Week 32 — The Anchor-OTR

The Anchor is one of those places I’d been wanting to try for a very, very long time, but BK and I considered it a Special Occasion Restaurant, and never really had the opportunity to go. A friend’s birthday seemed the perfect reason to finally indulge in one of Cincinnati’s few seafood and oyster joints, and I thought it was perfect that I could try it for cheaper than the two of us going, and I could report back just what I thought.

There was a pretty large group of us—at around a dozen girls, we were comfortably seated on the outdoor patio, which was absolutely my favorite part of the occasion. I was pleasantly surprised that The Anchor could so comfortably accommodate a dozen patrons, and the patio was wonderful, charming, and the weather on that particular night was perfect. The outdoor seating time frame in Cincinnati is quite small, seeing as the weather goes from freezing to sweltering heat in a mere two weeks, so any time we aren’t experiencing stifling and oppressive heat in the summer, sit outside!

I digress.

View from our spot on the patio

View from our spot on the patio

We went to The Anchor on a Thursday, which was $1 oyster and $1 PBR night. I tried a couple of oysters, which were okay, and I also decided to try an oven roasted oyster with hollandaise. The latter had me at “hollandaise,” which I love, but I was underwhelmed by the overall taste. Our server, while informing us of the specials, mentioned the lobster roll, which I’d heard great things about and really wanted to try. After I ordered it, I learned that thing was $29. I felt tacky reversing my decision at that point, so I swallowed my shock and disappointment and tried to make the best of it. I loved the bun on which the lobster salad was served, while the lobster salad itself was a little too much for me: very rich in flavor that, I’m sure, is better suited for other people, but I wasn’t too fond of it personally. The fries were really, really good, though.

Oven Roasted Oyster with Hollandaise and Chesapeake Bay Oysters

Oven Roasted Oyster with Hollandaise and Chesapeake Bay Oysters

Lobster Roll and Fries

Lobster Roll and Fries

My overall opinon of The Anchor: I loved the patio and atmosphere. I am thankful I got to try the oysters for inexpensive, but will happily forego getting them in the future. I also will not spend $29 on a sandwich there (or anywhere) ever again. The cost of my meal, while the taste was decent enough, was not worth it, in my opinion, and if I find myself back at The Anchor again, I will get something else (most likely fish and chips)—something much cheaper, because spending nearly $50 on just myself for two $1 oysters, a roasted oyster, lobster roll, fries, ice water, and a tip is a little bit too much for me. I still have buyer’s remorse, which isn’t the linger factor I was looking for.

I didn’t love my meal during my first tryst with The Anchor, but I’d happily try something else in the future.

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Week 31 — Swad Indian Restaurant

I didn’t start eating Indian food until later in life (within the past five years), and I must be making up for lost time because it is a genre of food that I crave often. (What was I thinking going this long in life without regularly indulging in this cuisine?!) Thus, BK and I decided to satiate our mutual desire for Indian by checking out the newly-opened Swad Indian Restaurant in North College Hill.

If you’ll remember, BK and I first tried Dusmesh in Week 3 of my first Tour de Cincinnati. We both liked it well enough, but that was also before new owners bought the place in July 2013. Said new owners recently opened Swad (translates to “tasty”) in the former Van Zandt space on Galbraith Road at the end of April and, with hearing rave reviews about the place from friends, we decided it was time to give it a try.

Clockwise from left: Garlic Naan, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Paneer Makhani.

Clockwise from left: Garlic Naan, Chicken Tikka Masala, and Paneer Makhani.

Indian food is one of those delicacies where, strangely enough, I get the same dish everywhere I go. It is because of this that I feel I can truly gauge how great a given Indian restaurant is for me. So Paneer Makhani it was for me; Chicken Tikka Masala for BK (he orders this most of the time but not always)—both a 3 out of 6 on the spicy scale; and Garlic Naan to share. My thoughts:

  • The spice level was perfect. I beaded up a bit with sweat on the ol’ forehead, but it was a pleasurable spicy that danced on the precipice of Just a Little More and This Would be Too Spicy.
  • My paneer was perfect. It was fresh and the texture was just how I like it.
  • Even the garnish on my dish was amazing. I’d never seen such a thing, so it was an added bonus.
  • The garlic naan, as always, was awesome. I always thought Dusmesh did naan the best of the area restaurants, and Swad does it even better.
  • I was very impressed by the service. Both of the people who served us throughout our meal were extremely friendly, attentive, and refilled our water so that we never went without (which is often a gripe of mine when eating spicy Thai or Indian food). We were even given complimentary Honey Dumplings (breaded and fried paneer dipped in honey)  for dessert. Spoiler alert: they were awesome.
  • At $25 (before tip), we thought that Swad was one of the slightly cheaper Indian meals we’ve had, which ranks with some of the best North Indian restaurants in the area (Ambar and Shaan are a couple of my favorites).
  • It should be noted that Swad is open six days per week and has a lunch buffet every day they are open, even on the weekends.

