Just before lunchtime today I was in Ohio headed south on Winton Avenue from the northern reaches of metro Cincinnati.
I remembered a small blurb I had read recently about a new place having opened (turns out they've been open three weeks) in the old Boca location, so I diverted west over to Hamilton Avenue, then continued south. Parked in front of Crazy Ladies bookstore across from slims, got out and crossed the street, proceeded two or three more storefronts, and there I was at 1115h.
Exterior hasn't changed except for the stylized "Honey" on the small black awning above the entrance. Stepped in and the friendly hostess gave me my choice of seats and, as I was the only patron, I chose a seat at a two-top in front with a view of the street (not exactly picturesque, but, hey, it's Northside, not Generica, thank god).
Hostess took my drink order which was delivered shortly thereafter by the waiter along with the lunch menu. Hmmmm, interesting modern American bistro-style menu - not too long and not too short. I should have asked how often it changes, but forgot.
I started with the "celery root soup with Broadbent bacon strips" for $3. What I received was a nice hot bowl of a rich and smoky-tasting pureed concoction that was perfectly seasoned and generously garnished with crisped lardons (read: damned good soup). This was accompanied by a paper-lined small galvanized pail containing what turned out to be 4 warm and crusty slices of Shadeau (local bakery) sourdough along with a molded butter pat on a bread plate.
Finished the soup and half the bread, then turned my attention back to the menu for the next choice. Had trouble deciding, but went with the "Creole meatloaf sandwich with tasso ham gravy on warm baguette" for $7. Appearing before me was a nicely sized slab of well-constructed and tasty meatloaf topped with a spicy gravy containing brunoise-cut tasso along with a few cooked-down small heirloom tomatoes all spilling out from the bottom half of the bread. This was accompanied by a very lightly vinaigrette-coated coarsely shredded green cabbage slaw containing plenty of fresh chives in about 4" pieces along with a lone dill pickle spear. This wasn't a pick-it-up-and-eat-it-sandwich being more along the lines a dipped Italian beef sandwich but without the paper wrapping. Fortunately, they have nice cutlery (sleek, well-balanced, functional and comfortable). The combination of the not-overly-spicy meatloaf with its gravy and the lightly-dressed slaw went very nicely together. The dill pickle didn't help anything - maybe cornichons or pickled okra or pickled asparagus or pickled baby corn or anything else or nothing else.
During the course of my lunch I had requested and received the dinner menu which I had perused. It was basically a reiteration of the lunch menu with each item a couple of bucks more along with the addition of a few more appetizers and couple more expansive and expensive dinner entrees.
By now it was 1155h and only one other customer had entered. When asked earlier how long they had been open, the engaging waiter had told me about three weeks. He further said that lunch was still typically slow but that the previous weekend they had really been slammed. He asked how I had heard about the place and I told him about the blurb, but couldn't remember from which publication. I also told him how much I had enjoyed the meal in terms of the creativity, portion and price point. And also how good it was to have a decent place back in that neighborhood. We both mentioned slims and both agreed that they were really different places and rather than compete, would probably help generate business for both.
Lunch is my big meal of the day and I'll definitely go back.
And, no, I won't get into a rant about the godawful dreck and proliferation of chains that Cincinnati is generally known for.
4034 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45223 (Blue Rock St, Northside)
(no website yet)
Modern American bistro with eclectic menu serving lunch dishes such as celery root soup with Broadbent bacon strips; baby arugula, beets and shaved fennel with Parmesan salad; fried oyster po' boy with remoulade, field greens and tomato on sourdough; Creole meatloaf sandwich with tasso gravy along with lightly vinaigrette-coated coarsely shredded green cabbage slaw, PEI mussels in white wine and saffron broth with fig and basil crostini; lime-and-vanilla-cured salmon with prickly pear and coconut jus; sopressata with mozzarella, artichokes, olives, greens and tomato drizzled with fennel oil on warm baguette - Dinner menu adds beef carpaccio, shaved fennel and Parmesan with fennel and citrus oil; Bass ale-battered fish and chips; herbed chicken breast with soft polenta and wild mushroom gravy; braised beef short ribs, mashed parsnips and Yukon gold potatoes, garlic baby spinach, jus reduction; NY strip steak, mashed parsnips and Yukon gold potatoes, shallot-truffle butter and autumn vegetables; other - Open for wine, cheese and interesting desserts during afternoons - Full bar with wine list and Bass and Guinness on tap - Spare modern decor in renovated building with hard surfaces everywhere including bare wooden tables and Mission-style oak chairs (would be overly loud if even close to full) - Friendly and attentive service - Indoor seating with 8 stools at the bar, approximately seven 4-tops and seven 2-tops along with other chairs which could be pressed into service; seasonal outdoor courtyard seating at two 4-tops and two 6-tops with umbrella-covered tables and plastic chairs - Chef Shoshannah Friedman - Since 2005 - Casual - $-$$$, Disc - Tu-Sat L>11-1400h, Tu-Th D>17-2100h, F-Sat D>17-2200h, closed Sun-M