Clifton Height's Good Plates Eatery Brings Sandwiches and Bowls with Great Sauces to Former Cilantro Space

Husband-and-wife team Andrew and Jamie Schlanser's new casual restaurant focuses on simple dishes with big flavors and plenty of vegetarian options

Sep 10, 2020 at 10:24 am

click to enlarge Good Plates Eatery - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Good Plates Eatery

Good Plates Eatery is a real family affair. Husband-and-wife team Andrew and Jamie Schlanser opened the casual restaurant in the former Cilantro location on McMillan Avenue in Clifton/CUF this August. The pair met as employees at a bar in Northside before later reuniting as employees at Chapter, a drinking spot in Mount Adams. The pair married and had twins in 2018. (Fun fact: Twins Gibson and Posey’s initials are mirrored in Good Plates’ name.)  

“January of this past year, Andrew took me out to lunch for my birthday and told me he wanted to buy a restaurant for my birthday present,” Jamie says. 

Frequent customers of Cilantro, the Vietnamese bistro that formerly occupied Good Plates’ location, Andrew had been friendly with Cilantro’s proprietor. When he learned about Cilantro’s impending closure, he knew this was their shot at making a go of restaurateurship. But 2020 had slightly different plans. 

“We signed the lease and three days later the entire world shut down,” Jamie says. 

“We freaked out; it worked out for us. Andrew’s previous restaurant Chapter ended up shutting down and that was terrifying but it pushed us to the edge of, ‘We gotta do this now. There’s no choice. This is it. We might as well do this. This is our industry, we're both restaurant people, this is what we’ve always done, this is what we want to do.’” 

From the outset, their goal had been to open Good Plates by the time the University of Cincinnati’s fall semester started. Good Plates fits in with the college scene: a cozy space with a welcoming and friendly vibe, hardwood floors and black-and-cream furniture. For those familiar with restaurant-speak, it’s easiest put this way: Jamie is front-of-house, Andrew is back-of-house. He started in the industry at 15, and grew increasingly fond of the restaurant side of things. His expertise is all gained from hands-on experience. 

click to enlarge Husband-and-wife team Andrew and Jamie Schlanser - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Husband-and-wife team Andrew and Jamie Schlanser

The menu reflects that hard-earned wisdom; it is approachable without being basic, and aspirational without being snobby. It’s a tough balance to strike. 

“My whole thing was really wanting to build something that could travel well and be done quickly, but taste really good,” Andrew says. “We’re very simple here. With the area we’re in, I wanted everything to be big flavors, but simple enough to be quick and easy to get out.” 

Sandwiches and bowls comprise the bulk of Good Plates’ menu, with a smattering of starters, desserts and side dishes. Each item has a little twist that takes it from standard to satisfying, often found in the sauce. The turkey sandwich has a basil aioli, the Southwest quinoa bowl has a cilantro yogurt sauce, the adobo brisket and cheese has a horseradish aioli. 

“That is his pride and joy, that is what he does, that is what he’s always done — sauces,” Jamie says. “He loves to make sauces and relishes and jams and spreads. Anything he can add a sauce to, that’s all that he loves to do.” 

For a work-from-home lunch one day recently, I ordered the cold-fried chicken sandwich ($8.50), because the name was endlessly intriguing. The chicken is not fried cold (something I wouldn’t put past the realm of possibility in the year of our Lord 2020), but is served cold, a fun riff on next-day leftovers. 

“The way our kitchen is set up, it’s just not conducive to breading and frying a sandwich,” Andrew says. “So, in my mind, I was like, if you get fried chicken from KFC or Lee’s or whatever and you have some leftover, and you open the fridge the next day and pull some off, it’s delicious. I was like, ‘Why wouldn’t that be good as a sandwich?’” 

click to enlarge Cold-fried chicken sandwich and Brussels sprouts slaw - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Cold-fried chicken sandwich and Brussels sprouts slaw

Marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce, the filet is breaded and fried, then chilled and served the next day. The slab of fried chicken was legitimately the length and nearly the width of my hand, with a stack of thin-sliced pickles and smear of garlic aioli. Served on a chewy Sixteen Bricks bun, I expected to eat half of it and surprised myself 20-odd minutes later when it was all gone. I also ordered the poutine ($7), which is made with a mushroom gravy (repurposing the shrooms from the quinoa and mushroom bowl also on the menu) and tried the Brussels sprout slaw ($3), in a personal nod to vegetables and health, which was fresh and tangy. 

Every bowl on Good Plates’ menu is vegetarian, with the option to add a meat for a slight upcharge. In fact, several of the dishes can also be made vegan with the removal of a dairy product. The adaptability of any menu goes a long way toward establishing its position as a staple in the consumer’s diet, and for the price — most items are under $10, with drink-and-sides combo options for a few bucks more — that option can’t be beat. 

I am a meat eater, myself, so for dinner another day, I walked to Good Plates to order a Smash Burger ($9) to go, figuring the calories burned on my two-mile walk would compensate for those consumed. MyFitnessPal says otherwise, but I don’t regret it. The cheddar was good and melty, the patties big and well-cooked and 100% worth it. I also grabbed a bag of Herr’s jalapeno and ranch chips (calling all Office fans!) and an Ale 8. 

Good Plates doesn’t have a liquor license yet, but when they do, canned cocktails and beers will be available. For now, the nostalgia-inducing variety of canned soft drinks does the trick. (Grape soda! Root beer!) Desserts are supplied by local Unprocessed Baking Co., including a darn good brown butter chocolate chip cookie. If there’s an item customers think should be on the menu, well, as the kids say, bet. Submit your dish to Jamie and Andrew, and it could be a featured item of the week. For every five people that order it, you get a $5 Good Plates gift card. If enough people order it, it could even become a regular menu item and you can choose the name. Saturday brunch is on the horizon, and for now, walk-up and catering business is brisk. 

“If the pandemic hadn’t been going on, none of this probably would have happened — at least how quickly everything came around,” Andrew says.

Good Plates Eatery, 235 W. McMillan Ave., Clifton/CUF,