Spoon & Cellar: A New Spot for Steak and Wine

Located inside the new Holiday Inn on Broadway Street, the restaurant offers a little bit of everything on its menu but isn’t wholly flexing its culinary muscle.

Feb 8, 2017 at 10:22 am

click to enlarge Spoon & Cellar’s menu includes steaks, pastas and flatbreads. - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Spoon & Cellar’s menu includes steaks, pastas and flatbreads.
At the end of last year, restaurant Spoon & Cellar quietly opened inside the new Holiday Inn on Broadway Street downtown. Though typical hotel restaurants can be hit or miss, this one lands somewhere in the middle — especially in a city that holds its hotel cuisine to higher standards (see: Metropole at 21c, Orchids at Palm Court at the Netherland Plaza and The Palace at The Cincinnatian).

The Bistro Group, which owns 25 TGI Fridays and five McAlister Delis in the region, also owns the stand-alone Spoon & Cellar. The “cellar” part references the wine cellar, stocked mostly with well-known bottles from California. 

On a cold Monday night, my dinner companion and I ate at the restaurant with a handful of bar-goers and a few families at tables. The space is commodious and feels even larger with the high-back Capone-like booths. The gigantic, arty spoon on the wall of the entrance and triangular ceiling lights are the boldest parts of the décor. 

While the wine menu is somewhat boilerplate, the cocktail menu is more diverse. I ordered a Moscow Mule ($10) with Punjabi essence in it. I asked the waitress what “Punjabi essence” was, and she said it was a “spice.” The drink did have a somewhat cumin-y flavor to it, which differentiated it from your typical mule, but it felt over-priced, especially because Metropole, which is only a few blocks away, offers more intricate cocktails for less. In fact, everything on the menu seemed slightly pricey (except during happy hour), but I understood the price points when they brought out our generous portions of food. 

We started off with the warming spinach and artichoke dip ($12), the cured Westphalian duck ham ($9) and a bowl of broccoli and cheddar soup ($5.95). The dip came out piping hot, with a pile of crunchy chips on the side. And the ham combined salty and sweet, with the inclusion of lingonberry chutney. 

For entrées, my companion, of course, ordered the most expensive thing on the menu: an eight-ounce Allen Brothers filet mignon ($42), which came with peppercorn sauce. The filet and the prime rib eye insinuate that Spoon & Cellar is a steakhouse, but their menu ranges from pastas and salads to flatbreads and sandwiches. I chose the sesame-encrusted tuna salad for my entrée ($19), an Asian-inspired dish with wasabi peas, crispy wonton strips and a creamy sesame ginger dressing mixed in with greens. The slightly singed fish tasted fresh and paired well with the heat stemming from the peas and dressing. 

My companion said the steak was “very good” and cooked properly (medium-rare). The peppercorn sauce — a riff on steak au poivre — tasted like a spicy barbecue sauce, and the garlic mashed potatoes were simultaneously stiff and creamy, the way they should be. 

Downtown is struggling for steakhouses these days. Prime Cincinnati (formerly Prime 47) has rebranded itself, and Jimmy G’s space is temporarily closed while it transforms into a German restaurant. If you want a good steak downtown, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse is probably the best option, but Spoon undercuts some of Ruby’s pricing. 

After eating so much food, we were stuffed — but dessert awaited. The restaurant offers three desserts (all $8), including panatone bread pudding. Panatone is a sweet Italian fruit bread, like a fruitcake. This version came with pizzelles stuck into the chocolate-drizzled bread and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. The whiskey sauce, which coated the bread, was the best part of the dish; I could drink a cup of it on its own. 

Spoon & Cellar isn’t wholly flexing its culinary muscle, and with that little-bit-of-everything menu, it seems to want to be like chain Seasons 52, which in turn strives to be higher-end (and healthier) than the Cheesecake Factory. It’s a boon for those staying at the hotel or patrons just looking for an above-average meal in the business district, but Bistro Group needs to decide what it wants Spoon to be. 

In a city where hotel restaurants are a brand in and of themselves, it’s a good idea to market to your strengths, which in the case of Spoon & Cellar, are a good steak and a glass of wine. 

SPOON & CELLAR is located at 701 Broadway St., Downtown. More info: spoonandcellar.com.