Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pi Pizzeria:

It’s not uncommon for us in our intense negotiations about where to eat, to pull out our phones and start perusing options. Usually not five minutes into the process one of us is cursing in frustration. I bet you can guess why.

How many times have you tried to go to a restaurant website to find out pesky, teeny tiny details like when it's open, or take a look at the menu, or (God forbid) ascertain its address, only to find that information buried behind a giant flash object, or on a page that it has no business being on? I just want to know when you open for lunch, dammit. But I’ll never know because you’ve decided to bury your navigation in some sort of monstrous flash carousel that won’t load. Smooth move, ex-lax.

A good menu, much like a good mobile site, can be hard to pull off. As I mentioned, David and I have had a fair amount of experience viewing restaurant websites, and we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the unusable. While some restaurants seem to be getting wise to the fact a mobile friendly site (Nada finally figured it out this year) is necessary, it’s rare to find a restaurant that seems to get it right from the start, just like with a menu.

So we’re happy to report that Pi’s mobile site is one of the best we’ve seen, and the menu isn’t too shabby either. First, the site, designed by Boxing Clever in St. Louis.

Holy crap! Contact information right on the first page! A phone number! A map to tell me where it's located! The menu, front and center! A big button to order online! All in a nice, simple, high contrast black and white theme that is easy to navigate and devoid of clutter or dancing slices of pizza. This is how you do a mobile site for a restaurant, folks.

Now, on to the menu. We’ve tried Pi’s pizzas twice now (once for takeout, once dine-in), as well as a variety of their appetizers and sides.

While takeout is great, if you’re getting the deep dish style pizza, we recommend you dine-in. They’ve got a nice beer and cocktail selection, so that’s a plus.

Exhibit A: Dining in with a nice adult beverage

We tried the Pi Ravs, which were larger than I thought they would be and (I think) made in house. The tomato sauce on the pizza and appetizers from Pi is top-notch and we really enjoyed it.

We also got the not-so-cinis, which are like arancinis except baked, with fontina, mushrooms and kale. I enjoyed both, though the not-so-cinis are probably the healthier option of the two if you’re into that kind of thing.

We tried the kale-ifornication salad, which comes with toasted chickpeas and pickled onions. David’s had it twice now and really likes it.

I also ordered the beer & cheese soup, which was good, but more of a dip than a soup--it was a little too salty to eat on its own.

Sodium doesn't count as long as you don't know how much it has

When Pi first opened, they had a special pizza with goetta and skyline on it. While I think both on the same pie is overkill, I was very pleased to see goetta as a topping--surprisingly, it’s hard to find around here. While I didn’t see the goetta on the menu during our visit, I asked if they still had some and they’d be willing to put it on my pizza.

Our server responded “We don’t have goetta, but we have gorgonzola so that’s kinda the same thing.”

Erm, no. Busted.

After we explained that goetta was a meat and oats combo, not a cheese, and our server admitted he was from Houston and had no idea what goetta was, he went back to the kitchen to check. I got my goetta. I am very appreciative that Pi made the extra effort, and I want to ask them to take it a step farther--to place goetta on the menu as a regular topping.

If you agree, please let them know on Twitter. Together we can make the dream of goetta St. Louis style pizza a reality! Seriously Pi, you’ve already got Graeter’s ice cream as a dessert on the menu. Let’s go whole hog (pun intended) here and embrace the Cincinnati spirit.

David and I will be back to Pi to try the thin crust pizza, and I like that they have gluten free crust as well as a lot of vegetarian options. A thing to note about the deep dish pizzas--they take some time to cook, so if you’re in a rush, call ahead (or order on their aforementioned mobile site) or order some Pi Ravs instead.

Pi Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20, 2014

Huit BBQ:

One of the first things I noticed about Huit was the attention to detail--and I’m not just talking about the food. I’m talking about the space itself. I have a new appreciation for interior design currently, as David and I are neck deep in overhauling our entire place, from furniture to lighting. Not to make excuses, but that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so quiet lately.

In addition, Boca bills, new furniture, and quotes from contractors do not a happy wallet make. Huit’s menu, though, is the right size and reasonably priced. Almost all the items on the lunch menu are under $10.

We’ve been meaning to stop by since they opened, and when Huit debuted Saturday hours, we were able to visit for lunch. The space itself is fairly small, but used well. An interesting, ropy chandelier takes up much of the ceiling, the wall has vibrant floor-to-ceiling pictures of people getting messy with BBQ, and the seating feels cozy but not crowded.

I know what you’re thinking right now. “Enough about the space already, on to the food!”

We started with an order of the pork buns, which were a special that day. I have no idea how they got the savory filling in the buns, but it’s obviously an acquired skill. Braised pork, onion, and spices (not too much) were a great way to start out.

David ordered the lemongrass chicken, which is basically a chicken banh mi, and the kale salad, with quinoa, dried apricots, toasted sesame seeds and tahini dressing.

The banh mi was very good, though Sixteen Bricks (the breadmaker for Huit’s sandwiches) can’t touch the light-as-air, crackly crust baguettes Le’s Pho serves down the street. To be fair, I don’t think anyone actually can.

I chose the eight spiced ribs, as well as the miso butter brown rice and grilled sriracha mayo corn on the cob.

The ribs were very tender, and a good portion size for the price. I was surprised at how much I liked the miso butter brown rice--it was a nice counterpart to the flavors in the pork rub. The roasted corn was also a good choice--though by that time I was getting full.

