Monday, September 3, 2018

Veracruz Mexican Grill:

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I was craving Mexican one night (spoiler alert, this is pretty much my constant state) and the city of Cincinnati was in the middle of a crazy heat wave punctuated by impressive thunderstorms. We weren't about to venture out anywhere on foot, so you know what that means: delivery. But where-oh-where would we find authentic, home-style Mexican fare that could be delivered to our doorstep?

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Enter Veracruz. Thirty minutes and one UberEats order later, we were enjoying some of the best refried beans and tacos in town, and we knew that we had to make the trip to the actual restaurant so we could try more of the menu.

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There was just uno teeny problemo. Veracruz is on the West Side.

Let me preface this to say that I don’t have any hate for the West Side as a whole. There’s lots of neat things on the West Side. Creamy whips, chili parlors, great views from the Incline Public House. West Side people are cool. I don’t know if West Side is “best side” but it’s certainly not the worst side. I’m not super fond of Rapid Run park, which is a hilly hellacious bear of a 5K course that I still remember struggling through from my high school cross country days, but I can deal. Here’s my beef with the West Side.

It’s impossible to navigate.

Downtown Cincinnati (like most cities) is a grid. Not so with the West Side. The West Side map is made up of a series of random streets which make hardly any sense that loop, curve and (sometimes) intersect with no rhyme or reason, topped by no left turns allowed exactly when you need them most. You can’t get anywhere in a straight line, and once you’re lost, good luck trying to find your way back, you’ll just end up driving hopelessly in one direction without any way to turn around. One afternoon a few years ago we had to navigate by the sun to try and get out. THE SUN. When I find myself on the viaduct and emerge on the other side, I swear I see the triple moons ala Land of the Lost. The West Side is Cincinnati’s version of Hotel California. You can visit any time you like, but you can never leave.

But some things are worth the trip; Veracruz is one of them. We’ve been twice (and have been lazy and ordered delivery two times as well) now and have been impressed each time.

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So many tasty choices

Our first visit, we ordered some drinks, the choriqueso, taquitos and cochinita pibil. The cheese dip at Veracruz is a bit thinner than at some of the other restaurants we’ve been to, which is not a bad thing - it makes it less salty and it doesn’t set up into glue as it cools down. I actually like it cold the next day out of the fridge with their flaky corn chips almost as much as when it is fresh. They also are kind of stingy with the portion sizes of the dip (read: if you have a group, get a double order), which is silly because we all know it’s Extra Melt, which is sold in five-pound blocks.

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More queso por favor

The restaurant’s semi-open kitchen is right there when you walk in, and there’s the matriarch of the family running a tight ship with a notebook and a clipboard. It's very clear that Veracruz does not cut corners. Service each time has been friendly and fast.

My taquitos were stuffed with delicious, flavorful and tender chicken, served with traditional rice and excellent refried beans. David’s cochinita pibil made for a wonderful taco he assembled. Cochinita pibil is somewhat of a rarity around here, so it’s fantastic that it is on Veracruz’s menu.  It wasn't perfect (a bit dry) but fortunately that meant we didn't have to shoot the cook.

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Our second trip (which we made without getting lost!) we were a bit more adventurous. There were two of us, we decided. Why not go for the gold with the “Monster Margarita?”

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The couple that tries to drink "Forty Ounces of Fun", gets a stomach ache together?

I opted for the chicken tostada and a carnitas taco, because when in a Mexican restaurant, always get something with carnitas. The chicken was the same juicy, seasoned variety that was in my taquitos, and it did not disappoint on the crunchy, just-fried tostada. As for the carnitas, well, let’s just say Veracruz does them as well as they do all their menu items - the simple traditional carnitas taco is a knockout.

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David ordered the steak norteño platter which features nopalitos (cactus strips).  Tasty flank steak combined with the nopalitos produced a steak-and-peppers-like combo that made great DIY tacos with flour tortillas.

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So, what of the monster margarita, you may ask? Well, David and I are not ones to back down from a boozy challenge, but the combination of the volume, sugar and the fact that we were also busy stuffing our faces with delicious food from Veracruz meant that we had to throw in the towel on the margarita. It happens. Sometimes when you go hard or go home, you end up going home. Take it from us - this is a drink for a group of three or four. 

David and I have carefully documented how to get to Veracruz turn by turn, and I can even run there (about three miles from downtown) so you know we'll be back. Plus, rumor has it they have some great happy hour specials and an outdoor patio to enjoy before winter sets in. 

Monday, January 8, 2018


We were very excited when it was announced that MidiCi was coming to Cincinnati, but also a little apprehensive. At that time (last year at the end of March), David couldn’t eat much of anything, and especially not pizza. It was a real bummer, because David is very particular about his pizza, and MidiCi’s wood-fired ovens can make pizza one of the best ways.


But, we were hopeful that by the time David was well and able to eat cheese, regular bread and tomatoes and salt again, the restaurant would be open for business - and that's what happened! Lucky us. MidiCi has been open since mid-December.

We checked out the place with our good friends Bob and Erin Marie a little after they opened.


