Showing posts with label westside. Show all posts
Showing posts with label westside. Show all posts

Saturday, July 31, 2010

qdoba mexican grill

beth and i met up for lunch at qdoba mexcian grill in colerain. in full disclosure we had received 2 free mango chicken salads from qdoba. the salads had two options 1. bowl 2. taco shell. we ordered one of each. i was surpised (pleasantly) that we were able to add to the salads. this one is chicken plus sour cream and cheese.

mango salad without the tortilla bowl...and with.

so i nibbled off krissy's shell, but i wasn't thrilled and secretly glad that i had the bowl. i admit i was a little apprehensive about the mango part of the salad. i was also pleasantly surprised how much i enjoyed it. it was filling, tasty, not too sweet and an overall great salad. i would honestly considering ordering this salad again. the tough part would be not ordering any extras, despite knowing that it's filling without any of the fun stuff without the cheese, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

yeah, the tortilla bowl was nothing to write home about. it didn't really add to the salad anything but calories. i agree with beth that overall the salad was an agreeable meld of flavors, from the mango to the cilantro-lime dressing. i will say there wasn't much depth; the dish was fairly straightforward, but i don't find that to be a problem with lunch, especially something that i consider in the category of fast food.

if you're dieting or watching what you eat this is a great salad to order (w/o the taco shell and extras) because this is filling and calorie conscious. i think the biggest thing that appealed to me about the salads is that without any of the "extras" is that it is only 355 calories. seriously? only 355? that's a dream for me. let's be honest, i eat far more than i should and to eat this salad, feel filled and only eat 355 is a DREAM!!.

since we thought we should try more than just the salads we also ordered a combo meal (the craft 2) that had 1/2 a quesadilla and 2 tacos. we ordered chicken quesadila and 1/2 pulled pork tacos.

the quesadilla was good. as with the salad, i liked the chicken. it was well cooked and savory. i did not care as much for the pulled pork, and i think beth thought the same. it was a little mushy and not as tasty as the chicken. i read on qdoba's website that the pork is roasted on premise for 6 hours, which i applaud, but the outcome is somewhat mediocre. agreed. we may have been spoiled recently by eric's smoking (meat) endeavors lately....i really enjoyed the quesadilla and would probably order that again. as for the tacos i might try the steak or chicken instead.

we also tried two of the salsas. i should say, beth tried two of the salsas. we had the corn and the medium -- the medium had some kick to it and a smokey flavor. the corn was heavy on the corn and little other flavor.

one thing that we noted was that at lunchtime, we were the only females there eating. the rest of the tables were occupied with men sitting alone, presumably on lunchbreaks from the surrounding strip mall merchants. it was borderline surreal. i want to say at one point there we were with 8 males eating lunch by themselves. kinda funny.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

a lazy sunday afternoon

last sunday was proof summer has come to cincinnati - clear, sunny, sweltering (merely a trifle of what's to come, i'm sure). a couple girlfriends and i met up for a leisurely lunch at cabana on the river. the cabana provides an idyllic setting for such a lunch, nestled along the banks of the languid ohio river.

we seated ourselves (as the sign indicated we should) and waited for a server to approach the table. after 10 minutes, we grabbed some menus from a nearby stack. and waited. then waited some more. it wasn't that servers weren't obvious, rushing around between the tables, doling out coronas and hamburgers. they were just not coming to our table. it had not even been completely cleared from the previous occupants. finally, after a half hour of progressively increasing thirst, elisa approached the bar and asked for some waters. instead of giving her the waters, the bartender indicated she would send a server over. she regarded our table and asked where we got the menus. elisa replied we had seen a stack and decided to look one over as we waited for our server. the bartender offered this as the explanation for why we had not been served - apparently all the servers would think someone else was helping us because we already had menus.

cabana lesson #1: don't proactively snag a menu to peruse while you wait for a server. you will be waiting for a long time.

we finally ordered, and more importantly received the illusive cups of water, then sat back to chat and watch the river meander past.

first to arrive at the table was jessie's black and bleu salad. the amount of bacon, steak, and bleu cheese effectively cancels out any nutrition from the lettuce, but jessie did say the beef was delicious and well cooked. all salads are served in plastic to-go boxes.

next up is elisa's portabella sandwich. she pronounced that the mushroom was tender and had an agreeable flavor.finally, my chicken salad sandwich. i am generally very apprehensive about ordering either tuna or chicken salad, because i am uber-picky about "picnic foods". i never know what i am going to get, and it may be disgusting. i was orginally going to order the turkey burger, but we sat there for so long waiting for the server that i began to wish for something cool and refreshing. i should have stuck to my original inclination and ordered the turkey burger. the mountain of chicken salad dolloped on the bun could have used more chicken and less relish and mayonnaise. the flavor fell flat. also, until this sandwich appeared on the lunch table, i had no idea kraft made swiss cheese singles. the overall effect was unpleasant, but i was starving by this point and gobbled everything up.

cabana lesson #2: go with your first instinct when ordering.

and, cabana lesson #3: don't pay the extra $1 to top anything with their swiss cheese.

i don't know if i've been extra crabby lately or what, but it seems like every restaurant door i've darkened lately has led me astray. hopefully this trend will end soon, cause i'm hungry.
Cabana on the River on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 16, 2010


st. catharine reinvented their annual parish festival this year, morphing it into cincitalia. as you may imagine, the festival now carries an italian theme and features "taste of italy" food purveyors, italian dancers, a wine bar, and a healthy dose of dean martin tunes crooning in the background.

yesterday afternoon the crowd was still light when we paid our $1 admission and began walking through harvest home park. brian, of course, went straight for the beer booth (always a huge moneymaker at a catholic festival), and i wandered through the staple festival diversions; split the pot, honey-baked ham chances, etc. the taste of italy alley included noce's (mmm...), pompilio's, gabby's cafe, dolce vita gelato, and larosa's. promised on the schedule were cooking demonstrations by these restaurants, including buddy larosa, but we weren't able to find where the demonstrations were taking place (ok, we didn't look that hard). we grabbed some food and settled ourselves in the tent to enjoy the music, which covered everything from standards by the pete wagner band to opera.

taste of italy booths

the wine bar and la societa fuscaldese femminile selling delicious baked goodies

bruschetta prepared from a recipe in the san antonio church cookbook (which i did not buy but wish i had). satisfying, not overtly garlicky.

red, green, and white cupcakes made by some old italian lady who clearly rocks

we very much relished the efforts of our parish to distinguish itself in the multitude of cookie-cutter parish festivals. hopefully the venture is successful and only continues to expand in coming years.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

the original

it has been quite some time since i have written about my grandparents, so allow me some time to reminisce before i get to the actual food portion of this post.

one of my favorite books begins, "last night i dreamt i went to manderley again...". if i was to write a book, it could very easily begin:

"Last night, I dreamt I went to my grandfather’s drug store again. It seemed to me I stood by the glass topped candy case, and for a while I could not see behind the counter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of sudden supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the store before me. The aisles lined with cards and cold creams lay in front of me, straight and narrow as they had always been. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon the store. The dream was jumbling my memories, and was twisting the shadows with long tenacious fingers. The shelves were dusty and unfamiliar, the carpet worn. And finally, there was my grandfather – my grandfather - perched on his black leather stool patched with packing tape, smoking his pipe. Time could not mar the perfect recollection of this. Nighttime can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that I was a little girl again: eliciting satisfying pops from bubble wrap; sliding m and m's from pill counting trays into vials; running to the butcher to stock his refrigerator with bologna and liverwurst and cheese, dollar bills crumpled in my hand. Abruptly, sleep escaped me and the illusion went with it. I looked upon my dark bedroom, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls. I can never go back to the drug store again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the days of my youth before the drug store became Mandalay Bay tanning salon."

