Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pelican's Reef

Most of us like to frequent spots were we are known and welcomed, be it a hardware store or a restaurant, Marilyn and I feel this way about Pelican's Reef.
A "Key West" type bar and grill located at 7261 Beechmont Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45230, phone 513-232-2526. It is approximately one half mile West of Five Mile Road, in a small small strip center.
Upon entering you sense that people are having a "good time". You know it is informal when you are seated at a scrubbed wooden table, with a role of paper towels for napkins and a basket of condiments for your selection. There is a full bar, with reasonable prices, and beer is served with a glass but most of us prefer to drink right from the bottle.
As you might surmise the menu is heavy on seafood but includes other meats and pasta's.
Last night both of us chose the "Gulf Snapper" Special. It was priced at $13.95 with 2 sides. Marilyn chose the tossed salad and a twice baked potato while I had a Ceasar, a little too heavy on the semi-sweet dressing, and grilled asparagus. Next time I'll have the dressing on the side with a piece or two of lemon, but that is my taste. The food is good and the portions are adequate.
We enjoy the informality, the food and the drinks. I think you might also.

A First

After many years of messing up our kitchen, at home, preparing everything from simple salads to Brazed Beef Ribs I'm moving to the ,"big show", thanks to Paul Weckman and Otto's--scroll down for location and a report.
Paul and I will be featuring the "J.P.Ruben" as a special, July 1, with the regular "Brunch " menu.
The basic platform is "country ham and catfish" but we've added some other interesting items, to this sandwich. It's not a "Dagwood" but you'll never know till you try one. Hope to see you Sunday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chung Ching

I don't know what Chung Ching" means in Chinese, but to me it means very good food, well prepared, in a very casual setting.
Chung Ching is at 5842 Hamilton, Ave, Cincinnati, OH,45224, phone 513-541-1243. It is in the "College Hill" area. The restaurant is a family operation, husband cooks and wife is the staff, "in the front of the house". That's how they can serve such good food at very reasonable prices.
Last night the two of us plus a New Yorker and our favorite Priest went around 7:00 PM. During our dinner there was one other occupied table and a few "carry outs".
We had one of the "dinners for four",$34.95. Our meal consisted of vegetarian egg roles, very crispy and not greasy, choice of soup; in my opinion the "sweet and sour is best, and four different courses plus white rice.
Our main courses were: Chicken with Vegetables, Sweet and Sour Pork, Beef with Scallions and Shrimp with Sizzling Rice. more than enough for 4 hearty eaters. The plates, on which we put our share were nicely warmed and each item came out of the kitchen separately and steaming.
As you can tell I am impressed. Chung Ching is a store front, small, undistinguished, old fashioned Chinese place with standard dishes well prepared; all fresh ingredients, cooked to order. It is not cutting edge or the "Gourmet find of the week", but it can't be beat for a very good Chinese dinner at a relaxed, casual and inexpensive price. The total bill including several Japanese beers, iced tea, tax and a 20% tip was $52. Put that in your "opium pipe" and smoke it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More lunches

I may be the "Kiss of Death". After mentioning Chez T Cuisine they switched to strictly catering from serving customers in the restaurant in Mt. Lookout.
This week for social or business occasions I had meals at the following three spots:

Jean-Robert's Greenup Cafe. located at 308 Greenup St., Covington, KY, phone 859-261-1304.
It is in an old, brick, free standing, several story town house. Several steps to negotiate, unless there is an entrance that is not obvious. I have eaten there several times and found the front room, where we have been seated very noisy. It seems to take only one or two tables to make a general din.
The menu leans on the French. One day I had a charcuterie sandwich and another time Brie and avocado on a croissant with a rather heavy, homemade mayonnaise. Of course, these were my choices.
Prices run from around $7 to $15.

The Greyhound Tavern; We are much more likely to end up there with a group on Monday or Tuesday night for a "family style" fried Chicken dinner. Much more about that some other time.
Greyhound is located at 2500 Dixie Hwy., Fort Mitchell, Ky 41017, phone 859-331-3767.
The lunch menu is extensive plus there are also specials. Soups, salads, sandwiches, plated items and speciality. Prices are reasonable, $6 to $9, and there is full bar service, if this is of interest. The entrance is at ground level and there is plenty of parking. Greyhound is quiet enough to have a conversation for two or a larger group and it is not too crowded, especially if you get there before noon.

