Sure, it’s easy to find a cute bistro for you and your girls to enjoy brunch. But add a man to the mix and it becomes much more complicated. Are the food options manly enough? Will the doily tablecloths make him cringe? Will the portions fill him up?
Stop wasting time searching for the perfect place to dine for you and your male counterpart. Check out Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati, a foodie review blog started by two new transplants to Cincinnati: Michael and Jessica. The couple — one is studying to be a rabbi and the other is about to start practicing as a lawyer — like the ambiguity and mystery of letting their readers figure out who is who.
The blog offers a unique, hey-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that concept: a “his and hers” take on local restaurant reviews. Brilliant! Even other local foodie bloggers agree, “Restaurant and Reservations is a cool concept. It’s a great place to check out both sides of the equation when deciding on a restaurant: male and female, vegetarian and meat eater,” says Julie Niesen of wine me, dine me (in Cincinnati).
Cincy Chic talked with the foodie couple to get “their” takes about their blog:
Cincy Chic: How did you both come up with the unique concept of the blog?
The idea of starting a restaurant blog developed because we were both new to Cincinnati and struggling to find a resource to guide us to fun restaurants. We surfed the Internet for blogs and Web sites reviewing Cincinnati restaurants, but most of what we found either didn’t have enough information for us to decide whether a venue was worth a visit or focused only on certain cuisines or certain neighborhoods. We decided that the blog would be a great motivator for us to try new places and a useful resource for our friends and complete strangers who are also new to the Queen City. Our hope was that our readers would chip in with great ideas for new places to visit — and they have.
The format came about because we’re each pretty detail-oriented, independent thinkers, and it would have taken far too long for us to co-write a review. We like different foods, we have different expectations and we look for different things in a restaurant. The His Take/Her Take layout lets us each share our thoughts. Plus, some readers might associate more with one of us (hating broccoli) than the other (loving peppers).
We were new to the city (or I was, and he was a frequent visitor), and realized we were doing a lot of visiting the same restaurants over and over, or even worse, just settling on chains because they were familiar and easy. We noticed that there were many independent restaurants, and decided to make it our mission to start trying them.
The blog seemed like a way to keep track of where we had been, what we liked and didn’t like, encourage us to keep trying new places, and ultimately, to share our explorations with others who were similarly struggling. We were frequently trading ideas with friends who were also new to the city, so the blog seemed like a good way to formalize (or at least standardize) our exchange of ideas.
The format was born out of each of us wanting our say and our focus on different aspects of the experience. For example, in one of our earliest blogs, of Trio, one of my first comments related to how well they had plowed the parking lot, which I noticed because I was wearing heels. It’s not exactly a detail he would have noticed!
Cincy Chic: What’s the one review that you both had complete polarizing opinions about?
I’m not sure we’ve had a review where we were on completely different sides, but there have been plenty where something very positive or negative jumped out at one of us and the other could have cared less. For example, at Amol India I was bothered by the apathetic and clearly unhappy server, who made the experience much less enjoyable for me. My date, however, wrote that off more quickly because it was a buffet and we didn’t ask much of our server anyhow. Or take Maggiano’s: I love being able to bring Italian leftovers home, and I think their sauce is terrific. However, my date was more impressed with their consistency and convenience than the taste, so we haven’t become regular patrons.
Our biggest disagreement has centered on the Graeter’s vs. Aglamesis debate. I am a total chocoholic, and I love the huge chunks of dark chocolate in the Graeter’s flavors. Aglamesis’ ice cream is perfectly good, but I don’t get excited about it. He tends to eat more sorbet than ice cream, so it’s really as if we’re eating at two different places. I also happen to like the experience of going to the counter to order my ice cream, tasting if I want to taste, and seeing the ice cream in front of me. The sit-down setup at Aglamesis threw me for a bit of a loop. Beyond that disagreement, I think we often have similar overall impressions of restaurants, but we focus on or are impressed by different things, which can lead to fairly different opinions on whether or not to return.
Cincy Chic: Which review reflected the same tastes?
This ones easy: Cumin. Our Cumin experience had some of the highest highs and lowest lows we’ve encountered so far. Their tandoori mushrooms dish blew both of us away and their over-cooked and dry Molten Chocolate Cake made us both want to go out for a real dessert after dinner, so as not to end the night on such a sour note. We often love or hate places together, but Cumin was an exception in making us both love and hate individual dishes at the same time.
One restaurant about which we certainly agreed was Wild Ginger. As usual, there were some things that we both noticed, like that the Spring Rolls were a little greasy but nonetheless delicious, and some things that only one of us commented on, such as the waiter’s limited command of English. But overall, we agreed: the food was great and we will certainly be back.
Cincy Chic: Since this is our “Work Smarter, Not Harder” issue, why do you think it’s beneficial for people to check out your blog vs. another “traditional” blog?
Restaurants & Reservations gives you real reviews, not just a summary of the cuisine and price. We’ve eaten there as regular guests (not wined and dined as food critics) and shared our everyday experiences. Because we each write our own opinion, you get two takes for each restaurant with a greater variety of dish reviews, expectations, impressions and reactions (and now pictures!). Because of the blog format, just a couple of minutes a day lets you stay on top of our recent experiences and can help you discover new places or revisit old ones long forgotten. We give readers the real scoop, uncensored and uncut.
Our blog is a great source for restaurant information because it gives two perspectives in every entry. Because two of us are writing for (almost) every restaurant, we have generally tried a wider variety of dishes than one individual, and we bring two distinct perspectives on the restaurant. We also make an effort not to center our restaurant-going to our own neighborhood. Looking at the map on our blog, it would be difficult to pinpoint where we live, because we eat all over the city — and suburbs. Because we cover a wide area, the blog is not going to appeal just to those in one neighborhood, but really in the whole city.
Cincy Chic: Favorite restaurant in the city?
Trio’s. The mark of a great restaurant is not just how great its food, service and atmosphere are, but how great those things hold up on visit after visit. We first visited Trio’s in the middle of a snowstorm when many other restaurants had already closed, and the staff and food had us in awe. We’ve been back since then, and the food was every bit as good as we remembered it. Trio has an excellent menu, a great serving staff, and the consistency to never let us down. It’s definitely my favorite.
There are so many good restaurants in Cincinnati, I’m not sure I can pick one favorite! We had a fantastic meal at Jeff Ruby’s Tropicana, before it closed. Sadly, it was only a couple of weeks before the end, so we never got back there again. I thoroughly enjoyed my first meal at Trio, in a winter snowstorm when everything else was closed and the restaurant was short-staffed. And every visit since has been at least as good. It might be my favorite nicer place. When friends or family visit from out of town, though, there are always trips to Dewey’s and Graeter’s. There are so many more, and I am looking forward to going back to those places, and at least as much to discovering new favorites!
Photos: Courtesy of Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati