The family-owned Schoolhouse Restaurant in Camp Dennison recently reopened after a kitchen fire in June. Luckily, the fire was contained and the dining room suffered only smoke and water damage. Longtime owners the Miller family restored the schoolhouse to how it used to be, with antiques encircling the dining room, big round tables and the original chalkboard from the school with the menu written on it.
Driving out to Schoolhouse, I started to feel like I was getting pretty far out into the country. But that’s just because my city-boy cellphone told me to drive 14 miles on Route 50 east from downtown instead of taking I-71, which I would have done if I had known where I was going (it’s just a stone’s throw from Montgomery or Indian Hill). But there was something about driving down long winding roads in the dark that added to the charm of a Sunday dinner at Schoolhouse.
And the restaurant is charming. There’s a little general store on the property that sells candy sticks and gifts and has an old-fashioned cash register. Kids can even feed the goats that roam around the schoolyard.
We arrived to find a packed restaurant with about a 10-minute wait. Visitors were congregating and chatting on their way in and out. When we were seated inside the classroom/dining room we found a bowl of salad and a bowl of coleslaw to start with, so there’s no waiting for an initial nibble when you sit down. The salad was tossed in something akin to French dressing and was a nice light starter. The bowl full of coleslaw was way more than any two people would ever want to eat.
But it’s all according to the lesson plan; it’s one of immersion in the language of home-style cooking. You’re provided so many bowls of starters and sides with your entrée that you’re guaranteed to catch on quickly.
The chalkboard menu (which can be difficult to see through other diners’ heads) lists several beer and wine options, home-style entrées like Chicken Liver ($14.95), Country Fried Steak ($12.50) and Baked Crumbled Cod ($13.95), a few appetizers and numerous mouth-watering desserts. The servers stay busy serving mostly family-sized tables but are helpful and friendly when you have a question.
We started with an order of Corn Fritters ($3.95), which were big fried dough balls breaded in cornmeal. Six of them came in a bowl (like everything else) and were freshly made, with just the right amount of sweetness. The girlfriend and I expected there would be something to dip them in, but it wasn’t necessary since they were moist and tasty enough on their own.
Now don’t tattle, but I copied off my neighbor and ordered the Schoolhouse Chicken ($12.95). The four big pieces of fried chicken came along with bowls of side dishes that covered just about every square inch of our table. Larger tables are equipped with Lazy Susans so space and sharing is not an issue. We could have split the chicken and had plenty to eat. It wasn’t the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t bad. It had a thick, crispy breading that stuck like glue to the meat, so it didn’t come across as too greasy.
My girlfriend ordered the Baked Salmon ($14.95), which paled in comparison to my heap of fowl. It was large for a piece of salmon, but was served very simply on a plate with a lemon. It was a little dry and nothing to write a journal entry about.
But what about all those sides? We both loved the cornbread the most. It was flavorful, sweet and a little rich. The mashed potatoes and chicken gravy were smooth and quite tasty, too. I could’ve completely forgone the stewed tomatoes and green beans and been happy. Both tasted and looked like they came from a can. To be fair, I’ve never been a huge fan of either to begin with.
After filling up on as much as I could (I hate seeing food go to waste), our waitress brought us bags and boxes and we crammed in everything we wanted to take home. But wait — we had to take a dessert with us, too. I chose the Blackberry Cobbler ($3.95) over other goodies like Lemon Meringue Pie and Caramel Apple Pie. It was a generous serving, with thick firm crust on top and bottom and overflowing with blackberries and filling.
So, what did I learn at school? That a restaurant can do away with making you choose just a few things and keep you happy by just giving you a lot of everything. And that school is much more enjoyable with a table full of food in front of you and a beer in your hand.
Oh, and eating fried chicken is harder than it looks.
Go: 8031 Glendale Milford Road, Camp Dennison
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 5-9 p.m. Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $12.95-$18.95
Red Meat Alternatives: Lots of seafood
Accessibility: There are stairs to navigate leading into lobby