Hugo’s tiny, savory corn fritters ($9) are the perfect first course for our Taste of Oakley. Hugo’s slant on Southern cuisine is sophisticated but totally approachable, and the bar area offers a comfortable spot to share a starter without committing to three courses. The bartender suggested an Austrian white for its versatility, and it was a perfect accompaniment to four of these two-bite-sized gems, dusted with superfine cornmeal. They’re warm to the touch but not too hot to split in half and spread with just a tiny bit of sweet, buttery marscapone cheese, which melts immediately, and a kiss of sweet chili jam.
A dash across Madison Road to our main course at Boca — arguably the hottest restaurant in town right now — where the cuisine merits its kudos and the staff and surroundings are top notch. For memorable flavor, go for the Mediterranean Branzino ($33).
Boca marinates this European sea bass in olive oil, pepper and spices and grills it so the skin is crisp and the flesh melts in your mouth. It’s served simply, with a salad of fresh arugula that echoes the pepper tones in every crisp bite.
That’s enough cutting-edge cuisine, though. Time for a classic dessert, and nothing is more classic than a chocolate soda with chocolate ice cream ($3.25) at Aglamesis. A soda’s not too heavy after a meal and is especially nice for calming any after-burn from the chilis and pepper. Aglamesis’ soda fountain hasn’t changed in my lifetime, and watching them scoop a tablespoon of whipped cream into the glass before adding the final shot of soda and stirring the whole frosty concoction with a long-handled spoon is still a thrill. Totally authentic.
On a cool spring evening, take it to go and stroll around the square. It’s a nice end to a perfect evening.
3235 Madison Road, Oakley 513-321-4846
3200 Madison Road, Oakley 513-542-2022
3046 Madison Road, Oakley 513-531-5196