I am particularly thrilled about one appetizer - the burrata with melon and prosciutto. Three of my favorite things, all on one plate. There’s a reason this appetizer is one of the most popular. It combines some really nice flavor profiles for a light, shareable appetizer. Unless you are dining with me, then you got to get your own.

I like a 'lotta burrata


The meatball appetizer is a little heavier and we’d advocate splitting it, especially if you are also ordering a pizza. Seasoned well, with tender meatballs, crunchy bread and a nice vibrant sauce, you can’t go wrong here.


The drink menu is a good balance, there's a bit of something for everyone, I have ordered a drink twice now called “A Moment in the Sun” made with limoncello, vodka and lemon juice with a sugar rim. David appreciates the lighter options like an Aperol spritz. 



Which brings us to the pizza. We ordered three pizzas between all of us, The Margherita, The Meats and The Hawaiian. All had excellent crust and structure, the only thing we’d love to see more of is a little more browning on the mozzarella. 

Spoiler alert: It's good 'za


The interior of the restaurant has been decorated with care, including an indoor fire pit, a tree and lots of little details that will keep your eyes entertained while you wait for your meal to arrive over a cocktail or spritz.


It's the little things - look,..purse hooks

It can be a little confusing to order if you visit for the first time, but just head towards the cash registers in the middle and let them walk you through it. Some of the staff were still getting trained up while we were there, so be patient - it’s worth the wait.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Senate Blue Ash:

This post is significant for several reasons. One, we are sure that many of our readers have been following our journey this year from our last few posts. Two, this couple of hardcore urbanites actually drove out to the suburbs for brunch. Twice.

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Quick recap: In January, David was diagnosed with Stage 5 Kidney Disease, and we were advised that the best treatment for his condition was a kidney transplant as soon as possible or he'd need to undergo dialysis in the next few months. We immediately started a strict renal diet and a donor search. As unfortunate as this diagnosis was, we were lucky beyond belief to have amazing friends and acquaintances that stepped up to help spread the word and volunteered to be donors. Because of everyone’s efforts, we were successfully able to avoid dialysis, giving David a much better life expectancy and outcome.

There were several matches for David, but ultimately, our very good friend Rich gave us a gift we can never say ‘thank you’ enough for. The fact we were even able to go to enjoy brunch is owed to Rich. So it was fitting that Rich was honored at Senate a few weeks back by being the very much coveted ‘Dog of the Day.’ 


This is what a hero looks like in real-life: Rich Hill surrounded by 'Rich Hill' dogs!

Senate in Over-the-Rhine is one of the OG restaurants, but the Blue Ash location just opened up earlier this year. It has a similar feel and many of the same menu items, but also features a wonderful patio, call-ahead seating, and brunch.

We visited on two occasions, once with our good friends Bob and Erin Marie Schwartz, and once with Rich, his wife Maria and their adorably feisty daughter, Vivian (Parents take heed, Senate Blue Ash is exceptionally kid friendly: a park right outside, high chairs, and even kid-sized menu items).

Let’s start with the pancakes. We need to talk about these. There are two versions of them on the menu, ‘Birthday cake’ and ‘Neapolitan.’ One is slightly more ridiculous than the other.

Both times we visited, we ordered the pancakes for the table, which is what we recommend. Birthday Cake Pancakes are covered in a funfetti glaze, sprinkles and crushed up birthday cake Oreos.

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One Sugar Mountain Supreme for the Chubby Bunny. Pancakes are under there...somewhere.

The Neapolitan Pancakes are slightly more conservative, with local strawberries, vanilla creme anglaise and crushed cocoa puffs. Still, it’s a great start to a shared meal and a big commitment for any one person to take these two dishes on.

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Next, the ‘Goetta Superstar.” Goetta is delicious. Pair it with melted cheese, velvety scrambled eggs, creamy avocado and a toasted brioche bun and you’ve got a hit on your hands. Get. This. Sandwich.

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The Eggs Benedict, served with lemony hollandaise, gently poached eggs and savory ham atop the  best English muffin in the city (made by Blue Oven Bakery) is worth the trip to the restaurant alone.

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The Chilaquiles also were very flavorful, balanced, not too spicy, and a great option for vegetarians. Personally, we found ourselves looking for some additional protein in the dish, but this is a lighter choice among some heavier brunch items, and also ideal for sharing.

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David had been eyeing the Sunday Burger since our first visit, and it didn't disappoint. Two beef patties, cheese, bacon, and a sunny side up egg, all served on a light and fluffy brioche. The breakfast potatoes are delightfully crispy and lightly seasoned with truffle.

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A burger cross section is worth a thousand words

Even one of the more tame options (Bacon, Egg and Cheese Muffin) stands out, due to the aforementioned Blue Oven English Muffin.

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We closed out our second meal with Biscuits, Gravy and Eggs. Seasoned well, with flaky biscuits and a nice proportion of sausage-to-gravy, this is another solid brunch choice.

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Finally, there’s a drink called Frosé, (frozen rose with a few additions) which is ideal to sip out on the sunny patio.

We highly recommend making the trip out to Senate’s new location, and thanks to Rich, his family and our many friends, guess what:

We’re back.

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