The Eagle Food and Beer Hall @ Over The Rhine – 03/01/2014 ****

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The Eagle, Food and Beer Hall is a new restaurant and bar in Over The Rhine, on Vine st. From the creators of the successful Bakersfield tequila bar and restaurant, The Eagle specializes in craft beers and inexpensive comfort food. The building was a former post office and the original post office boxes are still present. Tables are built from reclaimed hardwood and the ceiling is covered in rustic unfinished wood planking. The large U shaped bar dominates the center of the space. Sturdy bar stools line both sides while a long row of beer taps spans the middle, supporting the standing room only patrons once the place starts filling up. Which doesn’t take long, tables are full within an hour of opening and the wait list starts to grow shortly thereafter. A great place to kick off any weekend, the place is packed as the sun sets over Washington park just around the corner.

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They put a lot of effort into every one of their specialty cocktails. The Bloody Mary is a meal in itself with Tito’s Vodka, spicy house made mary mix, and a shot of Guinness, garnished with brown sugar bacon, celery, and a spike of olives, pickles, kale, and jalapeno peppers.
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The focal point of the menu is their Fried Chicken served with spicy honey sauce. The chicken is juicy and tender with a Tabasco spicy breading. Order a full chicken for a big group, half to split, or a quarter to hoard all your own.
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If you’re in the mood for something other than chicken they have a variety of snacks, salads, sandwiches, and sides.

The brown sugar bacon -
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The Grilled 3 Cheese with apricot preserve, granny smith apple slices, and rustic sourdough -
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The Spoon bread with maple glaze in an iron skillet -
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The sweet potato crock with toasted mini marshmallows -
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The space is small and fills up quick, so getting there early is a requirement. There’s no call ahead and they don’t take reservations. Any later than 5pm on the weekends and you’re looking at a 2 hour wait. This may subside as the newness wears off, but it is what it is. The seats at the tables are extremely hard and have no cushions, which gets a bit uncomfortable after a while. The booths and barstools don’t suffer from this as they’re padded. It can get rather loud in there when the place is fully packed, there’s really nothing to absorb sound and all the surfaces are either wood, brick, or glass.

Overall The Eagle gets 4 stars for their excellent comfort foods that are reasonably priced, and a great selection of craft beer and cocktails. The lack of call ahead or reservations knocks off a star, as it shouldn’t take so much advance planning to get a seat. There are other restaurants close by that do take reservations via Open Table.

http://theeagleotr.com/

The Eagle Food and Beer Hall on Urbanspoon

Yard House @ The Banks – 06/16/2013 ****

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Yard House is a mecca for draft beer lovers.  Their variety and quality of the selections is better than any other bar or restaurant we’ve been to.  Taking it’s name from the 3-foot-tall glass containers originally designed in Great Britain and used to hand stagecoach drivers after a long journey by horse drawn carriage. Each Yard House location features a center island bar and an endless fleet of tap handles ranging from classic lagers to more obscure ales.  The architecture of the Yard House is very modern.  Steel, glass, copper, and architectural concrete are used throughout.  Mesh grids mounted to the exterior walls provide a climbing surface for vines which will become a living wall as the vines grow to the top.  Flat screen TVs surround the entire inside and patio outside playing current sporting events or news stations.  The best selection of classic rock tunes play in the background.

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Beyond the draft selections they have an extensive menu with pretty much any type of dish you can think of.   We typically prefer multiple small dishes vs. one larger dish, so the variety of tapas and appetizers was great to see.  Vegetarians rejoice, there are plenty of selections and even a “gardein” meat substitute menu and gluten sensitive items.

For appetizers, we tried out the Lettuce Wraps with tofu, pine nuts, and chicken served in a crunchy tortilla shell.  It comes with three dipping sauces – spicy peanut sauce, sweet honey chile sauce, and a thai chile sauce.  The presentation and flavor was very good.  The variety of sauces were great because you could adjust the flavor from sweet to spicy.

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Next up were the Street Tacos – Grilled Korean Pork Belly and Grilled Korean Beef Short Rib.  Both were good but not exceptional, and a bit too spicy.

