’m pretty sure that Gov. John Kasich has more important things to think about than his favorite restaurant. But it is clear that Kasich thinks that Bob Evans is pretty damned cool. During his campaign last year, it was reported that Kasich staffers had to set all Bob Evans locations into the GPS devices in campaign cars, although one staffer noted that it really wasn’t necessary since Kasich knew where they all were located anyway.
It was also Kasich who suggested that the state lease highway rest stops to Bob Evans so he wouldn’t have to wait until the exit ramp to get his sausage and gravy. Pity, but that plan had to be scrapped when it was found to be against federal law. We didn’t know this from being a member of Congress, Mr. Kasich?
Not to be deterred in showing his love, once taking office Kasich negotiated an $8 million deal to keep Bob Evans’ headquarters in Ohio, even though no one really thought they would ever leave. Hello Wendy’s, it sounds like there is a deal in there somewhere for you!
OK Ohioans, so our governor thinks that Bob Evans is super cool and, sure, it has a diverse menu that offers a little bit of everything. But in this corner of the state we have some pretty awesome restaurants that produce a slightly higher caliber cuisine, some of which, if served at Bob Evans, would raise them to perhaps the level of, say, Robert Evans. So let’s dissect the current Bob Evans menu and see where it might be inspired to replace items with enough Cincinnati greatness it will produce Robert Evans — although “Down on the Farm” is always gonna be a problem.
Bob does breakfast pretty well, but let me throw out an idea to make it cooler for Southwest Ohioans. In a word: goetta. Bob already has his famous sausage to use, so there really is no excuse for not offering goetta on the menu. It doesn’t stray far from their sausage concept and it sure would please a lot of people, as well as up its coolness factor in this area. Maybe Bob needs to meet with Cincinnati breakfast icon Joe Tucker (Tucker’s: 1637 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7123) to find out the secret behind making great goetta dishes.
Also, even though we’re discussing the governor of Ohio, if he were to venture across the river into Kentucky Kasich would find that no one makes breakfast dishes taste as good as the staff at the Anchor Grill in Covington (438 Pike St., 859-431-9498). The GLT, or goetta, lettuce and tomato sandwich, has been satisfying hungry drunks for decades.
Bob Evans is well known for comfort food. Who doesn’t love meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken and noodles, pot pie or roasted turkey? When it comes to comfort food, Cincinnati has some of the best, as well as unique, takes on comfort food that could teach even Bob Evans a few things.
There is nothing more comforting to me than eating just about anything that comes out of the kitchen at Mayberry downtown (915 Vine St., 513-381-5999). Hell, the name itself conjures up images of Aunt Bee and Opie sitting around the table anxiously awaiting Andy’s safe return home. Mayberry Chef Josh Campbell creates modern versions of everyday American comfort food that would make Bob Evans’ and Kasich’s mouths water. The most comforting food of all is his tater tot casserole, which is a simple gooey-delicious combo of cheese, onion and awesome tater tots. Best of all, it pairs perfectly with anything.
Tom + Chee (133 E. Court St, Downtown, 513-721-2433; Newport on the Levee, 513-859-2433) elevates comfort food classics like grilled cheese sandwiches and soups to levels of greatness. The governor needs to try the creamy Tomato Basil Soup or the Meatloaf Stew paired with a uniquely Cincinnati BBQ + Bacon Chee. This grilled cheese expertly brings together Grippo’s BBQ chips, bacon and American cheese. However, the coup de grace is the Grilled Cheese Donut. Words fail in describing the simple joy that this dish brings to one’s soul.
Bob Evans is also big on slow-cooked food. Here in Cincinnati we are lucky to have Crock of Love (513-404-7276 , www.crockoflove.com), Chef Nikki Galea Franz’s brilliant idea of providing home food delivery that cooks in a crockpot in your own kitchen so when you arrive home from work dinner is ready. Her slow-cooked pulled pork pot pie with parmesan cheese crisps on top and her beef brisket with roasted vegetables are prime examples of truly great American slow cooked food.
Bob Evans always touts its desserts, but what could be cooler than having dessert made by a contestant on Top Chef: Just Desserts? Pastry Chef Megan Ketover of the Hilton Netherland Plaza (35 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-421-9100) is competing this season on this popular Bravo reality series. On my recent birthday, I was treated to a special dessert duo created by Megan that included a luxurious dark chocolate torte, silky chocolate mousse and sparkling lavender sorbet. Simply incredible! While at the Hilton, wander over to The Bar at the Palm Court where master mixologist Erin Ennis will craft you an exceptional cocktail utilizing atypical fruits, vegetable and juices. Way better than that Raspberry Iced Tea you’ve got to offer, Bob Evans!
So Gov. Kasich, while there is nothing wrong with you enjoying the fare at Bob Evans, you should probably expand your food horizons and taste what the Queen City brings to your table. While you’re at it, we could use some of those tax incentives around here, too!
Kasich’s $8 million deal to keep Bob Evans from leaving Ohio:
$3 million Research and Development Investment Loan
$2.4 million Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit
$1.05 million Research and Development Investment Tax Credit
$650,000 Roadwork Development Account
$250,000 Rapid Outreach Grant
$250,000 Ohio Workforce Guarantee