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