Will this heat ever stop?
So last night, a friend and I ventured out to that polarizing neighborhood, the Gateway Quarter in Over the Rhine, to give a try to A Tavola, the pizzeria & bar that seems to be taking what there is of Cincinnati’s dining scene by storm. Around 7pm, the tables were full, there was about a one hour wait, and there was a buzz in the air. There thankfully were a couple of bar stools where we sat ourselves for beer and appetizers.
The beer selection is pretty good compared to my expectations, and there was ample room at the bar for appetizers. We ordered two, and they were both just plain excellent.
The dates were a revelation, easily one of the best bites I have ever had in Cincinnati. The dates are stuffed with house-made sausage, wrapped with applewood bacon, and smoked. I know, it sounds heavy, but they really weren’t. They were practically amuse-sized, and were this perfect, bold pop of flavor. The bartender told us that some people end up ordering seconds or thirds after having them for the first time, and I’ll admit I was extremely tempted.
The meatballs were also quite good, though they couldn’t top the high-water mark of the dates. Made with waygu beef (why torture such a beautiful piece of beef by grinding it up?) and sage, I think, served in a really nice and chunky marinara sauce. These were simply really good (and sizable) meatballs–they were not too dense, but they packed some nice flavors in there.
After we were seated, our pizzas arrived. My friend ordered the fig jam and prosciutto pizza, which came topped with some arugula, I think. I had that night’s special, a sausage, sage, and fontina pizza. I’ll be the first to admit that this is not my style of pizza–the lack of tomato sauce makes it (to me) a little more like a flatbread. With that said, the pizzas were actually pretty good. The fontina on my cheese was high-quality, keeping it from pooling greasily as most “cheese pizzas” do. The sausage, in my view, was a bit unremarkable, but it was nice to have something to break up the flavors. The crust was pretty thin, and held up well to the ingredients, though I found the flavors not to be overwhelming.
Overall, we had a really good time. Good beers, friendly service, a vibrant scene without being packed, and food that ranged from pretty-good to simply amazing. I’d consider coming back for sure!
This week, S & I made our way down to Findlay Market for lunch–I had been meaning to try the Korean place there, Pho Lang Thang. S was unsure until we got to smelling distance, at which point she emphatically nodded that this was out place.
I was surprised to see table service but it was a welcome surprise! They were quick with the service, as you’d expect from a place frequented by business lunchers. I had the pork sandwich, and it was a hit! The bread was just the right balance between flaky and chewy, and the pork itself was nicely seasoned. But of course, this kind of sandwich is really made by the cilantro atop the meat, which was fresh-as-Findlay-Market-allows (that’s to say, fresh-picked) and brightened everything up!
S had a noodle bowl with chicken and vegetables and it was delicious, light, and airy. We loved the food, and even the drinks–S had a really great iced coffee and I had a Korean limeade (who knew?) and they perfectly complemented the food. All in all, what a great and fun choice to have downtown!