Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mount Adams Bar & Grill

Mount Adams Bar & Grill
938 Hatch St.
Mount Adams
Tel: 513-621-3666

A sunny spring day is all the enticement we need to get out of the house. Starting at our home in Newport, Steve and I took a walk along the riverfront and then decided, "what the heck, let's carry on to Mount Adams." It's not as far as one might imagine, thanks in part to the pedestrian bridge over Columbia Parkway. There are a lot of stairs to climb along the way, but that's part of the fun.

By the time we'd reached the hilltop neighborhood, we'd worked up an appetite and decided to grab a bite to eat. Mount Adams has its fair share of restaurants and bars, and one of the oldest is the Mount Adams Bar & Grill, which according to the colorful history lesson printed on their menu, was the first drinking establishment in Ohio to obtain a liquor license after the repeal of prohibition in 1933.

Mount Adams Bar & Grill

The restaurant has several dining rooms, each with it's own distinctive decor. The beautifully carved oak bar dominates the front entrance, and the dark wood and mounted deer heads hanging on the wall give the room a rustic, lodge feel. Thankfully we were not seated in this room; I don't want to look at dead animals any more than I want to eat them. Instead, we were taken down a narrow corridor to the cheerful and bright patio room in the back of the building.

The patio dining room

The Mount Adams Bar & Grill menu consists of salads, appetizers, sandwiches, and burgers, with a few "heartier fare" entrées thrown in for good measure. Neither of us wanted anything too heavy since we still had to walk back home, so I chose the Veggie Sandwich ($6.50), which comes loaded with sliced avocado, tomato, red onion, Monterey Jack cheese, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce and thousand island dressing on your choice of bread. While the bread is toasted, the sandwich itself is cold, so if you're looking for something to warm you up, their veggie burger ($6.25) is the way to go. Made with tofu, oats, wheatgerm and sesame seeds, it's tasty and hits the spot.

Veggie sandwich with a side of black bean salsa

Sandwiches come with potato chips, or get it as a platter with coleslaw and fries for $3.50 extra. There are plenty of vegetarian items on their side menu; the black bean salsa ($1.50) is particularly good. The restaurant also serves a couple of veggie-friendly sandwiches to help with that hangover: fried egg sandwiches and grilled cheese.

Speaking of hangovers, the bar boasts a good selection of import and craft beer, including local brewers Rivertown Hop Bomber IPA and Mt. Carmel Amber Lager. They even offer Bards Gluten-Free, which is made with malted sorghum instead of wheat, barley, rye or oats.

Mount Adams Bar & Grill is a friendly, neighborhood restaurant/watering hole that doesn't strive to be anything else, which is probably why it's been around for nearly 100 years. Why mess with success?

Mt. Adams Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gold Star Chili

Gold Star Chili
Multiple locations

Although I am not Catholic, I'm beginning to enjoy the Lenten season a little more each year. Grocery shelves are chock-full of Cadbury Creme Eggs, adorable Easter hats are everywhere; and area restaurants roll out their Lenten specials.

In years past, Lenten specials usually consisted of some type of seafood (fish fry, anyone?), but some of the more forward-thinking places around town are now offering completely meat-free dishes in addition to their tuna casseroles and fried cod.

One such place that's really vegging out this year is Gold Star Chili; you may have seen their Veg Out billboards around town. They offer vegetarian chili year-round, but give it an extra push this time of year, and (full disclosure time) the chain sent a gift card for me to try it out.

Gold Star Chili: this is Cincinnati flavor

I visited my nearest Gold Star Chili, located in the Kroger plaza in Bellevue. I was surprised that this Kentucky restaurant still permits smoking; it seems weird to walk into a restaurant in this day and age, and immediately inhale second-hand smoke. Not a good start.

Veg Out at Gold Star!

The chain's vegetarian chili is available in nearly all the recognized chili parlor forms: three-ways, burritos, rice bowls, chili bowls, and chili salads. I chose the three-way ($4.99), since it's the traditional Cincinnati favorite, and threw in a small café salad for good measure.

The half café salad

The salad was larger than I would have thought and better than average; at a buck ninety-nine, it's a real bargain.

