Review: The Rookwood

I am always open to second chances.

I’m sure that’s why I’m considered by people who know me in person to be so “nice”– I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and provide plenty of second chances. Now, once you’ve really ticked me off, you’ve lost that chance, but it takes a lot to do that.

I had eaten at The Rookwood a couple of times before. Once was about a year or so ago, and was a mixed experience.  We went back with a large group that also was a mixed bag. The major problem I had was grease:  both the burger and the pork belly sandwich I had were far greasier than they should have been, and it turned me off of The Rookwood for a while (and, let’s face it, there are lots of other places I needed to try).  However, folks kepttelling me about how much they liked it– so I went back.Photo

I didn’t just go back, I took my mom. For her birthday.  I was definitely taking a risk.

You see, Mom used to come up here when it was the Rookwood Pottery during her days as a season ticket holder for the Bengals.  She liked it then, and she liked it as Porkopolis, but she hadn’t been up there in ages.  She was excited to maybe sit in a kiln (we didn’t) and to see the beautiful view of the city and river (we did).

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She was excited to try their cocktails, as I’d told her about Romm Wells and all of the fun stuff he does.  Mom doesn’t like bourbon or other dark liquors, so I ordered her a Les Fleurs de Mal, a twist on a French 75: champagne,absinthe-soaked sugar cube, Hendrick’s and rose syrup (will I be making this at home? Oh yes).  She really liked it– she’s a big fan of champagne and had never had a cocktail made with it.  I picked up a Tailored Misfit:  Bulleit Bourbon, Luxardo Maraschino, Carpano Punt y Mes, and a spiced bourbon-soaked fig.  It was essentially a take on a Manhattan and it, too was great.

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We wanted appetizers (to start soaking up the alcohol), so we settled on olives and deviled eggs.  The olives were nice– I believe they’re house cured– and the deviled eggs were good, topped with “Grippo dust” and bacon.  At $9 for six deviled egg halves, I probably won’t order them again, but they were fun.

We each ordered a sandwich as well.  Mom went with the Rookwood Club, which is a fun twist on a club sandwich:  they deep-fry the turkey, roast the tomatoes, the ham is local, and they use guacamole instead of mayonnaise.  She really liked it, and had half to take home.

PhotoI went for the Torta Cubana.  I loved the filling– very moist, fried pork loin (reminiscent of the Indiana-style fried pork loin my friend Natalie is always trying to find– found it!), ham, Swiss cheese, their house-made pickles and a spicy aioli.  My only slight disappointment was that the bread was the same as the club.  It would have been even better on a crustier bread.  I’d definitely order it again.

My favorite part of the meal, though, were the Grippos fries.  I’m still not quite sold on the $5 upcharge, but the spicy-sweet coating on the perfectly cooked fries made me realize that I’d probably be handing over several 5-spots in the future, as these were addictively good and a new addition to my list for best fries in the city.  Am I a sucker? Yes.  For tasty, tasty fries.

And this is why I give second chances:  sometimes they don’t work out so well (a certain barbecue place I’ve been to half a dozen times and still don’t understand the fuss about…) and sometimes they turn out like Rookwood, where they stumbled the first couple of times but ended up impressing.

The Rookwood Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

  • debbie

    Joe’s diner has grippo french fries for no upcharge

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      I’m not a fan of their frozen, battered fries, though.

  • http://cincybibliophile.blogspot.com/ Josh O

    Oh man, do I love The Rookwood. My fiancee and I live right by Eden Park, so this is a go to place when we want something upscale without being too fancy. We’ve been there a handful of times and it’s definitely one of our favorite places in Cincinnati. At night, the lighting and atmosphere is tremendous.

    Plus they have an amaaaaazing beer selection. Their have a couple of rotating taps which are top knotch.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      It’s tremendous unless you want to take a picture. ;) You’re right– it’s a very romantic restaurant, but not so romantic it feels special-occasion.

      • http://cincybibliophile.blogspot.com/ Josh O

        Yeah, definitely not good for taking pictures at all. I’m not allowed to take pictures at dinner, so it works out perfectly anyways. ;)

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  • Rafael de Acha

    Hello, Julie! I keep hoping that sometime somebody in Cincinnati will get the Cuban sandwich concept right. The Rookwood – you say – does it with the same bread as the Club Sandwich and you fault them for this (and rightly so) as the most important component of the Cuban sandwich is the bread. For the “medianoche” (midnight) sandwich (pork, ham, swiss, mustard, pickle) the bread is the “pan de medianoche” which is not even remotely related to generic sandwich bread, but a semi-sweet soft bun vaguely similar to a hot dog bun, only better. The regular Cuban sandwich has the same components (pork, ham, swiss, mustard, pickle) but it’s bigger and made with a baguette (similar to Italian, not French bread) that is buttered and then grilled on something akin to a Panini press, which turns it into
    a thing of wonder: a crusty exterior with a melted inside. We Cubans usually accompany the medianoche (as a late night snack – Cubans eat late) with a “cafe con leche.” The heartier Cuban sandwich is usually enjoyed with a beer or a glass of red wine. When in Miami, try one of these at any of the eateries in Little Havana. They are so big those sandwiches you may want to split one with your significant other. Buen Provecho!

  • rittja

    It’s still a “mixed bag” (according to the gist of your most recent review)! For instance,you didn’t agree with any of the item’s charges (or values). When your mother liked Rookwood, they were known for doing simple things (burgers, etc.) WELL!!! The fact of the matter is that they try so hard to be different (hip), that they consistently miss the mark and therefore the food and experince necassarily suffer.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      I don’t think so– first, I wasn’t comparing to the original (which I ate at multiple times), as that’s a bit unfair. I don’t think the food or experience suffered, and my only complaint was a couple of items weren’t priced right. That’s not a mixed-bag, in my book, but pretty positive. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed our meals.

  • http://howidealwithmycrazylife.blogspot.com/ Jessica E.

    I really enjoyed my experience at Rookwood. You have to try the fried bacon…it is pure evil…but in the best way possible! It’s definitely something you have to try at least once. The ooo-ing and ahh-ing that came from our table of four was obscene! And surprisingly it really wasn’t greasy, like you would expect!

    Besides the wonder of their fried bacon, the drinks were fantastic and all of our sandwiches were tasty. Two of us got burgers and two got pork belly sandwiches. Nothing was greasy that night, everything was delicious.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      Fried bacon. Oy. Stretchy pants-wearing commence…

  • vudutu

    Good review, glad you returned, we LOVE french 75s, like the absinthe addition would like to try it minus the sugar cube. The Torta Cubana sounds fab, we often wish for a good Cuban place in town, we will have to go try it. The best reason to frequent Rookwood is Romm, folks if you have not hung at the bar hugging the kiln at do try it, great place to take out of towners. I am also looking forward to sunsets on that new deck.

  • http://girlswhogrub.blogspot.com Girls Who Grub

    Recently went to The Rookwood and had mixed feelings, but agree that the Grippo fries were the best! Check out our review…

    http://girlswhogrub.blogspot.com/2011/02/rookwood-bar-restaurant.html

  • laura

    I finally found someone to go with to Rookwood and I was so looking forward to having the Grippo fries tonight till I emailed the restaurant for an ingredient check. I can’t eat the chips because of the MSG and turns out the “dust” has it listed as the third ingredient.