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Cover Story: Look Who's (Still) Eating

Chefs and restaurant owners provide updates

By Staff · April 30th, 2008 · Cover Story
  David Cook
David Cook

David Cook
Owner/Chef, Daveed's at 934
934 Hatch St., Mount Adams, 513-721-2665

David Cook is always up to something interesting at Daveed's, his cutting-edge Mount Adams bistro. Lately it's been tapas. Daveed's is offering a special event on Friday evenings in the art studio above the restaurant. There's a 26-seat communal table, and the small bites are passed on family-style platters -- everything from medjool dates with bleu cheese to meatball sliders. The creative tastes run the gamut and change every week depending on what great ingredients are available. It's going "unbelievably well," Cook says. (Published Jan. 2)

CityBeat: What's the last great meal you ate and where did you eat it?

David Cook: We had an incredible meal at Tru in Chicago -- amazing, with 12 courses! It was crazy. We ate for two and a half or three hours, drank champagne, had multiple desserts, a cheese course, handmade chocolate miniardise.

CB: Did that inspire you or overwhelm you?

DC: Neither and both, really. The food was fantastic, don't get me wrong, but I truly don't get as excited about food as I do about service. You can do a lot of things with food, add a lot of ooh and ahh, but it really comes down to service. That tells you more about the restaurant. And it's nice to be on the other end.

Update: The Friday evening tapas events continue to be "out of hand," Cook says, laughing as he talks about the 200-person waiting list for the one weekly seating. The Daveed's patio is getting cleaned up and will be ready to open as soon as this weekend, weather permitting. Cook says he's kicking around the idea of reopening the patio bar as a wine bar and offering special grilled dishes there as well.

Jonathan Dwight
Owner, fresh
36 E. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-421-1020

Cincinnati native Jonathan Dwight had what many sought at a very early age -- employment with Daniel Boulard's restaurants in New York -- but he learned that fine dining wasn't his true passion. Dwight's brain was munching on his own concept, which eventually became his downtown restaurant, called fresh. He revealed that he'd like to eventually franchise the concept, saying, "I want to reach the masses with my product. I don't want to reach just this small segment of the marketplace that shops at Wild Oats. My goal is to provide a reasonably affordable product. If they can't afford it, they can't eat it." (Published Jan. 9)

CityBeat: What's the last great meal you ate and what was it?

Jonathan Dwight: At my mother's house. She's a tremendous cook. She made roast Amish chicken stuffed with goat cheese and fresh vegetables from her garden greenhouse.

CB: What's the worst food you could put into your body?

JD: The majority of fast food products out there. My moral philosophy on food is that there's a yin and yang -- there's a balance to everything. You have to treat your body as if it were a machine and (food) the fuel that you feed it with, you know. I think it will treat you well if you treat it well.

Update: Dwight says he's recently updated the menu, focusing on sandwiches and wraps and being "aggressive" with pricing. He's dropped sandwich prices to $4.89, with premium sandwiches at $6.89, and is featuring Buffalo chicken and Tandoori chicken wraps among other new items. He's been pleased with the popularity of his corporate catering service.

Jimmy Wilhelm
Chef, Tink's Cafe
3410 Telford Ave., Clifton, 513-961-6500

Chef Wilhelm calls his food at Tink's Cafe "Innovative Southern." He says, "I tend to go with a rustic style. Fresh ingredients are the biggest key to my way of doing things." Wilhelm says that some contemporary cuisine goes overboard with ingredients, so much so that sometimes you can't tell what you're eating. "I prefer to focus on a couple ingredients and let you know they're there." (Published Jan. 23)

CityBeat: What's the last great meal you ate and what was it?

Jimmy Wilhelm: Thanksgiving dinner at home. I made a good old fashioned American Thanksgiving with turkey and stuffing, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes.

CB: You mentioned that Tink's will have a menu change in the next month or so, but what's your current favorite dish?

JW: My favorite thing at the moment is the gumbo. I make it with white cheddar grits. I don't like rice in my gumbo; the grits make it heartier.

Update: Wilhelm is introducing a new menu as we speak and says it'll be in "full swing" by mid-May. His favorite new entrees are diver scallops (served with sauteed butternut squash and brown butter and an arugula and apple salad) and Kobe steak flown in from Snake River, Idaho. And he says the gumbo remains popular even in the warmer weather.

