere else. Unfortunately, that never happened so I had to look for a different massage option.
Shortly before that I had seen some ads for "Natural Therapy" and so with Dharma closing I decided to try them. You also get a massage there but their approach is very different. The ambiance is at best effective (and worst you can say it is a bit cold), nothing spiritual, no aromas or sounds to soothe you. The music is most of the time neutral and sometimes annoying. The massage tables are covered with paper. You don't get new linen/cloth and there are no table warmers. But then the massage is what counts. And that is usually pretty good although it varies.
The turnover of massage therapists (MTs) seems to be pretty high, so you don't always get the same person and you hardly have a chance to build a relationship so that your MT gets to know your problem spots and can focus on particular areas. I can't really say anything about the quality of the MTs. I have gotten massages there that felt equal or better to what I had somewhere else (say at the Dharma center) and then I had a few that were so-so or felt a bit rushed or standard.
I like a firmer massage of my back and some of the MTs there didn't seem to have the physical strength but some others coped well. Communication with the MTs is sometimes an issue as English is not typically their native language. It may take some back and forth to clarify what you want and where they should focus. So if you want a truly therapeutic massage or even have special instructions from your doctor (instead of just a general relaxing massage) this place may not be for you. Some of them then seem to adapt their program to what you told them and some - at least that was my impression at times - stick to their standard program no matter what.
Pricing is very decent. 60 minutes for $55 and $75 for 90 minutes. And you actually get this amount of time or more. They have stop watches that are set when the actual massage starts (not when you step in the room to undress) and they usual work a few minutes longer to finish what they were working on after the alarm has sounded. So paying for 60 minutes you actually may get 65 minutes worth actual massage. Compare this to other places where the time before and after may count and you may only really get 50 minutes of actual massage.
Service in general is friendly and efficient although sometimes a bit superficial and I have the feeling that it went down a bit in the last few months. The only significant issue I had there recently, was when a new MT - in no uncertain terms - told me that the tip was too low and she expects more despite the fact that the massage was good but nothing truly special. It was the same amount that I had always given at that place and IMHO was certainly adequate if not a bit generous. Reservations are usually not a problem even short notice and they typically can accommodate walk ins.
In summary, not a bad place for a relaxing, reasonably priced basic massage. If you want it a bit warmer, sophisticated and inspirational or if you want something special with spa ambiance or a truly therapeutic massage it is probably not your first choice.

With some recent service issues and increasing turnover, I'm planning to check out a few other massage places in the area to see what the market has to offer and I will report back. I also would like to hear from my readers what their experiences and recommendations are in regards to massage places in and around Westfield.

Before I started to visit the Dharma Center I went to the "On the Side" Spa on South Avenue West a couple of times. The actual massages I got there were pretty good but the place is a little expensive and some of the staff had (at the time) an attitude of self-importance and I felt they took themselves a bit too seriously. I got this notion that I should be grateful that they actually served me there which I really didn't like. Finally, it has this vibe of more of a place for women so as a male I personally felt a bit out of place. Now, they have been in business for a while so they must do things right overall and certainly I plan to give them another try.

Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger

No comments: