Diner: The South Rises

deSha's redraws the Mason-Dixon line somewhere up in Montgomery

Just over a year ago, deSha's American Tavern began a renovation that shifted to a major repair after the infamous tornado ripped through Harpers Point in Montgomery. As the final edition of the trio of deSha's taverns Nick Sanders has opened since the 1980s (the other two are in Maysville and Lexington), this eatery has become a treasured neighborhood tavern suitable for multiple generations.

I have to admit I've never had an easy time pronouncing the name correctly. But I remember the spacious feeling, the busy, bustling action regardless of lunch or dinner, and the view onto the manmade lake, complete with ducks and geese that belies a location near congested Montgomery Road.

We were greeted by a familiar look when we arrived on a sunny summer evening: the wood-paneled vaulted ceilings, tiered seating with tapestry accented booths in the middle and side sections, tables arranged on the lower level and the deck. Midweek at 7 p.m. proved to be quite busy with a growing waiting list, so I was glad to have called for a reservation.

In minutes we were treated to a basket of carbohydrate confections that tickled my Southern soul: crusty, buttermilk biscuits with warm, tender centers and mini loaves of cornbread with all the richness of butter, corn and honey.

While several of the starters were tempting, we succumbed to Blackened Scallops ($9.95). The marine delicacies were mesquite-grilled with the deep flavor and crust of the spice rub, arranged atop cornmeal-coated fried green tomatoes, served with a roasted corn relish and a fresh dill sauce. It was a winning combination, perfect to share with the Greek Salad ($5.95).

The wait staff anticipated our need and split the enormous salad for us. The zesty but not overpowering herb vinaigrette was drizzled over the crisp romaine, gorgeous roasted red peppers, slivered kalamata olives, chunks of fresh feta and tomato wedges.

A boisterous outbreak of male guffaws from the lounge punctuated my review of the wine list. This booklet provided an astounding array and description of cigars, scotches and bourbons as well as its selection of international wines.

I fought my inclination to savor Southern Fried Chicken ($11.95) as the perfect match to the second basket of biscuits and cornbread and ordered Barbeque Roasted Chicken ($13.95). It was rotisserie grilled, basked with a whiskey barbecue sauce and roasted on the grill. The result was fork-tender, moist with a flavorful crust. Accompanied by baked beans with a rich, concentrated gusto and a huge scoop of slightly tart, crisp cole slaw. I was raised to believe Northerners just couldn't cook this way.

The Grilled Smoked Pork Chops ($15.95) were two thick half-pound smoked chops grilled with a bourbon glaze, positioned over "smashed" potatoes and baked apples. The pork was firm and savory with the subtle undercurrent of cinnamon, which paired nicely with the comfortable consistency of the apples and the intense richness of potatoes mixed with skin, herbs, butter and cheese.

Our entrées were cleared, and the table was rebraced, so we chose to order dessert. The Peach Cobbler ($4.50) was presented in a gigantic soup bowl with a buttered biscuit drowned in a sea of warm sauce with thinly sliced cinnamon peaches and capped with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream. The portion would have been generous at a quarter of the size, and I would have preferred a thicker sauce and less butter on the biscuit.

The Brownie Fix ($5.95) was a warm and moist cake brownie with vanilla ice cream and mountains of whipped cream dusted with chopped nuts. Again, I would have preferred a smaller portion and far less whipped cream.

Our table should have bowed under the sheer weight of the food. Don't get me wrong: Everything is well prepared, beautifully presented, richly flavored and spiced, well priced and exceptionally generous. There's just too much of a good thing for one meal. And it's tasty enough to tempt you to eat just one more bite ... until you waddle away. ©

deSha's American Tavern

Go: 11320 Montgomery Road, Montgomery

Call: 513-247-9933

Hours: Lunch: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dinner: Monday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m., Sunday: 2-9 p.m.; Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Prices: Moderate to expensive.

Payment: Major credit cards

Vegetarian Friendliness: Several options, including a big selection of sides

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