If you’ve lived in Cincinnati for any amount of time, you’ve heard some variation of the most common complaint about downtown: “There’s nothing to do at night.” It’s another one of those false perceptions that you can only discredit by going out and seeing for yourself (like “downtown is unsafe” or “Cincinnati is boring”).
The latest addition to downtown’s late-night dining and entertainment options is Cold Turkey, a sandwich shop open for lunch all week that happens to be open all night long on Friday and Saturday, featuring live music from local musicians.
That’s a good start to the “unique sandwich experience” that Cold Turkey promises. On top of that, this place packs a lot of little surprises. It offers 11 signature sandwiches, each for $7, or you can build your own. Sandwiches come on thick Texas toast or can be made as a wrap if you desire. The rest of the menu is made up of creative salads ($7), soups ($4) and “Incredible Sides” ($2), all made without the use of fryers, freezers or microwaves.
Despite the restaurant being housed in a former Frisch’s space (and more recently Rise and Shine Cafe), the interior is unique as well. Bright and colorful, the space has a ton of seating — from bar seats to two-person booths and larger tables in the rear of the restaurant. The walls are covered with equally colorful artwork by local artists, which you can purchase.
Convenient for the downtown lunch crowd, you can choose from carry-out, table service or you can order at the counter and then sit down for “quick service.” This isn’t quite clear when you walk in, because there is a menu painted on the wall and no signage to clue you in. After asking an employee during a recent visit if table service was offered, we sat at the bar. Owners Mike Perrich and Jameson Stewart can be found toiling behind the counter or making the rounds filling up your drink and making sure you’re pleased with the food
After going through my usual bout of indecisiveness, I ordered The Big Tony sandwich ($7), which includes roast beef with cheddar cheese, red onion, tomato, mixed greens and horseradish mayo. This sandwich was really good. The bread was thick but not too crispy or hard and the portions of fillings were generous. The meat was cut into thick pieces instead of thin lunchmeat-style slices, making the sandwich hearty and filling.
Sandwiches are served with Cajun pretzels (little crunchy knots) that are spicy, salty and a little garlicky. If you have any left over, I recommend taking them home. They are the only snack that pairs with beer better than regular pretzels.
I also ordered a chilled soup called Strawberry Fields Forever ($4). It consists of pureed strawberries, rosemary and pepper, topped with a mint garnish (which didn’t make an appearance for my order). I think the idea for this soup is great, but the recipe needs some adjustment. It was thicker than I expected; the consistency (and the flavor) was more like a straight puree than a soup. Perhaps a better option would have been the Cucumber and Watermelon Gazpacho.
My girlfriend ordered The Big Mike sandwich ($7) on the same Texas Toast. This sandwich is composed of chopped grilled chicken and a house-made Alfredo sauce with roasted red peppers, molasses-cured bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and Asiago cheese. Again, it was a hearty portion and it wasn’t bad, but we both agreed that the flavor was lacking. She also ordered one of the “Incredible Sides,” the Camping Mix ($2). The soup bowl filled with granola, peanuts, almonds and M&M’s really was incredible. It was very fresh and delicious, and the leftovers made a great snack at home. The other sides include Ants-on-a-Log (celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins), Sweet ‘n Spicy Slaw, a Yogurt Parfait, a giant cookie and Mama P’s Brownie.
Other sandwiches that sounded good were the Maui Waui, a ham sandwich with molassescured bacon, tropical fruit relish and melted Swiss cheese, and the Vegetarian Philly with sliced portabella mushrooms soaked in a red wine marinade, banana peppers, caramelized onions, tomatoes and melted mozzarella. You can also get Buffalo Turkey Salad, Chicken Salad or Tuna Salad sandwiches.
You can get in on the fun by submitting a recipe for your own favorite sandwich and Cold Turkey may feature it as the patron sandwich of the month. Or you could get a photo taken with the Dancing Turkey, which often makes appearances at the restaurant (in a turkey costume) during lunch. I, on the other hand, will be putting the restaurant to the test next time some friends and I are hungry and bored after a show at the Southgate house.
Anything to avoid an ill-advised stop at White Castle.
Go: 130 E. Sixth St. Downtown
Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; late night Friday-Saturday 9 p.m.-6 a.m.
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Salads, chicken, vegetarian sandwiches