Review: Taz Mediterranean Restaurant – Cincinnati, OH

Taz Mediterranean Restaurant

8950 Governors Way
Cincinnati, OH 45249
513 774 7600

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When I tell people that I like to use Groupons, the reactions run in a few directions.  Many people haven’t even heard of Groupons and think it’s a cool idea.  If the person is a regular Groupon user, the reaction is usually enthusiastic.  For businees owners, though, I think the reaction is becoming very mixed.  The heat comes when the users become just that, Users.  They abuse the system for their own personal gain.  I think the original intent was to provide a way for local and smaller businesses to get the word out about what they have to offer to a large group of people in order to have a new stream of loyal customers.  However, it’s a catch-22.  Many who now use Groupon are the modern-day coupon chasers, missing only the curlers, horn-rimmed glasses and bright red lipstick smashed beyond the lips.  Ok, ok, that’s a harsh image.  But in reality, businesses are re-thinking the use of Groupons to drive in new business.  It becomes a “hit and run” for the customers and then they’re gone, on to the next deal.

This ugly picture is just to clarify that it is not what I do, nor what I think my friends do.  We don’t sit around and wait for a Groupon to come available from our already-favorite restaurant and then stock up on the deal.  I love to find a new place on Groupon in my area (and sometimes beyond it) so that I can explore and try out a new thing – with the hope that I can add the new place to my favorite places list.

My friend  recently bought a Groupon for a local Mediterranean restaurant called, Taz.  Ever since I went to Cairo, I’ve been wanting some good Med- cuisine.  So, she invited me to head over to Taz.  It has a pretty good reputation for having wonderful Med- food.  Several friends said that we would not be disappointed and, in regards to the food, we weren’t.  I don’t like writing reviews that may be bad, but there are some things you should know.

When we walked in, there was a “Now Hiring” sign on the door.  I’m hoping this explains the slow service.  If I’m remembering correctly, there was something blocking our way into the building – like a bucket and mop.  We had to step over it, or go out of our way to step around it.  It was awkward.  The exterior (which I don’t usually judge) gave no indication of “good food” being inside, but I don’t want to hold that against them.

We were seated pretty quickly, given menus and brought our waters fairly quick.  But that was where the speed stopped.  There were only two other groups of 4 in the restaurant when we sat down.  A couple more came in by the time we received our food.  We didn’t know if we were supposed to wait for her to come back, or if we went up to the counter to order our food.  The waitress (the only waitress) was nowhere to be found, so I asked a guy who was standing in line what we were supposed to do.  He said that she would come to us.  At this point (maybe 15-20 minutes after sitting down with menus), we were talking about how the food would probably be amazing and stay our growing hunger.

By the time she did get over to us to place our order, she was not very courteous – but, again, I’m hoping it was because they had just lost another employee and she was doing her best.  We waited for a long time again.  We ordered appetizers of yalanjie (stuffed grape leaves) and falafel.  They were delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed them.  It took a long time for them to come to us and they were quickly followed by our main dishes.

I’m sorry that I can’t remember what my friend ordered, but she loved it.  I ordered a Kofta Kabab Sandwich.  I didn’t realize how much would be pickled though, so on my part, I was able to enjoy as much of my food as I could have (I’m allergic to vinegar).  But, it did taste really good and we were really glad of that.  However, with the wait, and the cost, it wasn’t worth much more than the Groupon, in our opinions.  We will continue our search for a favorite Med- restaurant.  There are a few in the area that we’re excited to try out too (Sultans, Aladdins).

So, here’s the breakdown:

The food: Very good.  Not as good as some other Med-cuisine I’ve had, but still, I can see why it has the reputation it has.
The help: Our waitress was the only one in the restaurant.  I believe I saw someone in the kitchen, but really, there was no other visible life besides the other customers.  The “Now Hiring” sign suggests that they are aware they are understaffed and are working towards fixing that, but still, be prepared to wait.
The parking: They have their own parking lot.
The accommodations:  The interior was really lovely.  They had one sections, which we weren’t seated in, with couches and curtained off sections.  I think i read that they also have sheesha pipes available, but I didn’t see any out.
The price: Kind of pricy.  The Groupon really helped.
Returnability: Probably not.  If I have a group of friends who really want to go there, then I’ll probably go again, but there are other restaurants that have a little better reputation and image than this one.  I’d give it a 35%.

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.  Go ‘head, you know you want to.

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Review: Teak Thai Cuisine – Mt Adams, Cincinnati, OH

Teak Thai Cuisine and Sushi Bar

1049-51 St. Gregory Street
Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, OH 45202
513.665.9800

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For my bff’s 26th birthday, a group of us went down for some dinner at Teak Thai in Mt. Adams.  Mt. Adams is like the college/young adult/cool place to go in Cincinnati.  I really like the area whenever I am down there (both day and night).  It’s up on a big hill in Cincinnati, so fairly close to whatever’s going on downtown.  It’s also a mishmash of residential condos/apartments/homes and small businesses with a bunch of restaurants and bars – yes, the bars are what really makes Mt. Adams.  The only one I’ve gone into down there is The Blind Lemon, which I love!  And I only ever get a virgin something or other, usually a piña colada, or when I’m really adventurous – a coffee.  Yep. I know, I know. I’m one wild child.  They also have some fun live music each night.

