On our friends’ recommendation, we headed across the suspension bridge to Covington to visit Greenup Café. Having browsed their sample menu online with a variety of terrific sounding dishes, I was surprised when we arrived at what really looked like just a café—the kind of place where you ogle desserts and baked goods from the other side of the glass and order at the register. No doubt that’s what this place is like most of the day. However, the not-so-café part is really on the patio in back. With several tables, a relaxed, casual atmosphere, and of course great food and service, this is one café whose name doesn’t do it justice.
I’ll admit that outdoor dining doesn’t always appeal to me—for some reason finding a place that has comfy chairs, minimal traffic noise, and nothing flying into my food seems to be a challenge for many places. However, dining al fresco at Greenup was very enjoyable. Being behind the house shielded us from any road noise, and the patio has attractive gardens on either side. The furnishings were not the most comfortable, but far from painful.
The four of us started with a round of drinks—beer, wine, and prosecco between the four of us—and enjoyed the beautiful evening. Hungrier than usual (well that might not be entirely true, since we’re frequently hungry) we were so bold as to request bread for the table. My date’s description is pretty spot-on: it was OK. I’m always disappointed by how many restaurants see the initial bread as a chance to keep patrons busy and quiet until the food is ready rather than a chance to impress them from the beginning (I miss Tropicana).
Nonetheless, the food was served right on time—no rush, no delay. And the food was delicious. The seared salmon (one of three at the table) was cooked perfectly. Even without the sauce, the fish was wonderful, though perhaps a little small. The plum-ginger sauce was also excellent. I had expected a thin sauce, but this was almost compote texture, which I prefer. The side dishes were fine, but not particularly interesting—asparagus and roasted potatoes.
Our server and the chef were also very accommodating of special requests. For example, one of our friends ordered the salmon, but requested that the fish be cooked well done all the way through. His fish came out exactly as requested—or as another friend put it: "cooked enough to make the chef cry." Even more impressive was that all of the dishes came out at the same time, meaning the chef actually paid attention to which fish to start first, rather than letting the other two fish get cold or overcooked.
I suppose the idea behind the smaller portion was to prep us for dessert, and we, of course, were happy to oblige. The chocolate mousse/custard/fudge/whatever was fantastic—until the end, where it was a little watery and overloaded with coffee. The first 80% was worth remembering anyhow.
Overall, Greenup was a delightful place to spend the evening, and worth checking out if you’re in the area.
For some reason, when friends suggested going to Jean-Robert’s Greenup Café for dinner, I ignored the word “café” and heard “name-of-chef.” I sort of assumed upscale-classy, so I was a little surprised to show up on Saturday night to…a café. Everyone working there was incredibly friendly, and they accommodated our request for an outside table with no problem. There are a few tables out front, but the main patio is in the back with a view of the grill. The inside (and outside) was very informal—the bakery area has a hand-written chalkboard menu, and the tables did not look very fancy.
The menu is fairly small, about 6 sandwiches and 8 entrees, and all of the entrees came with the same two sides, this week roasted potatoes and a carrot-broccoli mix, but there was a good mix of dishes to choose from. There was a range of meats, seafoods, and vegetarian dishes in each category. Our waiter was outgoing and more than willing to recommend different dishes, but we were fairly uncreative. Three of the four of us got the same dish (seared salmon—although I ordered it first), and the fourth got a slightly fancy tuna sandwich. I asked whether instead of the carrot-broccoli side (shh…I hate broccoli), I could have the mixed greens that came with the tuna sandwich, and the waiter said it would be no problem. I knew I liked the place!
After a few minutes when our meals had not yet arrived (and shouldn’t have—it was way too quick), we did ask our waiter for bread. He brought out a small plate of sourdough which was definitely good, but not particularly notable. One of our friends noted the lack of bread plates on the table, and since it was an outdoor (tablecloth-less) table, we really had no place to put the bread down. Which was fine, because we were so hungry that we weren’t planning to put it down, but…that’s not the point.
When the meals came out, the waiter reported that the menus were incorrect—the second side was not broccoli and carrots, but asparagus and carrots. He gave me the mixed greens anyway in addition to the other sides, which made me happy. I cannot identify the dressing on the greens, but it was flavorful and delicious, and surprisingly light for a restaurant serving. The fish was fantastic. The salmon had plenty of spices on top, mostly pepper, but also some other flavors, and a plum-ginger sauce. The sauce was thicker than I expected and not runny at all, but it was fantastic. The flavors all went together very well, and the only complaint was that the piece of fish was smaller than most restaurants would serve. It was, of course, plenty of food. The potato side was fairly unremarkable—perfectly fine but not memorable.
After we finished our meals, the waiter brought by the dessert tray. Earlier in the night we had seen a dessert that was green on top and brown on the bottom, and assuming it was mint and chocolate, we were disappointed to hear that it was gone—the one we saw was the last one left. Luckily, we were not disappointed by the leftovers. There were about four choices, but only one of them was chocolatey, and therefore my choice was easy. The waiter described it as a sort of custard/mousse hybrid. Our first few bites were excellent. It was much harder than a mousse, almost a soft fudge, and deliciously chocolatey. As we got toward the bottom of the dish, though, it got a little more watery and we discovered a slight hint of coffee. Whether it wasn’t mixed properly or wasn’t cooked quite right, it was sad that the bottom wasn’t nearly as good as the top, mainly because of the strange consistency.
Overall, the food was very good. I think it was actually overmatched with the atmosphere—the food seemed to belong to a stuffier restaurant, but this one was more than a little laid back. The prices were somewhere in between. There were a couple of service misses, like not bringing us bread initially, and not clearing our dinner dishes until after our desserts were served. I tend to overlook less-than-stellar service in favor of good food though, so I still give Greenup Café high marks, and I’m looking forward to the chance to try some other Jean-Robert restaurants in the area!
Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati
What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!