I judge my Indian experiences on three things: the quality of paneer, naan, and spice level. Swad not only lived up to all three, but it lived up to it’s “tasty” translation, too.

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Week 30 — Cheapside Cafe

Parked on E. 8th Street downtown, I stepped out of the car at our metered spot and gazed around to locate the small restaurant BK and I couldn’t wait to check out. It wasn’t long before I spotted the telling establishment, as its elongated, bright white facade and patio teepee seemed to shout a sort of “over here!”

We entered through the patio where said teepee was located concurrently with a half dozen picnic tables. The interior boasted the same fresh and bright white design with wood accents, which made its minimalist approach one of my favorite designed spaces in the city.

Cheapside – Interior

Cheapside – Interior

What made Cheapside Cafe even better was that, while I stood in line to order at the counter, I was afforded the opportunity to peruse the beautiful menu board. It was well designed, which made the ordering process that much more pleasant. The menu wasn’t particularly extensive, so if you’re looking for a ton of things to choose from, this probably isn’t your place. But what was lacking in quantity, Cheapside more than made up for in quality. BK was in the mood for lunch, and I—of course—wanted breakfast. He knew he wanted the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich, while I opted for Challah French Toast (topped with pecans and whipped cream). He seemed to really like his (I liked it, too), but I absolutely loved mine. He was also pretty jazzed to try the Kegged Cold Coffee, which he also seemed to like, and that he described as, “the consistency of Guinness.” While on the topic of drinks, I also liked that the water was self serve. Seeing as I could put down a few in a single sitting, I often need refills. That made the process much more quick and efficient.

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich and Challah French Toast

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich and Challah French Toast (with pecans and whipped cream)

This is absolutely one of my new favorite places in Cincinnati. I can’t wait to go back.

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Week 29 — Catch-A-Fire Pizza

We were given an Employee Appreciation Lunch where I work, and lucky for me that meant I got to finally try Catch-A-Fire Pizza, “Cincinnati’s finest wood-fired craft pizzas, from a mobile platform.”

We were given a small menu from which to choose our complimentary lunch and, given my dietary restrictions*, I opted for one slice of pizza and a caesar salad. In standard Linsey form, when I retrieved my goods from one of Cincinnati’s better known food trucks, I got a slice of cheese pizza with my salad, sat down, and enjoyed my meal. You see, I have a theory about a lot of things and, as BK will agree, there is always a method to my madness**. This theory is that, while I order a lot of plain things (cheeseburgers, pizza, and ice cream especially), I believe that a restaurant must master the basics to be considered any kind of good at everything else.

Catch-A-Fire Pizza

And Catch-A-Fire had really good cheese pizza. It may not be the best in the area, but it’s certainly upper echelon of food truck fare and it rivals some of the better pizza parlors in the area. The pie wasn’t too greasy and the slice was big enough to satisfy me (though could have been a bit bigger and I’d have been okay with that). The caesar salad was also good, as the dressing came on the side and left how much of it ended up on the lettuce to me. Thus, Catch-A-Fire is not only inexpensive, but it is delicious and diet friendly as well, which isn’t often found — especially in the food truck circuit. Big fan.

*In the event you haven’t heard me speak in the past six months, I adhere to Weight Watchers’ dietary guidelines. Therefore I can still eat all the delicious foods I once could, just in moderation.

**I am one of the most particular people on the planet. About everything. And for [what I think is] good reason.

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Midweek Must Mention – World Cup Watch Party

On the heel’s of last night’s gut-wrenching, heart-breaking result of the USA v. Portugal game, I think a positive anecdote is necessary. There is no sense in re-hashing “what could should have been” in lieu of some of the awesome that has already happened.

I’d hardly call myself a die hard soccer fan. I play and love soccer, but am not as well versed about the American team as I would like to be. More recently (read: the past two years) I’ve taken up fandom with Liverpool, but considering that is a Premier League organization, it is quite different from international play, which happens—in comparison—much less frequently. Alas, I’ve been an above-casual USA fan for just over five years, but when I have the opportunity to support my country playing a sport I love with fellow Americans, I am all in. Who doesn’t love a good U-S-A chant or 9000? Or, even better, gratuitous “I Believe” chants? The terrorists, that’s who.

