August 2006

Covington | Kentucky15 Aug 2006 08:17 pm

This landmark waterfront (in the water) restaurant was a haunt of mine over 25 years ago as a first stop on the way to a Reds ballgame with clients in the Cincinnati area. I never forgot it – at the time I ate all types of seafood which is their claim to fame. Going back years later brought even more surprises (it was a default location with the closing of Scalea’s in Covington – later renamed).

OK… though I won’t call their eggplant melanzane, I will call two of their variations very good. One was a part of an entree called a mountain (or hill or heap) of eggplant and fried green tomatoes (check their website for exact name). Though I was turned off to green tomatoes in a spot in Galena, IL, when combined with eggplant and cooked well there is hope for them. The second variation was their fried eggplant appetizer (for four bucks!) which was really a heap of eggplant served with cocktail sauce. You could have made it a meal in itself. Since I ate here two days in a row, I also had their Mississippi bean soup (similar to good old fashioned pork and beans but with a tangier sauce). The other entree was chicken florentine which was prepared nicely; the extra steamed vegetables were welcome (I skipped the rice pilaf – enough starch in the eggplant breading).

Wine choices are thoughtful with at least a half dozen reds and whites to select by the glass. My California Zinfandel (night 1) and Pinot Noir (night 2) were fine.

If you like seafood, this also looks like a pretty good choice (judged by the menu and passing dishes).

One Ben Bernstein Place
Covington, KY 41011
(Accross the river from Cincinnati)

Chicago | Illinois | Mexican12 Aug 2006 08:27 am

Look out, Rick Bayless, you have a worthy competitor for freshly prepared gourmet Mexican food. Just getting around to this post after a fourth visit last night to their Old Town location on Wells. Tableside prepared guacamole is the very best, and corn chips among da best. You can even purchase the guacamole gift sets (to make your own tableside creation and serve it in a VERY authentic mortar – rough surfaces and all). The margarita choice is simple – they make one kind (though you can go wild with hundreds of tequila and other drink choices). It is one of the best.

After the guacamole, we shared Sopes Surtidos (masa boats topped with 4 fillings). Wow! Sharing appetizers is a good way to go. But then why not share an entree? OK, we shared the Chile Relleno which was a very fresh poblano (you can tell old or food-serviced poblano by its wilty texture) stuffed with asadero, panela cheese and epazote basted in ranchera salsa, black beans and sour cream. What a delight.

Other noteworthy specialties include Cazuelas which are casseroles with cheese and vegetables and/or proteins (peck peck, moo moo). Of course entrees include the other proteins (oink oink and quack quack). I have not cracked up, just having fun writing about this place.

The wait staff is always friendly and service timely. Their 2 locations are both beautiful. The one on Wells is the old steakhouse completely updated with wonderful art and Mexican artifacts. The Division Street location is also a sensory experience. Noise isn’t an issue as it provides white background noise so you can talk about almost anything with your dining guests.

Old Town Location
1610 North Wells
Chicago, IL 60614

Wicker Park Location
2005 West Division
Chicago, IL 60622

Cedar Rapids | Iowa | Tony's Top Ten01 Aug 2006 09:51 pm

OK, so I am having an omnivore’s dilemma after reading Michael Pollan’s book (of same title). So why not have pork tenderloin in Iowa where (maybe) the pig lived (& died). Get your food close to the point of production. Kidding aside, he raises some interesting dilemmas and makes you think just a little bit more about the lunacy of the food systems we use on a daily basis.

But back to the review of this 20+ year old restaurant. I remember the very best pork tenderloin, grilled to perfection, when I used to come to Cedar Rapids years ago on business. They haven’t lost their touch. The medium well slab of meat was perfetcly grilled – moist yet charred just enough. Salad was ok, and wine choices fair. A loaf of crusty white bread starts you out, with a honey butter that compliments the crust – tear the bread apart to enjoy the crust – keep that knife away – save it for the meat. Wine choices are limited but adequate. A Santa Barbara pinot noir and a Napa cabernet sauvignon worked well with the salad & entree. Side of vegetable medley was steamed (and not overcooked – wow). This is generally a place for the well healed – lot’s of talk about money all around me. This is a very comfortable, quiet, low noise place; please don’t forget to take your cell phones outside for calls if you must – I was impressed that the only cell phone which rung during my visit was mine. How impolite.

3847 1st Ave SE

Cedar Rapids, IA