Friday, February 29, 2008

Courtyard Café

Courtyard Café
1211 Main St.
Over-the-Rhine
513-723-1119

As there were only a handful of vegetarian options at last year’s Taste of Cincinnati, I’m pretty sure that over the course of the weekend I tried everything on offer, and the choice that really stood out for me was the Black Bean Burrito from Courtyard Café.

That it has taken me this long to finally get around to reviewing this groovy, laid-back little place is embarrassing, especially when I kept being reminded of it each time I lunched there, or passed by on my way to Shadeau Bakery.

Located in historic Over-the-Rhine, Courtyard Café is one of the founding members of the Main Street bar area, serving downtown office workers delicious home made lunch specials during the week, and catering to the music-loving populace with live shows at the weekend.

While there isn’t a lot of vegetarian choice on their menu, what they do offer is really good. There are a couple of appetizers: pretzel bread with cheese for dipping, potato wedges, salads and truly lovely shredded coleslaw to name a few, and on the sandwich menu they offer a nice veggie garden burger. It’s the black bean burrito, however, that keeps me coming back time and time again.

It’s a simple dish of black beans and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with more black beans and diced tomatoes, and it tastes so, so good. I can see why it has won awards, as it is superb. The dish comes with a side of tortilla chips, plus salsa and sour cream for dipping or adding to the burrito, but I think it could benefit from some greens.

Service is always friendly but a little uneven. On a recent visit I ordered a side salad starter and my dining companion ordered their famous potato soup (sadly, not vegetarian). While my friend got his soup before our main meal, for some mystifying reason my salad came at the same time as my entrée and I was forced to juggle the two dishes. Not a big deal for me and the lettuce enhanced the wrap, but it was still odd.

On another visit the coleslaw I had ordered came out as a starter but my friend’s soup arrived with our meals. Still a third visit found my coleslaw arriving with the burrito but sans tortilla chips. When I asked the server if the coleslaw was a substitution for the chips she said no, and then tried to tell me that the tortilla chips didn’t come with the meal. After checking the menu, she apologized and brought some out, telling us that the kitchen assumed that the coleslaw was a substitution, which is an easy enough mistake and again wasn’t a big deal.

As the name suggests, Courtyard Café has a beautiful patio area for outdoor dining when the weather is fair, and there is a fire pit for added warmth on chilly evenings. Another plus is that they keep the music to a reasonable level (live music nights are exceptions, of course), and the televisions are on mute with subtitles, each tuned to different genres: news, sports, and entertainment. They’ve got a nice selection of draught beer on tap, and their jukebox is pretty damned good too.

Open 11 a.m.-midnight Monday through Thursday and from noon-1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Courtyard Café is a nice, friendly, neighborhood eatery that deserves the accolades it has received over the years.
Courtyard Cafe on Main on Urbanspoon

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