Preview: Senate

DSC_0132I think this may be the most anticipated restaurant opening in a while– even moreso than Local 127, simply because it’s just taken so darn long! They’d had some issues with a liquor license, but now they’re opening officially on Friday, February 19th.  On Wednesday night, I was invited as a neighbor of the restaurant to their preview party. What fun!

It’s in a storefront on Vine Street, in a building that houses new condos, and the storefront is owned by Urban Sites.  In talking with Greg and Kris from US, they pointed out a lot of the neat architectural features– particularly some shelving across from the bar that looks like it might’ve been a passageway at one time.  Take all of that brick, and pair it with the bar and the restaurant looks like it’s been there forever.  It’s a nice use of historic space.

DSC_0158We were greeted at the door with passed cocktails– oh, except they weren’t.  In tall “shooter” style glasses, we were served a really nice corn and lobster soup, with a hint of coconut and curry.  The curry was subtle– so subtle that Terry, who isn’t the world’s biggest curry cheerleader, was on the watch all evening for seconds.

DSC_0156We got our drinks– though there’s a definite focus on craft cocktails here, they weren’t pouring them just yet.  There’s also a focus on craft beers, so we each got brandy snifter glasses of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.  We liked it so much, we stuck with it for most of the evening.  It’s good stuff- a little sweet, a little fruity- but I’ll let the Hoperatives comment more on their beer selection.

Other goodies were being passed as well– predominantly sliders and hotdogs.  We sampled:

  • A curried eggplant sandwich, with perfectly cooked eggplant (often difficult for restaurants to do, I’ve found) with labneh, which is a strained yogurt-like cheese. Rich and tangy– yum.
  • “The Trailer Park”, a hotdog wrapped in bacon, topped with coleslaw and crumbled Grippo’s chips.  Addictive.
  • “The Chicago”, a twist on the traditional Chicago-style dog, was one of Terry’s favorites.
  • “The Mexico City”, a hot dog with guacamole, what appeared to be Chihuaha cheese and a tortilla chip was my least favorite of the hot dog choices, but still really good.
  • A salumi plate, with some hot mustard and very well-made pastrami and other salume





The owners, Daniel and Lana Wright, met at a Chicago restaurant and moved here; Lana is formerly of the Palace, and Daniel worked here with Jean-Robert de Cavel.   According to the Business Courier, we can expect another restaurant to move in next door to the Senate, and lots more to come in the coming months.  I have very high hopes for Senate, and expect a full-fledged review in about a month.  I have a feeling I’ll go there a few times before I review it– since it’s so convenient.  Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s a PBJ&F (Peanut butter, jelly and foie gras) sandwich with my name on it.

Senate on Urbanspoon

26 thoughts on “Preview: Senate”

  • Awesome! The Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. has some of the best beers around, in my opinion, and they are relatively local — Lexington, Kentucky. It’s good to see they are featuring this.

  • PBJ&F…? Really? I’ll be interested in hearing your comments on that. I’m a big fan of PB&J and a big fan of F, but am having a hard time conceiving of the two of them together…at least in a way that would do justice to both.

    • thanks! I bought that DSLR and it helps a lot. I won’t do it for every review, but for a big party like this where lots of people had cameras, I blend in a bit more. I appreciate the compliment; I’m having a lot of fun with it!

      Now, to work on the REST of the resolutions.

  • Wow sounds really interesting to me. The only thing I am trying to figure out is how people feel comfortable spending a lot of money on gourmet food in a neighborhood where many of the children go to bed hungry at night. I mean, what the heck, what are you thinking? Can we stop the gentrification bs and feed our hungry people in Cincinnati before it is too late?

    • 3CDC has made it very clear that their goal is to make the neighborhood to be accessible to everyone– there is still Section 8 housing, there are affordable apartments being built as we speak. Children go hungry in *every* neighborhood right now, not just Over-the-Rhine. Would you rather OTR be a vast wasteland where nothing happens, or a place where good things are happening to make it a viable neighborhood for everyone?