BK* and I tossed around a couple of ideas about where to watch the US Men’s National Team (#USMNT) play its 2014 debut World Cup game last Monday. We ultimately settled on deciding between Rhinehaus or Fountain Square and, because we just knew the former would be packed, we decided on the latter. Some things:

  • Fountain Square was also packed. But because it’s a public venue, it allowed much more space than a smaller establishment. I have no idea how to estimate crowd numbers, but we’ll go with a “metric shit-ton” of spectators. People of all ages, too, but mostly between 18 and 25, if I had to guess. As Mo Egger said in his recap from the Watch Party, “Soccer is no longer just the sport of the future, it’s a sport of the here and now.  And its popularity among the young guarantees its staying power.”
  • My vantage point wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad either. We got there around 5:15pm, which was early enough to snag decent standing space, but we certainly didn’t have the best spots. There are worse things than having “The Lady” of the Tyler Davidson Fountain slightly inhibiting my view. That’s like saying you’re annoyed by Joey Votto obstructing your view of Jay Bruce hitting (I understand the lineup logistics here are faulty, but just go with it). Be reasonable.
  • We got to hang out with a number of good friends, and we got to see some we haven’t seen in a while, and that made for an even better all-around experience. Also gratuitous high fives which make ALL events (especially of the sporting persuasion) that much better.
  • The game ended up being pretty great. I mean, save for the 88 minutes in between Clint Dempsey’s kickoff goal and John Brooks’ late go-ahead strike. Even the down time in between the Yanks’ successes brought a high kick to Dempsey’s face and the Jozy Altidore injury. Plenty of drama to go around.
  • That go-ahead goal!
  • There were food trucks, beer, friends, and a giant like-minded crowd adorned in red, white, and blue— all watching a USA win. On one of Cincinnati’s most picturesque and notorious landmarks. There can’t be many things better.
  • This is my favorite post-match article.

Fountain Square Watch Party

We loved our experience on Fountain Square, but we decided to not go back for the second game. Seems anticlimactic, but considering how I felt after my weekend out of town and the excessive heat, I’m glad we opted for staying home and watching. We will be heading to Rhinehaus for Thursday’s match vs. Germany. Hopefully BK gets there early enough to secure good seats. (No pressure, bud.)

To everyone who claims to not like soccer, this tweet puts it best: “Baffled by folks not watching the b/c they ‘don’t like soccer.’ That’s like not going to New Orleans because you don’t like jazz.” And to the people who claim that everyone who watches is a “bandwagon fan:” who cares. There’s plenty of room aboard. One nation. One team.

*Calling BK “Date” has run its course, I think. I’ve decided I need to start calling him by something else. Like his name. Or his initials.

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Week 28 — Local Parks

The greater Cincinnati area has no shortage of great parks, and I have been to a few recently that are worth talking about.

About a month ago, Date and I decided to start checking out some hiking locales as a way to spend some of our weekend mornings. We found ourselves at Ault Park for our first jaunt, as there are a couple of hiking trails that aren’t too challenging — perfect for beginners! It was a beautiful day that we decided to go, and the trail was good enough to where we felt like we got a little bit of exercise, but it wasn’t entirely taxing. It was hilly, which provided the most resistance workout wise. The overall landscape of the park was peaceful and beautiful.

Winton Woods is a Hamilton County Park that offers a plethora of golf, picnic, camping, leisure, exercise, and amusement opportunities. Winton Lake serves as the flagship landmark in the park, and around it there is a paved 1.7-mile trail loop, campgrounds, Parky’s Ark wet playground, snack bar and dining area, and a harbor with bicycle and paddle boat rentals. Winton Woods is fantastic for kids and families, as there is a lot to do there for however long you to choose to spend your time there.

Due to proximity alone, Winton Woods will always be held near and dear to me, but I was extremely impressed with Alms Park. It is one of the most beautiful* parks I’ve seen, and it’s pretty small, which lends to its charm and peacefulness. The playground and swings were fantastic for my nephew, and so was the view of Lunken Airport, where you can watch airplanes take off and land from Lunken Field.

If you’ve not been to any of the area parks, I highly suggest you do it! There are so many great ones in the area, and I can’t wait to see many more of them. What are some of your favorites?

*Devou Park is the other most beautiful park I’ve seen, which — due to its view of Cincinnati — is naturally one of the best.

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Week 27 — Eli’s BBQ

I never liked BBQ and, I’m not sure what it is, but in the past few months I’ve been really coming around to the taste.

I must be growing up.

Alas, when we were discussing places to meet my dad for Father’s Day, I threw out the idea of Eli’s thinking that it would be debunked due to its lack of proximity to everyone. But given its informal setting (order at the counter and take seats at picnic tables under large white tents) and its allegedly amazing food, I felt it would serve as a really great venue for my nearly-2-year-old nephew especially. Dad, Brother, Sister-in-law, and Date also really like pulled pork and BBQ, so I was pleasantly surprised that everyone was all in on the idea.

