Corn smut is Mexican food porn at its finest.

Cincinnati Bites
Blue Ash Chili Pancakes

Posted Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Note: the following review is for a restaurant that has since closed.

I don't know much about Northside. I've never hung out in the neighborhood long enough to really get an honest feel for the area. While some spots seem wracked by scenes of decay and poverty, other areas enjoy a young, collegiate, hippie vibe.

What's clear is that Northside hosts quite a number of restaurants serving tasty grub. Places like The Comet, Melt, Mayday, The Painted Fish and Honey all seem to exude a sort of edgy, grimy trendiness. Patrons can be prancing around in dashing threads while still finding time to roll up their sleeves and add to their tattoo collections.

There's one place in Northside bucking trendy for a more down-home approach, a diner called, "The Grove." But don't be fooled: there's much more to this restaurant than you'd find at your average greasy spoon.

The Grove feels large, with high ceilings, several cavernous, long booths and rows of retro bar stools lined along a gleaming, black-topped counter. There's a sense that not a lot has changed over the years here except the menu.

The food lineup includes a few things you'd expect to find at a diner -- burgers, soup-and-salad combos and chicken salad sandwiches, for example -- but most everything else is slightly more adventurous. The biggest surprise was the extensive vegetarian selection, with some items easily made full-on vegan for an extra 75 cents.

Given that the owners are vegetarians, it would make sense that the majority of the menu is meatless. There are three veggie burgers that absolutely cannot be missed, as well as several sandwiches made to both imitate and surpass their meaty counterparts.

In addition to the two-sided, laminated menu are a number of daily specials written on a large whiteboard, including one or two homemade soups and dinners.

I was very intrigued by the vegetarian Corn Cake Burger, a grilled corn cake patty packed with bits of jalapeno, garlic and cumin, topped with chipotle mayo, red onions, red pepper, a slice of melted cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato. The sandwich normally comes with homemade kettle-style potato chips, but I instead swapped it out for a cup of homemade mushroom soup.

My girlfriend ordered the Curry Tofu sandwich, a take on curried chicken salad with tofu, almonds, celery, green onions, raisins, red onion and lettuce. She also opted for a side of black bean soup.

Corn Cake Burger at The Grove
Corn Cake Burger at The Grove

I wasn't sure what to expect from the Corn Cake Burger. Recalling my short-lived vegetarian days, I know good-tasting meat substitutes --particularly the ones that try to mimic flesh-- are hard to come by. But this sandwich wasn't meant to taste like meat: it was meant to transcend it. And in may ways, it did. I was simply caught off guard by how good the burger was.

The corn cake patty had been grilled such that as I took a bite, I could appreciate the crusty char on the outside while piercing into the warm, corn-flecked softer core. An explosion of flavor ripped through my taste buds while a moderate jalapeno heat tickled the back of my throat. The melted cheddar was perfect; the fluffy, grilled bun was fresh; the toppings crisp. This was an excellent burger, in all ways that make burgers successful, but without the blood.

My cup of mushroom soup at first glance appeared too watery. But once I slurped my first spoonful, I realized all was well. It may have been runnier than conventional mushroom soups, but it was packed with real mushroom flavor, quite unlike the thick, canned crap one makes casseroles with.

Curry Tofu sandwich at The Grove

My girlfriend's Curry Tofu sandwich didn't strike me as very impressive --it looked a bit diminutive and ordinary on two slices of conventional white bread-- but she was very happy with it. The curried flavor shone through, with a welcomed, varied textural play of raisins, celery and almonds. As much as I liked my mushroom soup, I found her homemade black bean soup even more tasty, with a slow-building spice and unexpected complexity.

Our helpful waiter also invited us to try a couple homemade chocolate chip cookies, which were large and soft and gooey, just like we like them.

The Grove is a surprising diamond in the Northside rough. I was so impressed by them that I took two of my burger-loving co-workers for another visit. They enjoyed the Angus beef preparation as much as I enjoyed yet another Corn Cake Burger.

Whether you're a vegetarian or a hardened carnivore, you'll find something tasty at The Grove.

The Grove on Urbanspoon
The Grove

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.5 out of 43.5 stars






Other Recent Reviews

  1. A Pleasant Ridge: Grand Central Delicatessen
    -posted Monday, May 29, 2017
  2. A Lobster Oasis: Court Street Lobster Bar
    -posted Sunday, May 7, 2017
  3. Hole-in-the-Wall Quest: Taqueria San Marcos
    -posted Sunday, April 30, 2017
  4. Schnitzel Impressions: Bauer Farm Kitchen
    -posted Wednesday, April 5, 2017
  5. There's a New Taqueria in Town: Chilango Fresh Mexican
    -posted Sunday, March 19, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
  • From holly may about Urban Grill on Main:
    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
  • From Sommer about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
    posted: Tue., Mar 21st, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
  • From Tabitha about Lalo:
    But...do they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Swad Indian:
    @MJ: I heard family members of those who'd run Dusmesh now work out of the former Amol India in Clifton. It's called, Grill of India (http://grillofindiaoh.com/).
    posted: Thu., Dec 29th, 2016 @ 11:45 PM
  • From mj about Swad Indian:
    It seems Swad has changed hands. Have not see the former Dusmesh owners in my last visit (10/1/2016) and the food is just ok. Wonder where they went this time?
    posted: Wed., Dec 28th, 2016 @ 8:22 AM
  • From Rachel about Bamboo Kitchen:
    Hey there,
    I would recommend Basil Thai and Bangkok Terrace. They have wonderful Thai foods there :)
    posted: Sat., Nov 19th, 2016 @ 11:28 AM
  • From Tabitha about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    Looks good - I definitely have been wanting to try this place!
    posted: Wed., Nov 9th, 2016 @ 2:55 PM
  • From Georgia about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    So you order and pay at the counter before you get your food and they expect you to tip? That's not right.
    posted: Tue., Oct 25th, 2016 @ 10:19 AM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design