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!

A Sweet Time at Honey

Honey4034 Hamilton Ave • Cincinnati, OH 45223 • (513) 541-4300

His Take

Given all the comments we've read and heard about Honey, this review will likely not be a surprise to many (if not all) of you: Honey is fantastic.  It's not always easy to find small, well-run, upscale restaurants with terrific food and without the air of elitism you expect at four star restaurants.  Honey takes the best of those features and leaves out the rest -- its food is excellent, the service is great, the price is reasonable, and there's not even a hint of arrogance despite the fact they must know they have a good thing going.

Honey's Northside location is less than ideal, but with a staffed parking lot right next to the restaurant (and charging a whopping $3.00), the neighborhood should not be anyone's excuse for missing this venue.  My first impression when we arrived was surprise at the diversity of the clientele (e.g., jeans to sport-coats, 20s, 30s, 40s, and up) and the nonchalant, low-key decor for a restaurant we've heard talked-up so much.

The restaurant didn't fill up until closer to 8 on a Saturday night, which meant we were well into our wonderful meal by the time people started lining up for tables.  The warm bread was a nice start, but we didn't waste any time getting down to appetizers.  (sorry for the terrible pictures, but flash photography at dinner is, well, a little obnoxious)  

Everyone we know has recommended the Honey Fries, so that was an obvious choice.  Our second choice was a little more eclectic: a veggie and potato cake served with olives and an artichoke heart presented like an upside-down tree.  The Honey Fries easily met their reputation.  The mix of potatoes and the sweet honey sauce were mouthwatering.  If McDonalds had these fries, they wouldn't need to sell burgers.  The second dish was also very tasty.  The potato cake was a delicious combination of carrots, squash, and potatoes, although not particularly large for sharing purposes.  The artichoke heart was a little less exciting because they hadn't dressed it up in any particular way.  So I'd recommend skipping that for something more exotic.

My entree for the evening was a grilled wild salmon served with a shrimp and cabbage spring roll.  I love fish, so ordering salmon is not exactly "adventurous" for me (as many of you probably already realize).  But this is easily one of the best pieces of fish I've ever had.  The salmon melted on my tongue and wasn't overcooked at all (something far too easy to do).  There wasn't a fancy sauce glazed over the fish or a bucket of oil drowning it--just the natural taste with a little bit of seasoning.  The shrimp and cabbage spring roll was also a nice and usual accompaniment.  The spring roll was fried and crispy, but not a particularly thick or heavy dough.  The shrimp and cabbage worked very well together, though I had my doubts at first.

And then there was dessert.  And it was chocolate.  And it was goooooood.  We're always suspicious of chocolate cakes served with fruit or liquor sauces, but Honey made the sauce a true accent, rather than an integral part of the dish.  The cake was a tiny bit dry, but plenty rich and well worth ordering.  Plus, I'm always impressed by caramelized artwork with dessert because I could never, ever do that at home.

All in all, this place is a winner.  A great meal, relaxed atmosphere, and reasonable prices for as great as it is.  We'll be back!

Honey on Urbanspoon
Her Take

Since my only other restaurant experience in the Northside was at Melt, I had high hopes for Honey. (Yes, those expectations are based on the simple basis that they are down the street from one another.) Also, it looked good driving past, I had heard good things about it, and their online sample menu made my mouth water. The food sounded not just good, but really creative and good, which I think is harder to find.

We called ahead on a Saturday evening for reservations, and were told they didn’t take any. We went early just in case, but just before 7:00, they were only about half full. That certainly changed throughout the night, and by the time we left a little after 8:00, the bar area was full beyond capacity with people waiting for tables. The restaurant is simple inside, with few decorations beyond small flowers on the tables. Our waitress brought us warm bread even before we ordered. The bread certainly gets bonus points for being warm, and it was good, although not the best I’ve had, and served with butter rather than any fancy olive oil. It may have been the (only) low point of the meal, and it was certainly better than at many other places!

The waitress read us somewhere around six different specials, and after she walked away I could remember parts of three of them. With that many specials, it would have been great to have them written down. But the menu itself was so appealing that I was happy enough to order from that! We started with two appetizers, mainly because we couldn’t agree. I really wanted to try the Honey Fries, and he wanted something more interesting (to which I readily agreed, while still pushing the fries). So we got both the Honey Fries (“sweet, Yukon, and Idaho, with chili lime honey”) and a carrot-squash-potato cake appetizer that also came with an eggplant dip, chick pea dip, artichoke heart, and olives. Except that the wording on the menu was far more complicated than “dip,” so we really had little idea of what we were getting, but…wow. It was fantastic. There was a wide range of flavors and they all came together deliciously.

The only problem was that there was also a basket of fries on the table, and we couldn’t decide which to eat first. The fries were great. They came out really hot, so while we tried them first, we came back to them after letting them cool down. They were sweet, and the dipping sauce was even more so. We ended up piling them on our plates, putting a little sauce over the top, and eating them with a fork, partly because they were hot, partly because they were small, and partly because it seemed a little more polite than shoving fries into our mouths at the speed we would have liked because they were so yummy.

But then there was more food. My main course was Wild Mushroom and Fresh Mozzarella Ravioli, served in a creamy sauce with caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar. And yet again…wow. I feel like I’m running out of words to describe this meal, because everything we tasted was fantastic! It was so much fun to go expecting a good dinner, and to get something truly delicious. The ravioli had a little more sauce than I would have liked, although if I had eaten a little less appetizer, I may have happily eaten the rest of the sauce with another piece of bread. Instead, I opted to stare longingly at the creaminess left behind while I contemplated dessert.

Like the specials, desserts were not on a menu, but required listening carefully. Or, in my case, listening selectively until I heard the word “chocolate” and then asking her to repeat that dessert. We got a flourless chocolate cake with Grand Marnier, served with raspberry sauce, chocolate sauce, and some strawberries. It was a little dry, but with a cake like that (and after a meal like that) I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and thoroughly enjoy it anyway.

The meal was fantastic. I can’t wait to go back. I’ll probably wait for an occasion (or a parental visit?), since it was a bit pricier than a typical dinner out, but in this case, it was absolutely worth it. The portions were good: not tiny and not enormous, and the food was fantastic. I can’t wait to go back. Did I say that already? Yeah, it was that good.

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