A few weeks ago, Paul and I made our semi-annual trip to Jungle Jim’s, that wonderful foodie destination that can beckon me to spend my whole month’s grocery budget in one fell swoop. We’ve taken to trying new restaurants in the Cincinnati area while down there, and this time was no exception.
However, what did make this trip different is that this year I own an iPhone. And the iPhone has such wonderful applications as Yelp and Urbanspoon, which make finding a restaurant close to my destination a breeze. When I saw a German restaurant listed, I knew we had to try it.
Oleg’s Tavern is a small family run restaurant set in a strip mall in a suburb north of Cincinnati proper, run by a very friendly Ukrainian couple named Oleg and Olena. When I say family run, I mean family run – Oleg mans the kitchen while Olena handles hostessing and waitressing duties. Their two daughters also pitch in to help in various ways as well.
The menu is mostly German (with a few other European specialties thrown in here and there), chock full of such regional delicacies as Goetta (think scrapple, but made with oats instead of corn) and such German/Austrian dishes such as roladen, sausages, pork and sauerkraut, etc.
We started with a bowl of German Potato soup ($5.25), which was thick and hearty and smoky with bits of sausage in it. A really satisfying start to what promised to be a big meal.
We also shared a side as an appetizer, one of their Potato Pancakes with Applesauce ($1.99), which was just like Oma used to make, perfectly golden and crispy on the outside.
Paul went with an entree of braised pork and sauerkraut ($14.95), which paired tender pork with an Austrian-style kraut (more sweet than sour, with chunks of apple and seasoned with paprika) and a side of spaetzle in place of potatoes. While he was thrilled with the pork and the spaetzle, he was expecting a more traditional style sauerkraut and found the sweet kraut a bit offputting. This is purely a matter of personal taste: I, who am just as fond of sweet kraut as I am of sour, thought it was a great example of the dish.
He did, however, really like the Hot German Potato Salad ($2.99), which consisted of chunks of potato covered in a thick and slightly sweet bacon dressing.
I went with the Austrian Meatloaf ($13.95 for a dinner entree), which was a multiple-meat (I want to say beef, pork and veal – although it may be just beef and pork), heavy with mushrooms, very light textured meatloaf that is thinly sliced and served with a delicious mushroom gravy. I also chose spaetzle and sauerkraut, and both paired wonderfully with my choice of meat.
The best part about eating in a place like this is that you get to interact with the people who make and serve your food. Since this was during the mid-afternoon slow period, we had an opportunity to talk to both Oleg and Olena for quite a while. I wondered aloud how it came to be that a Ukrainian man would be so good at cooking German food. It turns out he trained in Germany, which explains the authenticity and skill with which the food is prepared. Olena, his wife, also explained that they will make special off-menu dishes (including Ukrainian/Russian classics) as a special order given enough notice in advance. Good thing to remember.
Needless to say, if we lived in Cincinnati, we’d be regulars at this comfy, casual place. Instead, we’ll have to settle on making sure we visit when we’re in the area. To someone with a German background who misses her grandmother’s cooking, it’s the closest I’ve come in restaurant form in quite a while.
By the way, it wasn’t until I was doing this review that I noticed that all of their food is organic/natural. Nice touch that makes me love them even more.
If you’d like to go: Oleg’s Tavern, 11929 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, OH 45249, 513.774.0700