Saturday, February 2, 2013

Back from the undead - Cincy's update

Hello readers,

It has been a while since our last update. That's for no reason other than we've been busy (which is code for lazy). Sorry about that, and we'll endeavor to do better.

So, Polly Campbell at the Enquirer is reporting that the beloved El Coyote is coming downtown. According to the article, they will be taking the space now occupied by Cincy's on Sixth. You may recall that I reviewed Cincy's in the first days. While I had high hopes, they ultimately failed to impress.

El Coyote draws quite a crowd in the suburbs for their quality Tex-Mex offerings. I think they may be a nice fit for the Cincy's space. They'll have to compete somewhat with Nada, but I think they're vying for a different crowd, and there are enough mouths downtown these days. A familiar taste downtown may also draw people from the suburbs back into downtown, too.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fish fry: Bellevue Vets

Once again, our grand plan to make a certain fish fry was disrupted. This time our backup plan was Bellevue Vets in Bellevue KY. We made it with little time to spare.

I'd been to Vets before, so I had an idea of what to expect. I was right, no major changes from last year.

If you don't already know, Bellevue Vets (properly Bellevue Veterans Club) is a military veteran's club that sponsors and coordinates youth and community sports. They have a facility with sports fields, a bar and grille, and a meeting hall.

The fish fry is held in the meeting hall, separately from the bar. Don't worry, there is a door that provides easy access, so you can step over for a drink or a smoke if you're so inclined. You can bring your drinks back to the fish fry, and there is no smoking in the hall during the fish fry. So if either of things are of concern to you, relax. It may be worth noting that the beer prices are typical neighborhood pub prices, not the super cheap prices you've come to enjoy at other fish fry events.

The menu is not atypical: fish setups, mac and cheese, fries, slaw, etc. There are a couple of "fancy" options, though: Chicken nuggets, cheese sticks, shrimp, and onion chips! We took a 5 person team to the table this time, so we opened up and tried some of the additional menu options. The kids went with chicken nuggets and mac & cheese (after some teeth gnashing), but I took a chance on the shrimp, and Karen the onion chips. We ordered up at the front table, and I headed over to the bar to conduct some business while the rest of the gang posted up at one of the many banquet tables.

So how did it all taste? Well, the shrimp was fair. I've had worse and I've had better. It must have been dumped from a frozen bag. I almost wished I had ordered the fish instead, but I took a bite of it and realized the grass is not always greener. The fish was a bit greasy. The onion chips were decent, though. I'm not usually an onion chip fan, but I was OK with these. One daughter reports that the nuggets were not great, but the mac & cheese was. I think she's right about that. While not the reference standard of mac & cheese, it was pretty good.

All in all, I think the Vets is in the middle of the pack. Points earned for the bar, though. If you like to end your fish fry with a night of drinking, this might be your one-stop shop!

Fish Fry: St. Catherine of Siena

I'm not gonna lie to you, we had originally planned to go out to St Joseph in Camp springs on this particular Friday.  The clock working against us, though, and we had to make a battlefield decision and so off to St Catherine of Siena in Fort Thomas we went. Adding insult to injury later was the fact that Karen's original review was lost due to technical issues. So I'm trying to fill in the gaps from memory. Of note for this trip was the fact that our friend Moe accompanied us, marking his first fish fry. That's not a particularly remarkable fact until you consider that he went to a Catholic school. I don't know how he avoided working at a fish fry.

When we got to St Catherine's and saw the parking lot completely full, I was concerned we weren't going to get done in time to make our next stop. We found some on-street parking fairly easily, and made our way to the lower level. The signs and congregating fire fighters gave away the uhh... way.

The lower level of St. Catherine's is a multi-purpose room which includes a stage, so no surprise that it was full of kids running around while their parents chilled and chatted. Not surprising at a fish fry, really, but this is certainly not the quietest dining experience in town. I got to soak it all in while we waited in the bit of line that was backed up. It moved pretty quickly, though. Maybe it just seemed that way because I was able to get a beer just as I stepped into line. So I know you're wondering, "How much is the beer?" Well, get this: they don't sell beer - they give it away! Donations are encouraged however, and of course I stuffed some bucks in the jar.

We got through the line and loaded up our trays with the usual suspects: Fish, mac and cheese, and fries. With no time to spare, we grabbed a spot at the busy long tables and got to it. The fish was great - hot, flaky, nicely breaded. St. Catherine's proudly advertises the Green Derby as their supplier, and with good reason. Where they let us down, though, was the mac and cheese. The pasta was overcooked, and they didn't make up for it with the mild cheese and lack of a good baked top.

