2. The volcano roll at Ichiban (half-price sushi, hell yeah!) on Friday night. The roll features a tower of crab meat on top of a deep-fried eel roll. That and a standard spicy tuna roll and I was set. No, it's nothing stellar, but when your bill comes back with $10.57 printed on the bottom, it's hard to resist doing your happy dance.
3. Homemade meatloaf, whipped potatoes and crisp green beans at my dad's house. His meatloaf is essentially a giant, baked meatball made with soaked french bread, fresh garlic, Parmesan and parsley. Dip it in those buttery potatoes and you can just feel your soul relax.
4. Late-night spoonbread at The Eagle OTR. Eagle is fantastic late night. We arrived at 10:41 p.m. and waited 30 seconds for a table for four. Their maple syrup-soaked spoonbread goes GREAT with a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, an on-tap staple at this place.
Inspired — and named after — the former award-winning bourbon bar (named one of the world's three best bourbon bars in 2008 by Whisky Magazine) attached to deSha’s now-shuttered Lexington, Ky., location, the Kentucky-style Horse & Barrel Bourbon House is the latest in the area's ever-growing collection of bourbon-focused drinkeries, joining MainStrasse's/Molly Wellmann's Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and Northside's The Littlefield.
The bar, which is on the ground floor and seats about 40 (the upstairs will function as an events space, with space for 100-150 people and various complete event packages) offers 80 different bourbons, several flights and bourbon cocktails, plus a small menu of shareable plates with a Southern theme. The savory snacks and desserts run $6.50-$12, and include items like chicken tenderloin flash-fried and tossed in Maker's Mark barbecue sauce; gouda mac and cheese smothered in pulled pork with a Maker's Mark barbecue sauce; and a Queen City Pie, with bourbon, pecan, chocolate and banana served with salted caramel ice cream.
Their $9 bourbon cocktails range from a fruity Old Fashioned Woodford Reserve Personal Selection — orange, cherry, simple syrup, Angostura Bitters — to the refreshing Mint Julep Maker’s Mark. The premium bourbon selection also includes Old Forester Birthday 2014 Edition, Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, George T. Stagg and Woodford Reserve Personal Selection (this bourbon is only available at Tavern Restaurant Group locations, which has personally curated bourbons from both Woodford and Buffalo Trace).
Horse & Barrel also does happy hour, available from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. The “Old” One & A Cold One special includes your choice of any draft beer and one shot of the “Olds” for $5. The “Olds” include: Old Crow, Old Forester Classic, Old Grand-Dad 80 and Old Overholt Rye.
“Nick has been talking about this, I swear, it has to be at least a decade,” Justin Jeffre, a childhood pal of the Lacheys, fellow 98 Degrees member and editor for newspaper Streetvibes, says. “They’ve been more serious about it for the past couple of years. After hearing so many conversations, it’s nice to see it finally come to fruition.”
The sports bar, located on the corner of Walnut and 12th Street in OTR, is huge and bright, so there’s no way you’ll miss it. Because of its large windows, you can easily stand on the street and gaze inside at Drew and Nick, and read the LED sports ticker crawling underneath the 10 or so TVs hovering above the long bar.
“We felt like we wanted it be a sports lounge,” Nick says. “Sports bar, you kind of think of peanut shells on the floor, more Buffalo Wild Wings vibe, which I love, but we wanted to create something that was a little bit more upscale from that but still approachable to everybody.”
The plethora of TVs, the sports ticker and glowing rectangular colored lights wired into panels underneath the bar countertop creates almost a sensory overload. There’s already a sports bar (Rhinehaus) and a craft beer emporium/taco joint (Half Cut, Gomez Salsa) across the street, but keep in mind Lachey’s is more commodious, with 100 seats and a 150-person occupancy. Chefs Jonathan Price and Brian Duffy (of Bar Rescue fame) are building a menu of high-quality, non-frozen pub grub, including tater tots, pork sandwiches, bison burgers and salads, so you can stuff your face while you watch golf.
