Review: Abigail Street

Abigail Street

duck ragout + gnocchi

I love the way my neighborhood is developing. Most weekends, The Better Half and I don’t go much farther than a block or two. We have so many choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner– and more every day– that it’s very tempting to not venture out past the immediate neighborhood. Don’t worry, I know I should, but on evenings like a recent one– tickets to the symphony– it’s so nice to not go very far for a bite after.

Senate, the third restaurant to open in that block of Vine (Venice on Vine has been there for a while; Lavomatic opened in 2008), owned by Dan and Lana Wright, set the bar for the block, even though it wasn’t “first in”. It has to be good, one; it has to be innovative; it has to be interesting. Other restaurants opening recently: A Tavola, Taste of Belgium, and most recently Bakersfield are all following the lead of Senate, so I knew that when Abigail Street opened, it would meet those standards.

Abigail Street

beet salad

I don’t want to spend a review talking about how Abigail is or isn’t like its big brother, Senate, but it’s a natural comparison. Senate is masculine, with hearty foods and hearty portions. Abigail (though larger, space-wise) is more delicate, with smaller portions and almost ladylike ingredients. No hot dogs, no burgers: instead, light, Mediterranean-style bites and wine on tap.

Speaking of the wine on tap– it’s good. They have six or seven varieties on tap. I’m no wine expert, but I like the tap concept– and it’s economical. I like the Pinot Gris that they tend to carry, but I’m on a white wine kick. You can also order flights and they have bottled wine, as well as bottled beer.

Abigail Street

octopus

I’ve been to Abigail several times now, and have tried a good portion of the menu. It’s hard not to when it’s so close by. I’d say two dishes per person is a good number to order, with the assumption that everyone at the table will try bites of everyone else’s’ dish. Think tapas: small portions, suitable for sharing. Each dish is marked with an anchor (seafood), a carrot (vegetarian) or a cleaver (meat). Vegetarians can see at a glance what they can eat (and so can those who may not be into seafood or red meat)– smart.

I love the little bites that combine both the expected and unexpected. My favorite dish by far is the octopus ($15), cooked with crumbled merguez sausage and deep fried chick peas. It’s an unexpected dish: first, you have tender, grilled octopus (which is delicious if you’ve never tried it; I’ll admit that I did have an odd dream the next day about being attacked by a giant squid, Jules Verne style) and spicy crumbled merguez. Then, you get these little pops of fluffy, crispy fried chickpeas– it took me a second or two to realize what they were the first time I had the dish. They’re unexpected and fun, but also a play on the hummus that serves as the dish’s base. I always seem to want a few more of those chickpeas.

I also like the duck ragout and gnocchi ($15)– the duck is not overseasoned or oversauced, so the rich flavor of duck comes through, but it rests on light, flavorful pillows of gnocchi. The bouillabaisse’s ($12) broth reminds me a lot of the broth from the mussels next door (a favorite dish of mine), but with an array of seafood: shrimp, mussels, and halibut. It’s served with grilled bread to sop up that delicious broth. Vegetarians have some great options as well– the beet salad ($8) with toasted hazelnuts (again, unexpected) and a swath of lebna (a cross between cream cheese and yogurt) provides a filling dish of earthy, sweet, crunchy, tangy and creamy; the carrot salad ($10) is packed with flavor, as the carrots aren’t raw, but roasted to bring out their sweetness and topped with a dollop of goat cheese. If you’re a vegan, simply ask them to omit the cheese from these last two dishes, or check out some of the others marked with a carrot. My least favorite dish is the batata– the potatoes are good, but the toppings can make them a bit soggy, though the bright lemon, coriander and garlic flavors are fantastic.

Baklava

baklava

If Abigail Street offered pans of the baklava to take home, I’d buy them (though my waistline would regret it later): this is easily the best baklava I’ve had. It’s not too sweet, not too syrupy, a little warm (so many places serve it straight out of the refrigerator) and the serving is two slices– perfect to split. We order it every time we visit.

Most evenings, there’s a wait– the longest we’ve had: an hour and a half; shortest was nearly immediate seating after the Symphony. They’ll take your number and call you, so feel free to wander over to Sloane or Mica to shop, or grab a drink at Lackman or one of the other nearby restaurants that may have more bar space. The bar space in Abigail is reserved for diners.

