Saturday, June 25, 2011

You Know That Kind of Place . . . ? It’s Terry’s Turf Club

      You know the type of movie where an older cop dreams of the bar restaurant that he’ll open on some coast when he retires after the last big case?  Usually, he doesn’t make it out alive from that last big case, but Terry’s Turf Club would be the place that character would love to open.  It’s not on a coast – it’s in the East End neighborhood, which is about fifteen minutes east of downtown Cincinnati – but its vibe is the reason behind its reputation since it’s number one on Urbanspoon for Cincinnati.

The Can't Miss It Entrance and Waiting Area
      We met up with friends at 3:45 p.m. on a weekend afternoon and that was smart since, when we left at 5:30 p.m. or so, the line outside the restaurant (it’s impossible to wait inside because of its interior architecture) looked like an hour wait.  We’d heard about it and that
was the reason for our peculiar meeting time.  Terry used to own Neon’s, a fun bar in Over-the-Rhine, and is a self-described hillbilly Jew.  His cousin Jim runs the front door and that’s the first reason that the place works.  Jim is friendly and continually checking out how to keep the line moving.  This includes communal dining with various patrons, which is part of its charm.  Terry works the bar and kitchen with his staff and he really works, he doesn’t chat and drink in the patrons’ awe.  I’d bet that he’s there most of the time, which is another reason that there’s a visible pulse to the restaurant.  The wait staff is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and moves as a team.  Tag team waiting usually gets on my nerves because different diners or tables are forgotten.  That doesn’t happen at Terry’s.  All of them are on it.  The look of the building is like those late 1970s – mid 1980s independent restaurants built around a specific theme that were shunted aside by the rise of the family-style national chains of the late 1980s.  It was a shame because the homogeneity of those chains and their over-reliance on Sysco as a supplier killed a lot that was interesting about regional, moderately priced restaurant food.  Terry’s Turf Club feels like it should be in a sleepy, coastal beach town on the Gulf.  However, the neon signs, wooden cutout figures, and memorabilia detail Cincinnati’s history as a river city and center for the abolition of slavery.  

Neon Homage to Terry's Former Life
      Terry’s offers a more extensive menu than its reputation might lead a patron to expect.  We ordered a couple of appetizers – one was basically fried halloumi cheese and the other was cured ham – and they were pretty good, though the best element was the garnish of a marinated red pepper filled with black garlic.  Six of them would make a great appetizer.  The Jamon Iberico de Bellota, while an esoteric ham, was pricier than I’d expected.  However, there was also foie gras offered as an appetizer among other selections.  The raison d’être for Terry’s is the burger.  It’s served on a Shadeau Breads bun, which is grilled and holds up to the very wide patty, the meat juices, and the large selection of condiments.  The burger is grilled medium and it’s generous, though it can be eaten with your hands without having to slice it.  There are a number of different items that can be added as up charges and many of them are pretty cutting edge, but we followed the middle of the road and were satisfied.  Chips are served with the burgers, though fries can be ordered and shared.  We had more than enough on our shared order. The fries are hand cut and reminiscent of those found at Penn Station. A couple of quibbles:  the burger is a little salty, and the meat might be juicier if served as medium rare, rather than medium, though I realize most people don’t like meat they feel is undercooked.

Halloumi Cheese with Lettuce and Tomato
Jamon Iberico de Bellota

A Couple of Burgers with Customized Toppings and Fries

      It’s a one of a kind venue for Cincinnati and it could turn into an institution.  Keep in mind a couple of things:  out-of-towners  have  a fifteen minute direct route drive from downtown, but the neighborhood is both picturesque and dilapidated; the outside wait can be a bear in the Cincinnati weather; peanuts are served to share at each table and the shells are dropped on the floor; the appetizers, up charge accompaniments, and drinks can add up; this is a bar-restaurant and, since it’s a small building, the drinking can lead to loudly boisterous patrons a couple of feet from your ears.  However, all the fun is certainly worth checking out.  
Terry's Turf Club on Urbanspoon

It sounds like the Guys really enjoyed meeting our friends at Terry's.  I’m feeling much better since Neil’s been giving me the banana smelling medicine. Yesterday, I even was able to take down one of the flappy-squawky things.  Now, if I can only get a bushy-tailed tree scamperer.  Watch out!

1 comment:

Heather said...

I love Terry's - going is a pain because even when I try for an off time - it's still packed. I always get a burger with goat cheese - it's amazing!!!! That looks more like proscuitto than regular ham - mmmmm! Good stuff!