But this is not a review on The Blind Lemon, or Mt Adams, no matter how fabulous I think they are!  This review is on Teak -yummy, spicy, lovely Teak.  Despite much discussion and debate, this WAS my first time at Teak.  I enjoy Thai food, although it isn’t my favorite East Asian cuisine.  I believe I only got one picture of my food, but I’ll go right into it.

Matt and Lanna (birthday girl!) of BeardedLadyPics, got an appetizer of Gyoza, er, Dumplings, which were delicious.  As were the crab puffs (rangoon) that Amy got.  My lovely dish to your right is Yellow Pork Curry, with a spicy level of 4.  The levels here are 3-10 (I know, I was a chicken that night) and I have no idea what happened to 1 and 2. I feel kind of sad for them.

My food was very good. The rice came with the meal and they even gave me chop sticks to eat with, so I was happy.

The food: excellent (all around, people said they loved their food)
The help: Our waitress had an accent, but she was very understandable, if that’s a turn-off for you.  She was very helpful and remembered what we ordered even if we didn’t.
The parking: They have a parking lot across the street and down the hill a little.  There isn’t a ton of parking that I could see, so we parked on the street as usual.  You may have to drive up and down the hill a couple of times to find a spot if you’re not into parking garages (which there is one nearby).
The accommodations:  Lots of tables inside.  There are two stories and I think the downstairs is more of a bar area.  There’s also outdoor seating which is open during the warm seasons.
The price: Average.  I think my meal (and water) came to about $15 with tip.  I can’t eat sushi, so I can’t account for the cost there. Sorry.
Returnability: Again, Thai’s not my favorite East Asian food, but if I’m basing it just on service, comfort, cost and quality, I would give it an 80% rate.  (It’s also a bit of a drive for me (~ 30 minutes) so that’s a factor as well.)

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.  Go ‘head, you know you want to.

Review: Virgils Café – Bellevue, KY

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710 Fairfield Ave
Bellevue, KY 41073
859.491.3287

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Per Cincinnati Magazine:

Virgils feels too fancy to qualify as a burger joint.  Clean and crisp black linen tablecloths covered with butcher paper and overly polite waiters just don’t scream out “Burger time!”  But don’t let that fool you: the modestly named “beef hamburger” – grilled, succulent beef topped with sautéed mushrooms and caramalized onions on a multigrain kaiser roll – equals hamburger heaven.  And do not miss out on their sweet potato fries with a side of ancho-mayo.

Why not hit two birds with one stone?  Christmas Eve Eve, I got to hang out with my bff, the lady half of Bearded Lady Pics, AND check out another restaurant in the greater Cincinnati area.  We snagged my Burger Edition of Cincinnati Magazine and flipped through until we settled on Virgils.  Being on the Kentucky-side of the Ohio River, it was one that I was looking forward to visiting and meeting up with Lans was a perfect excuse.  We called the restaurant around 6:15 to make our reservation, arrived at 6:30 and were seated immediately.  I understand that it was a Thursday night and Christmas Eve Eve, so I’m not sure if that makes a difference in the speediness of their reservations/seatings. I was majorly pleased.  FYI: Parking is on the street, but it’s in historic Bellevue which is just about the cutest place on earth.

I cannot vouch for the hamburger that is mentioned above, but I will say that the descriptions match the dishes we ordered to a T.  Our starter was, in fact, the sweet potato fries with ancho chile mayonnaise.  I was never a fan of sweet potato until living in Japan (they have a way with potato and squashes) and I have only seen sweet potato fries in the last two years.  I LOVE them and these were no disappointment.  I do not usually eat mayo, but the ancho was irresistible.

As CM’s review says, the restaurant does feel fancy but it’s still comfortable and intimate.  The lights are dimmed and there are so many nooks and crannies that you feel you can be off by yourself.  We were seated to the right of the entrance, on a platform featuring the bar and the entrance to the kitchen – where the magic takes place.  There was a lot of activity around us, being so close to the kitchen, but we didn’t mind it at all.  I’m sure that the other end of the restaurant is more subdued, but we enjoyed being close to the action.  Our waiter was Ben, who I found out later (through Twitter) was tending the bar for the first time that night.  He did a great job of keeping tabs on us and the one other table as well as holding his post behind the counter.  His back-up/co-waiter was Darius and between the two of them, our glasses were kept full of drink, our plates full of food and our mouths with laughter. (This isn’t a hard thing for me and Lans, but it helps to have really fun waiters) The other thing I’d like to note is that there is a whole hip-vibe in the place, but it’s not so trendy as to exclude a princess coloring book on the counter next to our table.  We enjoyed that touch.

