Bar food. What image does that conjure for you? For me, I think things like wings, onion rings, chicken fingers, potato skins– stuff that has recently popped out of a deep fryer and is only tasty because it’s fried. It’s usually a second thought– something to absorb the alcohol you’ve consumed, or to accompany the game you’re watching in a bar. It’s rarely, if ever, something I think about as an option, but more something I order on impulse.
FB’s QBG (Quality Bar Grub) is turning bar food into a destination. Jimmy Gibson, long of Jeff Ruby’s and something of a local fixture in Cincinnati, reemerged into the Cincinnati dining scene after parting ways with Ruby earlier this year by partnering with FB’s. This is an interesting kitchen– no open flame– but it churns out some pretty quality stuff.
FB’s may not be your cup of tea. What’s odd is that I never want to go there, but every time I’ve been there I’ve ended up having a good time. On Thursdays they have karaoke, which attracts some fairly talented people (I believe it’s headed up by the folks from Self Diploma, and there’s some impressive hip hop going on) and some groups of women out having a girls’ night (me and several friends) who are not trying to be impressive. There are also people just taking in the scene– there are plenty of comfortable perches to do so. The food is a nice distraction, and Gibson is a presence in the bar area, delivering food and making sure folks are comfortable. It’s like being in someone’s loud, raucous living room.
The other advantage of QBG being at FB’s is that no one will notice a flash or two going off to document food in the dark. A lot of it was so pretty I couldn’t not take a picture (though the effect was diminished by the flash). There were three of us
, and we chose three items.
Who can resist “Hot and Gooey Grille”– four cheese grilled cheese with Cheetos. This was a really great grilled cheese, with a lot of melty, crispy edges on good quality bread (all qualities I like in a grilled cheese sandwich). The Cheetos added some textural interest, but doesn’t add much flavor. Still, it’s a really great grilled cheese sandwich. It’s served with a Russian-style dressing on the side, which is kind of superfluous– the grilled cheese needs nothing else.
The house-cured Ahi tacos were great, too– maybe a touch underseasoned, but very fresh and bright and not at all the typical greasy bar food. It was served with exceptionally fresh watermelon and topped with pickled red onions, microgreens, and a lightly spicy mayonnaise.
The most impressive presentation was the Morrocan Bus Stop Chicken and Waffles: a deep, rich tomato-based chicken stew with notes of cardamom and clove and studded with golden raisins, reminiscent of a tagine. I described it to my girlfriends as “tasting like incense smells”– it had a very intriguing smoky quality mixed with spices. It was served atop two fluffy waffles and topped with an egg. Brunch? Yes, please.
QBG is open for dinner from 5-11 PM. If you don’t like the bar scene, go early. If you’re good with the bar scene, grab a bite and stay for whatever craziness happens later in the evening. The addition of food takes this place from someplace I’ll go if other friends are going to someplace I may just seek out on my own.