Review: Iron Horse Inn

News: Out and About, ONE Vermillion
November 7, 2008
News: New Chef at the Palace Restaurant!
November 9, 2008

The Iron Horse Inn recently reopened under new management, with a remodel of both the interior and the menu. It is owned by Robin Thomas, and the executive chef is Stefan Marcus, who is a good friend of my buddy Drew, so we had a pretty spectacular time when Terry and I joined the Happy Mouth crew at Iron Horse Inn last week.

The interior is done in warm peaches and creams, and feels very upscale without being modern.  Anyone who takes over the Horse’s place needs to keep in mind the place’s history– this isn’t the place for clean lines and minimalism, it’s a place that was made to be just a little opulent.

We were a party of twelve, and their service for twelve was spot on.  The caveat? We were the only people there.  Word has spread slowly that Iron Horse has reopened, so we were the only party of the evening.  Some places might still drop the ball on this– I’ve been there before– but the service was superb, not too attentive, but not aloof either.

The rest of the meal is after the jump…

We started off with an appetizer of mussels with a diavolo sauce.  These are the best mussels I’ve had in Cincinnati– plump and juicy, and the diavolo sauce didn’t overwhelm the mussels, but wasn’t a flavor wallflower, either.
Mussels, Iron Horse Inn

Bread was passed out next, with salted butter and house-made merlot butter.

Butter, olive oil, merlot butter, Iron Horse Inn

We then received salads, which featured duck confit and a citrus dressing.  I was originally going to order the iceberg wedge (shoot me, I like the wedge!) but our server informed us that a salad was coming out, complements of the chef. Duck confit can be so rich, so the slightly bitter greens and light citrusy vinaigrette was a great compliment.
salad, duck confit, Iron Horse Inn

Terry also ordered some creamed spinach and sherry soup, which was great.  Creaminess cut with the slightly sweet sherry, and topped with crispy pancetta.  This was their “soup of the century”.  Lofty, eh?  That’s a good thing, because it was very good soup.


Before our entrees came out, we were all served a palate cleanser of house-made coconut sorbet with saffron threads.  Sweet, a little savory, and the perfect portion and the perfect cleanser.
coconut sorbet, saffron threads, Iron Horse Inn

Our entrees arrived. I had the balsamic fig duck, which was perfectly cooked (rare) duck breast, figs, mushrooms, gorgonzola mashed potatoes, and parsnip and basil salad. It had a lot of flavors, and the balsamic wasn’t reduced, making it a bit tart, but overall the dish was excellent. Duck, figs, gorgonzola– you can’t go wrong.

Balsamic Fig Duck, Iron Horse

I have a picture of Terry’s steak, but it is so blurry it’s worthless. He got the Sirloin Trip with Jalapeno Hushpuppies and a smoked onion sauce. The steak was the right temperature, the hushpuppies were different– a little spicy for my taste, but I’m a wimp that way– and the smoked onion sauce was a nice contrast.

For dessert, Chef offered us chocolate lava cake. What’s there to say? Chocolate. With more chocolate on the inside. Hot. Heaven. We’d have licked the bowl had it been socially acceptable to do so.

Chocolate lava cake

There are vegetarian dishes as well, and I’m sure if you asked nicely the chef would prepare one of his vegetarian items to be vegan for you.  Iron Horse has been an old favorite of my friends for a while– I’m glad that it’s back up, running, and maybe even better than ever.  It’s certainly a new favorite of mine.

Iron Horse Inn on Urbanspoon


  1. Randy Simes says:

    Yeah, even the urbanspoon page has it listed as closed. I had no idea this place had reopened, and I’m sure the vast majority of the Cincinnati region has absolutely no clue.

  2. julie says:

    I sent Urbanspoon an email (we’ve been in contact recently) to let them know that Iron Horse reopened and Universal Grille closed. Neither have been updated yet.

  3. he was one of my chef professors at culinary school! I didn’t know he took up another gig. small world.

  4. Joe Budde Jr. says:

    Dang, that sherry soup sounds amazing. I might have to stop in for that alone. Glad to know its open again!

  5. […] The Iron Horse Inn had a lackluster review by Polly Campbell, which looks like it caused quite a furor.  A few of my foodie friends discussed the review at the High End Party, as almost all of us had eaten there in both the previous incarnation and as the new restaurant and had an excellent meal (in fact, I had the same entree and dessert that Polly talked about in her review).  Negative reviews will always get the most reaction (Balboa’s, anyone?) but her experience was very different than mine.  It just goes to show you that every restaurant can have an off night. […]

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