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378 Bridge St Loveland, OH 45140 (513) 239-8890
I knew Sleepy Hollow well. Christmas lights year round lit the dark space. Santa’s Goody Bag Band came ‘round every Christmas. Fabulous fried chicken. Sour burned out bartenders, and awesome bbq ribs. When they won our Best Ribs contest they claimed it doubled rib sales for years. All that rib money wasn’t enough though because they closed a while back.
The space is great and it didn’t stay on the market long. Now it’s a more modern pub named Kirby’s. Kirby’s owners have pub practice with their Sky Galley location. Their transformation is a breathe of fresh air compared to the dark Sleepy’s. Stripped bare and painted neutral, the space is bright and airy. It now has views where I didn’t even realize it had windows before. It feels good. I haven’t been in such a tasteful pub since our review of the Westside’s “Tavern”.
Tall tables line the dining room walls and that’s just our style, so we settled in. A friendly server came promptly and offered drinks. My protocol is test the bar quality by ordering a fine cider. Kirby’s had none whatsoever. I was chalking up strike one when the eager to please server saved it by quickly summing up my tastes and tempting me to try a Tangerine Wheat beer. I gave in and it was fantastic. Basically a mandarin orange Blue Moon. The savvy server turned a strike into a save on an otherwise missed sale. I have to hand it to her, she’s a pro.
Kirby’s menu is pricey for a pub. Apps 8-$13. Salads 10-$16, Sandwiches, baskets and burgers 9-$13. Pastas 13-$19. Entree “Main Dishes” 15-$20. An average meal for two, with app and a drink will easily top $50 (pre-tip). Serious cash for pub grub. Especially in Loveland.
Will people pay it? Depends on how good it is. Our “Main Dish” was the Fish & Chips ($16.95). What else can you measure good pub grub by than the classic English Pub staple. In all the years I have been doing reviews, I’ve found only a few places that have above par fish & chips. A few out of many dozen. The majority serves pre-breaded frozen crap. I hate that crap and always ask before ordering, “Do you bread it, is it frozen?” If so I pass. Some people actually lie.
In Kirby’s case, the server seemed quite proud of the dish. She suggested it even before I mentioned it. “I can’t remember the name of the breading we use, but it’s really light and crispy..” She said honestly. “Penko?” I replied. “Yes!, that’s it, it’s soo good.” I was sold. But at $17, it had better be the best freakin’ fish I’ve had to date.
It just may be. Two, foot long Cod loins were so thinly Penko breaded you could still see fish flesh throughout came crossed over a pile of fries. “Do you make the fries?” I asked. “Yeah and they come with the good ranch, we make really good ranch here.” She replied. She was right. I despise Ranch but my co-reviewer loves the stuff and I’ll take her word that it lived up to the servers claims. So far so great.
Breaking open the fish revealed a fine cut of firm white flesh, perfectly cooked and perfectly breaded. I had zero complaints. We shared the single dish and found it enough for two. So if the price tag has you scared to try it, share it.
The experience was positive in all respects. Quality food cooked with skill. Genuine service above par. Modern comfortable atmosphere. And a damn fine beer. Kirby’s bar manager needs to re-think the zero cider stock (Get Strongbow!). But otherwise I can’t complain about a thing. I paid plenty, but got what I paid for.
Loveland has needed a quality pub for decades. There is nowhere else in the village that features fine scratch made food in a casual pub environment. The prices may put off some folks, but those people are better off at a frozen food pub drinking cheap drafts anyway.
Oddly, the Yelp/urbanspoon reviews bitch about the “noise” at Kirby’s. Open ceilings (they do have sound deadening panels) and hard floors create sound reflection. But I say WTF! It’s a pub people, where did you think you were going? If you want good food and peace & quiet go to Tanos. If you want cheap frozen food go to Paxton’s (I take that back, never bother with Paxton’s). If you want great pub grub in a cool casual Pub, try Kirby’s.
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