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!

Missing: Brown Dog

We were very excited for our Valentine's Day dinner at Brown Dog Cafe. We had made a reservation a little later in the evening than we would have liked, but still within the realm of reasonable, which was impossible at a lot of other places. We were also excited to put to good use a $50 gift card we had received for 30% off courtesy of the most recent Cincinnati Independents sale. Since Brown Dog Cafe is not exactly a pub-price kind of place, we were psyched to use the gift card to make dinner a little more reasonable. And then the world conspired against us.

We had chosen Brown Dog Cafe partly because we wanted to avoid all of the upscale restaurants that take advantage of the holiday to do a fixed menu at $100 per plate. Brown Dog's website had no mention of anything out of the ordinary for Valentine's Day, and they hadn't mentioned anything on the phone when we called to make a reservation.

And then we showed up. We were a couple of minutes early for our reservation, and the tiny atrium was packed with waiting patrons, as was the bar. The host, when he eventually came back to the stand, informed us (and the others waiting) that diners were taking longer than usual tonight, and that there would be a significant wait--even with a reservation. It was a little past 8:30pm at that point, and none of the six parties with reservations for 8:30pm had been seated. The wait was enough that they had stopped taking walk-ins for the night. The host walked away again immediately after delivering that news, which was fine, because there was no space for him with all the people waiting on their reservations. We then noticed the special menus. There were no prices printed on them, which meant that they were likely in the realm of 'if you have to ask, you can't afford it.' We then realized the implications of the (unannounced) special menu and our gift certificate, which conveniently has a 'not for use on holidays and special events' clause on it. Eventually, when the host returned (to let the next round of reservation arrivals know that they would be waiting), we asked whether we could use our gift certificate that night. Somehow, we weren't surprised when he said no.

The review of Brown Dog Cafe has therefore been postponed. Between the wait time, the special (limited) menu without prices, and the (unannounced) holiday invocation against our gift certificate, it wasn't in the cards for us. For the record, we simply crossed our own names off the list and left, because the host disappeared again. Hopefully it will make up for itself next time!


Anonymous said...

People that go out to dinner on any holiday, including Valentine's Day, need to be prepared for chaos and a wait, whether in seating or waiting for food. I would think that the restaurant had no control over the people eating, and could not tell them to get up, they would leave in there own time. That is the problem with having a RSVP, you never know when the previous people at your table would get up, they could sit for one hour or three hours.

Anonymous said...

I should also know or at least ask if you can use a gift cert on a holiday. It's not their fault you didn't ask. I'm also sure they would have told you about the menu if you had asked.

I was there on Valentines Day also and had a wonderful time. It's well worth the price. If you can't afford the resturant normally don't expect to on a holiday.