pening a restaurant in our current economic condition is bold. Opening a restaurant in our current economic condition when you’ve never owned or managed a restaurant before is doubly bold.
Charlena (Cee) Calloway and Michael Daniels think they have what it takes to succeed with Stuffed on Vine, and I must agree with them. Situated within easy walking distance of Findlay Market and Over-the-Rhine institution Tucker’s, Stuffed on Vine offers home-cooked delights like burgers (stuffed instead of dressed), soul food and wings.
Cee and Michael moved back to Cincinnati in August after 14 years in Atlanta to be closer to family (Cee’s grandma lives above the restaurant) and to seek out a career doing what they love. Cee has been cooking with her mother and grandmother since she was little enough to sit on the kitchen counter watching them make peach cobbler. She brings all those years of close observation to fruition at Stuffed on Vine.
They had the building before they had a concrete idea of what they were going to serve, but they quickly determined that they wanted people to “leave the restaurant stuffed”; after that was decided, the rest fell into place and doors opened on March 1 this year.
My husband and I ventured to Over-the-Rhine on a rainy Tuesday and were enthusiastically greeted by Cee when we walked in the door. After a discussion about which variety of chicken wing to try (there are 11), we deferred to Cee’s judgment and ordered the Spicy Garlic (six wings with fries, $5). We knew we had to try a burger, and my husband particularly loves mushrooms, so we ordered the Mushroom and Swiss stuffed burger ($7, with fries).
To round out our meal and make us feel a little healthier, we also ordered a side salad ($3). When I saw side dishes like macaroni and cheese, baked beans and mixed greens, my hopes rose, only to be dashed when Cee informed us that the restaurant wasn’t busy enough just yet for her to offer the sides every day. She told us that right now they’re only cooking a “big, Sunday-type dinner” on Sundays; no sides for me on Tuesday. I knew right then I’d have to go back to try the sides.
The Spicy Garlic wings were very spicy, but I do love spice. There’s enough there to make your eyes water a bit, but it doesn’t linger too long and the wings are rather addictive. We only stopped devouring them when the burger and the salad came out. The stuffed burger was delicious; the stuffing hadn’t exploded and the burger was absolutely perfectly grilled. I would have liked a bit more salt and pepper on it, but the mushrooms were cooked just right and the cheese was melted and gooey.
Cee refused to give us a knife straight away so we could split the burger; she wanted one of us to take a bite before we cut it to get that first bit of stuffing. I’m so glad she made us wait! Every mouthful was wonderful. The salad was a typical green salad, with romaine and tomato, and served its duty well. We left happy and, yes, stuffed, but knowing we’d be back soon.
Cee lets patrons know on Facebook what the Sunday meal is going to be that day. When I checked the following Sunday morning, I knew I was in for a treat: They were serving barbecued chicken, baked beans, mixed greens, macaroni and cheese and cornbread for an unbelievable $8.
The chicken was rubbed with a spectacular mix of herbs and spices. It was so good we didn’t even need the spicy barbecue sauce that came on the side. The baked beans and mixed greens did not disappoint in the least; the beans were saucy and sweet and the greens were cooked to perfection, a little hot, with large bits of pork. Cee’s macaroni and cheese could win awards with its metric ton of cheese and nice crispy top, while the cornbread was moist and sweet.
We also decided to try another chicken wing offering, choosing Teriyaki (10 wings, $7.50), and Michael threw in four Garlic Pepper wings for me when my vote for them was overruled by my husband and daughter. The Teriyaki wings were fantastic; our daughter ate most of them, declaring them “the best wings ever!” The Garlic Pepper wings, however, were surprisingly delicious, redolent with garlic and sharp with black pepper. I know what I’m ordering next time!
It’s hard to be a small business owner these days. People are cutting back on expenses as gas prices soar and hours at work are cut back. The value for the money at Stuffed on Vine is astounding. You’ll be happily stuffed (pun intended) with great food and good company and you won’t feel like your wallet took a hit. Best of all, you’ll be supporting a hometown family.
Go: 1720 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 1-8 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $5-$8, cash only
Red Meat Alternatives: Veggie burgers, salads
Accessibility: Fully accessible