Posted by: nekojita | December 17, 2007

Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails

Hmm… I am still not used to taking a picture of everything that I eat. So, sadly there are no pictures for this little post about Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails.

Anyhow, B and I decided to use our Originals GC gift certificate for the Tip Top last night. We wanted to do it before we leave for California (next Sunday!), from which point I will be staying there. We really like the Surly Girl up in Short North; it was the best bar close to the furnished apartment we let while we were in the process of buying a house.
Now that we are in German Village, Short North seems a wee bit far away. So, we thought we’d try Tip Top. It’s still a little distant (1.5 m away from our house) but walkable in nice weather. Since there wasn’t, we drove.

Despite a fairly divey-looking exterior, the inside of the Tip Top was decked out with the same loving attention to ornate detail that we see in Surly Girl and Betty’s. I love pressed tin ceilings, although I don’t know if this one was original to the building or brought in. We were able to get one of the tall, carved wooden booths in the sideroom, where we were nonetheless able to see the TV hanging above the bar. It was playing X-Men III and then Lord of the Rings, so we felt right at home–sweet, nerdy home.

According to the menu, the website and the walls bristling with Ohio-ana, Tip Top specializes in Ohioan food, a term which I am not sure that I have ever heard before (Cincinnati chili doesn’t count, since it is explicitly identified with the city rather than the state). I don’t think that it will really catch on as a term, since most of the food on the menu looks like food that is typical many other places in the US. Pot Roast, Country-Fried Steak, Mac n’ Cheese, Reuben Sandwich–by God’s toes, these are the staples of the American housewife’s kitchen and the Roadside Diner! Of course there were some concessions to innovation (a loaded term): Citrus Salmon (?!) and Eggplant Fries (I can’t resist eggplant–they were pretty good!). Also, whiskey–their signature liquor–is from Kentucky or Tennessee, which are close to Ohio but not actually part of it. Ranting aside though, it was good, comforting food, done very nicely indeed. And it probably is what a lot of Ohioans ate growing up and eat now.

The star of the meal was the Blue Ribbon Pot Roast. B looked at the menu for all of 5 seconds and pounced upon it as his selection. The roast was perfectly tender, falling apart at the touch of a fork, and deeply, cleanly beefy. The vegetables had retained their flavor, yet were tender and cooked. The pot roast had arrived swimming in what appeared to us to be an excessive amount of beef jus. Yet, by the end of the meal we, saw that it had been the perfect amount to supplement the well-cooked meat, which soaked it up like a delicious sponge. B was very, very happy.

I chose the country-fried steak, which was respectably good as well. This dish is also known as chicken-fried steak in some parts of the country–an appellation that had originally confused my-eight-year-old self with a Jessica-Simpson like contemplation of its animal provenance. Chicken or steak? Granted, all misapprehension was cleared up once I had actually tasted it. Anyhow, country-fried steak is a less confusing name, albeit less evocative. Tip Top’s one was very big and encased in a crunchy crumb shell of breading. To me, it seemed like a weird beef tonkatsu (a Japanese pork-based adaptation of wiener schnitzel), but was tasty, especially with the mashed potatoes and gravy. These two items lacked a little salt but had a lovely creaminess to them which complemented the crunchy, deep-flavored steak. Still, I felt envious of B and his pot roast. It’s just a matter of good and better.

Also, before I forget, the bread that came with the entrees was soooo good. It reminded me of this oatmeal molasses bread that we used to get at the Staff of Life grocery store in Santa Cruz. It was perfect for sopping up the few remaining puddles of pot roast jus. Unfortunately, the waitress did not know where the kitchen manager got it.

We finished with a shared sliced of cherry-apple pie, since we can’t resist the allure of things-in-a-crust. It was a generous piece, and the filling was pleasantly tart and sweet, which is the point of combining the apples and cherries, I think. The crust, which tasted nicely of butter (rather than shortening), was a little tough and underbrowned by my standards. Oh well. Y’all should know that I am kind of a pie-snob, so my criticisms should be taken with a grain of salt.

Oh! I almost forgot the drinks. B picked Bell’s Two Hearted from their once-extensive and now-slightly-less-so roster of draft beers. It was delicious and well-crafted–we’ve come to expect no less from Bell’s. The Midwest certainly has more than its fair share of excellent small breweries. I got the Flytown Pick-Me-Up (whiskey, ginger ale and maple syrup) from their list of Whiskey specialty drinks. It was nice, a little sweet, but perfect when the lime garnish had been squeezed into it. Happily, they must use some non-icky whiskey as their standard for well drinks, because I had none of that shuddering, I’m-drinking-poison sensation that I get sometimes at other bars when ordering a standard whiskey sour. I would order it again, if I were in the mood for something on the sweet side, but what I am really hankering to try is the flight of small batch whiskeys that we noticed too late to order…

Overall, we had a nice, comfortable time at Tip Top last night. I imagine that we will be back, especially when the weather is good enough for us to walk.

The theme of Ohio food continues to irritate and intrigue me though. Is the Tip Top trying to assert that, with its lack of a distinctive local cuisine, central Ohio is the quintessential America? Or, is the Tip Top trying to regionalize what has been perceived as a vague national menu, asserting that it is in fact local, with specific geographical provenance? I’m probably reading too much into this…

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