Leaving brunch today, I was driving a minivan and listening to The Civil Wars as snow flurries lackadaisically fell from a grey, sullen sky. Some might think that’s depressing, but I was flying high from my afternoon tryst at Taste of Belgium: one of Cincinnati’s reigning Best of Brunch locales. (The music was also very loud, which helps lessen my chances of feeling depressed while driving a minivan, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Upon entering the establishment around 1pm today (Sunday), we were told that the wait would be nearly 40 minutes. Fully prepared to make said wait, the four of us (two friends from New York, Date, and myself for reference) set up camp at the bar. Instead, just 15 minutes later, we were told that our seats at a six-top table near a window—facing both Vine and 12th Streets—were ready. I understand that the host is likely instructed to over-estimate wait times, but I was immediately impressed with our noticeable lack of having to actually do so. I also understand that reservations can be made. That has been noted for the future.
Location: Taste of Belgium enjoys two locations. One of which features a smaller, more limited menu as a stand in Findlay Market, while the other, larger location, calls its home inside of an older brick building in the heart of Over-the-Rhine (on the corner of 12th and Vine Streets just south of Bakersfield and Senate, and caddy corner from a sizable paid parking lot). I’d had the former, but was really looking forward to trying the latter, as I’d heard outstanding things about its “bistro” location, a lovely two-store-front restaurant with plenty of seating and even more brunch goers.
Atmosphere: The interior is much larger than originally thought. A smallish foyer welcomes its patrons, seating is available on either side of the restaurant, and there are a number of seats at the bar as well. The actual tables are relatively unsubstantial, but they boast a minimalist design approach, which is nice. I had a pretty great view of the entire restaurant from where I was sitting, even if the chilly draft from the Vine Street window was a bit much. Exposed brick and vents dominate the scenery (at least from my vantage point), and the presentation of everything in the interior was aesthetically appealing. Consequently, the presentation of the food followed suit.
Food: Fortunately, I got to run the gamut of all things Cincinnati brunch appropriate while concurrently eating all things Taste of Belgium appropriate. By “all things Cincinnati brunch appropriate,” I mean goetta. By “all things Taste of Belgium appropriate,” I mean Waffle n’ chicken (chicken breast, Ohio maple syrup, and hot sauce; eighty-six the hot sauce). Friend of a Friend (hailing all the way from New York City and having recently spent some time in Belgium of all places) decided on the McWaffle (egg, applewood bacon, and Swiss cheese on a waffle sandwich), claiming the waffles are “pretty typical Belgium.” Seeing as Taste fancies itself a “Belgian Bistro” with “the authentic waffle”, that was reassuring to hear. And these aren’t your mom’s wimpy “Belgian” waffles that you can eat, like, four of. No offense to your mom. Best Friend (also currently resides in New York City, but once upon a time lived in Cincinnati) opted for the Goetta Hash (goetta, peppers, onions, eggs, and frites). Frites, I’ve learned, are actually just “Belgian” French fries (read: the same fresh cut fries as in America), which were very delicious, and one of the better items we got in my opinion. The combination of the aforementioned was very good, but I’d prefer it tucked inside of a fluffy, delicious crepe, which leads me to my next point. Date decided to order the ‘Nati Crepe (egg, goetta, roasted peppers & onions, and Provolone cheese), which was undoubtedly my personal favorite dish of the affair (also, it was my first crepe). For good measure, Date decided it was only appropriate to order a waffle on the side, in which he chose the Banana & Nutella version. Good thing for him, I also agreed that was entirely necessary. And I even helped him eat it (who ever said I wasn’t nice was full of it). Worth trying, but not something I’d order again. I could have done without the banana slices, but the Nutella was a nice addition to the already delicious waffle. Personal preference, really, and, well, I don’t prefer super sweet breakfast (or brunch for this matter) items. So there’s also that.
Overall Grade: A- [out of a possible A+]
I quite enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant. I also enjoyed the fact that we didn’t have to wait forever for a table, even during a high traffic time. Although I didn’t love my particular food item, it was still pretty dang good (it should be noted that I would probably never order Chicken and Waffles anywhere ever; except Taste of Belgium, of course), and I really liked all of the menu items I was fortunate enough to try (Goetta Hash, Waffle n’ Chicken, ‘Nati Crepe, and the Banana & Nutella Waffle), especially the ‘Nati Crepe. The cost of the excursion was not wallet busting either, which was also a plus. All of the food looked fabulous and tasted outstanding, but in the future I will be sure to order the ‘Nati crepe whenever possible.