Fifteen dollars for Poutine? Hoser.

Cincinnati Bites
Enchiladas at Jalapenos Mex-Mex

Posted Monday, October 24, 2016

Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, located at the base of the 84.51 building, is yet another hit from the wildly successful Thunderdome Restaurant Group, the same people who brought us the ubiquitous Currito chains, Bakersfield OTR, Krueger's Tavern and The Eagle. These guys are experts at turning eateries into gold and their good fortune is well deserved.

Let me state up front that I liked Maplewood overall and they unquestionably serve good food. Their Kevlar-wrapped menu comes from a former Jean-Robert chef and it's bulletproof. What I don't like is the often alienating, hipster, trendy vibe we diners often endure at new restaurants downtown, as well as the misinformation over "cage free" eggs and organic food that continues to spread like a creepily coiffed, bearded, PBR-tinged fog, all used to justify higher prices for nearly everything we eat.

Maplewood's order-at-the-counter process begins with an L-shaped line configuration, a la Chipotle. Two-page menus are set along the wall on the approach to the register. As busy as Maplewood is, patrons will find themselves pressured into quickly choosing an item on the menu lest they be overtaken by the people in line behind them.

Baked goods and bottled beverages are on display as one rounds the corner to the register, which lend the mistaken impression that there is no tap water available. Only later, after we'd purchased bottled water, did we discover that there was a free dispenser and cups hidden near the bathroom hallway, out of view. This seems to be a common trend at upscale eateries: hide the "pauper's water" at all costs.

At the counter, my girlfriend (who was under duress about choosing a menu option lest she hold up the line) randomly picked the Chicken Hash ($14): rotisserie chicken; goetta; a variety of diced russet, purple and sweet potatoes; diced bell pepper; wild mushrooms; jalapenos, corn; and two "cage free" fried eggs served with a grilled slice of toasty ciabatta bread.

I selected the Spicy Chicken sandwich ($11): pulled rotisserie chicken, a spicy Portuguese "piri piri" chili sauce, havarti cheese and slaw on ciabatta bread supplied by Bond Hill's Sixteen Bricks Artisan Bakehouse. Sandwiches come with a side so I chose the black beans.

The restaurant holds about 150 people and was jam-packed. Fortunately, an attendant assists in finding customers a table, which does offset the stress endured during the ordering process. We were given a number and led to a seat within a minute. There isn't really table service per se, but their setup has generated a lot of confusion on Yelp over whether they tip. Since customers order at the counter, it runs against tradition to tip wait staff. But if their staff are paid at a low rate with the expectation that patrons will supplement their pay, then it's a dubious practice, and warrants clarification from the restaurant.

Prices overall are on the high side, which is to say they are normal by downtown standards. For the privilege of eating here, you can have a bowl of greek yogurt with some granola and fruit for $8; chips and guacamole for $8; or $11 omelets. Sports Page on Vine this ain't (which, by the way, I still believe serves up the best veggie omelet downtown, served with fried potatoes and toast for $6.75 plus tip). By no means is Maplewood the most expensive brunch and dinner spot; some would even argue their prices are reasonable for the kind of presentation and care they put into their entrees.

The restaurant places emphasis on healthy food and, as an example, they cite their Avocado Benedict, which lacks the fat and cholesterol-rich hollandaise sauce. And while that dish may in fact be good for you, it has recently been debunked that saturated fat is bad (the myth was perpetuated in part by the sugar lobby who'd sponsored the studies doctors used to guilt us with). Scientists also say that dietary cholesterol does not significantly influence blood serum cholesterol for most people. So, to hell with it: I'm eating my butter and eggs again.

chicken hash Chicken Hash
spicy chicken Spicy Chicken sandwich w/black beans

Our meals arrived in less than 15 minutes --pretty good considering how bustling the place was. The plates of food looked gorgeous and, though I gave it the college try, it was hard to screw up these food photos. As good as our dishes looked, we found ourselves ogling the plates on other tables, particularly the fluffy pancakes and the aforementioned Avocado Benedict.

My girlfriend's chicken hash resonated with layers of meatiness from the chicken and goetta to the sweet potatoes, all made substantially tastier dressed in oozing egg yolk. Still, it didn't seem as heavy as it most assuredly was, a great balance of vegetables countering the several proteins.

The spicy chicken sandwich was a bit messy but satisfying: the pleasant crunch of the slaw offered a cool respite from the slow-building heat of the chicken's piri piri sauce. The hearty, chewy ciabatta was a good choice to help secure all the wet ingredients. The black beans were rich and smoky, topped with cotija cheese.

Maplewood Kitchen and Bar is another successful venture in a long line of restaurants by the Thunderdome Group. You may gripe about the pretension and prices, as I did, but you'll likely leave the place feeling like you got your money's worth.

Maplewood Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maplewood Kitchen and Bar

Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars






Other Recent Reviews

  1. A Mediocre Lunch at Firehouse Grill
    -posted Sunday, October 8, 2017
  2. Southern Indian Impressions: Udupi Cafe
    -posted Saturday, September 23, 2017
  3. New Downtown Korean Restaurant: Haru
    -posted Tuesday, August 29, 2017
  4. Pleasant Ridge Impressions: Nine Giant Brewing
    -posted Monday, August 7, 2017
  5. Mediterranean Musings at Milya Cafe
    -posted Sunday, July 16, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From TJ Jackson about Udupi Cafe:
    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
  • From Jones about Haru Korean Restaurant:
    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    yes!
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
  • 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
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design