Abigail Street on Urbanspoon

  • http://twitter.com/LoriKurtzman Lori Kurtzman

    What did you think of the prices? We went there last night, and we were told each person should order 2-3 dishes. That could mean $45 a person even without wine.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      3 is a little much, unless one of them are the olives. I find 2 to be plenty (generally, when Terry and I go, we get a salad-like dish to split and a more entree-like dish to split.  I think the prices are maybe a bit high– but I said this about Senate, too: as long as they have hour and a half waits on weeknights, they can probably still charge them, you know?

      • Tina

        …and that’s just the thing. With all the new restaurants opening up around Senate with similar price points, one wonders if fans of the gentrified sections will be spread too thin.  I mean, let’s face it:  the people who frequent these kinds of places aren’t hurting for cash.  But how many of them can there be, in this economy?

    • A.Street

      There are 3 dishes that are priced at $15 dollars out of 21 items. Your comment is accurate if you were to order a Hanger Steak, Lamb Shank & gnocchi. In which case two dishes would have sufficed. The remaining dishes range from $5 to $13. I hate seeing people exaggerate at the expense of someone else’s hard work especially someone in the media.

    • Capstation54

      Good, valid question from Lori. Ridiculous, sad, overly sensitive, privileged, and put-upon reply from A. Street. I wonder how they would fare when faced with actual critics instead of the fawning, sycophantic media that they are used to. Annoying.

      • A.Street

        It is a privilege to wake up and do what we love every day. It is however not a privilege to answer criticism over the value of a meal when the person has never eaten with us. We like Lori and hope both of you will dine with us. Our point is that there is a responsibility with in social media to tell truth. Don’t be so mean.

        • Capstation54

          She said she’d been there the previous night, and asked a question of WMDM re: her thoughts on the prices. Again, I wonder what your reaction would be when faced with actual meanness. You have customers who wait for hours to eat your food, but you feel the need to reprimand someone for asking a question? If that is not a pleasure for you to do, don’t do it, starting with the part where you turn a fairly innocuous comment/question into an assault on your soul.

          • http://twitter.com/LoriKurtzman Lori Kurtzman

             I didn’t think I was being mean. I was just surprised by the prices and the 2-3 dish recommendation. I noticed a number of Yelp reviewers raised concern about the price as well.

            But what do I know?  I’ve never seen the place not packed, so obviously you’re doing something right. The restaurant is flat-out gorgeous. I hope you guys do well — and I hope you know I root for small businesses in this town.

  • Tom Bain

    I’ve been to Abigail Street numerous times and it is hands down the best Mediterranean style restaurant in the Midwest.  When the Wright’s open a restaurant, they do everything right; from the food, to the atmosphere, the drinks, the menu…AND THE SERVICE IS THE BEST!!!  This is just one of many successful restaurants to come from these two.

  • Anonymous

    The wines on tap concept may be economical for them, but in my Midwestern mind it’s a crime to not have a glass of wine under $9. For some reason, the psychological barrier between a $7 glass and a $9 glass is huge. 

  • Chris St. Pierre

    The only price criticism I have about A Street is the wine.  While I like the idea of wine on draft, 9 dollars and up is really a large psychological barrier from a 7 dollar glass.  As far as the prices for food, 2 things per person is plenty (even for some of the healthiest appetites – I am a big guy and I like my food).  I can walk out of A Street (tip not included, and I tend to not buy wine there but drink before at some of the other establishments) for less than 45 for two.  Thats not a bad price for a dinner out for two and a full belly.  

    As far as my favorite dish goes, I cannot go and not get the gambas.  Delicious shrimp.  And usually the Koefta and Egg.. Oh, and the Bouillabaise… so many good options!

  • Dan from Clifton

    Just got back from my first trip there.  My date and I each got a flight of wine (a tasting of 3). One of us (not naming names) got an extra glass.  For dinner we shared four plates (dates, scallops, octopus, gnocci) and churros for dessert.  All that, plus wonderful service, came out to $100 total.  

    The food was very good — we liked the scallops the best — and the price was reasonable for two people.