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For a salad we ordered their Caesar side salad which came topped with croutons and parmesan crisps.  The taste and texture was very good especially with the parmesan crisps.

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The main course was a Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Avacado and Bacon with Tomatoe Bisque.  This came with an amazing mix of cheddar, gorgonzola, swiss and fontina cheeses on crunchy artisan bread.  This was an exceptional grilled cheese!  The bisque was a bit too sweet though.

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We also had the Surf and Turf Burger with asparagus, lobster, and tomatoes with sweet potato fries and house made honey maple dipping sauce.  This was a great twist on the surf and turf concept by serving the lobster as a burger topping.  Very good!

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Yard House is a great spot for grabbing a drink after the Reds or Bengals game.  The outdoor patio area is open and airy overlooking the Roebling suspension bridge and the river.  Yard House earns a solid 4 out of 5 stars for their excellent selection of draft beers, food menu, and laid back atmosphere.  The main course took a while to get out from the kitchen, but having appetizers before hand helped bridge the gap between dishes.

http://www.yardhouse.com/OH/cincinnati-restaurant/

Yard House on Urbanspoon
 

The National Exemplar, Mariemont – 06/09/2013 *****

The National Exemplar is one of our favorite restaurants for Sunday morning brunch.  Its located in the Mariemont Inn, which is on the National Register of  Historic Places.  Mariemont is an east side suburb of Cincinnati and one of the truly unique neighborhoods in the city.  The streets are laid out in a hub and spoke with the center hub being Mariemont square with it’s large fountain and meticulously landscaped grounds.  The German influenced architecture makes you feel like you’ve wandered right into a quaint German village.

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The outdoor patio is the perfect place for a quiet Sunday morning.  Evergreen shrubs provide privacy and quiet the passing cars while potted flowers hang from the Magnolia tree.  On cool nights there’s a fire pit and blankets for curling up with a book.  National Exemplar has many regulars as well as patrons from the Inn and they serve food all day as well as a full bar with happy hour during the week.  This is not your average hotel restaurant, it easily stands on its own.  The staff is always friendly, courteous, and attentive.

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Their breakfast menu includes the classics as well as some Exemplar specials.  The Bacado omelette with bacon, avacado, and salsa is a favorite.  The Pope John with split sausage, poached egg, and english muffin.   The Baja burrito stuffed with sausage, egg, avacado and topped with salsa.  Their gourmet pancakes such as blueberry, strawberry, banana and granola are always a treat.

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We love National Exemplar and will continue to spend many a Sunday morning there.  5 out of 5 stars, we need to try out their dinner menu though.

http://www.nationalexemplar.com/

The National Exemplar on Urbanspoon

50 West Brewing Company – 04/27/2013 *****

50 West Brewing Company is Cincinnati’s newest craft beer brewery, located east of Mariemont on US Route 50. The atmosphere at 50 West is very laid back. You’ll immediately feel relaxed and welcome as soon as you walk through the door. The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The decor is very English Pub with low ceilings, exposed beams, and dark wood. In the back there’s a cozy sunken dining room with a large wood burning fireplace. With cult classic movies like “Easy Rider” and “Smokey and the Bandit” playing on the flat screen near the bar, and Peter Frampton vinyl spinning on the turntable supplying the tunes, you know you’re in for something special.

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There’s a shuffleboard table around the corner for some friendly competitive matches.

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Outside in the beer garden are firepits and a small stage for live music. There’s already a summer concert series lined up. The first Friday of the month will feature a musical roadtrip across route 50 with live bands, unique food, and special beer releases. The series ends in September with “Fifty Fest”.

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All their beer is brewed on site.

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They don’t do any bottling, but you can fill up a growler to take home. Be sure to wear your patriotic boxers when coming in for a fill up!

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They have a wide selection of beer varieties from Belgian Ales, IPAs, Brown Ales, Stouts, and seasonal specials. The full beer menu is displayed on chalkboards on the wall. We tried the Coast to Coast IPA, Alternate Route brown ale, and the Coffee Please stout. All were exceptional.  The beers are served in appropriate 50 West branded glassware – either a Pint glass, Tulip Glass, or Pilsner depending on the style of brew.