the point of all this is next to my grandpa's drug store on rapid run road was/is empress chili. this chili parlor is another piece of my childhood memories. i always had a wiener bun with cheese; these were the days before i subjected myself to cincinnati chili. empress is the original cincinnati chili, founded in 1922. the spices are still mixed according to a secret family recipe.

a few weekends ago we were driving about aimlessly trying to decide on dinner. we happened to pass empress and decided to pull in. for me, it was not without a pang of nostalgia. i had not eaten there since my grandpa retired and the drug store closed in 1992.
similar to every chili parlor on the westside, the walls of empress are bedecked with elder paraphernalia. the tablecloths are vinyl, the flowers are faux. the menu at empress is more extensive than skyline, but less so than price hill chili. as i was absolutely starving, i ordered a chilito and a cheeseburger.

the chilito was pretty typical. i always feel there is too much tortilla and not enough filling. however, the chili was delicious. drier than skyline and more zesty, i think empress may become my new favorite cincinnati chili. although brian disagreed. he still prefers skyline.the burger was so-so, an average patty cooked for the median palate (a 3.5 out of 6 on the burger scale). but look at all those pickles and the wavy husman chips!the stop at empress was a wonderful trip down memory lane, one i will repeat. the chili is great, the ambiance quintessential westside, and the crackers are shur-good. maybe next time we'll stop by after a high school football game. too bad my grandpa isn't around to join us.
Empress Chili on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 4, 2009

maury's tiny cove

maury's tiny cove was once voted by citybeat to be the restaurant you'd be most likely to find a member of the rat pack. it's easy to picture frank, late night, lounging in a vinyl booth under the low, red ceiling, a martini and a steak on the table.

maury's recently has come under new management, but all the things i've loved about it haven't changed. crackers and butter are still brought to every table, along with a bowl of generously sliced dill pickles. the cow with a martini is still out front, welcoming patrons to relax in the dark, wood paneled ambiance within.

we started out the meal with some cheesesticks. they were pretty typical.all the entrees are named after cincinnati teams - the bobcat, the bengal, the bearcat. i had the filet mignon and shrimp, with a side of garlic mushrooms. the steak was pretty decent, juicy and mellow, although their definition of medium is a bit more pink than mine. the shrimp were ok, nothing special.if i remember correctly, brian ordered the cavalier, the 12oz new york strip. his was also very pink.the desserts are homemade, and mine, a chocolate pie with candied orange peel, was a combination i totally would not expect from a westside establishment. it was delicious.brian had the basic chocolate cake.i'm glad this old westside favorite has survived through the years, and i'm looking forward to giving their happy hour a test run.

Maury's Tiny Cove Steak House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 13, 2009

far from the madding crowd

sunday morning. brian and i drive aimlessly, looking for a breakfast apart from the church-goer mobbed bob evans. we happen upon the round table in cleves and enter. the marquee over the door promises apple pie and breakfast anytime. there are three lone men sitting at three individual tables. one is wearing a shirt reading "fbi: female body inspector". while clean, it is obvious close to a million cigarettes have been smoked at the tables over the years it took the varnish to build up and drip down the wood-paneled walls.

a congenial waitress with way too much eyeshadow for a sunday morning takes our order. brian's omelet and fat freddy burger are delivered to the table. he pronounces satisfaction. the fat freddy is reminiscent of a big boy, the omelet large. to me, the eggs look a bit dry. my mushroom swiss burger (a 3.5/6 on the burger scale) has rubbery mushrooms, but the fatty gravy and melted gooey cheese do a good job of disguising them.

alas, there is no apple pie as promised, but i do dig into some amazing 5-layer chocolate cake. the slice has roughly the same dimensions as my head. it is moist and superb. the cake is not made on site, but purchased from jetro (which sounds like something astro would say).

we had all this for a total of $21.24. would we go back? half of us would (not me, in case you couldn't guess).

sorry, no pictures. brian took some on his phone, but somehow we can't get them transferred to the computer.

