Week 14 — Wildflower Café

First thoughts (and this is an actual text I sent to Date): I know one thing … this place absolutely lives up to being a hassle [as advertised]. Let’s hope the burger lives up to its hype also.

I’ve been meandering my way through the Cincinnati Top 40 burgers for about two years now, albeit lackadaisically (I’ve only been to 22). Wildflower Café was anointed by Cincinnati Magazine as the #1 burger in the area, so I’d been jonesing to give it a try for a while. I’ve read (on Yelp mostly) how hard it is to get a seat at this place and that reservations are a must. Reservations were made for my birthday dinner on a Thursday for the following day, and we had to settle for a 5:30pm seating; not entirely unreasonable, seeing as Date and I were fully expecting to have to go after work whenever we decided to go, but not exactly ideal either. On top of its exclusivity and difficulty getting a table (only two times were available for two whole people when Date called), the menu was pretty limited and it took a good while (read: sifting through multiple Yelp reviews as well as emailing the owner) to find out that burgers were actually available in the evenings despite not being on the dinner menu*.

“I already kind of dislike the experience, but I obviously want to try it. May never do it again, pending the quality of the food” was an actual text I sent around 11am on Friday. I was fully expecting Wildflower to not blow my mind and for this trip to be my last.

Boy, was I wrong.

Aside from its being a hassle getting a table, its pretty extreme exclusivity, and pseudo-limited menu, Wildflower absolutely lived up to every expectation I had and had read about.

Location: Located in downtown Mason, Wildflower isn’t too difficult to get to. There is a parking lot behind the building as well as a lot on the corner of Kings Mills and Main Street. If either or both are full, there is also street parking. I’m not sure how this shakes down later at night or on the weekends, but at 5:30pm on a Friday, parking options proved to be aplenty.

Atmosphere: This restaurant is nestled inside of an older farmhouse, which is adorable but not kitschy and feels a lot like home. The yellow walls are bright, friendly, and welcoming, while the beadboard paneling provides a classic and homey, yet country feel. So as to decorate the walls without dumbing down the place, there are a number of framed photos and posters deliberately and consciously hung on the walls. Many tables enjoy a combination of chair and bench seating, and the benches are adorned with comfortable pads for your bottom and throw pillows for your back. There isn’t a ton of seating, which is why it’s so hard to reserve a time to eat, but the scarce amount makes for a more intimate setting. I’m telling you, if you want a good date restaurant that won’t entirely break the bank, this is it (it’s a little pricey, but not too bad compared to other “date” restaurants as in Jeff Ruby’s and the like, and the variety of options on the menu is outstanding).

Food: Very good, very fresh, quality fare was available on the menu. A burger was a must on my end and, per usual, Date opted for something else so that we could split 50/50 and try each other’s for variety. For an appetizer, we tried the Grilled Grass-Fed Meatballs (beef mixed with local pork, herbs, and Parmigiano cooked over a grill with Todd’s Vegetable Marinara), while for entrees, we opted for the Webb Valley Farm Burger (grass-fed beef served on pretzel bun, with feta, double smoked bacon, sweet roasted pepper, shaved onion, and red chili aioli) and the Full Slab Dry Rubbed Ribs (organic Ohio baby back ribs, coated with their house dry rub and smoked for eight hours over Hickory and Applewood chips). All of the above were fantastic. The grass-fed beef really makes a difference in the quality of meat served in each of these dishes, and Date and I thoroughly enjoyed everything we got to try. The burger was fabulous (absolutely top 5 material), and I especially enjoyed its partnership with the pretzel bun as well as the aioli. All-around very delicious, but the aforementioned—along with the feta—were standouts on this delicacy. I personally don’t like barbeque sauce, so I especially loved that it wasn’t automatically slathered on the ribs. With the dry rub alone, they were amazing. The meat was tender and juicy and flavorful, and the house-made “bbq sauce” that accompanied it was amazing even to me, a non-barbeque eater.

Meatballs (left), burger (top right), and ribs (bottom right)
Meatballs (left), burger (top right), and ribs (bottom right)

If I have anything to do with it, I will absolutely be back. This is, hands down, one of the best restaurants in the area, and it featured fantastic food and a great atmosphere to match. 

Overall Grade: A [out of a possible A+] Burger review to follow.

*I realize that most places are pretty flexible as far as having fare available despite it not being on the menu, but many times I feel like the smaller local places aren’t as flexible in these cases. Contacting Wildflower was necessary to ensure that since I was finally getting to go to this place, I was getting a damned cheeseburger.

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