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The food menu is far from traditional Pub fare. Dishes are served Tapas style and you’re encouraged to order several to share. A delicious pub mix of glazed pretzels and wasabi, or sweet Servatii soft pretzels with spicy mustard are complementary while they last. It just keeps getting better!

The Gyro with house beef and lamb topped with tomato, onion, and house tzatziki sauce.

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The Smoked Salmon Guacamole with house made spent grain tortilla chips.

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The Quinoa Salad with roasted garlic and pepita with asparagus, wild mushrooms, and topped with a poached egg.

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The Bruschetta – baguette rubbed with garlic and topped with a puree of fresh peas, house ricotta, and mint.

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The Turkey Wings. We could have done without these, as they’re quite large and difficult to eat without making a mess. They’re very spicy buffalo style and don’t really bring anything new to the table you can’t get somewhere else. Doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the dishes.

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The C.A.B – A cheddar, apple, and bacon slider.

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They also have a few special desserts that aren’t on the menu. First we tried the Waffle with granny smith apples and bourbon infused syrup topped with whipped cream. Excellent!

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Next was the Coffee Please Ice Cream float with vanilla bean ice cream and just a hint of bourbon. This was off the charts amazing!

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50 West gets a solid 5 out of 5 stars for their fantastic beer brewed on site, relaxed and fun atmosphere, great pub food and entertainment options.
The wait staff may have been a bit understaffed and the kitchen took a while to get dishes out, but that is easily remedied. The brewmaster came out to the dining room on several occasions to check how we were doing, which was great.
All in all, 50 West is really on point and we will certainly be back soon!

http://fiftywestbrew.com/

Fifty West Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Zula @ Washington Park – 4/19/2013

Zula Restaurant & Wine Bar is located across from Washington Park in the Over The Rhine arts district.  The decor is modern with inspiring local artwork displayed throughout the restaurant.  They specialize in eclectic tapas dishes, seafood, and Mussels.  The wine and craft beer selections are extensive.  Finding the perfect pairing is not a problem at Zula!

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For starters we ordered the Eggplant “Fries” with confectioner sugar and spicy-sour dipping sauce.  They sliced the eggplant into fingerlings and lightly fried them to a crisp.  Wow, this is one of the most creative and delicious eggplant preparations we’ve experienced.  The fries are great alone, or if you want to spice them up the dipping sauce is ultra hot.

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Next up is the Bulgarian Feta Flatbread with purple onions, roasted tomatoes, kalmata olives, and fresh oregano.  This could be enjoyed as a meal by itself as it’s about the size of a medium artesian pizza.  The flatbread is toasted in a wood fired pizza oven in Zula’s open kitchen.

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Finally to round out the starters we have R-seared Scottish Salmon with avocado, scallions, and citrus-basil vinaigrette.  The salmon is just slightly seared to give it a crispy outer shell and warm it through.  It melts in your mouth, so good.

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For the main course we ordered two pots of Mussels.  The first preparation is French Classic Mariniere with white wine shallots, parsley, and garlic.  The second is Funghi with seasonal mushrooms, apple wood smoked bacon, garlic, and cream.  Both pots were savory and steamed just right, hot throughout without being overcooked or chewy.  There’s plenty in each pot and could easily be shared between a party of two or three.  We had to take some home!

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On to dessert!  We ordered up a Chocolate Walnut Kahlua Brownie with caramel gelato and a Lemon Verbena & Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with dried fruit compote.  The Brownie was surprisingly mild and not overly sweet.  Just the right balance between soft, sweet, and crunchy.  The Panna Cotta was out of this world.  Possibly one of the best after dinner desserts we’ve ever had.  It’s almost like a firm gelato, but different.  It was ever so slightly sweet with a thin crunchy marzipan cake beneath.  So good!

