Named after George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, G. Bailey’s, a new venture by the company that operates the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, carries the tagline “It’s a Wonderful Place.” Given the theme, I half expected to walk in and find TVs streaming “I love you, Bedford Falls” and the opportunity to order a “flaming rum punch” or “mulled wine heavy on the cinnamon light on the cloves” without being tossed out.
But the name and tagline were as far as the analogy went, and I never understood exactly why the association was necessary if that’s where it ended. Why not just call it “Loveland’s Neighborhood Bar” or some such cozy and refreshingly obvious name? Maybe my years in advertising have just made me a stickler for branding, but I like a well-thought-out restaurant concept.
As my dining partner and I sat and listened to songs from the late-1980s, artists like Richard Marx and Cameo, I found myself wondering if the menu was going to offer pizza bianca (remember that?), lobster ravioli and fettuccine alfredo with lots of breadsticks and a salad with tons of Hidden Valley ranch dressing. In fact, I was about ready to order a Sex on the Beach or a Grand Marnier Margarita and break into Jefferson Starship. (I was still vainly searching for a coherent restaurant concept here, and wouldn’t a restaurant that served late-’80s/early-’90s food be great fun?) But what I found instead was a menu with plenty of fun ’60s touches — a three-tiered salad of cottage cheese (albeit with garlic), iceberg lettuce and hot slaw (which proved wonderful); many dishes with rotisserie chicken, such as “rotisserie chicken spring rolls filled with Monterey jack cheese and cabbage;” and, well, s’mores.
As Bruce Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain” kicked on, I started getting the impression that I was actually traveling through a wormhole where I could perhaps experience every era of food and music simultaneously.
No sooner did I have this thought then I got a call from an unknown number on my cell phone. Who was it but my first-ever boyfriend circa 1986 who had looked me up on Facebook. And, yes, “Mandolin Rain” was “one of our songs” (you have many when you’re 13). I now believed that I was, indeed, in some kind of magical time warp at G. Bailey’s and looked forward to more bizarre events as the night unfolded.
Not much happened, however, and everything went smoothly. The food was a pleasant surprise and the service sharp. When I first saw starters like spinach and artichoke dip and the newly hip reuben croquettes on the menu, I assumed that we were going to be served warmed-up frozen appetizers from McCain Food Products. Not so. Our wonderful server assured us that everything was fresh and homemade and the food proved him right.
Because one of their specialties is rotisserie chicken, we ordered the Rotisserie Chicken Spring Rolls with Monterey Jack and Cabbage, drizzled with barbecue sauce ($6.95). I have to say I had a hard time with the combination of egg roll (not spring roll) crust and rotisserie chicken at first, but it soon grew on me. The Spinach and Artichoke dip was some of the best I’d ever had, although I have really grown tired of this appetizer — it’s up there with crab cakes right now in overdone starters — but G. Bailey’s definitely revived the old standby for me. With chunks of artichoke and cream cheese, it was quite fetching.
Meanwhile, our server searched high and low for caffeinated teas, as I had ordered hot tea and all of their options were herbal decaf. He was extremely attentive but unobtrusive throughout the night, a gentleman who seemed to have years of experience waiting tables.
For our entrées, my dining partner ordered the Brick Oven Salmon with Boursin Pesto Compound Butter ($17.95). The pesto butter was, of course, wonderful; how can you go wrong with the two? The salmon was remarkably fresh and had a nice, peppery wood-smoked flavor. I was in the mood for a simple sandwich and chose the Portabella Mushroom Veggie Wrap with fresh spinach, smoked mozzarella, onions, tomatoes and garlic artichoke ranch ($6.50). I asked for it hot, which was a good choice; I wouldn’t recommend it cold. The mashed potatoes that come with 16 topping options — I chose burgundy mushrooms — were fresh. (I was at a pricey Mount Adams restaurant recently where they were admittedly frozen.) They were thick and rich with garlic, although the mushrooms were a bit cool.
All in all, G. Bailey’s is fun. The menu is surprising and thoughtful and the prices are reasonable. You can get a burger for as low as $6.95 and appetizer for $4.95. If you’re looking for a cheap place in your neighborhood that has good, fresh food and lets you take a trip back in time with the music and some of the food choices, check it out. I’ve heard it’s a wonderful place.
Go: 9521 Fields Ertel Road, Loveland
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Entrée Prices: $11.99-$23.99
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Vegetarian pasta, sandwiches and seafood
Accessibility: Fully accessible