The big draw here is not only the bros, but also the booze. Three tap stations serve an array of craft beer and Miller Lite (Nick’s fave), but there’s also Nobilo wine on draft (it’s fancy and it’s good), cocktails on tap, a beer cocktail called Una Noche and non-alcoholic sodas for the teetotalers. Sports and non-sports fans will be able to imbibe their Miller Lite and Mad Tree Thundersnows sitting on barstools at the bar, sitting at one of the high top tables or lounging in the back of the bar on a comfy couch. Or, the ladies can take their business into the bathroom and lounge on couches in there. Note: The ladies room is nicer than most sports bars’ bathrooms.
But what’s the appeal of a sports bar to those who aren’t into sports? Nick assures, “It’s really about the people. I think I go to places because I want to be around good people and great atmosphere, and this is going to have that, for sure.”
Like many bars in OTR, Lachey’s will have happy hour, which will be yet another reason to hang out at the bar in hopes of catching a glimpse of the bros. And if you’re into the Pedal Wagon, the bar has a garage that enables the wagon to pedal right into the bar.
Currently, the only framed photos hanging on the red-hued walls are of The Bengals and Reds, and when asked if he’ll hang photos of 98 Degrees, Nick says, “We’re still decorating.” So here’s hoping some of those ‘90s-era shirtless pictures of the guys will make it onto the wall of shame.
Lachey’s Bar is located at 56 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine. For more info, go to lacheys.com.
A Tavola has made its mark on Over-The-Rhine with its rustic wood fired pizzas and superb flavor combinations. What you might not know about the high-end pizza joint is that its craft cocktails are one-of-a-kind. CityBeat sat down with A Tavola’s head bartender Aaron Strasser to pick his brain, and it turns out he is as personable as he is creative and stirs up one hell of a cocktail.
CityBeat: How did your career in bartending start?
Aaron Strasser: I was a history major at UC, and my favorite period of time was Prohibition. I found it very interesting that you could ban one of the greatest things in the world — the cocktail. I really got into studying that when I was in college. I also started flavor profiles. I grew up in the kitchen with my mom and she always baking stuff and I loved tasting all the flavors and figuring out, ‘Oh, you can pair this with this.’ I got my start here at A Tavola almost four years ago. I didn't know much, but what I did know is flavor profiles and combinations. So the owners gave me a chance and allowed me to make the bar what it is now.
CB: What’s your favorite spirit?
AS: I usually go with my whiskeys and bourbon. Rye whiskey for sure.
CB: What’s the strangest ingredient you’ve used in a cocktail?
AS: I have a couple. I always saw that simple syrups were being made with fruits and some herbs and spices, but I wanted to make a simple syrup out of a vegetable, so I made a red beet and ginger simple syrup, which goes great with gin. It’s very unique, it’s a beautiful color and the taste was very interesting. I didn't want to just use fruit. Another strange ingredient in our new cocktail menu is the jalapeño jam instead of a simple syrup. It’s a recipe that one of my kitchen people and I have worked on. I wanted to have something that was sweet and savory. We do a lot of that as far as combinations go — even in our food — lots of sweet and savory.
CB: Do you see a change in cocktail culture around OTR?
AS: Oh, yeah, its definitely growing. There is a lot more appreciation as far as drinks go. A lot of people are not just ordering cocktails that they know, instead they are actually looking at the cocktails and asking, ‘What does this place have to offer that I haven’t tried before?'
CB: If you had to pick one cocktail to drink for the rest of your life what would it be?
AS: An Old Fashioned.
1 slice of orange
1 sugar cube
1 or 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 oz. rye or bourbon whiskey
Place the sugar cube in a glass and add one or two dashes of Angostura bitters and a splash of club soda. Muddle the the sugar cube. Add whiskey and ice. Stir until sugar is dissolved. With a lighter, singe a strip of orange peel and pinch the peel to release oils. Add the orange peel and the Amarena cherries to top it all off.
