Monday, January 11, 2010

Restaurant: Green Dog Cafe

It seems inevitable: for someone like me, who prefers to cook at home and have control over what I eat, I’m likely to fall into a rut with where I eat out. The more infrequently I eat out, the more frequently I want to dine in the same old favorite spots. So when I’d heard mixed reviews of an enticing new restaurant, I took my sweet time finally trying it.

For Sunday brunch, we went to the Green Dog Cafe in Columbia Tusculum. The food was tasty, but it was a really weird experience. We walked in and reviewed paper menus from a brochure holder, which seems almost contradictory to their desire to be seen as environmentally conscious. Standing there over a sheet of paper was also somehow more awkward than looking at a blackboard. I placed my paper back and proceeded to order the Chihuahua Bowl.

Alex and I were both drawn to the veggie patty Green Dog Burger, but we agreed to sample two entrees. (I know I mentioned this was brunch, but we arrived after 1:00 p.m. and weren’t interested in egg dishes anyway.) Alex asked if he could upgrade his side to the Green Dog fries, and the kid behind the counter said no. Then he asked if we wanted the fries to come out first, and we told him to bring everything together. Well, the fries came out before the rest of the food. Kind of unnecessary to ask if he’s not going to listen. Although we didn’t know until later that our fry preference wasn’t heard, that was the first of many problems communicating with this order-taker. The details aren’t really relevant, and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was hungover. That explains why he was mumbling and whispering to us, and looking at me like I was paining him when I spoke in a normal voice.

Green Dog Fries, $5

Let’s get into the happy talk for a bit. The fries were good. We were both surprised to see them brought out to our table before our meals, but whatever. Looking back, I’m glad I had a chance to munch on fries as that probably toned down my (then unknown) upcoming disappointment with my Chihuahua Bowl. The fries come with two dipping sauces: banana tomato ketchup and honey curry mayonnaise. I much preferred the mayo and might have to try something like that at home. Alex says he enjoyed both.

Green Dog Burger, $11

That burger was delicious. It’s made with garbanzos, mushrooms, and some kind of grains, topped with finely shredded white cheddar, arugula, and sweet tomato jam. The patty fell apart so it was more like eating a sloppy joe, and the jam was obtrusive in its sweetness, but the bread and patty were very good. Alex kept looking across the street to Allyn’s, home of his favorite veggie burger and, coincidentally and tauntingly, visible from the front windows of Green Dog. He didn’t like the burger as much as I did. He let me eat most of it. We both enjoyed the light vinaigrette over the small side salad of tender greens.

Chihuahua Bowl, $10

My dish was not impressive. I like brown rice, and this Chihuahua Bowl had a lot of it. Plus corn chips. The black beans were pretty flavorless, and there just wasn’t enough corn salsa. There was enough manchego cheese topping the rice and beans, but the dish overall was a disappointment. This bowl was large, and it was full, but the food was bland.

Would I go back? Sure. But I’m not in a hurry.

Green Dog  on Urbanspoon

Here’s a public service announcement in case anyone in the Cincinnati area doesn’t already have a Best of Cincinnati card. Get one this month, for free, by using the code BOC4FREE. Use it at Green Dog or any of the other twenty or so restaurants that take it. I had been considering getting this card, which essentially gives you a 40% discount at certain local restaurants, but I hadn’t wanted to shell out the $25 administrative fee for joining. However, until the end of the month, you can get the card for free! I got mine on the same promotion in December, and they’ve extended it.

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