Our meals were the Fresh Pasta – with seasonal veggies, beurre blanc, and chicken and the Étouffée – chicken, homemade andouille sausage, dirty rice and garlic bread.

I know my étouffée looks awful, just blame it on my you-, I mean, camera.

This was my first time eating étouffée and I loved it. The sauce was a mix of sweet and spicy and the sausage had a lot of kick to it.  Rice is always a winner for me and the chicken broke apart when I began to cut into it.  The only negative I have about this dish was the overly-crunchy garlic bread.  I managed two bites into the center of it and then had to discard the rest, but I’m chalking this to personal preference.

There is no dessert menu and the options are sort of limited…but if you hear your server say the three most beautiful words – Chocolate Bourbon Torte – place your order right away.  Lans and I shared a slice of it and, though I missed the proper “before” shot, I’m sure this one gives you an idea of the deliciousness.

It was like a rich waterfall of burning ice and decadence cascading down your throat. (how’s that for descriptive?)

This is definitely on my list of top fave restaurants now.  I think what I like the most about it is what I learned after eating there.  On their website the owner, Matt Buschle, talks about how they seek out locally-grown ingredients and work to build relationships with local farmers.  Most of their furniture, equipment and a plethora of other items are reclaimed from other places and forgotten warehouses.

The food: excellent
The help: awesome (in the words of our waiter)
The parking: on the street, but there’s a ton that you can find.  It’s a really nice area.
The accommodations:  I’m not sure I would go there with a group of more than 6.  It’s intimate and cozy.
The price: Between the two of us, the meal was close to $50 (sans tip).  That was with one starter, one dessert, and two entrées, oh, and one Coke.
Returnability: For special occasions – 100%. For casual “I’m hungry tonight” dining – maybe 35%.

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.  Go ‘head, you know you want to.

Review: Gabby’s Café – Wyoming, OH

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515 Wyoming Ave.,
Wyoming, OH

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Per Cincinnati Magazine:

Wyoming is known for good schools, good housing stock, and now, good burgers.  Gabby’s Angus beef burger is a smoky half-pounder made sweeter with a buttery bun that’s neither too soft nor too hard.  Savor the fresh pickles, lettuce, and tomato on this tender monument to meat.

Well, I am not starting off so well on this if I’m only writing this two weeks after the fact!  But, here, without more delay is the gist of the trip to Gabby’s.

Cincinnati Magazine rated Gabby’s Angus Beef Burger to be the #13 best burger in the city.  Why did I start with the 13th?  Well, it was on my way to an event at the Underground Railroad Freedom Museum that day, and I thought it’d be fun.  Plus, I’m not really going to the restaurants in the list for their burgers.  I’m not really a burger person myself, so I was super-glad that Gabby’s is a good ole Italian (mi familia!) restaurant with many other Café-ish type foods.  Yum!

So, me and two of my girlfriends from church went over for an early lunch and were thoroughly pleased with our meal.  But first things first. 

I love Wyoming, OH.  It is a pretty cute and beautiful part of the city.  My dad lived there for a while and I have fond memories of getting on my bicycle and riding down to the library for a book…and making a pit stop at Le Cezanne, which, sadly, has not been there for several years.  I also was in a summer orchestra camp there one year and, although being entirely intimidating, the Wyoming Fine Arts building is beautiful and I was much too young to fully appreciate being there.  That said, beyond the Larosas around the corner and the live Nativity down the street at Christmas, I didn’t explore much more of the town and I wish I had.

The picture above is what we saw once we parked the car (there’s a great lot across the street and so long as it isn’t Tuesday, or some odd deal, you can park there for free).  And our noses were assaulted by the glorious smells from the Wyoming Meat Market.

The smells totally playing on our already famished stomachs, we clamored our way to the door of the restaurant.  Once seated we had a dickens of a time getting through the menu because there were so many good options to choose from. 

I really enjoyed the interior…I felt like I was in Chicago for some reason.  The waitress came over to get our orders and tell us the soup of the day – lamb and chickpeas.  Here’s what our order was:

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Me:  Meatball Hoagie – Homemade meatballs topped with marinara and cheese blend on a toasted hoagie bun.

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.     B:  Wyoming Club Sandwich
      – A double-decker
      sandwich stacked with
      turkey, bacon, lettuce,
      tomato and mayonnaise on
      toasted white bread

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and C: Lamb Gyro – This was a special, so I don’t have any specs on it.  Sorry…but my friend loved it!

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We were so stuffed from our lunch that we had no room for dessert.  Plus, we were on our way here for the Unbound Movement Fair Trade Expo.

I will have more reviews coming up, so stay tuned.  Also, I’ll try to keep tabs on my “as Vagabondess” page of what review is coming up next.  I hope you all enjoy! 🙂

 – Sarah ><>

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.  Go ‘head, you know you want to.