I don't see St. Catherine's going to the final four, but I could imagine the fish making the all-star game.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cincy's on Sixth

If you read the news, work downtown, are an IRS agent, or like overpriced mediocre food, you're certainly familiar with Cadillac Ranch. Well, the Ranch is no more. The restaurant has a new owner now, and changes are  underway at the new Cincy's on Sixth. The kitsch, the car, and the bull are all gone now.

I was wandering around downtown with a coworker and found that Cincy's was open for business. This is a soft open, with a grand opening coming soon. We figured we'd overlook our history with Cadillac Ranch and give Cincy's a try.

We made our way into a nearly empty restaurant. We're early lunchers, so not terribly surprising. We were greeted and seated promptly. Our server stopped by to say hi, and we got a smile and hello out of who I assume to be a manager.

I took a quick look around and observed that the changes to the place were pretty targeted. No wholesale makeover here, but the important stuff was handled. Most of the junk "memorabilia" is gone. The bars seem to have been classed up a bit. Perhaps the most telling change is replacement of the mechanical bull with a private dining area. Don't worry, all the good stuff is still there: the stage, the big doors that open to the patio, the patio. I also noticed new tap towers on the bars allowing for a greater draft selection than the previous establishment at this location. It was fairly obvious there was still some minor work left before the grand opening.

Turning to the menu, I found a nice assortment of lunch options - Sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, salads. I hate to keep comparing to the old place, but any one of these menu items sounded better than anything on that menu. While I was looking it over, our server stopped by again to let us know that there is a complimentary soup bar during lunch. Beef vegetable that day. Nice touch, but I immediately assumed it was not exactly gourmet soup if they were giving it away. I ask the server for a recommendation, as I often do, and she suggested the Open-faced Yankee pot roast. Both of us locked that in and headed for the soup. What a surprise! The soup was very good, with real chunks of tender beef and veggies. I would have been happy paying for that soup.

The half-eaten pot roast

When my pot roast came, I was again pleasantly surprised. It was a generous serving of what looked more like beef medallions than pot roast. That was placed over a heap of skin-on mashed potatoes and then, hidden below that, was a thick piece of sourdough bread. The standard side for my dish was green beans, which were nicely seasoned and cooked. Crisp and delicious. Good stuff!

While we were there a few more tables were seated, so it seems word is getting out (the banners on Sixth Street don't hurt), but I bet things pick up after grand opening. I hope to see the folks at Cincy's do well there, in spite of the dumb name.  If they can live up to the promise they've shown here in their earliest days, they might just have a winner. Oh, and they'll have to pay their taxes and rent, too. That helps.

If you go:

Cincy's on Sixth
41 East 6th (between Walnut and Vine)
Cincinnati OH

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fish fry: Holy Cross

I was telling my folks about my fish fry extravaganza, and they suggested we meet them at Holy Cross in the Latonia suburb of Covington on the first Friday of Lent. I don't get back to my old stomping grounds much these days, so I liked the idea of seeing the old 'hood, on the way to devouring some more fried fish. Also, my step-dad was a Holy Cross graduate, so I knew we were in for an evening of nostalgic tales of the good old days, complete with nuns and rulers.

Once Friday came around, we headed over to Latonia. I made my way to Church Street, only to discover orange barricades and one-way signs that I could only assume were new. No worries, one spin around the block and we were parking in the lot in front of the high school. Signs near each entrance steered us to the proper starting point.

At the first stop, where ordering and paying happens, there were just a few people in front of us. I later would find out that this can back up a bit, so don't be surprised to wait a few minutes to get your order in.   The folks told me that Holy Cross served cheese pizza, but there was none to be found on the menu. The kids were not impressed by this, and one went on a 10 minute hunger strike in protest. Of course, traditional fish setups on rye are the only proper way to enjoy a fish fry, so they are the focus of my comparisons. I liked the option of green beans as a side, so I took it in addition to the fries. One kid did go for the mac and cheese, which is good, since I get to eat the leftovers. Eventually the other kid came around and went back for the mac, too. I guess it looked pretty good to her.

We made our way from the pay table down to the cafeteria. The long tables and anti-bullying posters made it clear this was a high school cafeteria, but the classic tile walls and bingo board really round out the vibe. Stepping into the serving line, we were greeted by the ladies volunteering behind the line. A quick survey revealed Klosterman's bread, home-style hush puppies, home-style mac and cheese (complete with the baked top!), the green beans, and of course, the fish. Lookin' pretty good, but the geometric fish seemed out of place! After the serving line, we turned in our drink tickets for some bottled water, but we also had the choice of Bud Light or Miller Lite for an extra ticket (making the total cost $1.50).