Cleves Roundtable on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 12, 2009

guest post: josh riffs on larosa's

by means of introduction: i've pseudo-known josh for a long time. we go way back. back to grade school, in fact, like most westsiders. there exists a video starring us and other similarly rhythm-impaired pre-adolescents rapping about cincinnati; fortunately it is locked inside the bicentennial time capsule. needless to say, i have to stay on his good side in case a copy resurfaces, so i invited him to blog on one of our favorite topics - larosa's. his thoughts follow.

There’s a stereotype of Cincinnatians in general (and westsiders in particular) that we are born here, raised here, get married here and die here. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of those stereotypical Cincinnatians. I grew up in Bridgetown on the west side and now I live in Delhi. For a brief time during college (at UC), I worked at my dream job in Houston. But, I decided I didn’t like it there, came back and changed my major. Soon after, I remember seeing a LaRosa’s billboard on I-74 declaring, “It’s good here.” And that’s how I felt. I liked the people here, the values, and the local food.

We used to pick up Skyline for dinner after every vacation. My grandma used to live across from the original LaRosa’s on Boudinot. We’d go over there many Sundays to visit and she’d take us across the street to the Pizzeria or if we were lucky, maybe to the Wine Cellar! I loved it. The pizza was always hot and delicious; with the sauce has that distinctive sweet taste you can only get there. I spent many a late night at that same Boudinot LaRosa’s after football games or a movie.

But lately, LaRosa’s has just not been very good. There was a recent post on Slice. The author, Daniel Zemans (who is from Chicago), had some very disparaging things to say about LaRosa’s. At first, I was a little offended. Who was this guy to be knocking our city’s pizza?! Then, I realized that for the most part I had to agree with him. It’s just not very good anymore.

It’s really hard to put a finger on what changed. For the past several years, whenever I’ve had LaRosa’s, it seems that if I’m LUCKY, the food is “just ok.” But, mostly it’s just not tasty. Everything seems mass-produced. The pizza just seems to sit like a brick in your stomach. Half the time, the cheese has slid off the pizza or the crust isn’t quite cooked all the way. With all the nostalgia and loyalty I had, it’s hard to admit that it’s just not good anymore. AND, the price has gone up significantly. They haven’t really introduced many new items, and when they have, they’ve mostly been mediocre at best (Montgomery Inn pizza? Little It’ly pizza?).

I dunno…maybe it’s me. My kids still seem to like it. But, to me, when the quality goes up and the price goes down, I’m going to head somewhere else for my pizza fix. For us, lately that’s been Trotta’s or Noce’s. And, that’s hard to stomach (pun intended) for a born and bred westsider like myself.

Monday, May 11, 2009

westside bar crawl by cincinnati imports

please come hang out on my home turf. it's safe and fun. a friend visiting from florida once said it reminded him of key west. honest.

cincinnati imports is hosting the swingin' good time this friday, may 15th.

here's the breakdown (copy and pasted):
Bar 1: Luckey’s Irish Pub (A)
Location: 3722 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211, 513-662-9222
Time: 7:00 pm
Drink specials: $0.50 off all drinks

Bar 2: 2nd Street Saloon (B)
Location: 3703 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-389-1900
Time: 8:00 pm
Drink specials: $3.25 Jeremiah Weed Lemonade (sweet tea vodka and lemonade), $1.50 16 ounce domestic drafts

Bar 3: Cheviot Sports Tavern (C)
Location: 3613 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-661-9464
Time: 9:00 pm
Drink specials: $1.50 domestic drafts

Bar 4: Rootie’s (D)
Location: 3609 Harrison Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-481-0200
Time: 10:00 pm
Drink specials: TBD

