Licking our lips and cleaning the plate.

Cincinnati Bites
Reuben and potato pancake from Decent Deli

Posted Saturday, December 12, 2015

Taft's Ale House is an enormous Over-the-Rhine brewery and restaurant that first opened in April, 2015. It's located in the former St. Paulus Kirche, the second oldest surviving church in Cincinnati. Built in 1850, the church had stood abandoned for decades, but thanks to an $8 million cash infusion including funds from nearby 3CDC, it's got a new lease on life as yet another trendy gem in OTR's ongoing gentrification.

Taft's head brewer is Kevin Moreland, formerly of both Listermann and Triple Digit brewing companies. He's partnered with New York entrepeneur Dave Kassling and investor Dave Williams to offer patrons craft beer; a portly, fun-loving mascot mirrored after former U.S. President and Cincinnatian William Howard Taft; and a menu emphasizing "tri-tip" beef amid a classy, Victorian-style ambiance. "Tri-tip" is a small, triangular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin. Once considered a cheap, tough, throw-away best left ground as hamburger, tri-tip is today re-envisioned as a full-fledged culinary trend.

We arrived on a recent Saturday evening, swinging open the oversized front doors to reveal a staircase leading up to the bustling main dining room. The space is massive: a total of three bars reside on three different levels, with the upper two floors available for dining. In the center of the main dining hall are long, communal tables arranged like pews with an aisle leading up to the main bar. Towering over the bar are three large, stainless steel beer fermentation tanks rising in the air like a church pipe organ, beckoning diners to kneel before the bar and worship their preferred meat or beer god.

Wait times vary based on party size, but it averaged an hour this weekend. Tonight, we got lucky: after the host had accepted our cell phone number and we'd received an initial text confirming our place in line, a follow-up text announced only twenty minutes later that our table was ready. We were led past the open kitchen and up a flight of stairs to the top level, flanked by the fermentation tanks and another bar.

Taft's menu is blissfully to-the-point: smoked chicken wings, tri-tip sliders and steak bites round out the appetizers; a half-dozen salads and seven sandwich varieties are available; as well as several platters that include a premier beef, chicken or fish, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted veggies and cornbread. Side items include sweet potato fries, tater tots and a tri-tip steak laden hunter style stew. A steady rotation of about a dozen signature beers are available by the glass or as beer flights.

Taft's Louisa Kriek and Mooly Wooly beers Louisa Kriek and Mooly Wooly beers

My girlfriend selected the Border sandwich with a side of tater tots ($13.50). Nestled in a six-inch "artisan" roll were thin slices of tri-tip steak topped with melted pepper jack cheese and a side of chipotle sauce. She appreciated the sandwich's slow-burn spicy heat. We were particularly impressed with the chipotle sauce, which reminded us of the distinctive homemade salsa found at Habanero burrito in Clifton.

I chose the Alehouse sandwich: thin-sliced tri-tip steak topped with wispy, fried "Alehouse onions," bleu cheese and red ranch sauce, along with a side of sweet potato fries ($13.50). The soft artisan roll and tender steak, combined with the sharp smack of bleu cheese, made for a satisfying bite. I was a bit disappointed that the sandwich had sat out too long, as it had arrived lukewarm. The sandwiches also seemed on the small side overall, which was unexpected given the fact that the restaurant's mascot is one of the most prolifically rotund former presidents. Maybe his likeness was meant as a cautionary tale.

Taft's Border sandwich Border sandwich w/tater tots

On the beer front, I opted for Taft's "Mooly Wooly" ($6.50), a dark milk stout infused with roasted coffee and oats. My girlfriend chose the "Louisa Kriek" ($6.50), a Belgian cherry lambic beer with a sour aroma generated by its trio of distinctive fermenting bacteria: Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. Both beers registered relatively low IBUs, offering a smoother taste and a thankful lack of the intense hoppiness I've recently grown weary of after countless IPAs. I especially enjoyed the rich, chocolate notes of my black-as-tar stout.

Taft's Ale House is a must-try for both beer and beef enthusiasts. It's a great atmosphere with an impressive line of craft beer to compliment its menu of rib-sticking food.

Taft’s Ale House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Taft\'s Ale House

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

Other Recent Reviews

  1. A Very 90s Lunch: Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop
    -posted Sunday, November 19, 2017
  2. No-Nonsense Italian: The Spinning Fork
    -posted Monday, October 16, 2017
  3. A Mediocre Lunch at Firehouse Grill
    -posted Sunday, October 8, 2017
  4. Southern Indian Impressions: Udupi Cafe
    -posted Saturday, September 23, 2017
  5. New Downtown Korean Restaurant: Haru
    -posted Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
  • 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:
    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: they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design