The Acres’ Restaurant and Bar Pairs Nostalgia and Locally-Sourced Cuisine

The Acres now features two mini golf courses, a Trackman interactive golf simulator and the golf center’s first full bar and restaurant.

May 3, 2023 at 5:15 am
click to enlarge The Acres, 9941 Reading Road, Evendale - Photo: Brian Cross
Photo: Brian Cross
The Acres, 9941 Reading Road, Evendale
This story is featured in CityBeat's May 3 print edition.

It’s not always a good idea to change what works. Before it was recently overhauled and rebranded as The Acres, Etter’s Golf Center had offered a basic driving range and a small mini golf course since it opened in 1950.

“I think it’s pretty much been set up almost exactly like this, unchanged, for 70 years.” Todd Gailar, managing partner of The Acres, told CityBeat.

At a time when the facility was showing its age, and not in a funky vintage way, Gailar was an Etter’s regular who envisioned more for the property. He thought it could use more than just a fresh coat of paint, but rather a full revamp, adding food, drinks and more fun outdoor activities.

“I came down to hit a bucket of balls, and on my way down I thought, man, this could be a cool concept,” Gailar said.

In 2020, Gailar started talking to the previous owner about the possibility of buying the business.

“I came to him saying I wanted to buy it and keep it a driving range, and kind of carry on the legacy that he had created,” Gailar said.

Gailar recruited a few others to invest so he could buy the property. “It’s really five friends who all contributed a little bit of money to get everything built,” he said.

Fast forward to June of 2022, and Gailar’s vision became reality. The Acres now features two mini golf courses, a Trackman interactive golf simulator and the golf center’s first full bar and restaurant. They also added space to just hang out. There are fire pits, cornhole boards and plenty of outdoor tables and seating.

But the new owners didn’t change everything. Gailar himself had memories here, and he wanted to keep and even restore some of the history of the place. Instead of demolishing the two original buildings on the property and starting from scratch, they renovated them.

“Preserving some of the nostalgia, which is preserving these buildings, was important to us because you have so many generations of Cincinnatians who have come here. And they love to come back,” Gailar said.

Gailar harks back to the “barbershop feel” of regulars just hanging out at Etter’s. He wanted to keep the feeling of a neighborhood spot where people know each other. Over the years, the two buildings (the pro shop and the now restaurant/bar) played a big part in those connections.

“That [building that now houses the restaurant and bar], probably in the ‘60s, was an ice cream shop; in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was an arcade, and in the ‘90s, for a period of time, it was a cheap deli sandwich shop. Then that closed and it just became storage.”

Gailar and company gutted the building, keeping a few old items they found, including a '60s Pepsi can that remains on a shelf above the new bar.

The food menu at The Acres’ restaurant is a short selection of what Gailar calls “elevated American classics.” The Acres consulted with Chef LeRoy Ansley, formerly of Queen City Hospitality (Senate), to create the menu. Joey Sack serves as the restaurant’s kitchen manager.

“I think people just think of this place like, ‘Oh they have a roller hot dog and a frozen burger. We tell everyone the food is chef-inspired, chef-created, and the more we can source locally, the better,” Gailar said.

One such locally-sourced ingredient is the core of The Acres’ All American Burger: a short rib and brisket ground beef blend supplied by Avril-Bleh Meats & Deli. “We tried a whole bunch of hamburger blends, but we chose Avril-Bleh. It was the best blend we had had, and being a local butcher, it just made sense.” 

Popular burger joint Zip’s Cafe uses a beef blend from Avril-Bleh, but Gailar says the blends are not the same, and The Acres burger is also a different style.

“Our patty is a thinner, smash burger-style patty, and we load up the burger with a thick cut of tomato, pickle and lettuce and caramelized onions. Then we created kind of our own ‘Acres sauce,’ which is like a garlic aioli,” he said.

Keeping with the classic American theme, Gailar likens The Acres’ French fries to McDonald’s fries – they look the same, and they’re thin and crispy.

Another signature item is the fried chicken sandwich, made with a 24-hour buttermilk-brined chicken thigh, piled high with sweet and sour slaw, pickles, pickled red onion and garlic aioli. The Tomato Sandwich is a seasonal staple with thick tomato, lemon aioli, herbs, greens and sunflower seeds on toasted sourdough bread. Add bacon or an egg to kick it up a notch. 

Gailar says there are still customers who come to use the driving range and have never stepped foot in the restaurant. 

“We don’t have the buzz that some of these Over-the-Rhine restaurants get. So we’ve kind of decided it’s a word-of-mouth restaurant. Every week we get new people walking in saying, ‘We heard the food here is really good.’”

A full bar inside the restaurant serves a Rhinegeist-heavy selection of local brews in cans and on tap. Other options at the bar include craft beers from brewery Mother Stewart’s in Springfield and a wide variety of High Noon flavors.

Patrons can order food and drink from a walk-up window or order inside at the bar. The 11-seat U-shaped bar provides most of the indoor seating. A corner counter with a view of the property provides a few more, but limited indoor seating means al-fresco is usually the way to go. Staff will bring your food to you at the outdoor tables. For the recent cold months, The Acres erected a temporary heated tent with lots of seating. Gailar said they’re currently designing a permanent structure that, along with the kitchen and bar, would be able to accommodate events and parties.

But the current state of The Acres is just the beginning of Gailar’s vision. There’s still unused space, including a previously overgrown area that now reveals a section of the Mill Creek replete with fish, frogs and turtles. And Gailar has no shortage of ideas for the reimagined property.

Gailar likes the idea of The Acres as a sort of summer camp for adults. (Though you’ll find families with kids here any day of the week). 

“If you think of if you went to a summer camp as an adult, what would you like to do? I’d like to go hit golf balls, play mini golf, sit down by the creek, kayak, canoe, fish – all things that we could eventually possibly do here.”

The Acres, 9941 Reading Road, Evendale. Info:

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