One thing Cincinnati isn’t known for: cajun and creole food. German food we do. We’ve got a reputation for fine French cuisine. We even have a vibrant Italian community. But most New Orleanians and other folks from Louisiana don’t seem to make it up this way, so it was surprising when I heard that Cincinnati (well, Northern Kentucky) has a joint called “Knotty Pine on the Bayou”.
It’s not really on the bayou. It’s on a somewhat secluded-feeling area of the river in Northern Kentucky off of the AA Highway. When Michelle gave me directions, she said, “It’s the second ramshackle-looking restaurant on the right, not the first!” From the outside, it doesn’t look like much– it’s a ramshackle-looking restaurant on the river. When you walk in, it is dark, yet welcoming. A board lists the specials, and while you wait you can head to the bar and grab a drink. Our reservation was for 9 PM, and we were seated very close to that time.
I’d have to advise not going late– by the time we got there and we attempted to order, they were out of ettoufee, alligator, and another item off of their specials board. I find it a little odd that ettoufee is supposed to be a specialty, but is instead a “special”. The server discovered they were out of the ettoufee well after I ordered, so I substituted the peel ‘n’ eat shrimp and a side salad instead. I was a little disappointed– I wanted something a little more substantial than shrimp. Not that they weren’t good– they were whole, head-on, and pretty tasty, but best for an appetizer and not for an entree. The remoulade they were served with was also nice, with a good dose of red pepper for some kick. The salad had a simple, tangy, red wine vinaigrette that I liked quite a bit.
Terry got the fried oyster entree, red skin potatoes, and collard greens, with a side salad topped with really chunky, very good blue cheese dressing. Unfortunately, the fried oysters were overcooked, or the oil needed to be changed, as there was a distinct burnt flavor (but not appearance) and the oysters were a bit rubbery. The redskin potatoes were nice, but the standout, surprisingly, was the collards– not overcooked, very flavorful with bacon and onions. I would come back just for the collards.
Michelle and her husband, Kevin, joined us, and they got their “usuals”: for Michelle, Cajun chicken pasta, which was a ton of pasta, a ton of spicy cream sauce, tossed with a ton of chicken. I’m only sort of exaggerating here: she ate a lot, and it barely looked like a dent. I’m pretty sure she could have eaten off of the portion provided for a week. I took a bite– it was good, and spicy without being overwhelming.
Keving got red beans and rice and gumbo– he likes them quite a bit, and though I didn’t take a bite, it smelled very good (and disappeared quickly).
For dessert, Michelle, Terry and I split a slice of opera cream cake. It was homemade, and made of chocolate (so it can’t be bad, right?), but the cake wasn’t terribly chocolately, and the icing wasn’t terribly rich. It was good, in that homemade sort of way that I’m not always fond of getting in a restaurant, because I can make it myself.
Overall, I think my experience at Knotty Pine was “okay” more than anything. I wasn’t as blown away or as enthusiastic about it as everyone I’ve talked to seems to be. Terry, who has eaten his share of Cajun food, wasn’t terribly impressed either. I would try it again– but I would want to make sure I got there early, to get some ettouffee and alligator!