Pleasant Ridge’s restaurant scene has really beefed up now that Lonely Pine Steakhouse is open. The casual dining destination takes a simple concept — quality food at an affordable price — and elevates it with Southwestern flair and retro decor.
The newest venture by Gorilla Cinema Presents, Lonely Pine is the first foray into food service for the company. Founder Jacob Trevino has already made a name for himself in the local nightlife scene with Gorilla Cinema’s film-themed drinkeries: karaoke bar Tokyo Kitty, which nods to Lost in Translation; The Video Archive, an homage to Quentin Tarantino with a video rental shop façade; and Overlook Lodge, next door to Lonely Pine, which is inspired by The Shining. However, Lonely Pine is less focused on blatantly paying homage to a film, though there are clues for those on the hunt for Easter eggs.
Eagle-eyed cinephiles may have already surmised the origin of the name of Lonely Pine, but Trevino is kind enough to explain.
“Lonely Pine started as a joke from Back to the Future,” he says.
Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox in the film series, drives the iconic DeLorean time machine into the 1950s from the 1980s parking lot of Twin Pines Mall. When he drives “back to the future” after resolving a convoluted Oedipal complex, the mall in the altered timeline has been renamed Lone Pine Mall, thanks to Marty accidentally running over one of the two pine trees on the farmer’s property that would eventually become the shopping mall.
“There are only nods to Back to the Future,” Trevino says. “You could go to the restaurant a hundred times and, if I don’t point them out to you, you’ll never see them.”
The film references don’t go too far beyond a cocktail named after Christopher Lloyd’s character, Doctor Emmett Brown, and something hidden in plain sight on the wall, but the entire restaurant’s ambiance has the same masterful design and attention to detail as the other bars Trevino runs.
“We’re trying to get away from ‘inspired by movies’ as much as possible. When we first did Overlook and, to a lesser extent, Video Archive, it was still new and novel. I think there were another few movie bars in the country at the time, but now Bill Murray has a Caddyshack bar in Chicago. A lot of people are getting on that. We always want to create unique environments. Now we’re creating our own worlds that’ll always be inspired by a real-life location, maybe movies, but for us, we just want to take you to fantastic places. The next few bars you get from us are really going to reflect that.”
Walking into the steakhouse, you’ll see a butcher window with the day’s meat displayed. The original concept for the restaurant would have you order at the counter before taking your seat, much like at downtown’s Maplewood. But this idea didn’t last, and Lonely Pine now does table service.
“We’re more of a traditional steakhouse now. I’d call us casual — you can roll up in a T-shirt and jeans or come right off the golf course or from working in your yard and just have a great steak. To me it’s very much a working-man’s steakhouse, the secret is that we’ve got some high-end dry-aged steaks, but we also have a steak on the menu for $16 that’s wagyu high-quality beef. As I look at the market, I don’t see anybody else trying to do that.”
Inside Lonely Pine, the ambiance immediately transports you to the American Southwest. The set design is reminiscent of a Mojave oasis at dusk, moody blue lights silhouette cacti along the wall and the carnation atop each marble table may as well be a naturally blooming desert rose.
The first course I ordered was a cucumber-serrano gazpacho ($7). The chilled green soup comes with a flourish of cilantro microgreens and edible marigolds that contrast beautifully both aesthetically and on the palate. Refreshing and quite spicy, the slightly viscous purée sticks to your spoon like a drinkable salad that’ll simultaneously cool you down after a hot day but put some sweat on your brow from the ample serrano pepper.
Next was a 16-ounce bone-in New York strip, dry-aged in house for 30 days. An aggressive sear yielded a perfectly cooked medium-rare center. On the side was a pad of garlic butter, but the seasoning on the beef was so well applied that the butter was left mainly untouched, but its herbaceousness mingled with the creamy fat might tempt other diners to spend the additional $3 for the side.
Paired with a glass of Spanish tempranillo, the classic combination of red wine and steak is a surefire success at Lonely Pine, though the full beer, wine and cocktail menu speaks to Trevino’s history of running excellent bars. The NY strip is the second priciest option on the menu at $45, the most expensive being “The Cowboy,” a 16-ounce bone-in ribeye that’s similarly dry aged and priced at $55.
But there are options for someone on a tighter budget. For only $16 you can have the 4-ounce Ohio wagyu petite tender, a rare deal for such an esteemed cut, or a 6-ounce sirloin cap, typically a leaner and less fatty cut, for $22.
Every good dinner should have a starch to help fill in the blanks, so I ordered a shareable side of au gratin potatoes ($8). The piping hot casserole dish tasted like it was made by someone who loves you very much. Cut as papery thin as chips, the heaping portion of potatoes was tender and creamy.
For those with a sweet tooth, there’s chess pie with chocolate, blueberries and whipped cream; a citrus crème brûlée; and locally made ice cream with seasonal flavors.
“With Lonely Pine, the concept was mine and I wanted an affordable steakhouse ... mainly because I’m selfish. I wanted a place where I could eat steak and I saw a gap in the marketplace,” Trevino says. “You have Outback and you have Jeff Ruby, so I hope it slid in between those two.
“You should never have buyer’s remorse from a steak. Food and drinks should sustain us, make us happy. We’ve done stuff that makes us accessible to everyone in Cincinnati. If you’ve got a few bucks in your pocket, you can come enjoy one of our bars.”
Lonely Pine Steakhouse, 6085 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, lonelypinesteakhouse.com