Bar 5: Black Sheep (E)
Location: 3807 North Bend Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45211; 513-481-6300
Time: 11:00 pm
Drink specials: TBD
Food: $2.00 pizza slices and snacks
Band/Music: Less than Zero and DJ

hope to see you!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the holy grail

once upon a time, jknepfle charged me with the task of seeking the holy grail, promising me the rewards would be rich should i succeed at this quest. legend tells of the holy grail being nestled deep in a valley in the land of delhi. my first attempt failed miserably, as the way was shut and the chamber dark and empty. my second endeavor proved worthy, and banners ceremoniously welcomed me, proclaiming my triumph.
the cavern was lit with the light of glowing crests and keno screens. as was bespoken, the bounty was indeed plentiful. i was served twisted pretzels with a glorious, golden sauce, slightly spicy and a perfect complement.
illustrious paul goebel created reuben wontons, full to the brim with corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and the dressing of a thousand islands. i found the combination gratifying, although my companion brian did not find it so.also presented was an incontrovertibly succulent beef patty cloaked in bleu cheese, garnering a 5/6 on the gradation governing all burgers in the kingdom. the accompanying barbeque sauce was neglected as it did not captivate the palate.a brew bubbling with blueberries was brought to me. it was overly sacchariferous and not the divine drink i remembered from my youth in the countryside of clifton. perhaps my youth or intoxication had rendered me indiscriminate.
Holy Grail Tavern and Grille West on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 26, 2009


brian and i are too poor to eat sushi at beluga before his brother's shindig, so we decided to check out sushi westside style at sakura, the japanese steakhouse (complete with hibachi) and sushi bar that opened where dante's used to be. we have heard mixed reviews about the food and service, so we needed to see for ourselves.

i haven't been in dante's since i was a kid and went there for breakfast with my grandparents after church, but i am pretty certain the chandeliers in the dining room are the same. no matter. the interior is much more minimalist than the heavy red and gold i remember.

sakura gets points for cocktail creativity. i have never before had a wasabitini.

composed of ciroc vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a dissolved "pea of wasabi", the effect is quite scintillating. very pleasurable and unusual, like the essence of sushi in a glass. one was enough, though. it's drink a lot of.

first course was the jj's salad - spicy crab and cucumber. held together by something i suspect was mayonnaise, which gave it a heavier flavor and texture than one would expect from crab and cucumber. brian really liked it, although he struggled with his chopsticks transferring it from plate to mouth.

we ordered the eel and cucumber roll, smoked salmon, and bluefin tuna. all were fine, nothing out of the ordinary. the fish was probably not the freshest i have ever had, but it was by no means bad.

we were pleased with the service. it was efficient and i was never without water. and the sushi chef was friendly. sakura is connected to poppy's by a glass wall, where there is a distinctly different menu. we saw club sandwiches going by to be delivered to the bar. there was live music and some folks were dancing. in 10 years it will be a great place for us to hang out.

band member telling me "no photos, please". awkward.

Sakura Steakhouse and Sushi on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 13, 2009

memories of breakfasts past

the perkins across from western bowl holds a lot of memories for me. late nights playing cards, family breakfasts, a cloud of cigarette smoke. my two most vivid memories: one i've already related here, and the other is the morning after junior prom when my friend sally's* screams echoed through the restaurant, horrified at the discovery of the large hickey on her neck which earned her date the nickname "jack the hoover vac".
much to my dismay, the easter morning breakfast planning committee dropped the ball this year and we ended up at perkins.
i have to say perkins has cleaned up its act since the old days. i'm sure the smoking ban has helped out immensely. the restaurant was clean and our server extremely courteous and on the ball.
i ordered the deli ham and lot of cheese omelet. it was fine, lots of ham. the hash browns were, i imagine, sort of like eating forkfuls of that mulch made from old tires.

brian's "tremendous 12". disappeared in 24.8 seconds.

the most disappointing aspect of the breakfast was the appalling lack of strawberry jam. remember when perkins used to have the little racks of jelly on every table? well, i guess the over 60 club stole one too many to stock their pantries, cause now the jelly comes on the plate. one measly dollop for four pieces of toast. and i don't even like grape. i'm sure if i asked, our kind server would have brought me strawberry, but that's not really the point.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Perkins Family on Urbanspoon