Review: Green Dog Cafe

Locavorism– it’s what’s for dinner. Or, in the case of Green Dog Cafe, brunch and lunch. Terry and I stopped by a few weeks ago to try out brunch at this new East Side restaurant, owned by Mark and Mary Swortwood, the same folks who started Brown Dog Cafe and Tink’s. It’s in a brand new building on Columbia Parkway– the building was created with ecologically sound building products, recycles, filters water, and participates in a bunch of other environmental initiatives. The interior is modern, if a bit cold, and reminds me a bit of the North Star Cafe in Columbus.

I actually chose this restaurant because one of the suppliers of Local 127 and I got into a conversation in email, and he suggested a few more places in town to pick up his products– the supplier was Bill Dean of Dean Family Sausage. I made a mental note to order some, even though I was definitely in a lunch mood. Bill said this of his pork (in the comments of the 127 post): “We raise rare Red Wattle Hogs that were once thought to be extinct. The are rare because they do not do well in the factory environment that your typical McRib type pigs are grown in.”

One thing about the restaurant could be disconcerting– you get in line to order, take a number, and the food is brought out to you. This is, again, similar to the procedure at North Star, so I wasn’t shocked, but some might be put off by this. There are menus to peruse while you wait, and by the time we got there– around noon on a Sunday– there was no line to speak of.  We chose our meals in line and ordered, and were a bit dismayed– our two entrees and two sides, with one coffee and one can of diet Coke totaled right around $40.   I know that locally sourced food is more expensive for a variety of reasons and gratuity is included, but at the onset, the price seemed just a bit high.  However, with locavorism being fashionable– and in an area near some fairly high-end neighborhoods– perhaps this is a price point that can be supported if the food is spectacular.

Good news for those with dietary restrictions: many of the meals can be made vegetarian, vegan, dairy free or gluten free. I know that, in particular, gluten free restaurant

We started out with the GD fries, which are fresh-cut and served with a honey curry mayonnaise and banana ketchup.  The fries were cut thicker than I normally prefer, and just a tiny bit limp, but were a nice vehicle for the spectacular honey curry mayonnaise and surprisingly good banana ketchup.  I was a bit hesitant– banana can often be overwhelming– but this just added a nice sweetness and a slight hint of banana.

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Unfortunately, the counter ordering system has a flaw: it does not account for courses.   Considering Green Dog serves dinner, when diners may want to start with an appetizer, then have an entree and dessert, having all of the items come out at the same time– or at least, not be timed optimally– is a big downside.  Our fries came out about two minutes before our entrees came out.  If they were to be an appetizer, we’d have had no time to eat them and enjoy our first course.

On the brunch spectrum, I went for the “unch” while Terry went for the “Br”.  He decided on the Lemon Zephyr pancakes ($9.50) with a side of the Dean Family Farm sausage ($4).  For some reason, I don’t have a picture of the sausage, but I assure you: the four slices looked very much like sausage patties.  The pancakes were nice– just a hint of lemon– and the real maple syrup and fresh, ripe berries were a nice touch.  No bacon or other “breakfast meat” was included– a couple of slices of bacon (or vegetarian alternative) might make the $9.50 price appropriate.

The sausage was delicious– and worth the $4 price tag.  Terry said it reminded him of the sausage his father made in Alabama– a good dose of spice and fresh meat– this sausage and the fries were the best parts of our meal.

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I got the Green Dog BLT: bacon, tomato and turkey with arugula and basil mayonnaise, with a side of green salad (other choices were kimchee, brown rice or corn chips).  The flavors were great– the bacon thick, smoky, and a little spicy, fresh tomato, well-seasoned, thick chunks of turkey, and I love basil mayonnaise.  The one drawback? Way, way too much bread.

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That is too much bread even if the bread is good, but this bread was crumbly and dry– not a good experience.  I ended up eating the contents of the sandwich with a knife and fork and leaving the bread.  This would have been much better on, say, Shadeau’s multi-grain bread– something much thinner.  Though the sandwich was large, it was mostly bread– and for $12.50, I’d prefer more balance in ingredients. This isn’t about wanting a bigger portion of meat and vegetables, but feeling like I wasn’t wasting quite so much (and isn’t that the point of being eco-friendly– eliminating waste?).   Veggie Option had a similar experience with “filler” (in her case, brown rice).

