I can’t tell you how many times I have driven or walked past Washington Platform. I’ve known about the place since I was a kid, when I would page through the Entertainment Book (do they still make physical books, or are they all online?) and look at the menu. There were a lot of restaurants in there I thought looked good (Bacalls, The Black Forest, InCahoots, some Asian places whose names I don’t recall) but that my parents never visited, since they were off the beaten path and weren’t to my parents’ taste. Oysters? My mom and dad would never eat those!
For the past few years, Terry and I have walked or driven by and said, “You know, we ought to eat there.” It’s just a few blocks away from our home, after all. A couple of weeks ago, we dragged a friend there to try it out. Our friend, Melissa, is not a fan of oysters, but the menu revealed more than just bivalves.
Washington Platform probably hasn’t been redecorated since I was obsessively thumbing through the Entertainment Book in the 80s. There’s a bar area, a “casual” area, and a more formal dining room. On a Saturday night, only the bar and “casual” area had customers; the dining room (in Miami Vice beige and pastel) was empty, which is a shame, because if you get past the pastels, there is some fantastic art depicting the city of Cincinnati, including the Miami-Erie Canal (now Central Parkway, and only about a block away). The space, after all,
dates to the 1860s, when the surrounding area was one of the booming Metropolises of the United States.
The staff was friendly, and the rest of the guests all regulars– a couple of police officers having dinner, guys at the bar watching baseball, a family in the corner eating fried oysters. It’s diverse and comfortable, and our server friendly and helpful.
Terry and I split a dozen oysters on the half-shell. The server timidly asked us if a dollar upcharge was okay– explaining that they had to get different oysters because of the oil spill. This was not an issue, but apparently someone was less than kind when the $1 per entree upcharge was explained the night before. It’s actually forced them to get better oysters– Chesapeake Blue Points– instead of their standard Gulf oyster. Okay by me. They were fresh and delicious, and definitely worth the extra $1 on top of the already-low $13.75– about a buck a piece, considering it was a baker’s dozen. I liked the “mix your own” cocktail sauce– we both like ours heavy on the horseradish.
As far as entrees, both Terry and I decided to continue the oyster tradition– after all, this is the home of the Oyster Festival each March and April– with an Oyster Po’Boy and a fried oyster platter.
The po’boy was only okay– it came with a chipotle mayonnaise which they applied in an entirely too heavy-handed way, to the point where that was all I tasted. I worried that they did this to cover up some inferior oysters, so I tried one of Terry’s fried oysters– which were excellent! There was no need to slather on all of that chipotle mayonnaise, as it covered up the delicate flavor of the fried oysters. If anything, it would be best with just a very light application of remoulade (instead of an overly spiced chipotle mayonnaise) would be more than enough. I also expected a French-style roll or section of baguette instead of the soft hamburger-style roll that it used. The result was mushy, and I would not order it again.
As I mentioned, the fried oysters– perfectly cooked, fresh, and delicious– were a great choice. Sometimes, simpler is better, and this is one of those times. Save the po’ boys for New Orleans, and stick with fried oysters here.
Melissa chose the chicken pasta, which was incredibly cheesy and spicy. She really liked it– I had a bite and thought it was a bit rich (perhaps this was because I had just taken a bite of that po’boy). The portion was generous, and she had plenty to take home and eat the next day (which she did, she says). There are a bunch of non-oyster options on the menu, and some vegetarian options as well, and the salads come with house-made dressing.
Washington Platform is historically unique, has a great, home-y vibe, and serves some fantastic oysters. Go soon, and try their oyster-based dishes. Though they’re now a dollar extra, it’s a dollar well spent. They’re now introducing a Jazz Brunch on the second Sunday of the month, and have a killer happy hour from 4-7 during the week, including half-price appetizers, $2 draft beers, and for both the happy hour and dinner, parking at the lot across the street is free. We’ll be making it a regular destination for oysters downtown.