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Zula gets a solid 4 out of 5 stars for their amazingly flavor filled small plates, excellent wine and beer selections, and a clean modern decor.  With more than three times the seating of most locations in OTR there shouldn’t be much trouble getting a table, but they do take reservations via Open Table -  a big plus.  The prices are a bit on the high side when compared with other area restaurants.  The restrooms while clean and tidy are shared with other businesses in the building so they’re completely disconnected in terms of Zula’s atmosphere.  Having private restrooms at this level of establishment should be a given.

http://zulabistro.com/

Zula on Urbanspoon

Cooper’s Hawk Winery @ Easton Town Center – 02/23/2013

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Cooper’s Hawk, based out of Chicago, recently opened a new winery and restaurant at Easton Town Center in Columbus, OH and will be breaking ground soon somewhere in the Kenwood suburb of Cincinnati.  They’ve introduced a new concept in dining by creating a signature menu with a selection of dishes designed to pair perfectly with their own privately made Cooper’s Hawk wines.  You won’t find any other brands on their wine list, as they serve the Cooper’s Hawk label exclusively.  With a modern mix of stone, hardwood, glass, and steel the restaurant is quite large with soaring three story ceilings and multiple levels.

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The wine is definitely the focus at Cooper’s Hawk. Every dish on the menu is paired with a “Bin” number which corresponds to a recommended selection on the wine list. This makes it easy to pick a complimentary wine to go with your meal. If you want to sample several different wines there are multiple flight options available, or you can create your own flight of four wines.

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Their Cooper’s Hawk Red is served straight from the barrel in a specially designed table side decanter. Cool!

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Their menu options are vast whether you’re there for lunch, dinner, or late night tapas. There are gluten free, low calorie, carryout, and group catering menu options. For lunch we started off with their award winning Asian BBQ Pork Belly Nachos. The recipe took nearly three months for them to perfect, and it was worth every minute. The slow cooked pork belly melts in your mouth, mmmm.

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Their Blue Cheese and Crispy Onion Cheeseburger is a chef specialty that is overloaded with flavor. You better love blue cheese if you order this burger!

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The Baby Green salad with their house raspberry dressing came topped with blackened salmon.

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If that’s not enough, dig into their Ice Cream Cookie sandwich dessert.

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Cooper’s Hawk also has a Wine Club that offers one or two bottles of wine per month, a monthly tasting session for two, dining points toward gift cards, free dinners during your birthday month, and access to invitation only Cooper’s Hawk wine events. Every month features a newly released wine. You can choose to take home this wine or any of their other wines as your monthly choice.

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Cooper’s Hawk gets 4 out of 5 stars for their innovative approach to Wine & Dine. Can’t wait for the Cincinnati location to open up in the fall of 2013.

coopershawkwinery.com

Taste Of Belgium on Vine – 2/17/2013

TasteOfBelgium
Taste of Belgium waffles are like none other in town. Dense, crispy, sweet, and delicious. Enjoyable on their own but even better as the foundation for a scrumptious brunch. The waffle station is one of our favorite stops at the Cincinnati Zoo’s annual fall Zoo Brew event. Sam Adams beer and Belgium waffles, what more can you ask for!
TasteOfBelgium
Taste of Belgium has been a resident of Findlay market for some time and has recently started expanding their footprint in Cincy. In October of 2011 they opened their Bistro location at the corner of Vine and 12th st. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and of course their waffles are on the menu all day long. A full service bar is open late into the night with a variety of beer, wine, spirits and hot espresso.
TasteOfBelgium
To turn up the heat on this bitter cold Sunday morning we ordered up a Waffle’n Chicken which comes with the famous Belgium waffle topped with Ohio maple syrup and a huge piece of chicken fried chicken topped with Tabasco sauce. Whew, that’s some spicy chicken! Next up is their Burger & Frites, topped with goat cheese, caramelized shallots and apples, and thick applewood smoked bacon on a house made bun. Winner-winner-chicken-din…err, breakfast!
TasteOfBelgium
The bistro serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and was recently voted best brunch in town by Metromix. Get there early to get a seat because it gets crowded FAST! Taste of Belgium gets an easy 5 out of 5 stars and adds another +1 to the OTR Gateway Quarter.

http://authenticwaffle.com/

Taste of Belgium Bistro on Urbanspoon