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A mediocre experience– some good ideas and flavors (honey curry mayonnaise!), but not quite the experience I expect for the price and the quality of ingredients.  I hope that, since they’ve been open for a while, they’ll be retooling their menu to reflect patron feedback.  I think it has a ton of potential– but falls just short.

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  • RB

    Went a few weeks ago and we LOVED the lemon zephyr pancakes and the Greendog Benedict. I agree the interior felt a bit cold. The chai lattes were wonderful and we enjoyed the floating rack with numerous recent magazines to flip through over brunch. It was a bit pricey, although the food made for a better brunch than hitting The Echo so we’ll definitely return.

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  • http://www.epi-ventures.com Courtney

    Hi there — I agree with your review of Green Dog. I find the idea behind it totally appealing but the execution is a little lackluster. (WAY too much bread on the sandwiches.) Since I live right down the street (by Allyns) I’ve had several meals there but find it very hit or miss. Sometimes the fries are crispy and good and other times they are limp. Thanks for the review!
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..Via Vite and the Great Seduction =-.

  • ruth

    Thanks for posting this review. I had heard that it was expensive, but good. Just an FYI though, you use the word bit way too much. I counted 6 times just in this small piece.

  • vudutu

    The oversized bread thing is real pet peeve of mine also Julie, this is just stupid, what this tells me is the chef/owner is not eating his own food. I want to go to the kitchen, find the person who thought this was a good idea and make then try and stuff it in their face, videotape it and post it on YouTube. I was at Lavomatic having a drink Friday and they brought out a triple decker sandwich with THREE one inch thick slices of bread, the damn thing was six inches thick, I watched the guy who ordered it immediately pull the middle piece and discard it and he still couldn’t get it in his mouth.

  • Geof

    Charging over $3 for a glass of cranberry juice and over $3 for a refill was too much for me.

  • http://cincyeats.com MegT

    I can’t tell you how excited I was when I learned it was going in a short half block from my house. Actually, I was so excited I ate there the first day they were open. From this first meal there we had problem, problems that normally would have been fixed. Unfortunately, the problems still happened the 3rd time we ate there. My husband’s entree would come out 10 minutes before mine. Our app. came out after our entree. They forgot the bacon on the BLT (i think this put the nail in the coffin for the husband). On top of all that, I had a hard time justifying the cost, 14.00 for the turkey burger seems a little excessive. The moment that I really knew I probably wouldn’t go back was when I had to get up to order my second glass of wine.
    .-= MegT´s last blog ..Thanksgiving =-.

  • http://cincinnatilocavore.blogspot.com valereee
  • Mt. Adams Reader

    Gratuity included (?!?) at a place where you order in line?
    Give ‘em heck on that one, WMDM.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      The more I think about it, the more I dislike the policy. I had this discussion with someone at the office the other day. What percentage of gratuity is included? 15%? 20%?

  • http://laurascarbonfootprint.wordpress.com Laura

    I love your take on this place, Julie. I’ve been waiting for your review on this one. I was one of those people who was totally thrown off by the tab after waiting in line to place an order at the counter. I loved the food — but the counter ordering + price makes it difficult for me to consider it for regular restaurant rotation.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Missing my car-free lifestyle =-.

  • http://www.SupernaturalBotanicals.com Robin Feltner

    No one can ever get those thick cut fries crispy enough. I had the same problem the other night at 5 Guys. No one at our table went crazy over the fries, unforch.

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  • Heather

    When I went the 2nd or 3rd week after they opened, no one working knew how to make their signature drink, a Mojito, I guess it was their signature drink, it’s the only alcoholic beverage on the menu except wine, and beer too if I remember. The three of us, all former bartenders offered to show them how to make the drink when they could not reach their boss to tell them how to make it and our entrees were sitting there getting cold. Novice service at best. I would be willing to give them ONE more chance since they are so close to my home and my desire to support their concept. I Hope they are listening to us, I’d hate to see them go out of business. I don’t like their tip system either, as our service was pitiful, all young kids.

  • Green Dog

    Thanks for all the feedback. We’ve started a frequent diner program, added many new menu items under $10 and enhanced our service. We’ve added an additional cash register so our servers will be happy to get additional drinks or food and run a tab like a traditional restaurant. Even with this added service, tips are not necessary.

    Reservations are welcome for groups of 5 or more and full table service is available so you don’t have to utilize the walk up service.