J.Alexander's in the Rookwood Shopping Center, 2629 Edmonson Road, Cincinnati, OH 45209, phone 513-531-7495. Another chain restaurant, that does a good job. Handicapped Accessible , to all areas, and with full bar service. A large varied menu running from burgers to upper end specials. Large portions, which can easily be split, and to my way of thinking some of the best French Fries around. I know, not good for us but awfully tasty. They are open for lunch, dinner and after a mid-evening movie. I have always found the service very well handled and the Management quite accommodating. On the last visit I asked for my usual "Bombay on the rocks with onions" The server said they were out of onions but a Manager was going to Kroger's to get some. they arrived about 15 minutes later. I was embarrassed but not so much that I didn't add them to my drink.


Here we go with another of our favorites. Honey, located in Northside, on Hamilton Ave, just North of the Ludlow viaduct, is in the spot originally occupied by Boca, when David Falk started on his own. It is now the property and provenance of Shishana Freedman who is the Chef and owner, along with her husband.
Honey is loud and at eight o'clock Saturday night packed, thank goodness if we want them to stay in business and prosper, and I certainly do. If you want it quieter go on a week night or for lunch.
They do not take reservations, but if you have some special needs give them a call, 513-541-4300 and they will try to be accommodating. It is handicapped accessible, thru the Patio.
Shoshana is a wisp of a female but her energy and inventiveness make up for her size. She is a wizard with flavors and her ideas are always inventive and rewarding.
Honey has a full bar and a fine wine list. They are open both at lunch and dinner, 5 or 6 days a week, I'm never sure.
Last night we went with another couple and had four excellent meals. I tried the Belgium Waffle topped with crab and avocado, for a first course. The heft of the waffle, which I believe was made with "buckwheat" contrasted perfectly with the lightness of the crab and avocado. The waffle had a sweet crust and was surrounded by several vegetable coils. My main course was Diver Scallops done perfectly with an accompaniment of mushrooms, grilled and brazed onion slice and a bit of root vegetables. The others had either wild mushroom ravioli or beef carpaccio for their first courses and either the scallops or roast chicken served on a bed of some kind of a bean, reminiscent of lentils. One of our party though it was delicious another though it was dry.
The service was very good, especially considering we were at a peak time. The food came from the tiny kitchen hot and well plated. Dinning with Shoshana is a treat.
We had an excellent bottle of Rose, not my favorite but I admit it was very tasty and I didn't hold back. I had always thought that Rose was a blend of red and white, how naive can you be, but I learned last night that it is made entirely for "red grapes" and receives it color from the amount of time the skins are left in the process.
Dinner, including the wine and coffee can to about $50/person.
Enough raving and education. Try Honey and let me know what you think?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Italian Chains

In our part of the country we seem to have a lot of Chain Restaurants specializing in Italian dished, or at least an Americanization of same. That's not to say we don't have some outstanding chef or family run, true Italian eateries, especially in St. Louis and other locales.
Chains such as Carrabba's Italian Grill, The Olive Garden and The Macaroni Grill can be found most places and, in my estimation, do a fair to good job.
Last night we went to one of the Carrabba's in the Greater Cincinnati Area. Several people had told us that this chain was a bit above the others. It certainly is OK and probably, measurably, better than The Olive Garden but of the three I would choose The Macaroni Grill.
All have full bar service, are handicapped accessible and serve meaningful portions. Some portions are so large they can be split between two or three and then some still taken home. I have tried several Pastas with either Shrimp or Crab while Marilyn usually goes for a Pasta Bolognese or plain Angle Hair with the same sauce or Meat Balls. All have been well prepared, served warm to hot and priced in the $12 to $16 range.
From my point of view the chains do a decent to a very good job. They are a good spot in the neighborhood or when away from home.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Your correct. In my last posting, probably, one of the sentences should have ended with a ? instead of a period and also I left out a closed quote. I'll have to read more carefully.

Finger Food

One of my constant readers, substitute Son, sent a clipping reminding me that often "food trends" originate from California, his home. Currently, the discussion is concerning portion size and price.
It seems that the Grange, north of Ft. Bragg CA, has been serving 400/500 breakfasts at $5 each, half price for children, on weekends. They have poled their guests on whether they should reduce the portion, half piece of ham instead of whole or raise the price $1. I wish all establishments were that concerned about their customers.