James Demaree
Owner, The Hideaway
4163 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-2444

James Demaree has been serving up great food in Northside for four years. During the last year he's been offering soups, sandwiches and entrées at The Hideaway, next door to the Northside Tavern on Hamilton Avenue. Before The Hideaway, Demaree ran Pot Luck in the same space. His food has become something of a favorite for many Northsiders, who can treat themselves to a drink at the Tavern and bowl of soup, some meatloaf, a generously sized sandwich or a delicious dessert at the same time. Good food and good booze: a winning combination. (Published Dec. 19, 2007)

CityBeat: Where did you eat your last great meal and what was it?

James Demaree: I really don't get the chance to eat out too often. I think the last great meal I had was at Slim's. It was the brunch, and I had a gigantic sandwich with eggs and chicken salad on it. I can't remember the name of it, but it was really, really good.

CB: With the Hideaway, Slim's, Honey, Portofino's and Gajah Wong, Northside is seeing a real resurgence in great and varied dining options. What do you think is driving this?

JD: For so long, Northside didn't really have many places, just some fast-food places and a couple of chili places. I think people just wanted something a little more wholesome and just ... well, better. There are a lot of healthy eaters in Northside and, honestly, the rents are affordable in Northside.

Update: A new menu will debut by the first of May, with new appetizers, three to four new entrees and "summery" desserts. Demaree is particularly excited about the new tamale pie entree. He says he'll be dropping some dishes, including flank steak and chicken entrées, with the resulting menu netting out with about the same number of options. And he says the patio seating won't be disrupted by Northside Tavern's expansion construction next door.

Chris Waugh
Owner, The Wine C.A.R.T.
6206 Muhlhauser Road, West Chester, 513-860-9463

Chris Waugh has found her niche. She's put together all the disparate elements of her working life -- communications, marketing and sales -- and paired them with her passion: wine. "My husband turned me onto wine," she explains. "For years, we spent Christmas flying into Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino..." Her friendly storefront combines retail sales with a casual bar area and an outdoor patio where you can "try before you buy." Inspiration struck on a recent trip to Tuscany. "There were cafes everywhere," she recalls. "And wine drinking was such a pleasurable, unpretentious part of the culture." Lucky for us, she's re-creating that spirit here in Ohio. (Published Nov. 14, 2007)

CityBeat: Where'd you have your last great meal and what was it?

Chris Waugh: This is embarrassing, but the last time I had a chance to eat out was nine months ago when we opened. I took the staff next door for a six-course wine dinner at mesh. Everything was fabulous -- especially the foie gras course. They did an amazing job pairing each course with different wines.

CB: Why do you have periods between the letters of "C.A.R.T."?

CW: It stands for each of the four elements of our business: courses, art, retail and travel. We arrange in-store and off-site wine courses; we feature in-store art and entertainment; we're obviously a retail wine shop; and we support Ohio tourism and our terrific local wineries.

Update: Waugh is currently celebrating the store's one-year anniversary and has opened a patio space. She's introduced a blind tasting event on Saturdays (6-9 p.m.) featuring three to four wines, cheese and crackers for $15; she still holds special tastings on Fridays as well (6-9 p.m.). Waugh says she's now offering specialty beers, too, and mentions Samuel Smith Pale Ale from England as a current favorite.

Creola Robinson
Owner, Goodies Barbeque
5841 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-542-4663

Bill "Mr. Goodie" Dickerson and his family have spent 21 years in College Hill, "trying to keep the area smelling like smoke." Mr. Goodie sold the business to his daughter, Creola, in 2000, but he's not fully retired. He still comes in to make sure the meat is cooked just right. Creola has found a new bottler for the family's legendary barbecue sauce, both hot and mild, that will be available in retail locations in spring 2008. The hot sauce is their niche -- not many bottled sauces can approach it. (Published Oct. 17, 2007)

CityBeat: What was your last great meal and where did you eat it?

Creola Robinson: Shrimp chimichangas at Rio Grande in Newport -- they were so delicious! And a Texas Gold Margarita. My brother, Jay, is the resident bar chef at the Party Source in Bellevue and turned me on to that place. We get a pitcher of the margaritas. I love their chiles rellenos, too, but I can never eat it all. It's just too much!

CB: I bet you hate to see summer end. I'm sure you sell more ribs in summer.

CR: No! We definitely sell more in the winter. Especially this summer, when the heat was so gruesome. Who wanted to eat? And also in the summer, people barbecue for themselves. In the winter, they come back to us -- and we're here, nice and steady.

