Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Goose & Elder:

This is an exciting post full of new ventures and announcements, and also a very important bulletin about one of the best sandwiches around. So listen up!

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Goose and Elder (19 of 20)

One of the things we really like about Jose Salazar's M.O. is how each restaurant is a new adventure. After striking out on his own post-Palace, he opened his namesake restaurant, Salazar. Then he expanded to Mita's, a thoughtfully designed and impeccably decorated restaurant anchoring a corner of the 84.51 building. Now there is his latest (and northernmost) venture, Goose & Elder, on Race Street.

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In short, if you have not been to the Findlay Market area lately, you’re missing out. Vine Street’s resurgence has been great to watch, but there is a ton of energy happening around the market. Goose & Elder fits in wonderfully with simple food designed and executed by top talent in the city.

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Like a TARDIS, the restaurant is bigger on the inside than it appears, spanning the entire block of the building with the bar in the back. The energy is super chill - a welcome respite from the bustling market. Goose & Elder may be seriously good, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The menu is full of pop culture references that you may (or may not) get. As someone that sneaks memes and Easter eggs into every blog post that goes up, I appreciate the humor.

Goose and Elder (6 of 29)

It’s just my luck that Jose and I both have our newest spots within a block of each other. I’m about a month into a new agency job at Louisville-based powerhouse Scoppechio. Did I not tell you that this post would be full of announcements!? I’m digging in and making my mark (yes, the HQ offices have A SLIDE!), and it’s awesome to know that I have the option for a delicious, approachable meal basically on my way home at a great price point.

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Goose and Elder (19 of 29)

So, let’s talk food. One of the standouts we really like is the mac and cheese, with pickled jalapenos and sweet potato chips. It gives one of my favorite mac and cheeses, at The Eagle in OTR, some serious competition.

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Goose and Elder (10 of 29)

There’s also the disco fries, an ideal dish to share with friends over happy hour. Plenty of bacon, a delicious gravy and crinkle cut fries - what’s not to like?

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Goose and Elder (7 of 29)

The cocktail shrimp are massive, impeccably fresh, and seasoned to a perfect level of ocean brininess.

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The little salad is a smaller version of the big salad (yes, that’s a Seinfeld reference) and is constructed with a variety of ingredients and textures, which we appreciate. Too often, side salads are just an afterthought and are, well, kinda boring.  This one bucks that trend with thoughtful accoutrements.

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Onto the fried bologna sandwich. The house-made sweet potato chips make another appearance here, adding a nice crunch to a delightfully messy, gooey sandwich. Getting a fried egg is highly recommended. I'm on the fence about the ratio of slaw in this early version, which pushes it squarely into fork-and-knife territory, but I absolutely adore the amount of cheese and griddled bologna.

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Goose and Elder (23 of 29)

Goose & Elder's featured burger approaches the Platonic ideal of cheeseburgeriness - a perfect balance of beef, cheese, and fresh toppings all on a sesame seed bun.  I challenge you find any other burgers in town that achieve this level of picture perfection.

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There’s a brunch menu as well, and this is where the other very important announcement resides. Yes, yes, I have a new job and Jose has a new restaurant but more important is this:
🚨 The cubano has moved from Salazar to Goose & Elder's brunch menu 🚨

Goose and Elder (9 of 20)
I will fight you for this

Those that have been reading know about my affinity for the cubano. When Jose left The Palace (and by extension, The Cricket) he took this sandwich with him. It moved to Salazar, briefly was on the menu at Mita's, and then returned back to Salazar. Now you can get the best Cuban - and one of the best sandwiches in the city - at Goose & Elder brunch. I will chase this sandwich to the end of the Earth. Or maybe as far as the West Side, which to me is essentially equivalent.

Also on the brunch menu, a turkey BLT that gets cranked to 11 by being on a croissant with juicy roasted turkey, thick cut bacon, pickled onion and avocado. We also ordered the goetta hash, with crispy potatoes, more of the same fantastic bacon, savory gravy, and a perfectly poached egg. This is one of the standouts (behind the cubano, of course) on the brunch menu.

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Goose and Elder (18 of 20)

The other nice things about Goose & Elder are that it boasts a nice happy hour, making it ideal to swing by for a drink and a snack, and it is conveniently right on the streetcar line. So stop by and join me in raising a glass to toast new adventures, opportunities, successes ... and disco fries.

