Monday, July 11, 2011

Arthur's Second (Third, or Fourth?) Chance

      It's NEVER a good idea to join a friend at an establishment where she once had an ill-fated dating experience, even if it was umpteen years ago.  That was the situation I placed myself in when I asked Jan if she would like to have lunch with me at Arthur's off of Hyde Park Square.  Although billed as a café, it's better described as a bar with food.  I've never had a memorable dining experience there, but it's rated as one of Cincinnati's favorites, so we were there to put it to the test.  It's another burger joint, but I'm not one of those people that has to have a burger every time I dine out.  I've found my favorites in the city (Gordo's and Terry's Turf Club) so why spend more time to continue the quest?

      Arthur's has a lot of history (over 60 years worth) and some of it could be smelled as we entered the door.  We both looked at one another as we were seated in one of the original booths.  It was before noon and there was already a line up at the long bar.  They looked like regular patrons that had been gathering there for much of the 60+ years.  The scent lingered and Jan best described it as dirty dish rags that had been sitting around for a few days.  Not exactly welcoming!

Caricature Wall Mural at Arthur's
We looked over the menu and the caricatures that were painted on the wall mural.  Many of them were patrons from decades past.  Some were from when WEBN was broadcasting from Hyde Park Square and
Arthur's was used as a meeting place.  Jan continued to peruse the menu but wasn't finding anything that was striking her.  The server asked if we needed more time to which she replied, "I don't think more time will help".  Ouch!  Was it time to leave?  We stuck it out and Jan decided to go with the Grilled Gouda Cheese Sandwich with a side Tossed Salad (an up charge).  I went for the Tuna Salad on Croissant with a side of the Black Bean & Corn Salad (offered in place of the fries normally served).  

Grilled Gouda Cheese and Tossed Salad
Tuna Salad on Croissant with Black Bean & Corn Salad
      Our orders were promptly served.  Jan poked at her green salad and announced that it was a packaged mix, something that her career made her an expert at determining.  The ranch dressing was touted as house-made (all the dressings are) and Jan concurred.  She also liked the grilled cheese.  In addition to the smoked gouda, it also was layered with provolone, bacon, tomato, and baby spinach.  I found my tuna salad to be on the sweet side (something that I'm fine with), which I think came mainly from the addition of raisins and sweet pickle relish in the mixture.  There were also walnuts, eggs, and celery.  It was very creamy and tasted more like chicken.  It was also a little hard to manage on the croissant so I ended up eating it with a knife and fork.  The beans in the black bean & corn salad were a little mushy, but the corn appeared fresh and the cilantro added some flavor.  A large group of street maintenance workers were seated adjacent to us to add to the local "scents" on that warm day.  It was right before that when Jan told the story of her date.  We were finished with our meals and it was time to move on.  

      So what was missing from our dining experience that so many other Cincinnatians find remarkable?  I could blame it on our so-so attitude upon entering, wanting to give Arthur's another chance to wow us.  But I think it's the fact that so many locals are there to experience the burgers and libations.  Arthur's is open late (and early for some) for that experience.  And, that's fine if that is what you're looking for!  But for us, we were looking for a pleasant environment with some memorable food that would want to make us come back time and time again as a favorite dining spot should.  And for visitors to our city, I don't think this is a reflection of the best cuisine (cheap or otherwise) that we have to offer.  I couldn't help but recall my very appetizing lunch at the National Exemplar at the Mariemont Inn the day before for the exact same price.  For quality, value, and quantity, there was no comparison!

Arthur's Cafe on Urbanspoon

It's all about the entire dining experience for Neil.  Sorta like when I find a nice outdoor meal on my own.  Total satisfaction!

1 comment:

Heather said...

I've only been a couple of times and liked it - but the patio out back is much more appetizing and pleasant than inside. It's kinda gross inside.