Great Scott! (Review)

Worthy of its exclamatory name

Sep 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Unearthing a new restaurant is always an adventure, so I was excited to find myself exploring Great Scott! this past Sunday following an excursion with the family to Cincinnati’s Museum Center during the final days its Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit.

On our way home, we were having difficulty arriving at an acceptable “happy medium” that would please everyone and found ourselves heading further east, into what we believed was a barren landscape of restaurant choices. Lighting up State Route 125 in Withamsville, we were fortunate to find an oasis in the desert — Great Scott! No, that’s not an exclamation of my surprise, silly — it’s the name of the restaurant.

From the highway, the first impression is a little uncertain: The exterior is a little bland with its commercial gray two-story house-turned-business-turned-restaurant feel, but there’s always a surprising feature on the marquee that seems to beckon. This night, I let my sense of adventure overpower my husband’s call for the proven palette-pleaser. We stopped short, turned the car and headed straight for uncharted territory, thinking ourselves the adventurous family.

There was a chill in the air but we were greeted right away with a warm rush of heat from the dining area. One look around the main room gave me a sense that something good was happening here on a regular basis. Not only was the section recovering from what was an obvious dinner rush, but the wait staff bustled by with a purpose, which suggested experience and satisfaction in working at a well-liked eatery. As inviting as the atmosphere inside was, we opted for patio dining to suit our two younger dining companions’ need for excitement.

As I turned open the expansive menu, I shook off a chill and eyeballed the soup choices. Traditional offerings of Chili, Black Bean and French Onion ($2.99 cup and $4.59 bowl) made their appearance, but the heat of the Spicy Jalapeno Corn Chowder ($4.59) lured me in. I found it thick, hearty and resonating with just the right amount of electricity to satisfy me.

Now, I am often guilty of making an entrée out of an appetizer, and tonight was not the exception. As soon as I spied Coconut Chicken Strips ($6.99) on the inside flap, I knew there was probably little reason for me to bother reading the rest of the menu.

The chicken strips, as pedestrian as they might appear, did not disappoint. These thick, juicy white meat filets rolled in sweet, delicate coconut, were quickly crisped and dripping with natural juices and served with honey mustard dressing (all dressings at Great Scott! are made from scratch). Delicious!

Lucky for me, I typically travel with at least three other dining partners (my family), so I always get to sample a nice crosssection of a restaurant’s offerings. Steak Quesadilla ($12.99) made an appearance at the table and although one of my dining partners described it as “pretty traditional,” I felt it had a better quality beef than most in its category and the grilled flour tortilla added a welcome layer of char-grilled flavor to the dish.

My kids love seafood and were making their desire for crab legs known when we entered the joint. While we didn’t find them, we were impressed with Great Scott!’s preparations of mahi mahi, swordfish, walleye, red snapper and salmon ($13.99 - $16.99).

Honorable mention for the night came in the form of Beer-Battered Shrimp ($14.99 dinner, $4.69 kids). My 7-year-old and I agreed it was fresh, light and buttery. And the discerning mom in me was pleased when my daughter ordered up the Kid’s Fruit and Cheese Plate ($4.69). While the cheese and its presentation need some work (slices of limp, commercially prepared American that my 5-year-old wouldn’t touch because she prefers dense, fragrant cheeses, thank you very much), the fruit consisted of fresh cut pineapple wedges, cantaloupe, honeydew and raspberries as big as my thumb. Trumps the sliced apple wedges fast-food alternative any day.

As it’s name implies, there are many surprising niceties about Great Scott! Location? Yes. Big surprise. Want another? A beer list that includes 100 beers. And they have a pretty decent wine list if you’re in the mood and, hey, I’m always in the mood.

When I am in the mood for more adventure, I will definitely return to Great Scott! Since our weekend visit, I’ve talked to some other foodie friends who presently have tipped me to try the steaks as well as the Grilled Porkloin with Gorgonzola and Red Grape Salad ($15.99). It’s fabled to be finished with an amazing balsamic vinaigrette reduction. They are also featuring an Oktoberfest menu at present.