I don’t do too many restaurant reviews these days, but while taking an impromptu day trip down to Cincinnati, Anne & I decided that it might be fun to write something up about our lunch. After seeing some great looking photos via email newsletter and Facebook, we knew that we’d be stopping at the Taste of Belgium Bistro during our next visit down south.
The Bistro is the third location from entrepreneur Jean-François Flechet, who opened his original stand in the Findlay Market just a half mile north, and also operates a similar stand at The North Market here in Columbus. The Bistro takes his cafe concept and expands it into a full blown restaurant. Customers are greeted by a great pastry counter up front, and can be seated at tables looking out onto the bustle of Vine Street, or facing the bar or kitchen where employees are hard at work.
Our visit took place on a Saturday around 12:30pm and the Bistro was packed. After a short wait we were seated and the adventure began:
We ordered one of the original belgian waffles topped with fruit and cream for our kids to share. If you’ve not yet had one of these treats at the North Market, they’re sweet and crisp with a nice caramelization to the outside. The fruit and cream were a nice topping, though I personally prefer to eat these waffles plain. No syrup required.
Anne ordered a berry tart from the dessert case (since she loves to eat dessert first). The tart was filled with a vanilla cream, raspberries and blueberries and a honey glaze. I didn’t try it myself, but Anne said that it was flakey and delicious. The dessert case also included some great looking cookies, pastries, buckeyes and even some King Cake for Mardi Gras.
I ordered the special of the day, a burger served on a split waffle bun, topped with a fried egg, french fries (ON the burger), ham and a hollandaise sauce. The waiter who delivered it to the table announced its arrival with “here’s your fat-free lunch” which gave me a laugh. I took two bites of it as a burger and quickly realized that this was meant to be eaten with a fork. I thought that the flavors all worked really well together with a nice mix of sweet and savory, though everything combined was certainly very heavy and greasy. Exactly as I wanted.
Anne ordered the Boulets liégeois, which the menu described as Belgian meatballs with “sirop de Liège”. The dish is served as two meatballs, and the sauce had a heavy herbal flavor with a beef base. Anne said that she liked the rustic look of the dish, and the leftover sauce was great for dipping fries. She said that the only other thing that could have improved the dish was a small serving of mashed potatoes.
We ordered a side of Belgian Frites for everyone to share. I thought they were cooked quite well… crisp on the outside, but still slightly mushy. They were served with a small container of an aioli-based sauce, which was excellent. I could have used double the sauce for my fries.
All in all, we were very happy with our lunch at the Taste of Belgium Bistro. The menu is a nice balance of classic european and american comfort that makes for a solid brunch on a weekend afternoon. The restaurant space is beautiful, and the line of people out the door is proof that Cincinnatians are enjoying this new addition to Over The Rhine.
Speaking of new additions to Over The Rhine, the Cincinnati Streetcar just broke ground on construction yesterday and is scheduled to be open sometime in 2013. I spoke briefly with Jean-François about the project, who said he has been a stauch supporter from day one. Both of his locations sit directly on the route, and he said that he sees the new rail line as being vital for continued redevelopment of the neighborhood.
I highly recommend a visit to The Taste of Belgium Bistro (located at 1133 Vine Street) next time you’re in Cincinnati. More information about the restaurant can be found online at authenticwaffle.com/locations/otr/.