When I heard Maribelle’s Tavern closed down, I thought my casual, impress-all-my-friends restaurant was gone for good. To my surprise, they relocated, but to my utter delight, they only refreshed the menu while giving the new location a total facelift. The tavern from Riverside Drive now occupies the space formerly held by trendy Hugo.
The old Maribelle’s blended into the neighborhood, dressed in distressed panel siding and embellished with an aged wooden deck. The dimly lit interiorpatrons to a fully loaded bar. It was a cozy home in the winter and a nice retreat from your own hot kitchen in the summer. Their specials always intrigued the palate and featured seasonal produce.
The reopening of Maribelle’s could not come any sooner. I was eager to see the old recipes I once gushed over with friends as well as what the old tavern would look like juxtaposed with the cavalier Boca across the street. The first big difference that former regulars will notice is that Maribelle’s now resides in a plaza, complete with huge parking lot, furniture store and salon. The second thing they’ll notice is the revised name, perhaps prompted by its new location: Maribelle’s eat + drink.
The differences continue when you enter the establishment, but the fears aroused from seeing Maribelle’s in a strip mall begin to wane. The restaurant is open and spacious. The cooks prepare food in a visible kitchen with attached tables where lucky guests might be rewarded with an occasional savory treat. The restaurant was stripped of its tired looking walls and dressed with new chandeliers, bright green paint and tables adorned with chicken salt shakers.
After the rush of unfamiliarity, the sight of the menu (further) quelled any uncertainties about the new Maribelle’s. The same heart and brains that put together the tavern’s menu maintain the same affection for great food and seasonal flora that regular patrons treasured.
The menu carried some favorite dishes over from the old location like the Black Bean Burger ($11), Brussels Sprouts ($9) and Roasted Sweet Potatoes ($6), but they’ve added so much more. Maribelle’s excels at the finer details. They take what we love about seasonal produce and make it taste better.
To begin our dinner we tried the Chickpea Hummus ($9). The colors sung from the green olive tapenade and bright pink pickled onion smothered on the pureed beans. The fried pita chips were crispy outside and soft inside, a nice chewy accompaniment to the salty dip. We also tried the 4 Cheese Flatbread ($10), as I can’t skip anything that resembles pizza. The arugula salad and balsamic reduction were bitter, sweet and delicious on top of the soft melted cheeses and crispy bread.
The kitchen staff designs nightly specials that are listed on a clipboard separate from the menu. While the selections looked amazing, I went with the Fried Amish Egg Sandwich ($10) and a side of jalapeno grits. The sandwich put my uncertainties about truffle oil at rest with their decadent truffle aioli. Maribelle’s found the balance of food to fragrance and treated the pungent mushroom oil like Chanel No. 5 instead of dousing the recipe like the strong hand of a teenager with Axe Body Spray. The sandwich was topped with tomato, Gruyere cheese and, of course, a sunny side up egg whose brilliant yolk I smeared everywhere. The grits were creamy with bits of jalapeno breaking up the richness with a little bit of heat.
My friend got one of the specials, Pork Tenderloin with fennel spoon bread, arugula and drizzled with blueberry barbeque sauce ($18). The presentation alone won us over, but the combination of spicy, sweet and savory captured Ohio’s hot summer at its very best.
Maribelle’s beer selection is lengthy, but it aims to please all brew lovers from light lager Hudy Delight to the Stone Smoked Porter. Their wine list offers popular varietals by the glass like riesling and pinot noir, but also something different such as Viura from Spain.
Their brunch menu (served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on weekends) carries some of the sandwiches from the dinner menu, but with a few added breakfast items like the Egg Frittata ($10) and decadent-sounding Butter Rolls ($12) with béchamel and goetta. I’m definitely going back for the Cornmeal Pancakes ($10) served with seasonal jam.
Go: 3235 Madison Road, Oakley
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.