Plain and predictable
Cincinnatians — even West-siders — make jokes about Cheviot. True, it's not the most progressive of neighborhoods. Take a drive up Harrison Avenue, and you'll see the business district has hardly changed in decades: family-style restaurant, corner bar, barber shop, family-style restaurant, corner bar, barber shop. You get the picture. So when a friend told me about Anthony's, a new restaurant, I knew I had to check it out.
(The Cheviot/Westwood area doesn't see new restaurants very often. When Anthony's opened in the former site of the Gay 90's banquet hall, it was the biggest business news in town. And, even though it's been open for nearly a year, in Cheviot time, it's still "the new place.")
My husband and I recently visited Anthony's early on a weekday evening, and strolled right in with the early-birds. We were actually surprised to see that the crowd was more diverse than just a bunch of blue hairs: There were several young couples, as well. (And, even though it wasn't exactly hoppin' that night, I've heard that the lounge gets its fair share of action on weekend evenings.)
We found only a few tables full this evening, although the servers were busy hustling from dining room to dining room.
Anthony's owners transformed the former dark and smoky restaurant and lounge into crisp and pleasant rooms. The drop ceiling is painted a deep purple, the bead board and brick walls a subtle lavender. Tables are covered in crisp white linen cloths topped with glass, and finished off with small, glass oil lamps. The dining room we sat in was set with several tables for four or more, with many areas able to accommodate groups of 10 or more.
At this point, I was feeling fairly optimistic. After all, we had been greeted by a very pleasant woman who cheerfully seated us at a nice booth. Our young and trendy server acknowledged us immediately as he served artfully presented entrées to a nearby table. And the dining room itself was not only clean, it was downright nice. Not at all what I had expected.
The menu was also a surprise. Appetizer selections include calamari ($7.95) and pierogies ($5.95), not your typical Cheviot fare. Other selections, like the chicken quesadilla ($5.95) or the potato skins ($4.95), also seemed like good alternatives.
Unfortunately, we were disappointed with our crab cakes ($7.95) appetizer. The crispy breaded and perfectly round patties smacked of being pre-formed and frozen (although the menu bills them as "hand made"). Once we worked our way past the over-fried crust, the inside filling was watery and tasteless.
While waiting for our soup and salad, I sipped on a glass of Napa Ridge Chardonnay, as my husband enjoyed his Michelob draft. The place offers several wines, some by the glass, as well as several bottled beers and a few on tap.
Our server brought us a bread board with a hot loaf of garlic bread to share with our soup and salad. My husband enjoyed the day's soup: a beef broth full of fresh vegetables. My salad, a plate of iceberg lettuce piled with shredded carrots, cucumber and shoestring potatoes, looked nice, but the lettuce was sparse and wilted. However, I did enjoy the house dressing, a smoky bacon-tomato ranch. I bet it would be tasty with the Southern Fried Chicken Salad ($8.95), as long as the lettuce is fresh.
For entrées, Anthony's offers several typical family-style choices, fitting in well with what sells locally, such as Spaghetti and Meatballs ($9.95) and the Fried Jack Salmon dinner ($11.95). A few more daring choices are available as well, including Veal Scaloppini ($12.95) and Frogs Legs ($12.95) sautéed in garlic lemon juice and white wine.
My enthusiasm waned with my entrée, Anthony's Chicken Pasta ($10.95). Linguine topped with chunks of chicken, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, red onion and a few artichoke heart slivers, it looked colorful and fresh. But the garlic butter sauce, which sounded so delicious on the menu, was tasteless and bland. Again, I thought the vegetables came from a frozen mix, tasting like they had just been thawed and lacking any seasoning.
My husband thought his entrée, the White Roughy ($11.95), also was bland. He, too, was puzzled by the description of "baked in lemon, white wine and garlic." We also suspect his mashed potatoes were made from an instant mix, tasting a little chalky. Even the parsley that was so artfully scattered like confetti on our crisp white plates couldn't cover the fact that our dinners needed some serious flavor boosters.
Perhaps that's the way Cheviot folks like it: plain and predictable. If that's the case, then Anthony's is a neighborhood gem that offers very good service and a varied menu at reasonable prices. Maybe since it's still "brand new," it still has a chance to work out some of the inconsistencies. ©
Go: 3613 Harrison Ave., Cheviot
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Dinner: Monday 4-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday 4-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 4-11 p.m.
Payment: All Major Credit Cards
Vegetarian Friendliness: Several salads, soups, grilled portabella sandwich, farfalle primavera
Other: Carry-out available. Banquet room available.