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!

Don't need to travel far for this Vineyard

Vineyard Cafe 2653 Erie Ave • Cincinnati, OH 45208 • (513) 871-6167

His Take

A short while ago, on a not-too-balmy summer’s eve, we decided it was time for some fine dining al fresco to celebrate, well...I suppose nothing in particular, but we were sure we could find an excuse if we thought hard enough. We must have passed by the Vineyard Cafe in Hyde Park Square a hundred times this summer and always admired the food and crowd out on their patio without ever stopping by to eat. Sometimes, however, when you admire something from a distance too long, reality can be disappointing. And fortunately for us, sometimes it can still exceed your expectations. Welcome to the Vineyard Cafe.

We arrived at the Vineyard Cafe for dinner without a reservation on a beautiful weekday evening and had no trouble being seated on their patio. The patio sits on the corner of Edwards and Erie, and despite the steady traffic rolling through there, the restaurant was generally pretty quiet other than conversations, laughs, and the sounds of satisfied stomachs. The patio is relatively large and well equipped with large umbrellas to block the sun and chairs with enough padding to be comfortable.

Our server was very friendly and exceptionally helpful. My date couldn’t decide between a salad or seafood and asked for some recommendations. The response: BOTH! Well, almost. The server suggested adding a salmon filet to their seasonal salad. More on how that came out to the right.

I started my meal with a relatively basic salad: mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, red peppers, onions, and gorgonzola. The ingredients may sound basic, but the dish was delicious. Naturally, the liberal amount of raspberry vinagrette dressing might have something to do with that, but everything was remarkably fresh and there was plenty on the plate to share (not that I would dare consider such a thing!).

And now for the main course: Day Boat Scallops. For some reason I’ve been craving scallops lately, and the Vineyard Cafe helped me figure out why. When cooked just right, they melt in your mouth and are hard to beat. You can see from the amateur photo below that these scallops were enormous; two were plenty! The dish was served with sauteed spinach and artichoke, and the sauce you see pictured is a pine nut vinagrette. I’ve never heard of such a dressing, but this one is well worth trying.

Sad to say, we didn’t have room for dessert, but hopefully we’ll remedy that in the future!
Her Take

Although we are in and through Hyde Park Square all the time, somehow we had never stopped in at Vineyard Café. I had heard from friends that it was good, but a bit pricey, and we had not yet found an occasion for such a meal. We still haven’t settled on an occasion, but on a recent evening our curiosity got the best of us, and we headed over to Vineyard Café.

When we arrived, the patio was packed, but we were a little surprised to see that the inside was fairly empty. Luckily, there was an available table outside for us, since it was a nice night and clearly, that’s where all the excitement was. The inside clearly had all the upscale ambience. Outside always feels more laid back, but in this case there was even more contrast than usual. I was impressed with the age range of the restaurant. It seems that Vineyard does not cater to one particular age group, but to a little bit of everyone. The table that looks empty in the picture was soon filled, with a young couple and their toddler. While inside the toddler may have been slightly less welcome, outside she was an adorable distraction—and the restaurant produced a high chair immediately. There were older people, younger people, families, and couples on dates, really all types of diners.

Back to the food. Looking at the menu, I was torn. The seasonal salad sounded amazing (arugula, hazelnut, granny smith apple, goat cheese, lemon vinaigrette)—apples and goat cheese are a combination that will always make me happy—but so did the Herb Roasted Salmon (with mascarpone, red onion, couscous, apple wood bacon, tomato, and arugula, hold the bacon). When our waitress came over, I explained my dilemma. Her response: order both! Not one after the other, as I prefer to drive rather than roll home, but one on top of the other. So, I ordered the Seasonal Salad with salmon on top. It’s not on the menu, but it should be.

Sadly, we had no room for dessert. (Again: preference for not rolling self home.) As we had been warned, the meal was a little pricey. We did not order the most expensive things on the menu, but it was still a bit more than your routine night out, but not so much that we have to stop eating for any length of time afterwards—at least once we’re hungry again!

Vineyard Cafe on Urbanspoon

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