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Moerlein Lager House
115 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
As a “food writer” I am a slave to the public’s cravings and curiosity. The new takes over the now in the entertainment rag business. Volumes of good reads could be written weekly about a plethora of places that have been around far too long to be on any list of new reviews. Instead, sadly, precious page space is dedicated to the new, regardless how little merit in reality they offer. That being said, here is my two cents on the new Moerlein Lager House at The Banks.
The building and decor are the hook. Expansive, muted modern expression, luxurious wood, lofty ceilings, massive windows with river views. Expensive no doubt.
The beer is the center of attraction. Christian Moerlein craft beers flow from the taps. Servers encourage, almost demand, you look impressed as they spill their speel about each varieties nuances. They have an extensive beer menu, yet oddly they offer neither of my favorite two choices, Yuengling Lager and Strongbow cider. A fabulous faux pas for certain. I sampled several in house beers, nothing stole my attention though.
The menu appears varied but in fact it can be summed up somewhat simply... Pub Grub. Pricey Pub Grub. While the prices reflect a comprehensive “compound butter beauty” found in a sophisticated steak house. The actual meals are more aligned with a good local pub than a “reservations recommended” downtown restaurant.
Sandwiches, burgers, flat bread pizza, fried fish take up the most real estate on the menu. Pasta, fish, beef, chicken and pork belly entrees sound convincingly complicated, yet appear easily made by most any $9 an hour cook. There are four rotisserie options (prime rib, pork rack, beer can chicken/ bbq chicken, $16-$27). There could be something worth ordering among them though I cannot confirm. They offer zero options for the veggie diners by the way. Another faux pas to be sure.
I dined with a party. I got a good look at all the dishes and tasted more than a few. Nothing stood out as spectacular to me nor any of my party. In fact, nothing really stood out except the Spatzle, that is a must order! Also, the soft pretzels served with “beer cheese” (dead on Cheese Whiz). Out of a dozen entrees, one app and one side dish were great. That’s about it. The Fish & Chips was the worst dish. Greasy and soggy, nearly inedible. Most of the food was all well edible. Some even impressive by Pub standards, but it was all well within the Pub Grub category. With entree price tags of $16-$28 and burger prices of $10-$14 better food can easily be found in town. Better service can be found at most anywhere as well.
Our server was slow, forgetful and somehow turned simple tasks into tedious ones (such as re-filling drinks one at a time rather than several at a time) A 20% gratuity was added to all our checks and our server is damn lucky it was. By merit, she earned 10% at best.
The two hosts were both occupied with one customer’s menial conversation. Neither greeted me nor even made eye contact to at least acknowledge my presence. Both would have ignored me for many minutes had I not spoke up and interrupted.
The manager on duty was another story. Watchful, astute and organized. He desperately needs to pass on his wisdom to the staff more effectively.
So why the hype? No idea. Location and building I suspect. The Moerlein Lager House itself is suitable for a truly gourmet inspired chef to show off slick skills and culinary expertise. The cool building could support the prices. But obviously, the owners opted for a more decidedly low-brow approach to their menu in this otherwise up-scale endeavor.
If you’re going to try it, be prepared to drop $20-$25 per person for Pub Grub. If you’re looking for culinary excellence and craftsmanship look elsewhere. If you’re into sampling craft beers by all means give it a try. No doubt trendy “I have to say I’ve been there” types will try it for it’s current curiosity driven crowds and much hype. How long it will last will be much shorter than the mortgage term I suspect.
Much like Cadillac Ranch, Toby Keith Bar and basically everything at The Banks, it’s just another smoke and mirror show that’s bound to fall short in long term staying power.
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