Restaurant review: Greenhouse Tavern

So many places to eat, so few date nights…

We managed to get out again last weekend and visited The Greenhouse Tavern, a relatively new spot downtown on E 4th. One of the things that originally attracted us was chef/owner Jonathon Sawyer’s dedication to sustainability. He epitomizes the slow food, farm-to-table movement, and also had Greenhouse certified as the first green restaurant in Ohio. Of course, while all of this is great, the key to success is having good food. And oh, is it ever.

The menu is divided up by relative size, and the meal is designed as a series of smallish (sometimes) courses. It tends towards a French-American style with a twist, but there’s plenty here to meet anyone’s taste, including several vegan/vegetarian options.

For starters, we ordered the Warm Bread and Butter Board, which was just that – a variety of breads and crackers served with (on this night) six different buttery spreads, including beet, lemon-honey-mint, beef, tomato-basil, vanilla, and a citrusy ricotta-style. Each was unique and really offered a great new take on the typical bread and butter that’s served before most meals.

The next plate was Corn Carbonara, consisting of local sweet corn, pancetta, sheep’s milk cheese, black pepper, and bread crumbs. The pepper was quite noticeable, and there was also a hint of something else, maybe caraway? The pancetta was nice and chunky, and the contrasting textures of crunchy top/creamy center is always pleasant. Think of this as a very grown-up take on mac and cheese.

S opted for something lighter for her main course (good idea), and went with a fantastic Tomato Quinotto Summer Stew – quinoa, barley, millet, fresh tomatoes, tomato nettles (never heard of them), and garlic scapes. Very fresh, very tomatoey, and just a great summer night stew, also serving as a nice counter to my dish.

Speaking of my dish… the highlight of the evening, and not just for me. One of their signature dishes is the Roasted Pig Head. Sounds pretty crazy, and I guess it kind of is just for the shock value, but it really just ends up as pulled pork from a different part of the pig. It’s served with a tangy-spicy barbecue sauce, raw veggie salad, and a couple superb brioche buns. It’s only a half head, and the brain, eye, and tongue are removed, so it’s not that crazy, but it’s still a big piece of pig, served, literally, on a silver platter. The head is a pretty fatty cut, but there was still a lot of meat, and all of it completely fall-apart, melt-in-your-mouth tender. On such a beautiful night, we were sitting outside, right up against the main thoroughfare through the alley. As a result, my dinner elicited many stares and comments until I was able to deconstruct it enough that it didn’t look like a head. It was kind of amusing to be eating, then get to the jaws and have a mouth full of teeth smiling at me…

We also had one more course (admittedly, we probably overdid it, but everything sounded so good), some lovely pommes frites, topped with bacon (chunks again), two fried eggs, whole grain mustard, mozzarella cheese curds, and brown gravy. Seasoned nicely, but a bit heavy following so much pork. Most of this one was brought home for lunch the next day.

Finally, for dessert, we tried the signature summer dish, kicked up a notch, with a S’more Torte – smoked chocolate cake with chocolate caramel, graham cracker, and chilled marshmallow, all of it made in-house. The essence of the campfire s’more was there, but with so much more depth. Just try it.

The verdict: Greenhouse Tavern receives 6 1/4 stars out of seven. The food was superb, even though we did get a bit carried away, service was great (big thanks to our knowledgeable and pleasant server Jody), and prices were reasonable (though there are a few splurges on the menu, like the $59 dry-aged rib steak). So yes, not only do they share many of the same values that we hold, the food also makes sure this is on the list of “Gotta get back to someday.”

The Greenhouse Tavern on Urbanspoon

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