      • I disagree with your comment that it’s becoming a viable neighborhood for “everyone”. The majority of retailers in the Gateway Quarter are not affordale by any means. I live around the corner from this area and haven’t set foot in most places more than once after seeing the prices. I expect there to be gourmet restaurants & nice shops around, but what about in addition to that? I’d love to see some more reasonably priced options.

        • I agree that we need more options, but every neighborhood needs to start somewhere, doesn’t it? Tucker’s on Vine and Venice on Vine are both low cost, fast options with good quality food. You’re right, though, we need a real grocery store (not the glorified convenience store Kroger is) and some other shops for real viability and diversity.

        • While Senate offers gourmet food and drink options in a gastropub style, their prices are pretty reasonable. I haven’t been inside yet, but Daniel Wright (co-owner) told me that prices range from $4 to $18 and that people can come in and get great food and drinks without paying a lot. That price range seems pretty reasonable for the vast majority of the population.
          .-= Randy A. Simes´s last blog ..Tour of The Banks – February 2010 =-.

          • These are all good replies. I do not really have any problem with people spending money to eat, it just seems a strange dichotomy in that particular neighborhood. I do not mean to be unkind here, but it is a little out of touch to even think that 4 -18 is affordable for everyone. It is not affordable to me and I am not on welfare as people in run-down parts of town tend to be. I love OTR, I am not criticizing the effort to upgrade it. I just do not like the idea of doing things that leave the under-resourced community out of the improvements like when the City tore down the projects and built nice condos. It is good to upgrade, but the people there were kicked out and not given help. That is the kind of thing that comes to mind when building restaurants that seemingly cost too much in an obvious place of need.

  • I can’t wait to try Senate! I am very curious about the peanut butter, jelly and foie gras. I had this combination at Corbett’s in Louisville. I seemed to be the only one that didn’t like it. Maybe it was just my mood that night.
    .-= MegT´s last blog ..Vitor’s =-.

  • David– most of the buildings used for the new condos were not inhabited at the time they were demolished. The building that I purchased a condo in– I have pictures of the condition it was in before it was rehabbed– was not habitable, period, and was a den for crime and drugs. There is still section 8 housing across the street. 3CDC is doing a good job of keeping diversity of incomes in the area– and what could be more diverse than section 8, affordable apartments, and multiple pricing levels for ownership? I agree that 4-18 is not affordable to everyone, which is why I’m an advocate for an upgrade in the Kroger in OTR, which really does serve everyone– and currently serves everyone quite poorly.

  • David:

    Where did the city tear down the projects and build nice condos? The only place even close is City West in the West End, but that development is mixed income and is a Hope VI development that includes lots of low-income residents (albeit less than the number there before).

    As for the restaurant/those in need dichotomy you mention, what exactly can and should be done? Should a portion of the revenues from these new restaurants be allocated towards providing food for those in need in the nearby area? If so, is that a reasonable expectation for a small business owner who is risking their own money on their business?

    I contend that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that as Over-the-Rhine becomes more diverse economically it is an net gain for the neighborhood and all those who live and work there. The investment in the Gateway Quarter has created opportunities for several non-profits there to improve their facilities and thus improve the lives of those utilizing those services. As the Kroger grocery store continues to improve its offerings the low-income residents of OTR will equally benefit from the greater availability of fresh produce and healthy food options.
    .-= Randy A. Simes´s last blog ..Tour of The Banks – February 2010 =-.

  • I love this dialogue, because as we help each other think this through, I am sure we can come up with something good and helpful. Julie thank you for your thoughts. I am not going to address them at the moment.

    Randy your thoughts are very helpful as well. The short answer is yes, I do have that expectation of all business owners. But no, not for a start up. They have to be allowed the opportunity to become profitable. In 2008 the GDP for CIncinnati Business district was 93 Billion. If the conglomeration of businesses gave 10% of their profits back to the city that would be 9b which could be used to make a difference. I am not saying this does not happen at all, I am saying that it does not happen full scale.
    Even if that number was reduced to 5%, it would still be 4.5b to improve our city. If that was voluntarily given as an equal percentage based on profits, it would not hurt anyone. I wish I knew the real number to compare it to. I do not know that, I just see our brothers and sisters living in places we would never live and yet having good things for ourselves. I truly hope that our conversation will one day make a difference on a large scale basis.

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