ears ago, there wasn’t anything particularly special about a hotel restaurant, but a few Cincinnati benchmarks exchanged a once formulaic model for fresh, locally sourced ingredients. After a $23 million hotel-wide renovation, the Hyatt Regency introduces their new restaurant, the farm-to-table Red Roost Tavern, which joins top-notch hotel eateries like The Palace, Orchids and Metropole in downtown fine dining.
Red Roost’s philosophy is: “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.” They emphasize harvesting produce within a 100-mile radius of the restaurant, including Indiana and Kentucky. “It doesn’t make sense for us to procure food from South America at this time of year when the same items are readily available and of better quality in our own backyard,” says Chad Shobbrook, Red Roost’s director of food and beverage. And despite the high-end locavore fare, Roost’s prices are still fairly reasonable.
Keeping with their sustainability theme, the dining room — which is adjacent to the TV-enhanced sports bar area — has a sleek, contemporary look with reclaimed woods and iron-clad fixtures; at each table a lone red chair adds a dash of color to the otherwise muted color scheme. On a recent weeknight, the place was empty except for a smattering of folks at the bar and dining room. The vacancy could be attributed to few people knowing about this place yet, an error they need to correct. Some critics would scoff at yet another farm-to-table restaurant concept (is it a fad or here to stay?), but my mentality is the more the merrier.
The menu is fashioned from seasonal ingredients, including a few dishes made with heirloom tomatoes. Ever since I discovered heirlooms in Portland, Ore., I’m always happy to find these delicious gems on menus. The summer salad ($7) came with pinkish, sliced heirloom tomatoes mixed with North Bend’s Carriage House Farms greens, strawberries, farmstead cheeses, almonds and a light dressing. The presentation was a colorful dish of fresh and healthy ingredients and looked as glorious as summer itself. One of the flatbreads ($12) also featured heirloom tomatoes (green and red varietals) and tasted like something you’d find at an Italian restaurant specializing in pizza. Their house kettle chips came with Cincinnati hot links, scallions and a light tasting blue cheese fondue. For a full plate of fancy chips, it was only $7.
With such a vast and appealing menu, it took my dinner companion and me forever to decide what entrees to order: Salmon with grapefruit butter sauce? Grass-fed burger? Thankfully, with some of the entrees you can choose two sides. The main dishes are divided into categories like “Garden and Grains,” “Barn and Prairie” and “Sustainable Seas,” which encompasses their innovative and healthy take on “fish and chips” ($28). Mini garlic chips sprinkled on a log of grilled — not fried — halibut crowned a bed of sides: fava bean and local corn succotash and quinoa with plump cherries. My companion ordered the roasted bone marrow and shrimp appetizer ($12) and was skeptical because he’d never seen the two combined together. He said he wasn’t sure if the two went together well, but was not certain they clashed, either. Our waiter made sure he understood what marrow was, because apparently a lot of guests are afraid to eat it. (Marrow is the spongy tissue inside of a bone). My trencherman assured our waiter that he loved marrow and had ordered it off menus many times. Obscure items like bone marrow help Red Roost push the envelope for potential adventurous eaters, who should take the bait and try something different.
Red Roost has a mostly prosaic wine list but does have good local beers and interesting cocktails. A few of their cocktails feature liquors from the Tristate such as their signature Maple Mint Julep that’s concocted with an Ohio, not Kentucky, bourbon (Watershed Distillery in Columbus) and local maple syrup — surprisingly, it was not too sweet.
Speaking of sweet treats, no matter how glutted you are after dinner, order their molten coffee cupcake topped with a hazelnut frosting. The cupcake was warm in a comforting way, and when the frosting melted, it aped an actual lava flow (a flow of chocolate, that is). When the waiter initially brought us the dessert the cupcake had toppled over, so he sent it back and brought us an upright one.
This really wasn’t necessary — we would’ve eaten it regardless — but it’s the conscientious details that expounds Red Roost’s philosophy and puts them in the pantheon of hotel dining greatness.
Red Roost Tavern
Go: 151 W. Fifth St., Downtown
Hours: 6:30-11 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. daily