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Friday Five: On the side, please

Senate(Guest post by The Artist Formerly Known as “The Boyfriend”)

Complete the following:  Baked possum and _______.

(Stick with me.  There’s a point here, I promise.)

If you answered with anything other than “sweet potatoes,” you’re probably not a native Southerner.  And even though it has become more of an inside joke than anything else among us who were born to drawl (one that I pull out of my hat occasionally to remind Julie of my glorious lack of sophistication), no self-respecting Southerner who would serve baked possum would serve it without sweet potatoes.  (And if you’re wondering, the answer is yes.  I have eaten baked possum and sweet potatoes, though it has been at least thirty-five years since the last time my late grandmother prepared it.)

Perfect side dishes make for perfect meals.  Some meals are just incomplete without the expected sides.  A burger without fries?  Oh, please.  Barbecue without coleslaw? Why bother?

Following, in no particular order, is my list of five favorite side dishes in Cincinnati.  In most cases, I look forward to the sides as much as or more than the entree.

  1. Truffle fries, Senate — You know that something is delicious if you crave it when you’re not hungry.  A few weeks back, Julie and I had just finished dinner at Senate.  I can’t speak for Julie, but I was stuffed to the gills.  Our server then delivered an order of truffle fries to the table next to us.  My first thought:  “God, those smell good.”  And don’t even think about ketchup…the aioli that chef/owner Daniel Wright serves with them is the only way to go.
  2. Cheddar grits, smoQ — I ordered these the first time Julie and I ate at smoQ, just after they opened this past winter.  On each subsequent visit, I haven’t considered not ordering them.  They’re that good.  Wonderful texture.  Just the right amount of cheesiness.  I could easily make a meal out of these grits on a cold winter morning.
  3. Coleslaw, Montgomery Inn — I’ve never had a meal at Montgomery Inn without a side of slaw.  The addition of horseradish gives the dish a little extra kick and is the perfect accompaniment for their ribs or pulled pork.  I’m a real fan of coleslaw, and I’ve never eaten any better.  I’ve been known to get an extra order to go…just to make sure I had plenty for the leftovers.
  4. Creamed spinach, The Precinct (and, I’m sure, other Jeff Ruby restaurants) — Normally, I want potatoes with my steak, but at The Precinct, it’s creamed spinach for me.  The buttery-ness and creaminess of this dish are unrivaled.  The perfect compliment to one of Ruby’s signature steaks.
  5. Potato rags, Habits — This is one of those dishes that can be a side, an appetizer, or a meal unto itself.  There’s nothing better than perfectly cooked, crispy, golden hash browns…unless one should cover them with chopped bacon, onions, tomatoes, three kinds of cheese, and ranch dressing.  Yum.

So there’s my list, but I’d sure love some suggestions to expand the list to ten.  Any recommendations?