If you haven’t noticed by now (kale, quinoa, brown rice), Huit has an interesting bent toward the healthy side, which is unexpected for a BBQ restaurant. The guilt of unctuous, sticky ribs is well countered by accoutrements that feel like they came from a Whole Foods shopping trip.

this green stuff is your friend, I promise

Tobias Harris, the owner, was working the whole time we were there, chatting with customers and bringing out orders. According to the website, dinner is coming soon, which will be a much needed addition to that section of Court Street.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on the dinner menu. If it’s like the rest of what I’ve seen from Huit, a lot of effort will have gone into it and it will be worth the wait.

Huit Craft BBQ on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 11, 2014

Terry's Turf Club is Still Rocking the Burger Game:

Before the Gateway Quarter took off, before Bakersfield or Kaze or Salazar--if you felt like some food that was worth the wait, you went to Terry’s Turf Club
Hey David, do you want to do something fun? You want to go to Taco Bell Terry's Turf Club?

Remember Terry’s? It’s a hard place to forget, and even harder to miss when driving by. Neon signs galore, a crowd snacking on peanuts outside and throwing the shells wherever, Terry and his faithful staff serving up burgers so massive you need to carve them up with a steak knife.

The sauces! The fancy ingredients served on paper plates! The craft beers in the Bevador refrigerators!

All of those are hard things to beat. David and I are ashamed to say it’s been a while since we visited Terry’s. Recently, I got the urge to go, and I wondered if much had changed at the restaurant since our prior visits. On our end, much had. We had different jobs, a mortgage, and my hair was various shades of purple.

I’m happy to report that Terry’s is just as great as ever, if not better. We sampled some of the menu items that we’d not tried before, like the tomato soup, which extremely rich and full of high quality parmesan. The paté (chicken liver, foie gras, cognac, shallot and creme fraiche), served with boozy apple and crisp ciabatta, was another enjoyable appetizer. And we had to get the halloumi with balsamic and tomato.


One of the things I love about talking to Terry is that I always learn something. He brought out these tiny little root vegetables, called crosnes, which we’d never tried. We also sampled freshly grated wasabi (yeow!), and some 100 year old basalmic vinegar, which was amazing on fries.

Terry and wasabi

As for our burgers? I decided to construct a BLTA burger, with mangalitsa bacon, avocado, tomato and lettuce. It was as good as I had hoped, just rather….large. Too large, even to fit in the takeout box I needed for the leftovers. We had to play MacGyver a bit and rubber band it shut.

Yes, that's a whole half avocado

David, attempting to be more reasonable, choose a mushroom option, with portabella and shitake. He ate the entire sizeable sandwich, and in combination with the various appetizers we had ordered, gave himself a pretty severe case of the itis.

only healthy in theory
The actual size of a regular burger you can get anywhere else compared to a TTC burger

While I was contemplating how exactly I was going to take a bite of my burger and not make a huge mess, the lady next to us at the bar piped up. “Excuse me, can I have an irish coffee?” She asked Terry. “Do you have decaf?”

Terry Scoffed. “Decaf, hell no. I do have the most expensive coffee in the world. Would you like to try it?”

That’s Terry’s Turf Club for you.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


This past Saturday, David and I were in tense negotiations about where to go for lunch. Taste of Cincinnati was in full swing, but we weren't planning to brave the crowds until the following day.

After about 20 minutes of discussion without agreement, David threw up his hands. “I’m going to go take a shower and get ready to go...somewhere. Come up with three options to choose from when I get back and we’ll go from there.”

I glanced at him with irritation. “Did you seriously just RFP me for lunch plans?”

For those who have never encountered the acronym before, “RFP” stands for “Request for Proposal”, and is pretty much despised across the board (especially by ad and PR Agencies).

In fact, the only person that would really be happy about an RFP is the party that is doing the requesting. Which is probably why David looked so smug as he headed down the stairs.

In the end, I came up with several picks, including Mazunte. After perusing the menu and remembering a recommendation from a friend, we decided to check it out. Self serve margaritas? Mazunte, your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Mazunte is on Madison road in the shopping center to the right of the Rainbow Carwash. The setup may be confusing at first, but it’s fairly easy to figure out. Carryout or eat-in, you order at the front counter, take a seat, and wait.

The inside of Mazunte. Photo by Jesse Fox of Citybeat
If you desire a margarita, you tell them, they give you a cup, you head to the bar area and get yourself one. If you want a second one (they’re very good, so you probably will), you tell them and they ring you in another. The bar area also has an assortment of beer bottles in ice (a nice local and Mexican menagerie), as well as self-serve sangrias and horchata.

We tried a variety of dishes, including some of their vegetarian options, and the staff was very thorough in explaining how many dishes could even be made vegan.  There’s a prep kitchen in the back, but the majority of dishes are assembled and plated in front of you behind the bar.

I had some cheese dip that blew the others I’d had elsewhere out of the water -- creamy and spicy. David ordered the chile relleno, as well as the grilled corn, which was the perfect combination of sweet corn, salty cheese, and a little smoky char.

chile relleno

I didn’t want to leave without trying the taco sampler, consisting of your choice of beer battered fish, pork and steak tacos. The sangria marinated skirt steak taco was phenomenal, and David raved about it days later. I also tried the tacos dorados, which were filled with braised chicken. Mazunte uses blue corn for them, which I also liked.

party on a plate

pork taco
housemade chips

At that point we were both full, but there are plenty of other dishes on the menu that we’re looking forward to going back for, like the tamales, tostada, churros, and if David has anything to say about it, more skirt steak tacos.

Mazunte Taqueria Mexicana on Urbanspoon