Update: The big news in Goodies World is the announcement of a second location to open on Glenway Avenue on the West Side. Robinson says she expects construction to begin in July or August, with an opening in January. The menu will be the same in the new spot, and she says she and her father will be shuttling back and forth. Back in College Hill, Goodies is now open an hour later on weekdays (10 p.m.) and customers are loving the new talapia dish.

Sharon Butler
Co-owner, The BonBonerie
2030 Madison Road, O'Bryonville, 513-321-3399

Sharon Butler met her future partner Mary Pat Pace when they were both employed at Edwards Restaurant, a former downtown eatery. When they talked about trying something of their own, they agreed to strive for something most folks in the food industry only dream of -- a life apart from their culinary endeavors. Sharon recalls, "We had the same needs, and that made all the difference in the world." Sharon also learned to cook the way she does today while she was at Edwards: "Everything was made from scratch. I learned to work quickly; there was no language of shortcuts. You didn't assume it was OK to do anything else." (Published Sept. 5, 2007)

CityBeat: Where did you eat your last great meal and what was it?

Sharon Butler: I just had a meal for my husband's birthday in Columbus at The Happy Greek. That was the best Mediterranean food I'd ever had -- it was delicious, it was fresh from beginning to end.

CB: What's one of your fondest food memories?

SB: People say what conjures up memory most is the sense of smell -- smell doesn't do anything for me. I have these unbelievably vivid memories of my Aunt Marie making Wind cookies. We'd go over there at Halloween and she'd open the oven and there would be this brown paper she took from brown paper bags and cut to fit the cookie sheets and these whitish brown mounds of meringue sitting there in her oven. Not one smell! The word, the sight of it and then to get to eat it, too --that's the stuff that imprints on memory.

Allyn Raifstanger
Owner, Allyn's Cafe
3538 Columbia Pkwy., Columbia-Tusculum, 513-871-5779

Allyn's opened in 1991 when Allyn Raifstanger left his job at the Omni Netherland Plaza after nine years to work for himself. He's seen his restaurant through three expansions, which include the addition of a retail wine space, and now he's looking forward to a neighborhood expansion of sorts -- the Columbia Square project, which will cover 8 acres and turn the area into a walking neighborhood. The cafe's menu is known for its hand-cut steaks and Cajun and Nex-Mex (a lighter version of Mexican) fare, but Allyn's might be best known as a haunt to hear local live music. (Published Aug. 22, 2007)

CityBeat: What's the last great meal you ate and where did you eat it?

Allyn Raifstanger: We don't get out often with three little kids ... we went to Pho Paris when it was in Oakley, and we enjoy Red.

CB: I know you play trumpet with the band on Sunday nights. What's the connection between food and music?

AR: Sunday night is our night -- we own Sunday night in town. The Bluebirds, in one form or another, have been playing since I opened. And we've had great success with upstart bands. They want to play out, and they bring in a bunch of people and have fun. Music is essential to a restaurant as background or a silence breaker, but live music is a luxury to have while dining.

Update: Nice weather has brought a beer garden to Allyn's, an outdoor spot for enjoying one of the best beer menus in town. Raifstanger says he's about to welcome the 100th member of Allyn's "Around the World in 80 Beers" club. He has several new summer beers in stock and says the Magic Hat (a wheat-style craft beer from Massachusetts) is flying out of the coolers.

Dean Zaidan
Owner, Dean's Mediterranean Imports
Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine, 513-241-8222

Dean Zaidan, owner of Dean's Mediterranean Imports, is a Findlay Market veteran. "I got started here roasting nuts," he said. Twenty-two years later his store mushroomed from a one-item operation to a specialty shop that offers around 2,000 items, including 30 varieties of nuts he still roasts. (Published Feb. 13)

CityBeat: What's the last great meal you ate and where did you eat it?

Dean Zaidan: A place in Northside called Darou Salam. I just stumbled upon it. It's an African place. They don't have to menu. She said, "You can one, two or three: fish, chicken or lamb." It was unique. The dessert was fabulous, too.

CB: What's the most exotic item you carry?

DZ: Saffron ... and pistachio oil. That's pretty exotic. And truffles. A small jar is about $10. You get about three truffles!

Update: Zaidan says the warmer weather always brings Findlay Market alive this time of year. He's excited about new produce that should be coming in soon, including fresh figs and lima and fava beans. And he heartily recommends Over-the-Rhine restaurants Nicola's and Lavomatic.



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