At this point, we joined my folks, who had apparently gotten there at the opening rush, survived the ordering line, and were already into their meal. I was hungry, so I didn't waste any time digging in. The fries were good. Not soggy or cold, but not hot and crispy, a solid 'B' paper. I could probably give the same grade to the green beans, too. I guess, though, the only way to have gotten the 'A', would be the addition of ham, but that notion was quickly shot down by the Catholics at the table, with the full support of the vegetarian. The hush puppies were perfecto, and the slaw great, too. Crisp cabbage and tangy dressing, the way I like it, and horseradish optional. Yum!

The fish, though, let me down a bit. By far not the worst I ever had, but the feature dish should shine. The breading was not bad, as it was even and crispy. The fish itself though, seemed processed and unremarkable. The triangle shape should have given it away. The word institutional came to mind, since it seemed right at home in the cafeteria. I still powered through it and moved on the mac and cheese leftovers - Good stuff!

I think the best surprise was the dessert table, which features an array (two dimensional, if you care) of homemade and store-bought desserts. Lots of cupcakes to choose from. The best part, though: included with the meal. No dollar add-on here. You can have dessert AND be two thirds of the way to another beer!

So all in all, Holy Cross was fine. It was good to go back to the old neighborhood, eat with family, and get a few good-old-days stories. I might still get back there from time to time for just those reasons. I probably won't get into the habit, though, which is something I'm sure those nuns will appreciate.

If you go:

Holy Cross High School
3617 Church Street
Covington, KY
5:00pm - 8:00pm Fridays during Lent

Fish sandwiches, shrimp baskets and cheese pizza. Sides: hush puppies, green beans, macaroni and cheese or French fries and dessert.

Benefits Holy Cross Boosters.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Wow! The first post of our first blog. How exciting! Welcome!

This site is first and foremost a food blog. A place to find reviews, commentary, news, etc, about food and drink in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. I'm sure we'll get off-topic, bear with it and enjoy the ride.

We have some great ideas for future articles, so check back with us, or subscribe to our feed in your favorite feed reader!

Coming up as our first series: Fish Fry Feast: 2012!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fish fry: Silver Grove Fire Department

I'm not Catholic, but in recent years, I've found myself enjoying Lenten fish fry events at local churches and civic venues. This year, the time was right to get this blog started up, so what better way to get it started with a series of fish fry reviews? Hopefully this will be the first of many special series of reviews!

I couldn't wait to get started this year, so as soon as the whistle blew on Ash Wednesday, I was on the hunt. With fewer selections on Ash Wednesday than a Friday during Lent, it was a bit easier to choose. I quickly settled on the Silver Grove Volunteer Fire Department's fish fry as my first stop of Lent 2012. After promising my daughters there would be mac and cheese, they were along for the ride.

We arrived at the fire department about 6pm, and found one of the last parking spots. We quickly located location of the event at the site, which is not always an easy task at a fish fry. Often they are in basement cafeterias, back rooms, and other places that don't exactly have a red carpet rolled out. At Silver Grove, the old fire house building is where the action is.

Upon entering the fire house, we found a makeshift dining hall with long rows of covered tables assembled. Each table had plenty of condiments, flatware, napkins, etc already laid out. With no wait, we quickly made our way to the ordering station and selected our food. Fish dinner setup on rye for me, with fries. Chicken strips and Mac and cheese for the girls. Typical fish fry fare, except for the chicken, which was a welcome appearance for my kids who don't care for fish. On to the pickup station, and finally to drinks. Speaking of drinks, there were plenty of soda choices, plus bottled water and Milwaukee's Best for sale.

After we got our plates and drinks, we headed to the tables to chow down. The first thing I dug into was the fries. Not bad, but seemed to be a bit soggy. Maybe it was just bad timing. The fish, though was crispy, mild in flavor, and flaky. Not exactly gourmet fare, mind you, but pretty solid. The run-of-the-mill rye it was served with didn't do it justice. Also included with the meals were cole slaw and hush puppies. These were no institutional hush puppies. They were obviously hand made and delicious. The slaw on the other hand, not so much. A little dull and mushy, not tangy and crisp. I did dip into some of my daughter's leftover mac and cheese, and found it to be cheesy and creamy. It wasn't my favorite homestyle mac, but it was just the way my kids like it.

Overall the experience at Silver Grove was fine, exactly what you'd expect from a fish fry at a fire house in semi-rural Campbell County. A somewhat noisy (and certainly not fancy) environment with long tables of families and old friends chatting an enjoying a nice meal and maybe a cheap beer.

If you go:
Silver Grove Volunteer Fire Department
5011 Four Mile Road
Silver Grove, KY
4:00pm - 7:30pm Fridays during Lent

Fish, shrimp, frog legs, macaroni, green beans, hush puppies, fries, onion rings, chicken strips and desserts.
Benefits Silver Grove Volunteer Fire Department.