Vegetarians familiar with Fantastic Food's packaged chili might recognize the flavor of Gold Star's veggie chili - they are eerily similar. When I'm pressed for time I can whip up a package of Fantastic's veggie chili in around 15 minutes, and I always add a can of black beans, a can of whole kernel corn and a can of diced tomatoes. Gold Star Chili's vegetarian chili tasted almost identical, with nearly the same ingredients. Since I'm a fan of Fantastic's chili, I think it's great that a similar version is readily available at Gold Star.

Gold Star Chili

Gold Star's version adds lima beans and finely diced carrot to the mix, which bumps up the flavor. It's a mild chili, but that's okay, as the restaurant keeps hot sauce on every table in case you want to ratchet up the heat. Another thing to keep in mind is that their veggie chili is heart-healthy; ordering a two-way (chili and spaghetti, sans cheese) is a good way to keep that ticker in shape. I know, I know, Cincinnati-style chili without cheese is sacrilege, but I'm just sayin'.

While it's not my favorite Cincinnati-style vegetarian chili (that's reserved for Dixie Chili), it's great to know that vegetarians have a delicious and affordable fast-food option all over town. Kudos to Gold Star Chili for being brave enough to add vegetarian chili to their line-up.
Gold Star Chili on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vintage Wine Bar & Kitchen

Vintage Wine Bar-Kitchen-Market
2141 North Bend Road
Hebron, KY
Tel: 859-689-9463


Locally owned by Albert Gleek, whose executive chef son Colin mans the kitchen, the Vintage Wine Bar-Kitchen-Market shows great promise and is a welcome addition to Northern Kentucky. On the rainy evening we visited, the restaurant was very quiet and rather devoid of atmosphere, reminding me of a mid-tier hotel restaurant on a slow night. The fresh cut flowers on each table were a nice touch, but the lack of padding on the booths made it hard to get comfortable.

Vintage Wine Bar-Kitchen-Market

The food was hit or miss - my field green salad ($5), comprised of mixed greens dressed with a very flavorful balsamic and topped with candied walnuts and feta was absolutely delectable, but the fettuccine with broccoli and asparagus entrée ($14) fell flat.

Field green salad

Steve chose the deconstructed wedge salad

Instead of a traditional fettuccine sauce like Alfredo or butter with parmesan, this one came lightly drizzled with herbed olive oil, and had very little taste. The thick ribbons of pasta were crying out for a more substantial sauce, but even punching up the olive oil with some garlic would have been preferable to this dry, tasteless effort. To compound the problem, the wide noodles completely negated the slender slivers of asparagus, which were so young and slight they could not be pierced with a fork tine. I’m not used to fighting with my food and didn’t admit defeat easily, but at the end of the day the struggle just wasn’t worth the effort.

Fettuccine w/ broccoli and asparagus. Can you find the asparagus?

Steve was intrigued by the potato-crusted walleye entrée ($20), but having no experience with walleye opted instead for the cheaper, sandwich version ($10) and was disappointed. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the taste of the delicate, freshwater fish; it was the overpowering Guinness malt vinegar reduction that ruined it for him. Our server later said that the walleye entrée is one of the most popular items on the menu and very different from the fried, sandwich version that Steve unknowingly chose.

Fried walleye sandwich

Then came dessert. The chocolate terrine was by far the highlight of our night; rich, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bars drizzled with tart raspberry and thick, meaty walnut halves. Gorgeous.

Chocolate terrine

Vintage has a great selection of wine and beer (Falls City –yum!), and do something called "flights" where you can choose three glasses of wine or beer for a set fee: $14 for wine and $8 for beer. I might go back and give that a try to see what it's like. They also sponsor a “Bacon and Beer Night” the second Thursday of each month, featuring all-day happy hour pricing, free bacon appetizers and bacon-themed food. As a vegetarian, this special doesn’t do anything for me, but made my husband weep with joy.

The service was outstanding and I don’t want to completely dismiss the restaurant, but Vintage Wine Bar-Kitchen-Market didn’t quite hit the mark with us this time around.

Closed Sun & Mon
Tues-Thurs 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri & Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Happy hour Tues-Sun 4-7 p.m. 12 oz drafts $2
Vintage Wine Bar - Kitchen - Market on Urbanspoon