Sunday, February 22, 2009

Arnold's Bar & Grill

Arnold's Bar & Grill
210 East 8th Street

If walls could talk, Arnold’s would have quite a lot to say. Built in 1848, the building originally housed a barbershop, while the building next door was a feed store with a stable and carriage house in between. In 1861 Simon Arnold opened a tavern in the same room that continues as the oldest bar in the city of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati's oldest bar - since 1861

During Prohibition a kitchen was added to the tavern with the second floor living area turned into dining rooms, and 1976 saw the addition of outdoor dining when the stable area was converted into a fantastic courtyard. Throughout the additions and changes, however, the building has retained much of its original character and charm, right down to an upstairs bathtub that was allegedly used to make illegal gin before repeal.

The restaurant has an impressive variety of options for vegetarian diners. Notable appetizers include fried green tomatoes, eggplant bruschetta and tri-a-dip (a trio of house-made dips with homemade taco points and crustinis). Of course there are also salads; choose from a simple house or Greek salad to wild field greens with strawberries and sprouts, or roasted root vegetables served chilled over greens and topped with goat cheese and figs, all priced under $10.

There are seven vegetarian entrées on the menu - and that’s in addition to two hero sandwiches, a couple of wraps and burritos, and the build-your-own burger option, which includes both a veggie burger AND a portabello mushroom selection. Then there’s the traditional American comfort food combo of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Whew! Arnold’s certainly has the bases covered for us, and I’m not even finished yet.

In the mood for pasta? Try the veggie lasagna or a signature dish called Greek Spaghetti which has been a menu favorite for over 50 years. On the day we visited it was a featured special and was described by the waitress as “linguini in a light garlic butter sauce served with a choice of toppings that include olives, tomatoes, sautéed onions, bell peppers and mushrooms for $7.95. Everyone who tries it loves it!” I was intrigued.

Greek Spaghetti - an Arnold's specialty since 1957

I’ll admit to having second thoughts when it came out – it doesn’t look especially appealing - but after the first bite I was sold. The sautéed vegetables didn’t overpower the delicate sauce, nor did it have a greasy feel; quite an accomplishment given the amount of butter and olive oil comprising the dish. I’d certainly recommend it, although I probably won’t have it again for awhile, not because it wasn’t fantastic, but because I’ve made a vow to work my way through all the vegetarian selections on the menu. With such an abundance of choice, I’ll be busy for quite some time.

The walls may not talk, but they certainly tell a story

Arnold’s has a full bar and a decent selection of red and white wines by the glass, but if you really want to do it Cincinnati style, splurge on a bottle of locally produced wine from Burnet Ridge to go with your meal. It will not disappoint.

Hours vary: lunch is served M-F from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and dinner service runs until either 10 or 11 p.m., depending on the day. Keep in mind also that Arnold’s offers live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so reservations are recommended.

Arnold's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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