The event, which raised money for local nonprofit Gabriel’s Place and its Junior Culinary Institute, took place at the Christian Moerlein brewery in Over-the-Rhine. The restaurants represented (Jimmy G's, Django Western Taco, LaLa's Blissful Bites, Invito Chef, El Rancho Grande, Huit BBQ, Redondo Taqueria, Axis Alley on the Levee, Seasons 52, Silver Ladle, Elephant Walk Injera & Curry House, Washington Platform, Swad, O'Malley's in the Alley, Mazzaro's Place, The Pub, Boswell Alley and Moerlein Lager House) each provided a small sample of their favorite items for attendees to nibble on, from mini-steak sandwiches to shot glass-sized pecan pie. Some of the vendors were parked in the more polished taproom, while the majority of the booths and the competition itself appeared in the “basement chic” room next door. Attendees wandered from booth to booth, balancing small plates and frothy cups of Moerlein beer as they waited for the main event to begin. Everyone looked slightly confused at first, but it didn’t take long for everyone to catch on and figure out where to go — the Four Roses bourbon cider probably helped.
Iron Fork’s version of Kitchen Stadium was a small-ish cooking space set up at one end of the very large room. It was fully stocked with brightly colored produce from SYSCO, plenty of spices, gas burners and shiny stainless steel cookware from Cooks'Wares. Scattered across the room were large TVs (not in HD, our spoiled selves lamented) for those who may not be able to find a spot in the small area in front of the kitchen to watch the action. The three judges were perched to the left of the kitchen, presumably starving.
Frances Kroner of Sleepy Bee, Jose Salazar of Salazar and Joe West of The Palace at The Cincinnatian were the three chefs chosen to appear for the event. Each of them had one hour to create a dish using the elusive secret ingredient: figs. (Most of the crowd had left before the secret was revealed; it had to remain a secret to make the competition fair for everyone.) Each chef also had a Junior Culinary Institute student from Gabriel’s Place on their team; all three of the students, it must be said, were incredibly impressive in their professionalism and skill.
The hour-long cooking time per chef allowed attendees to continue to wander and stuff their faces with local treats. The amount of sweet options seemed high (possibly because it was hard to locate the free water to cleanse your palate). The beer line never seemed to shorten, which was fine. If anything, it allowed for more socializing with the other food enthusiasts. Watching the cooking itself was only really entertaining near the end of the hour-long time limit — Jose Salazar straight up ran to the judges’ table with his dishes at the end, and that’s just good TV.
Once each chef’s segment was complete and the three judges were served, a fourth dish was auctioned off to a lucky audience member. (Frances Kroner’s dish went for a whopping $150.)
"All the chefs did a great job and we had a lot of fun sharing our thoughts and our food with the crowd," says judge and CityBeat food writer Anne Mitchell. "Frannie Kroner's lamb chop entree was wonderful, and (Ilene Ross, CityBeat food writer and judge) had a great idea — she added one of her lamb chops to the auction for Gabriel's Place."
"I ate all three of mine and gnawed the bones clean, so that shows you where my heart resides," she continues, laughing. "Jose's appetizer, lamb tartare, was amazing. Ilene licked her plate. It was the kind of dish that separates ordinary food from art."
The audience did not hear from the judges until the end, when they named The Palace’s Joe West as the winner for his appetizer and entree dishes.
"Joe West's appetizer and entree blew us away," says Mitchell. "The scallop crudo was another work of art, and it was the perfect starter for Joe's main dish. I wish I could be 100 percent sure of the description but things got a little crazy at the end and we really didn't hear what Joe said, but I think it was halibut in veloute sauce with bacon crumbles for a garnish, flash-fried potato 'chips' from tiny fingerling potatoes and the figs."
"Figs were the 'secret ingredient' that all the chefs had to incorporate into their dishes," she continues. "It would have been fun to see them utilized a little more essentially in the dishes instead of used as a (yummy) garnish, but that seems a little like splitting hairs."
Overall, the event’s first run was a success. Did I want to snag one of Kroner’s scallops or a bite of Salazar's lamb tartare right off the judges’ table? Sure. But I didn’t, and it still turned out to be a nice little Wednesday night.