Remember how I promised a review of The Greenhouse Tavern after a scheduled work meeting about a half a year ago? I FINALLY made it back for dinner with friends on a recent Saturday evening:
- (c/o their Facebook fan page)
From their opentable.com page: We are guided by two principles: the idea that the proximity of the farm and soil to a restaurant correlates to the quality if its food and that environmentally conscious or green business practices are fundamental. Using these two complementary principles we serve food inspired by classic recipes interpreted with local ingredients in a casual atmosphere at approachable prices.
I’ve been to the restaurant twice for lunch, but never for dinner. When two of my favorite people – my oldest friend in the world Erin and her husband Brian – said they were in town for the weekend, I knew a dinner date was in order. Brian wanted to go back to The Greenhouse Tavern after their last, highly-enjoyed experience. I happy obliged their request and made a 7:15PM reservation. We arrived on time and were immediately sat at one of the tables in the front window space.
When I informed our server (who never told us his name) about my gluten intolerance, I asked if he could find out if the ratatouille or the risotto would be okay for me to order. He told me that they had one of their menus specifically labeled “gluten free”, with everything crossed off that would be a no-go. When he bolted back to the host stand, I thought he would return with said menu. Instead, he bounded back to report the ratatouille would be fine. When I asked about the risotto, he never answered or acknowledged the question. This is when I knew we were in trouble.
He gave us some time with the beverage menu before the boys ordered some beers off the seasonal menu and the ladies ordered some wine. Erin and Brian decided to share the four course chefs tasting menu, while Hans and I made separate selections. We then ordered the following items from the following sections of the menu:
FROM THE “FIRSTS”:
- Erin and Brian ordered the Hand Ground Beef Tartare w/ crispy rice, mustard sabayon & horseradish root.
- I ordered the French Breakfast Radishes w/ butter, lemon zest & sea salt.
FROM THE “SECONDS”:
- Erin and Brian ordered the Crispy Chicken Wings Confit w/ roasted jalapeño, lemon juice, scallions & garlic.
FROM THE “THIRDS”:
- Erin and Brian ordered the Ohio Corn Linguine Carbonara w/ pancetta pepato, lots of black pepper, pecorino, cold poached egg & crème.
- Hans ordered the Steak Frites w/ ohio beef strip steak, pommes frites, parsley, shallot mignonette & buerre rouge.
- I ordered the Ratatouille Vegetables Involtini w/ outdoor eggplant, goldbar zucchini, crookneck squash, dry olives, flageolet beans & grilled heirloom tomato.
FROM THE “HALFS”:
- Erin and Brian ordered the Whole Grilled Ohio Peas w/ sliced radish, lemon & spicy horseradish root.
In theory, you would expect the “FIRSTS” to come out first, then the “SECONDS”, then the “THIRDS” with the “HALFS”, right? (You know I’m asking for a reason…)
First came out Erin and Brian’s Hand Ground Beef Tartare starter. About the size of a shot glass, they knew splitting this dish would mean just a bite for each of them. Luckily, they were both very pleased with their bites.
Next out were Erin and Brian’s Whole Grilled Ohio Peas. Erin was a bit confused as she expected them to be served with her linguine. They waited a moment to see if their wings were on the way before digging into the peas. Since the whole peas were grilled and not blanched, they had some serious chewing to do as the pea pods were certainly more al dente. While this didn’t bother Erin as much, Brian opted to dissect the pods to get to the peas inside. They were pleased with the taste but not necessarily the doneness of the veggie.
Next to arrive at our table was Erin and Brian’s Ohio Corn Linguine Carbonara, which scored major points for presentation in that pig shaped bowl:
As we were still confused to what the order of food expediting was, I encouraged Erin and Brian to eat while their food was still hot. The couple had nothing but praise for this dish. They though all the ingredients were well balanced, with just the perfect distribution of corn, meat and pasta. Even for a carbonara, they noted it wasn’t too heavy and the two enjoyed every bite.
Luckily for us, the entrees that Hans and I ordered came out shortly after the arrival of the pasta. Hans was definitely ready to eat when his Steak Frites arrived:
He thought the fries were very good. Anyone who’s ever eaten at The Greenhouse Tavern knows a meal without the fries is a sin. He poured some gravy over them and was fairly pleased with the potato option. However, he was disappointed with his steak. While the steak had nice seasoning, it was on the fatty side which made it tricky to eat. While he ate what he could, I could tell that he wasn’t satisfied or content.
My intended starter of the French Breakfast Radishes became my side dish with my entree:
I really like this starter option. As I specifically asked for it before my entree, I would have preferred it about fifteen minutes earlier. I love the combination of flavors of the radishes with the dressed salad greens beneath. The butter added such a nice, almost decadent touch. This was a keeper.
Considering I didn’t have as much to select from, I was pretty content with this selection. I didn’t want to feel weighed down by a heavier meal that evening, so the combinations of veggies did the trick. The sauce balanced out the wide array of ingredients. I ate every bite – not a surprise after running five miles that afternoon!
Midway through their pasta entree, Erin and Brian asked our server about the whereabouts of their “second” course. Our server didn’t admit to it, but he definitely looked like he had forgotten to place the order. In about the amount of time it takes to make some wings, their order of Crispy Chicken Wings were finally delivered:
Erin has dubbed these the second best wings she’s ever tasted – second only to a dish she had in NYC a few years back. She was not disappointed when they finally appeared. They were as tasty as she remembered. Erin, Brian and Hans enjoyed every bite.
After some of our dishes were removed, we were offered the dessert menu. Erin asked specifically for a coffee and our server ran away before asking anyone else if they wanted a post-dinner beverage. When he returned, we had some questions about the dessert menu. He wasn’t able to answer any of them and by this point, we were too annoyed to wait for him to find out the answers.
Taking a chance, we ordered the Artisanal Cheese Plate which included a rotating chefs’ selection of three cheeses w/ dried fruits, nuts & honey:
Our server didn’t know what the three cheese were, so I can’t tell you what tasty delights we enjoyed. This was a great cheese board nevertheless. There was a pile of a great blue cheese (midway down the board) that was unlike any blue cheese I had ever tasted before. It was much less pungent than most and was a nice change of pace. Also, the honey covered nuts and dried fruit gave us the much needed bit of sweetness to end our meal.
LONG STORY SHORT: I wanted this experience at The Greenhouse Tavern to be so much more than it was. I was so excited to return to this spot for dinner, so excited to take Hans there for the first time and so excited to share the experience with my favorite dining-out couple. When we left the restaurant that evening, we all were conflicted and confused from the meal experience we had just had.
While the food was solid, the service ruined the dining experience. While I’m aware that we dined at one of Cleveland’s most popular restaurants on a busy Saturday evening, the missteps that took place during our meal were so basic that there really isn’t an excuse for them. Our section was well staffed in quantity, but lacked in quality. I know from my previous experiences of dining at The Greenhouse Tavern that this is not the norm, which is why I’m so surprised from the experience we had.
That said, you only get one chance to make a first impression. When we got home, Hans said to me, “I never want to go back there.” While I am definitely willing to give it another shot, it looks like I’ll have to find another dining partner to accompany me.