Our smörgåsbord from Eli's BBQ.

Our smörgåsbord from Eli’s BBQ.

Between the five of us adults, we got some kind of combination of pulled pork or smoked turkey sandwiches; macaroni and cheese; baked beans; cole slaw; jalapeno cornbread; and mashed potatoes. I’m happy to report that I got to try them all and YUM across the board. I was very impressed with everything I got to try and, although I got the smoked turkey, I think I will opt for the pulled pork next time. My favorites were the macaroni and cheese and jalapeno cornbread, but I even liked the baked beans, which I don’t typically love. Truly everything was very good.

Everyone else loved Eli’s, too, and I’m really happy that it was such a hit. The food was delicious, it was reasonably inexpensive, and there was plenty of seating and a short wait for food when we got there at 11am (there was a line when we left around 11:45). All around a fantastic experience. I will absolutely be back.

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Weekend Recap

Date and I enjoyed another really good weekend together, and we got to spend a good amount of time hanging out in our great city, eating at some really good places, and checking out some great destinations.

Thursday night we decided to eat at Green Papaya, which is located really closely to where he lives, and it is one of the better, more healthy dinner options in the area. Or at least I’d like to think so.

Friday afternoon I decided to get my running in at Winton Woods, where there is a 1.7-mile trail that loops Winton Lake, the flagship landmark in the sizable Hamilton County Park. It was pretty warm, but it was a place that served as a fantastic backdrop for a great jog. Later that evening, a friend and I met at FUSIAN – Kenwood, where we got our respective sushi rolls and spicy edamame — the latter being one of my favorite things in life currently. From there we perused downtown Loveland where we got a couple of drinks before going home.

Date and I treated ourselves to Dancing Wasabi because it had been a while since we’d been there. After, we watched the England v. Italy World Cup game at Cock & Bull, where I got the Local Beer flight, and then we decided to walk to Oak Tavern for another drink, where we ran into some friends and got to watch the rest of the Reds game.

Sunday was a day of firsts, as we finally got to eat at Eli’s BBQ for Father’s Day, then we went to Alms Park for a little while to prolong the Father’s Day festivities.

But I’ll tell you more about those later!

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Weekend Recap: Anniversary Weekend

I have a lot of really good weekends in this city, but Anniversary Weekend absolutely takes the cake. Here’s how it went down:

  1. I have Summer Hours on Fridays, and therefore got to meet Date for my first lunch tryst at Pho Lang Thang in Findlay Market.
  2. Friday night we had reservations for dinner at The Precinct. It was outstanding, as to be expected.
  3. Saturday morning we got to try Vitor’s Bistro’s brunch. Hands down best brunch I’ve had in this city, and definitely my favorite meal of the weekend.
  4. We met at a Reds game, had our first date at Great American Ball Park, celebrated our first anniversary watching the Reds play, and we felt it was necessary to follow suit for our second anniversary, too.
  5. From the Reds game, we put our names in at my favorite restaurant in the city, Senate, then we waited out our wait at Japp’s, where we had a couple of drinks with friends. After dinner, we made our way to Halfcut, where we enjoyed another beer before calling Lyft for a ride home.
  6. Sunday we decided to heat up our leftover Breakfast Lasagna from Vitor’s and ordered out pancakes and goetta from Sleepy Bee. It made for quite an outstanding meal.

That’s how great we ate throughout the weekend: we got a couple of reheated meals (from The Precinct and Vitor’s) that were better than most meals that I have regularly. Not only was hanging out with Date for the entire weekend amazing by itself, but we ate some of the best food in the city while doing so.

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Week 26 — Pho Lang Thang

I recently had Cafe Lang Thang and, while it was really good, all it did was make me want to try Pho Lang Thang that much more. I’d been dying to have it for months and, with being on Weight Watchers, it’d been difficult to get to Findlay Market to finally give it a try. So try we did, as Date and I started out Anniversary Weekend out with a Thang (see what I did there?).

We were seated outside under the tent, which was the perfect location considering the hot sun in otherwise near-perfect weather. Communal seating was okay and, after getting accustomed to sitting really closely with my neighbor, I felt pretty comfortable. It was a pretty informal event, so the seating wasn’t too bad.

Pho Lang Thang

 

We didn’t want to eat too heavily, seeing as we were to be having The Precinct for dinner, so Date got his standard Bún Bo Nướng (Grilled Beef) noodle salad with Chả Gìo (fried spring rolls) for an extra dollar. I got the Bánh Mì Xá Xíu (Chinese BBQ Pork). It was the perfect amount and I loved the sandwich I got. Date’s salad was really good, too, and I am overall very pleased with our experience there. I will absolutely be back.

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