Writing a dining review is a great gig, right? Hey, I can’t complain. But sometimes it can be challenging, especially when the assignment isn’t on your home turf.
“Symmes Township?” I asked my editor. “Surely, you are not sending this city girl to Symmes Township?” “Don’t call me Shirley,” she replied.
To Symmes Township I would go.
I talked a friend into taking the trip north, in the “Blackout” week after Hurricane Ike, to look for my assigned dining venue. It was ... closed. Where else can we go? On the drive home, I passed deSha’s, sporting a big banner that said “Brand New Menu.” And they were open! We can go here!
It was getting a little late when we arrived and took our seats out on the deck, overlooking the ducks paddling around the water feature. Our server also overlooked us for a few minutes, and when she scurried over apologetically, her first words were, “I hope you’re not restaurant reviewers!” Well, surely, we were. But we were happy to be there, under the setting sun, ducks at our side. And we got even happier when we saw the excellent selection of beers at deSha’s.
An outpost of the Tavern Restaurant Group, which also owns Polo Grille, Nicholson’s downtown and the Pubs at Rookwood and Crestview Hills, these folks know their beverages. There are a dozen well-selected draft beers on tap, imports and domestics to please the least or most finicky beer belly. The wine list is equally well chosen: unstuffy and user-friendly and includes my casual favorite, Gnarly Head Zinfandel ($7/glass, $27/bottle).
I ordered Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale ($3.95) from Lexington, which arrived in a snifter so that we could appreciate its sweet bourbon aroma.
Absolutely delicious! My guest decided to try the Vanilla Porter, featured from the “rotating tap” ($5.25). We smelled and tasted it — it was like grown-up root beer! We guessed that it must be the combination of vanilla and the usually rich chocolate of a stout porter that gave it the unmistakable root beer character. She sipped at it, while I polished mine off, and our server, Shirley, returned.
“Do you like your beer?” she asked my friend. “It’s definitely different. It tastes like root beer.”
That’s when we learned that the “rotating tap” had been the homemade root beer tap. They’d changed the keg, cleaned the lines, done everything they could think of, but nothing worked. So Vanilla Root Beer Porter it was. Although Shirley said she’d take it off our check, I noticed later that it remained.
The appetizer selections could easily make mini-meals and are obviously portioned for sharing. We opted for Fried Green Tomatoes ($8.95) — a unique variation with two thin slices of firm tomato sandwiched around cream goat cheese, battered and fried and served over roasted red pepper sauce. The Artichoke Fritters ($6.95), our server’s recommendation, were like hot little beignets filled with creamy artichoke dip. There are some healthier choices, if that’s your inclination, like Tomato Basil Bisque ($4.95) and a House Salad with almonds and feta ($3.50), but deSha’s is the relaxed sort of place that makes Bleu Cheese, Bacon and Roasted Garlic Dip ($8.95) sound like it just might hit the spot.
And so the sun set as our entrées arrived. My friend, a runner who likes to load carbs, tried the nightly special, Pasta with Chicken and Artichoke Hearts ($14.95), good comfort food. After struggling between Scallops over Parmesan Cheese Grits ($21.95) and Tilapia with Asparagus Risotto ($16.95), I opted for the tilapia primarily because I knew it would make better leftovers for lunch the next day. Especially nice touches were the grilled asparagus spears and big slices of portabella mushroom garnishing my fish.
The ducks were floating off to sleep when we looked over the menu of large, mostly homemade desserts. Shirley insisted that two women sharing the evening’s finale could not go wrong with the Pecan Ball ($5.95). Someone was eating a cheeseball at a cocktail party when a lightbulb suddenly came on over their head and a dessert was born — weighing in at the size of a toddler. A big vanilla ice cream island coated in toasted pecans and surrounded by gooey hot fudge. Yummy, as guilty pleasures go, but too big to be taken seriously.
We had a great night of laughs and fun food at deSha’s — a lucky find on our way home from the restaurant that was closed. There’s a bar-bites menu during happy hour and Sunday brunch. Go for a reasonably priced night out, and order the Bourbon Barrel Ale. Surely, you’ll enjoy it.
DESHA’S AMERICAN TAVERN
Go: 11320 Montgomery Road, Montgomery
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; noon-9 p.m. Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $15-$22
Red Meat Alternatives: Salads, fish, pasta
Accessibility: Fully accessible