The Better Half likes to go to sports bars. He’s a far bigger sports fan than I am, and sometimes he just wants to watch a game on a gigantic screen with a couple of beers. I, of course, go with him because I am that kind of wife, despite the fact that most sports bars have terrible food. Plus, someone needs to be the designated driver, since there aren’t a lot of spots to do that within walking distance of downtown or OTR.
When I heard about Nick and Drew Lachey opening a sports bar in OTR, I’ll admit — I was skeptical. And a reality show attached? Publicity stunt, right? When I heard that 4EG was collaborating with them, I realized that they were serious — some of the best bars in the city (Lackman, for example) are run by 4EG. They know what they’re doing.
Then, I popped in last week with a few friends for a bite, and was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s a sports bar atmosphere, with a sports ticker and lots of TVs, but one glance at the menu and drink list makes me think that maybe it’s a little more.
Lachey’s Bar Cincinnati brought in Brian Duffy, a celebrity chef from Philadelphia, to consult on the menu. It has some traditional sports bar food — burgers, wings– with a few more interesting options, like a kale, quinoa and edamame salad. On my two visits, I tended toward the more sports-bar style foods, with a few exceptions: the black bean hummus on my first visit was something I’d order often. Served with freshly-fried pita chips, the black bean hummus was something snackable that, with the provided carrot and celery curls, doesn’t break the diet and is still noshable while cheering for your favorite team. All four of us kept coming back for more.
The signature appetizer is a buffalo chicken dip with Ritz crackers. On my second outing, our server asked us if we liked things spicy — my friend and I both do– and she recommended it. It isn’t too spicy — I could see this as great for someone who is wary of spice– but still very flavorful.
On our first visit, we also tried zucchini fries — while the aioli was good, the zucchini was a bit mushy. My dining partner on the second evening had tried them before and said they were crisp and delicious, so perhaps I caught those on an off night.
I tried two sandwiches — the Cuban and the Hair of the Dog. Cubans are so trendy these days — probably because of the movie Chef, and also because they’re a solid sandwich. This is a good (and, apparently, award-winning) interpretation. I like the marinade for the roasted pork shoulder and the twist of pickle relish versus pickles. It was adequately melty and gooey, and one sandwich can easily be split between two people (or, in our case on the first visit, four).
The Hair of the Dog, in theory, is a delicious idea: goetta, eggs and a burger on brioche. It’s brunch on a bun. The first time I tried it, the goetta was a little undercooked — delicious, but not crisp, as I’ve come to expect goetta to be. On the second try, the goetta was much crisper, but the egg was a little overdone, so you didn’t get the delicious, oozing mix of egg and burger. I also think the goetta could be a bit thinner to maximize crispiness (it’s a pretty thick slab; thick enough that you could have a goetta burger without even bothering with the meat patty). If Lachey’s opens for brunch, one of these and a Bloody Mary would likely cure whatever ails you. Overall the flavors are great; it just needs a little tweaking.
As far as sides go, tater tots (both in the Tot Bowl and as a side) are good, and I enjoyed the malt vinegar aioli and housemade ketchup that accompanied the bowl (others at my table enjoyed the cheese), though I didn’t notice a big difference in flavor between the bacon and cheese and parmesan and cheese. Both simply tasted like tater tots (which is really not a bad thing). Broccolini, with garlic and parmesan, was a really nice alternative for someone who doesn’t necessarily want a fried side– simple, but very good.
On my second visit, we tried dessert — a bread pudding with caramel, pecans and chocolate. It was a small portion — just enough for two to have a few bites of something sweet, which is a trend I fully support– and the flavor was fantastic. We did find the center was a bit cool, which is easily fixed.
I had a chance to chat with Drew Lachey — he mentioned that he really wanted to bring something to Over-the-Rhine since they spent so much time here while growing up (they are both SCPA grads, during the era when SCPA was on 13th and Sycamore, and no one wanted to come to Over-the-Rhine). They used to take the #17 bus — reflected in a cocktail name, and the same line that stops right in front of Lachey’s Bar today. If you happen to be female, check out the cavernous ladies’ room complete with a chaise lounge (the pun “LaChaise” immediately came to mind, because I tend to be punny; it’s apparently what they call it too). It’s a nod to his wife, who complains about how terrible women’s restrooms are in sports bars (she’s right). This one isn’t.
A note about their bar offerings: tons of craft beers, wine and cocktails on tap, and some excellent cocktails (including Bloody Marys, as I mentioned earlier). They also have non alcoholic cocktails — as I am participating in Dryuary, it was nice to have an option that wasn’t a diet Coke or plain soda water. Cheers to that.
Lachey’s Bar’s combination of sports bar atmosphere with good food in a downtown location is a winner. I have a feeling that the next time The Better Half asks me to go watch a game with him, we’ll go there — and I will be less inclined to protest.
Disclosure: My second visit did involve the reality show portion of Lachey’s Bar. I was not comped in any way and the opinions are my own, honest ones.