Review: Chi-nnati’s

I found myself, one recent weekday night, hungry for something.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what.  I had a few qualifications:

1) It had to be on my way home from work, and, since by that time it was 6:30, not far off the highway.

2) No fast food.  I wanted to sit, relax, and have a cocktail.

3) Not terribly expensive. I really wanted to go to the Brown Dog Cafe, but I also wanted leftovers.

4) Not Asian cuisine of any sort

5) Something I hadn’t written about yet.

I am not easy to please.

So, as I drove down 71, I decided to get off at Montgomery Road in Kenwood.  I knew that by simply turning left, I’d have a few options.  The first one I noticed?  Chi-nnati’s.  They had a big sign out front that said “Happy Hour”.  Sold!

Okay, if you throw a cocktail my way, I’m a little easy to please.

I popped into Chi-nnati’s (pronounced “Shuh-nati”, or thereabouts, it wasn’t consistently pronounced among the staff)  well in the middle of the aforementioned happy hour.  I used to love Jalapeno’s, but there’s no hint that this building was ever a Mexican restaurant.  It’s completely redesigned, very modern, with some fantastic signage.   Honestly, if I didn’t know better, the experience of the restaurant is so slick that I’d assume it to be a chain.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  Time will tell.

Unfortunately, the hostess didn’t get off on the right foot.  As a single person, we often get the worst seats in the restaurant.  I’m not sure why (industry folks, please explain the logic here), but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been seated next to the bathroom, or in a corner, or in what felt like Antarctica because I was a single diner.  When it’s crowded, it doesn’t bother me, but when there are only two tables in the restaurant with diners, I’d prefer something a bit nicer.  I asked, politely, and was moved to a window seat.

I ordered a gin and tonic ($4), and a half-price appetizer, bruschetta.

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I was hungry, thus only half of the dish was left before I realized that I ought to take a picture.  The bread was nice, crusty bread, toasted with garlic and butter.  The tomato topping was bland– the tomatoes weren’t quite ripe, and it essentially tasted like salsa with no heat.  It needed more basil and garlic and salt to bring out the flavor.

It’s a good thing I got it, too, because I had forgotten how long Chicago-style deep dish pizzas take.  It’s a half an hour from ordering until it’s on your plate, so by the time I’d have gotten it I’d have chewed my arm off.  This is not a meal to enjoy if you are in a rush.

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Chi-nnati’s menu features both Chicago-style deep dish pizza and a thinner, cracker-like crust.  The specialty pizzas range from a Cincinnati Chili pizza to a Barbecue Baconnati pizza, Canadian bacon and pineapple– and, of course, a create-your-own.  Since the Barbecue Baconnati pizza was not available as a deep dish, I chose a simple preparation of bacon, pineapple and onions in a deep dish crust.

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The pizza was good– the sauce spicy and rich, with lots of cheese, and a good amount of toppings.  The pizza was huge– a 10″ small, said to feed 1-2, really could have fed four.  I had a slice, and took the rest home (I was full from the bruschetta, and one slice is a lot of pizza and cheese).  I liked the deep dish crust, dusted with cornmeal, and liked how well it held up to its toppings.  The onions and pineapple were not soggy or overcooked, but there was a major problem (in my opinion) with the bacon:  it was not cooked prior to baking.  As the bacon was inside the pie, there was no danger of it overly browning, so why not fry it up?  Instead, I got smoky bacon flavor, with chewy pieces of soft, pale bacon instead of a crispy crunch (which is what I was looking for).  My preference– but also a complaint.

My dinner ended up being around $25, with lots of leftovers.  The pizza is not inexpensive– those $1.50 toppings add up– so take a friend at happy hour to keep the prices lower.  Two people who can agree on toppings would be more than satisfied with an appetizer and a 10″ pizza split between them.

The service rounded out to be fair– the server wasn’t terribly attentive, but I didn’t want her to be.  Sometimes it IS nice to eat alone.

I’d definitely go back– it’s nice to have some choice in town.  Next time, I’ll try the thin crust.

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