A friend asked the other day where to take a 100 year old woman to lunch. The woman has a hearing problem and they wanted a quiet, accessible place. We settled on the Palm Court at the Netherlands. Later I also thought of "Cafe de Paris" on Erie Ave. or "Chaz T Cuisine" in Mt. Lookout. Both small, quiet, chef run lunch spots. There was also Bronti's, written about earlier, but they thought that it was a place where their guest had been too often.

My main editor still comments that my spelling is abominable, I think I spelled it correctly. I tell him I use "spell check and the dictionary" but he doesn't believe me. Maybe I need a special "spell check" for terrible spellers. He also says my punctuation and grammar are not much better. Maybe he was just having a bad day or I'm living in my own world. Oh well, "what you "sees" is what you get".

Another good Brunch, yesterday, at Otto's and a happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I probably eat lunch out about 3 times a week. Some of these are Committee or "Board" lunches, attached to a meeting. Most are of the box variety and I head for the Turkey, Egg Salad or Veggie, if any of these are available.
When I meet friends I try to do a little better, still staying on the light side. In the past couple of weeks I have enjoyed the following spots and choices:

Bronte Bistro, inside Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2692 Madison Road, Norwood - 513-396-8966. Handicapped accessible. In my Mothers day this was referred to as a "tea room" but the clientele has been broadened. The menu still remains "lite" with salads, soups, sandwiches etc. The last time there I had a fish picata, grilled, on a bun with lettuce and tomato. It was accompanied by and interesting Garbanzo Bean salad.

The Oakley Pub, just what the name implies. Located in the heart of Oakley, where else, 3924 Isabella, Oakley - 513-531-2500. Handicapped accessible, but fairly small and ofter crowded.
They have a decent Hamburger and Wednesday it's the special but my personal favorite is the Grilled Grouper sandwich served on "marbled rye" with sauce and trimmings. Along with this I choose the "crispy slaw". nice lunch for $7 to 8 dollars.

BBQ Revue, 4725 Madison Road, Madisonville - 513-871-3500. Handicapped accessible, but not easy. A whole array of meats and "sides" with my favorite being the beef brisket with a side of baked beans. I usually order the brisket sandwich, with no bread, and feel I am being virtuous. The meat alone is plenty for a decent lunch.

Cumin, 3520 Erie Ave. Hyde Park -513-871-8714. Handicapped accessible. One of my favorites, about which you will here much more in a dinner commentary. They have started serving lunch in the last month and the choices run from fairly heavy, Lamb Sausage on a bed of mushroom, potato hash to a very light green salad which one can have plain or with shrimp, chicken or beef added. I've had both and they certainly call for a libation. Deserts are available at lunch, if you want to make it your main meal; of the day, or if your planning to gain weight with a mid-afternoon snooze.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Finger Food

I have solicited comments from several people, along with my first editor. To all who have taken time to respond I say thanks, whether I follow all your advice or not.

Several others have told me places they have dined and dishes they enjoy. I am delighted to get such input but I decided, from the beginning, that I would only write about things that I, directly, experience. I will also try to keep my comments based on current visits.

A few nights ago I had a very interesting discussion with a very close friend. We were taking opposite sides of the question, what is regional cuisine? A world shaking problem. He believes, if I understand correctly, that if it is prepared in Charleston,SC or Biloxi,MS it is "Southern" even though it may be a grilled steak; while I content Grits, Greens and pulled pork constitute Southern cooking even if served in Duluth MN. What is your opinion?


We admit that we are prejudiced. Otto's is one of our favorite haunts, not just for the food but for the personal relationships. Otto's is located at 521 Main St. Covington, KY, phone 859-491-6678. Two steps from the street to the dining room.
Paul Weckman and his wife, Emily, both in their 20's own and run the place. Paul is the chef while Emily and her father, Otto, plus a friendly wait staff handle the front of the house. Everything is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients.
They have just started serving Brunch, Saturdays and Sundays 10 AM to 2 PM. I can't rave enough.
Marilyn and I were invited, today, to sample and express our opinions. I had the Crab Meat Hash while she tried the Benedict Otto. Other items on the Brunch menu were: B.L.F.G.T, Bacon, Lettuce and fried Green Tomatoes on a toasted croissant with egg and cheese; Breakfast Casserole, Savory Casserole layered with potato, sausage, eggs, onions and 3 cheeses( or a veggie version with Artichokes and Mushrooms), Banana Cheesecake French Toast, Emily's Granola and others. All are served, from the kitchen, not buffet, with a side of your choice.
Prices range from $7 to $9 dollars.
Otto's serves lunch five days a week, with unforgettable Cathy's Tomato Pie a marvelous cheese and tomato pie, which usually sells out early, and dinner Wednesday thru Saturday.
Repeating we are very good friends of the owners, but even if we didn't know them we would return often.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Finger Food