Sunday, November 4, 2018


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Zundo (40 of 55)
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Zundo (33 of 55)

In general, David has been more interested in anime than I have. I mean, I did realize pretty quickly that children stare at me constantly because my hair style reminds them of a Yu-Gi-Oh! character, and I may own the Pokémon Soundtrack to the first movie, but in general I’ve only watched casually.

Zundo (1 of 55)

In the past two years or so, that’s changed a bit. Last year for Halloween we dressed up as Tatsumaki and Genos from One Punch Man. We’ve also started watching My Hero Academia and most notably, Food Wars.

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What does this have to do with Zundo and ramen? Well, the main character in Food Wars, Soma Yukihira, dreams of being a professional chef, and is sent to a very fancy-pants cooking school by his father after working in his diner for most of his life, where he makes donburi among other things considered to be more of a working man’s dish more than elevated art. 

No spoilers, but I will tell you that it’s an underdog-takes-on-the-institution type of story. If you like food, you’ll probably find it amusing, especially when the dishes are apparently so good they blow people’s clothes off and send them on a hallucinogenic journey through various ingredients. The ridiculous sequences when dishes are tasted are worth it alone.

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So imagine our excitement when we learned that Zundo, specializing in both ramen AND donburi, was opening up. While we’ve eaten there several times and remained fully clothed throughout the process, we’ve been pleased with just about everything we’ve tried.

Zundo (5 of 55)

First up, the ramen. There’s several different types of ramen on the menu, from miso, to creamy tonkotsu to vegetable and spicy miso. Ramen broth can be labor of love, requiring a lot of time to do well to produce a rich, multifaceted stock, and the texture of the noodles—nice and bouncy—is excellent. We’ve got some good ramen in the city, but this is among the greats. If you're feeling indulgent, the tonkostu is the way to go; miso ramen is a little more complex but doesn't beat the silky simplicity of the straight tonkotsu stock.

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I recommend getting an extra egg for a dollar upcharge in whatever ramen you choose. The spicy miso isn’t really that spicy, and don’t be scared of the pickled bamboo shoots; they provide a nice crunch and change of texture.

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Zundo (25 of 55)
Keep ramen, ramen, ramen

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Giant shrimp dumplings

Appetizer-wise, we’ve gotten the kaki furai (panko-fried oysters) and the takoyaki (griddled batter balls with octopus centers), as well as the tatsuta age (fried chicken) which was amazingly juicy and crispy, the gyoza, the soft shell crab, the chashu (pork belly bun) and the giant steamed shrimp dumplings.

They are all a bit on the smaller side (I wouldn't personally call the shrimp or the dumplings "giant") so if you are going with a group, we recommend getting a few to share. If you have someone with you who's a little unsure of what to get, the tatsuta age is probably your best bet.  Everyone loves fried chicken.

Tatsuta age

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Kaki fry

Soft shell crab

In our opinion, Kaze still has Zundo beat on pork belly buns for a few reasons. The sauce with the buns itself needs a little work, and for some reason, the Zundo cut is a little thinner and chewier. Fear not though, after impressing them with a sample of our hot pepper jams, they invited us to work with them to develop a sauce that is going to knock (at least) your socks off, Food Wars style.

As for the donburi, we’ve tried the katsudon (fried pork cutlet), katsukarē (same as previous except with Japanese curry-style gravy), the unadon (eel), and the loco moco don (burger).

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Let me see that don, da don don don

The curry for the katsudon is rich, flavorful and very comforting. Stewed potatoes and carrots also add some heft to the dish. If you opt for udon instead of rice, the springy but tender noodles have a wonderful texture as well. The loco moco don may sound a little unusual, but just think of it as a Japanese version of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  The sauce is a little ketchupy, but that adds to the meatloaf-like charm.

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Curry udon

Zundo (42 of 55)

Zundo is simple food, done extremely well. As you can tell from all the food in this post (and the items mentioned we didn't tote the camera with us for), we’ve been at least five times now and will be back very soon as the cold Cincinnati winter sets in. We recommend you do the same.


Zundo Ramen & Donburi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 3, 2018

Veracruz Mexican Grill:

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Vera_Cruz (33 of 37)

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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Vera_Cruz (3 of 37)

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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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Vera_Cruz (11 of 37)

Vera_Cruz (10 of 37)

Vera_Cruz (13 of 37)

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" together...um, 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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Vera_Cruz (28 of 37)

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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Vera_Cruz (36 of 37)

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.