Stroll through Hyde Park Square on a sunny afternoon, and you'll find the place bustling with people: joggers and dog-walkers, families and twentysomethings, young and old. Where do they all go when the sun goes down? You'll know if you try to get a table at Teller's any Friday night.
The name (a play on the building's former occupant — the Hyde Park Savings & Loan) actually deterred me at first. I used to work in a bank. I thought it was stuffy. So you can imagine that the idea of a bank-themed restaurant was hardly appealing to me. That is, until I learned about one of its greatest assets: beer.
The neighborhood micropub offers more than 30 on draught, including Woody's Wheat and others brewed at Jump Café (the former Main Street Brewery), one of the two other restaurants owned by the same group. (Watson Bros. Brewery in Blue Ash is the third.) The place also features an extensive wine list, and many more beers by the bottle.
The bar itself is impressive, too. It stretches the length of the cavernous first floor and on the weekends is jammed from end to end with good-looking yuppies. Although some may be waiting for a table, many hang there or at one of the nearby bar tables for the evening. Dining tables line one wall of this floor and the perimeter of the upstairs, which looks down on the first floor. The bank's original, massive vault also is fitted with booths and tables for more intimate seating on the first level.
Arriving one weekday night with a group of friends, we chose one of the first floor bar tables that comfortably seats six, and ordered up a round of beers. The menu has changed since the restaurant first opened five years ago, and the new, more extensive selection unveiled earlier this year is a nice improvement. Although signature dishes, like the Teller's House Salad ($5) topped with sundried cranberries, pine nuts and raspberry vinaigrette, have stayed, more selections were added to the appetizers and entrées.
We selected the Tower Trio ($21): any three appetizers (which typically range from $7-$9 a piece) for the flat fee, a nice option for our large group. The Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls, deep-fried bundles of chicken and veggies served with buffalo hot sauce for dipping, were my favorite. They were meaty and flavorful, and the sauce packed just enough punch. The rest of the group enjoyed the Mediterranean Mussels, steamed and served in a wine and tomato broth with plenty to share. Finally, the Crab Cake was also a nice surprise. Large enough for all to sample, it was full of crabmeat and nicely flavored with a light chili sauce.
On previous visits, we've enjoyed the Chicken Quesadilla, ($8) grilled (not fried) and stuffed with flavorful chicken, corn green chilies and cheese, and the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna ($9), served with a glaze of soy, mustard and wasabi and garnished with pickled ginger.
The rest of the menu's categories are equally as extensive, making it difficult to choose an entrée. Salads range from the House favorite to Grilled Portabella and Shaved Parmesan ($8) to Asian Chicken ($9) served on a bed of greens tossed in a sweet chili dressing and topped with crispy noodles. One of our group chose the Buffalo Mozzarella with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette ($9), featuring thick slices of fresh mozzarella and Roma tomatoes atop a bed of Romaine. Never having had buffalo mozzarella, he was unprepared for its mild taste but thought it soaked up the vinaigrette well.
I ordered one of the house specialties, the Sesame Crusted Chilean Sea Bass ($17). It is presented beautifully on a festive plate surrounded by a colorful black bean and mango salsa. On this evening, the fish was actually watery and lacked flavor. However, on previous visits, it has been flaky and very tasty. The menu offers many other entrée choices worth a try, including the Bun Bo Hue ($12), an Asian-influenced dish of veggies and shrimp or beef served over a bed of greens, topped with rice noodles and a sweet and spicy sauce, and the Duck Burrito ($13) with an orange demi-glace.
The others chose from the lengthy list of pizzas. The Barbecue Chicken ($10) was topped with substantial slices of chicken breast in a tangy sweet barbecue sauce; the Portabella ($10) was covered in mushrooms, pesto, sundried tomatoes and mozzarella; and the Milano ($9) was a meat-lovers paradise, featuring pepperoni, Italian sausage, marinara and mozzarella. All are sizeable portions, filling even for the hungry men in our group.
Dessert choices were a toss-up between coffee drinks or solid sweets. Teller's features many of both. We sampled the Tahitian Vanilla Cake ($6), a chilled sponge cake layered with vanilla mousse and topped with a sweet vanilla glaze. I enjoyed this, although couldn't eat a whole one by myself. We also sampled the Death By Banana ($6), a banana rolled in nuts and chocolate and fried, paired with a sweet banana glaze and banana ice cream. Although we all liked the ice cream, we found the banana's extremely mushy warm texture too strange. Next time, I'll order the Root Beer Float ($5) made with home-brewed root beer. ©