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95 E Freedom Way Cincinnati, OH 45202
The Banks is all the rage. Businesses are flocking to rent space and the bar & food scene has quickly sky rocketed there. This issue we review two of the popular places; The Yard House and Jefferson Social.
The Yard House is not the newest on the Banks block but one of the most popular.
Perhaps it’s the 140+ beers on tap, or possibly the large and diverse menu, the view no doubt helps as well. Walking in we were welcomed instantly and seated quickly at a table that fit our criteria (off the beaten path). Our server was fast talking and proficient. Highly trained and capable service remained a constant throughout the visit.
Rather than studying the never ending drink menu I tested the Yard House by asking for a cider. Turns out they have two brands. The Woodchuck was a bit unimpressive, but they did offer local Angry Orchard brand. I went with that. It turned out to a a tad on the flat side. I was offered a replacement (twice). Certain the second would be the same as the first I drank the one I had and loved it nonetheless.
Rather than studying the (perhaps overly expansive) menu, I tested the servers merit by asking for suggestions. “Street tacos, fish in particular... Mac & cheese... He had me on those two. My veggie companion was delighted at the offering of 13 veggie entrees (Gardein). She went with the “sliders”. A crab cake app was added.
The crab app came out crazy fast. It was damn good too. No filling was noticed, all crab and rolled in light bread crumbs cooked deep brown and crunchy. The mango papaya chutney, passion fruit beurre blanc and tomato oil upped the ante and made the crab sing bright, clean & clear.
The entrees took much longer to arrive. The Gardein sliders were stacked with fried onion straws, served with béarnaise sauce and a hearty side of fresh cut fries. The dense buns over-weighted the burgers but it was well worth ordering overall.
My “street tacos” looked great. The taco order comes with two and you can get any two varieties you like. I let the server choose the “best” two and he went with Baja Fish (crispy white fish with lemon sriracha aïoli, green cabbage, cilantro, pico de gallo and guacamole) plus Blackened Swordfish (green cabbage, cilantro, cumin crema, pico de gallo, guacamole and mango papaya chutney). I couldn’t have agreed more with his choices. Both were fat and chock full of flavor, featuring freshness and spice. I appreciated the petite proportionate shells, grilled with nice browned edges. The blackened one was my fave with it’s spice and Caribbean punch. The Baja was no slouch either though.
The “(MAC + CHEESE)2” came highly recommended. “It’s a huge hit, a big favorite.” he assured me. Delicate curls of campanelle pasta are drenched in smooth cheddar & parmesan. Chicken breast, applewood bacon and wild mushrooms are layered in and a touch of truffle oil finishes it off. I see why people love it. It’s righteously rich, soothingly creamy and a seriously filling meal all on its own.
Our Yard House experience went rather well. Service was stellar, drinking and dining options were dizzying and you can tell the level of training runs high here. There is something interesting in every category of the menu (all 14 sections) and the overall ambiance is light & airy. For a corporate joint, they pull off fun & finesse quite well.
My main compliant was that while the crab app came out fast & fresh, our entrees were left in the window way too long (hence the delay I suppose). The mac nearly died from it. What could have been a velvety creamy dish, was solidified into a solid mass on top from sitting. I had to dig deep to find the creamy interior. Other tell tale signs of “dying in the window” were the warm soggy pickle slices and toughened bun tops on the sliders. A thick skin on the beans and the dried-crisped top on the rice (that came with the tacos) were also signs that this food was not delivered when it should have been. Had our visit not been purely a review, it may have went back, the mac for certain. That mac deserves to be served fresh while still creamy. It’s too good to let it harden up sitting for no good reason.
Had the food came out immediately, the experience would have been damn close to perfect. A bold statement for a corporate restaurant. Perhaps the best we’ve featured to date.
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