Review: Olives

I love going out on Saturdays with my girlfriends.  A couple of weeks ago, I met my friend Kasmira for lunch in Clifton, as we were both headed that way.  We wanted to try Thai Café, but I didn’t realize that I’d never been there for lunch—they don’t open until 4 PM!  So we decided to go to Olives, on Ludlow in the former Za/Uno’s location.
I had been to Olives with friends back in 2007, slightly after they opened.  What I had that time was good bar food—a good burger, some good appetizers—and looked forward to going again.  This time, I wanted to do something healthy and light (this food writing gig is hard on a girl’s figure), and Kasmira did too.
Olives has a pretty broad selection of sandwiches, soups and salads.  I wanted something vegetarian, and so did she, so we each got a vegetarian sandwich: Kasmira got the Veggie Melt, and I got the Veggie Pita.  The side choices were fries or chips, and we didn’t want to be excessively healthy, so we each got the fries.
Kasmira’s roasted veggie melt, which was roasted vegetables (squash and eggplant, mostly) with garlic, herbs, and veggie cream cheese wrapped in a spinach tortilla.  Of the two sandwiches, this one looked the best, but turned out to be fairly bland.  She grabbed the salt shaker, which she said helped a bit.  She took the other half home, and said it was actually a lot better heated over the next day, so the flavors had some time to develop.


I had the veggie pita, which was supposed to be grilled eggplant, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, mozzarella, pita, sun-dried tomato cream cheese and Parmesan yogurt dressing on the side.  There was no parmesan yogurt, and those vegetables combined into something bland—the grilled eggplant was unseasoned (but not bitter, which is a common eggplant issue), the cucumber slightly mushy, and the mozzarella tasteless.  I used a bunch of salt and pepper, which helped, but realized it probably wouldn’t be a whole lot better the next day, and declined to take the rest of the sandwich home.

The fries?  Well, I guess that fat makes everything better, because they were pretty good—crispy and salty.

Some restaurants really try to cater to vegetarians by offering great veg choices that appeal even to meat eaters, but a lot of restaurants seem to think that salads and French fries are sufficient.  It’s not true.  Vegetarian food can be as flavorful and interesting (if not moreso) than meat-based meals— but when it’s uninspired, it’s even more disappointing.   With a little more thought to seasoning, these sandwiches could have been awesome choices.  My advice?  Head to Olives with your meat and potatoes friends—if you have vegetarians in the group, just go for appetizers (such as the excellent Wild Mushroom and Artichoke strudel) and cocktails, which really seem to be their sweet spot.

Olives on Urbanspoon

7 thoughts on “Review: Olives”

  • Olives is one of my favorite neighborhood eateries – but I have to concur with your review. I’m not a vegetarian – and it serves me well at Olives. They have excellent burgers, sandwiches and their Cobb salad is to die for…but none of those are in the realm of vegetarian-friendly.

  • Olives has an excellent brunch on the weekends. Vegetarian breakfast food is a little more tasty than the lunch/dinner fare 🙂

  • I live in Clifton and have yet to venture to Olives. I don’t know what it is, but I am not tempted to dine there. Part of it is the name…I associate it with green olives, which I don’t like. Another thing is the gimmick they sometimes do on weekends with a huge light on the street that they shine all over the neighborhood. It’s just over the top. So…I haven’t gone in.
    I just wish this restaurant were GREAT. We need GREAT restaurants in Cincinnati, and that one has a wonderful location and atmosphere…
    Someday i’ll get in there to see for myself.

  • I had the same experiene at Olives. The veggie sanwich I ordered sounded so good and was so disappointing! I thought that the place had a lot of potential.

  • The best park about Olives is its location. The atmosphere inside is great, the food is good to average, but the location in the heart of Clifton’s historic Ludlow Avenue business district is absolutely fantastic.

  • I am still trying to decide if I want to post about our horrid experience at Olives last year (during the baseball season). We had plans to eat dinner and then go to the Reds game. The waitstaff was careless and the food was disgusting. really, disgusting.

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