Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A True Ruby Downtown for Jeff

This beautiful afternoon we decided to hit up Jeff Ruby's newest Cincinnati eatery, and I have to say I am truly impressed. Cincinnati's most prolific restauranteur has done it again; with a much more subtle spin than some of his more well-known steakhouses, The Ruby Culinary Entertainment Company knocked one out of the proverbial park with Walnut Street Grill. Located in the heart of downtown and only a stones throw from the eponymous restaurant that started his career, Ruby has opened this little gem in the former Bootsy's location. With an obvious break from the high-dollar Collinsworth's of The Precinct and the David Townsend special bone-in filet of the Waterfront, the Ruby family of restaurants has added a self-described "comfort-food" facet to their collection of fine establishments.

First and foremost, location was nailed here. Right in the middle of the newly revived Business District of Cincinnati, with a plethora of new bars and clubs popping up nearly weekly anymore, WSG (as they reference themselves) is directly across from the Aronoff Center, nestled in between the Righteous Room and Scene to the north and Nicholson's Pub on the South. Just a block from a blogger favorite- Bartini's, there really isn't any better place to set up shop. With Bootsy's, it was as if TGI Fridays came in with a flurry of buttons and suspenders and vomited nonsense all over the walls; it didn't really offer a consistent ambiance to the place. For WSG, its an entirely different story. Plenty of room, expansive lounges, and more than one bar to make the likes of Charlie Sheen drool, it sprawls among 2 levels of its downtown complex. Coming prepared with the knowledge of their cigar collection, we made a beeline for the patio, which, perched directly over Walnut street, offers a phenomenal view both up into OTR and across the river into Newport.

As we arrived, we were immediately greeted by a rather attractive waitress who would remain johnny-on-the-spot throughout our visit. As we looked over the menu, we were greeted by the down-home southern charm of our drinks being served in mason jars. As far as the menu goes, I was stunned by a rather wide variety of lunch edibles. Impressive in its own right, but especially so in that they've only been open for lunch (11-2 during the week) for a few short weeks. From edamame and spinach-artichoke dip for appetizers to Jeff's famous Freddie salad and into a collection of "sammiches" and burgers, the menu offered something for pretty much every palate.

We started off with the edamame ($3.75), a favorite at any sushi place, but here they had spiced it up a bit with red pepper and an assortment of garnish. Excellent by all accounts. I decided I would go with the Green Chile Cheeseburger ($11.75) with fries, and Charlie opted only for a Caesar salad. From the time we ordered, it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes that we were digging in. I have to say, I haven't had that flavorful of a burger in quite some time. Often we find ourselves chowing down on a burger that really gets its only flavors from an overabundance of salts or cheese, but this burger was truly exceptional in and of itself. With a bit of house seasoning that wasn't overpowering but perfectly complementary, this burger loaded with green poblano chiles and salsa sprinkled with the WSG house sauce was something I will absolutely come back for. Perched atop a lightly toasted bun, I cannot say enough good things about this burger. Coupled with their seasoned fries and one of their own homemade pickles, it was really a perfect summer lunch. Although only springing for an after-lunch snack, Charlie enjoyed the caesar salad as well.

After lunch, with a few hours to spare, we decided we may as well finish the day right with a pair of stogies. When offered the cigar menu by the manager along with his own suggestions, I was led over to the humidor to take a look for myself. As an afternoon smoke, as much as it pained me, I skipped over The Boss, a Jeff Ruby private reserve cigar whose size alone was intimidating enough to send me to a lighter blend. We decided to pull the trigger on a classic golf course option, the Macanudo diamond reserve. At $10 apiece, it was a perfect way to simply sit and enjoy the sounds of the city on a warm summer day.

Totaling it up at the end of the day, I walked away with a $37 bill ($27 for food and cigar + tip) and Charlie skating with the salad and edamame at $19. Even though they only stay open until 2 for lunch, our waitress and the manager were more than happy to allow us to stick around for as long as we desired, and we did. Leaving after about an hour and a half, we were both more than content with what we had just experienced, already planning a return for lunch, and definitely a brush with their more formal dinner menu down the road.

Walnut Street Grill on Urbanspoon

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