I have always said "if I could spell, I'd be dangerous". Now I have to add "if I could figure out a computer, I'd be dangerous". Since I "hunt and peck" I often hit several key-board pads, at a time, and some time a combination that sends what I am writing into Cyberspace, Draft or elsewhere. Then I almost always don't know how to retrieve what I wrote, unless double clicking or a right side click brings it back.
All this is to tell you that part of the first "Finger Food" got caught in Draft and all I was able to salvage was the part which I was able to "Cut" and "Paste". Maybe if I had roiled the "wheel" on the "mouse" you would have gotten more.
Here is what was not retrieved:
The most exciting event last week was when the artificial flowers on our table we ignited by the candle place next to them. I put it out, by blowing but we finished the meal with melted plastic attached to out table cloth. I wasn't smart enough to extinguish the flame by immersing the flower in my half finished "Bombay" or I am sure that I could have gotten a free refill.
The name of one of the Atlanta, excellent, restaurants should have been "Southern City Kitchen"
instead of just "Southern Kitchen". This was in the bit on Hugo.
The next McCormick and Schmick's to open in our general area, will be in the Dayton area. It will be run by David Heismann, a Cincinnatian who has been an Asst. Mgr. at the 5th St. location.
Six degrees of separation: one of the ILE Board members has a friend whose son is an Asst. Comptroller for the Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer's restaurant holding company.
And that is what you missed, I hope you didn't loose any sleep.

Monday, June 4, 2007


Good food, good service, good price and a good time. That in a "ravioli"(nut shell) is a short review of Brio Tuscan Grille. Yes, it is a chain restaurant but a good one, slightly better than most. This unit is located at "Newport on the Levee" in a stand alone building, with complete handicapped accessibility. The details are: One Levee Way, Newport, KY 41071, phone 859-431-0900. They accept reservations, however, they are usually not needed.
We again went with another couple, dinners out are our social life. I had my usual, at Brio. A drink, chopped salad and their excellent "flat bread", paper thin, with fresh sliced tomatoes, Basil and cheese. Marilyn had a salad and angle hair Pasta with tomatoes and seafood, finishing with coffee. Our companions each had drinks and a salad, while one chose a Pizza and the other Shrimp Risotto and also coffee.
The entire meal, including tip came to approximately $24 each.
Our server is a Sr. at Northern Kentucky University majoring in English and writing. I told him he could be of help to me with this Blog.
Think we'll stay home the next couple of nights.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Finger Foods

Finger Foods The title above denotes, in my mind, small bits one can handle easily.I have just returned from my first session with my editor, a friend. His first comment was that I can not spell, a fact I have know for over 70 years. He also pointd out that I am a poor proof reader and my reviews leave the impression that they were written my a boob. I'll work on both.I am sure, that I, like most Blog writters get more pleasure in creating things, than can possibly the readers. None the less we proceed. I have no formal training in writting nor in restauarant reviewing. I use no check list or criteria. All you get are my personal fellings and commentsThis past week I have learned if you like Soft Shell Crabs, get them quickly, when they appear in the Midwest, on menus or at the seafood store. They "ain't" here for long.


Last night it was "Hugo", 3235-A Madison Road, Oakley, OH 54209--513-321-4846, handicapped accessible.
Hugo has been open approximately 3 weeks, and it was our first visit. It bills itself as "Southern Sophisticated cuisine" but in my, not so humble opinion, cannot come anywhere near such places as the Horseradish Grill or The Southern Kitchen in the Atlanta, GA area.
After a slight discussion with our server, he had his agenda and we had ours, we settled in with a good drink or wine for the 4 of us. Once on the same page with the service his service was pleasant and professional. Now in sink, the server explained the theory of the menu: three courses, if desired, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd plates. All pleasantly sized but not large. If one followed the suggested routine you would be spending between $45 and $60 dollars for food alone, not counting dessert or coffee.
We chose only a starter and entree. The menu is not extensive but has enough choices to please most dinners. Approximately 10 entrees.
Among or entrees were; Kobe Beef, Veal chop and Shrimp and Grits, the latter being their signature dish. It was the most truly Southern, and was three good sized Scampi on white grits, with cheese. My salad was slightly disappointing, in that it was described as chopped greens on a bed of caramelized onions and sliced fingerling potatoes. Interesting, but only one small potato slice. The others choose Gazpacho which was was quite good and slightly spicy.
Hugo is in the spot formally occupied by Pho Paris and has not changed the decor. It is attractive and had a good crowd, in the bar and dining room, even though it is new. Some may have been refuges from "Boca" across the street.
The jury is still out about how we feel about a second visit.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Quarter Bistro

It's hard for me to keep up with reporting on the restaurants we are visiting. At this rate you'll think we never eat at home and your over 50% correct.
Our good friend Danny Meyer, in his book "Setting the table" made a very telling point of the difference between Service and Hospitality. Last night at The Quarter Bistro, 6904 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, OH 45227--513-271-5400. The point was driven home once again.
The Quarter Bistro, in the heart of Mariemont, next to the Mariemont theater, was certainly a swinging place at 8 o'clock on a Friday night. There is a bar and tables inside and out. The decor is upbeat and so is the service and the crowd.
We were having dinner with a couple 49 and 51, our friends are all ages and all types. Our table was ready when we arrived, honoring a reservation, a nice touch. After a short chat with one of the past Music Director's former wives, but that's another story, we were seated and order a drink or wine, by the glass. Our server informed us that there were only 3 Sea Bass specials remaining and I ordered one. he others ordered Seared Ahi Tuna and a large Cobb salad, as their entrees.
In just a few minutes the Asst. Manager appeared and told us that the kitchen had made a mistake in it's count and that there were no more specials left. He offered to substitute, anything on the menu for the Sea Bass and that The Quarter would pick up the cost, not just the difference. I offered to pay some or all but he politely refused. My arm twists easily. I choose the Lobster Ravioli, not the most expensive entree.
The 3 dinners come with a choice of salad, with the dressing served "on the side" in a very attractive, tall, thin vessel with each salad. They were cold and crisp and the dressing( house) had a pleasant tang.
The tuna was barely seared and was served Sushi style, with all the accompaniments. The Cobb salad was chopped, generous and topped with a large portion of Guacamole. The Ravioli as well prepared, tasty but slightly salty. I'm not used to much salt and so this report is to my taste.
One cup of coffee and a bill, before the deduction of approximately $55/person. Desert was down the street at Graeter's, Chocolate Chip with raspberries. Thinning conclusion for the evening.
I'm old enough to remember when I bought lunch for a dollar, including a 10% tip. Times have changed and it is hard for me to rate restaurant prices today, with over $3 gasoline. I'm sure Cincinnati is reasonable compared to New York but when I get over $50 a head I take notice.


On the western hill, overlooking the valley and the city, sits Primavista, 810 Matson Place, Cincinnati,OH,45204. Phone 513-251-6467. It is not the easiest place to drive for dinner, but the view and the food are well worth the effort. The building used to be the "Queen's Tower" and it still maybe, although it is being converted and upgraded. The restaurant is on the ground level and is handicapped accessible.
The other night when Marilyn and I, and one of our older couple friends, went for dinner, I was worried because less than half of the tables were taken. However the food was quite good and the service very pleasant.
Recommending any restaurant is risky. It is always a mater of taste but Primavista is one of our favorites for Italian. Cincinnati is not known for Italian food, as are New York, Boston and St. Louis, but there are enough choices from chain Italian to Gourmet that one doesn't have to go hungry, if that is you choice.
Our server, Isabella, originally from Spain, but a long time Cincinnati resident, was a joy. When I asked jokingly, whether Paella was a special, that night, it never is, she told me her Mother was home cooking it for the family. My retort was to give me a drink and go home and bring back a dish or take me home with her, neither happened.
Back to the food, which might be why you are looking at this. The other couple started with a sauteed Scampi appetizer, we passed. There salads are very nice and for extra they will add Feta or Gorgonzola and or fried Calamari. Some nights I have a drink, possibly two, a large salad with both cheese and Squid and dessert, plenty.
The night we were there the two men had Copper River Salmon, to my unsophisticated pallet not worth the premium, over other, while the women had Veal. All the food was very well prepared, as ordered, I like my Salmon medium rare, that night it was a little undercooked but I'd rather have it that way than over. One Veal dish was Picata, with fresh lemon slices, while the other was with mushrooms, which were plentiful No desert but coffee and a bill including tip of about $45 a person. I can't tell any more what is expensive and what not, especially for good food and service.