After taking part in CityBeat's barbeque tasting panel last spring (see 2007 Best of Cincinnati, issue of March 28), I accepted the task of reviewing Silver Spring House with more than a little trepidation.
You see, I had planned to not eat ribs for the rest of the calendar year. In fact, I'd decided to avoid large quantities of grilled or smoked animal for the remainder of 2007. But my will is weak and my dedication to food journalism is strong, so on a recent Friday night I leave the city behind and head to Loveland to sample the Silver Spring House menu.
Housed in a pleasant, sprawling wooden farmhouse, the Silver Spring House is already filled with diners when we arrive. Inside, the dining rooms are choked with noisy diners; and outside, on a semi-enclosed patio that bristles with TV screens, a boisterous crowd is enjoying its Friday night drinks. Despite the crowds, my guest and I are seated immediately and quickly supplied with drinks and menus.
For appetizers, we opt to share an order of the rather unusual sounding Potato-Wrapped Shrimp ($7.95) and a Blackened Sashimi Tuna Steak Salad ($10.95). The shrimp are as unusual as their name suggests: encased in potatoes that have been cut on a mandolin and then fried until the potato is crispy and lightly browned on the surface, remaining soft and fluffy inside.
Served with a side of spicy plum sauce, it's a delicious and unique dish. The shrimp combine wonderfully with the crispy potatoes around them.
The salad is large, leafy and green and is served with a generous portion of seared tuna, but the flesh of the tuna is dry and I think serving it blackened has ruined it. It would have been fine cooked or raw, but instead it's neither and suffers for it.
For entrees, we select the Fish and Chips ($9.95) and the combination Ribs and Chicken ($16.95). The fish -- Red Hook Ale-battered tilapia -- is cooked perfectly, a white and flaky piece of fish covered in crunchy and well-seasoned batter. Served with fries and coleslaw, it's wonderfully tasty.
The combination plate is good too and includes a quarter of a chicken and a quarter portion of ribs. Both are barbequed in the Silver Spring House's signature barbeque sauce, which is complex and combines a pleasant spiciness with sweet citrus undertones. The chicken is very good, and the ribs are even better.
I am reminded, these months after taking part in that barbeque panel, just how satisfying ribs can be: the smoky flavor, the sweetness of the pork as it falls from the bone, the tingling and lasting burn of a good barbeque sauce. And the barbeque sauce here is very good.
For sides, I select sweet potato fries and onion rings. The servings are huge, and we fill several Styrofoam containers with leftovers.
We settle our bill and decide to head outside to the covered patio. Once out there, we order coffees and a serving of the Big Fatty ($6.95), a huge glistening slab of chocolate cake that's covered with an inch or more of thick chocolate icing. I take a bite and feel my blood thicken and slow in my veins. It's delicious, but I'm struck by one thought: If I eat this dessert, I will develop diabetes.
A few feet away at the bar, a solid-looking man in his fifties, his bald and well-tended head shining brightly in the bar lights, is trying determinedly to pick up a woman who is disinterested but not quite enough to move away. It puts me off my Big Fatty. Elsewhere, I can hear three guys drunkenly talking about "hot chicks."
A woman across the other side of the patio laughs like a coyote. Someone drops a glass on the floor. And then another.
The patio represents the biggest problem at the Silver Spring House restaurant -- it provides diners with no buffer from the crowd that frequents places like this. Back inside the dining room, the food is good, the servings are generous and the service is attentive. But out on the patio, under a noxious cloud of aftershave fumes and a wall of laughter, the atmosphere quickly begins to override the food's flavor.
The patio represents an unfortunate combination of good food in a rowdy and boisterous environment that gives me indigestion. But if I'm ever single again, maybe I'll iron a shirt, splash on some aftershave and head back on out to the patio for some ribs. ©
Silver Spring House
Go: 8322 E. Kemper Road, Mason
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Plenty of salads and seafood dishes on the menu
Accessibility: Fully accessible