Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Virgil's Cafe

Virgil's Cafe
Fairfield Ave.
Bellevue, KY

Named for owner/chef Matthew Buschle’s father, Virgil’s Café is a lively and inviting restaurant featuring a healthy variety of seasonal, local fare. Staff are super friendly and knowledgeable on every aspect of your dining experience, from drinks to dessert.


Watch the magic from one of the tables near the kitchen, which we did on a recent visit, or opt for the vibrant dining room with its eclectic mix of furnishings and stimulating color. If the weather is with you, their cozy patio is a refreshing oasis.

At first glance the menu may seem small, but it’s a case of quality over quantity. Everything the kitchen does, it does well, especially homemade items like soup and the veggie burger ($8). I normally eschew veggie burgers at restaurants unless it is the only choice available, but this handmade delight, consisting of seitan, tofu, chickpeas, black beans and mushrooms, is fall-apart delicious and doesn’t need assistance from cheese or condiments, which would only smother the smoky-good flavor. Tasty house-made potato chips come standard with each sandwich, but their hand-cut sweet potato fries are well worth the extra buck.

veggie burger w/ sweet potato fries

Non-vegetarians should note that the andouille sausage and pastrami served at Virgil’s are also homemade, and according to our server the restaurant will soon be baking their own bread in-house. The soups of the day always feature at least one vegetarian variety, and that alone is worth the drive to Bellevue.

Being a fan of all things anise/licorice, I found the fennel salad ($6) delicious; thinly shaved fennel coupled with the delicate crunch of apple and pistachio paired beautifully with creamy bleu cheese, although I'm 100% sold on whole pistachios in a salad, as I found them very difficult to keep on the fork.

fennel salad

Pasta with seasonal vegetables ($10) and huevos rancheros ($11) are the veggie options on the entrée menu, and while both are tasty, the latter earns respect for the unexpected kick of green chili and cumin spicing up this eggs-over-easy bean and rice dish.

Huevos Rancheros

Be sure to try the utterly decadent flourless chocolate bourbon cake, which is worth both the extra hour in the gym and every penny of the $7.50 asking price.

chocolate bourbon flourless cake

There are a lot of good things happening in the pretty little river city of Bellevue, with the affordable, gourmet-quality Virgil's Cafe topping the list. Thanks to rave reviews from Donna Covrett in Cincinnati Magazine, as well as being featured on a recent episode of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the secret is out and reservations are recommended.

Virgil's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Discounted and free food this week

Jimmy John's is holding a customer appreciation day tomorrow (July 22) with all sandwiches costing one dollar ($1) from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at all local franchises.

The Cooking Channel's ice cream truck will be stopping by Scripps Center (312 Walnut St., downtown) from noon - 2 p.m. and handing out free Graeter's Ice Cream.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blue Gibbon

Blue Gibbon
1231 Tennessee Ave.
Paddock Hills

The crossroads of Paddock and Tennessee Avenue isn't exactly glamorous. Situated amongst the industrial buildings is, however, a very nice Asian restaurant. From the outside, The Blue Gibbon looks as though it has seen better days, but don't let the shabby signage and crumbling, weedy pavement fool you. To steal a line from the rock band Hole, it's "pretty on the inside," with freshly scrubbed floors and shining, dust-free decorations.

Blue Gibbon

While the restaurant's Chinese selections are easily recognizable (Szechuan chicken, sweet & sour pork, Hunan beef) they also offer Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese fare. Many of their noodle dishes can be made vegetarian by substituting tofu in place of a meat-based protein.

A sparkling clean interior

All lunch entrees come with a bowl of soup, but none are vegetarian-friendly. Our server substituted a bowl of crispy noodles in place of the soup, and while I'm not sure if this is standard practice, it was a nice touch.

I opted for a vegetarian Vietnamese dish of lightly fried tofu, mushroom, cabbage, carrot, lemongrass and slivered onion in a light, spicy ginger soy sauce over mung bean vermicelli and capped off with a healthy sprinkling of cilantro. The translucent vermicelli was filling yet not uncomfortably so, as is the case with rice-based Asian dishes. It also had just the right amount of heat; opening the sinuses without impairing the tastebuds. Our server cautioned me on the heat when I ordered, so be aware that while this level of spice is right up my alley, others may want to detour to something a little less intense.

Vegetarian vermicelli

Steve chose the chef recommended sesame chicken, which he thought was okay but not noteworthy. As is the trend with area Chinese restaurants, portion sizes are generous at Blue Gibbon and the staff is efficient without hovering. Our server was fantastic; laconic and droll, his dead-pan humor was a refreshing change and I'd go back to the restaurant just for the chance to see him again.

Sesame chicken with fried rice

Separate from the main dining room, the restaurant also boasts a full service bar, which has several large, flat screen TVs and a handful of melamine tables, and a banquet room that can accomodate up to 100 guests. The restaurant also runs a very brisk take-away business - one of the busiest I've seen.

Owned and operated by the Kok family since 1983, The Blue Gibbon is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and til 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Blue Gibbon Chinese on Urbanspoon