If you haven't been to Cincinnati's Senate restaurant on Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine, you haven't had some of the best food this city has to offer.
And with the Queen City's admiration for fine dining thriving in the up-and-coming Gateway Quarter district, Senate is this week's Cincinnati Rising feature.
The combo bar/restaurant was one of the first to take the leap and buy a storefront on Vine Street north of Central Parkway in 2010, helping kick-start OTR's regeneration.
That daring leap has paid off for taste buds all across the Tri-State and made way for so many more unique eateries to follow suit.
Showing up on several "Top Hot Dog in the Country" lists, Senate has made a name for itself with its delicious combinations on their gourmet hot dogs, changing the "Dog of the Day" to keep the creativity going for those (like me) who have tried everything else on the menu, but also doing the rest of their items to perfection. Their food mission: To present upscale street food that's varied enough to suit most appetites but taken up a few notches so no one is disappointed. And it's mission accomplished for this eatery.
Senate's appetizers set the tone for deliciousness in every bite. A decent variety to choose from with tasty salads, oysters and a corn tamale among others, but it's the Poutine that each and every Senate-goer needs to order. A Canadian treat originally, it takes French fries, cheese curds, braised shortrib and gravy to make up this to-die-for dish. Yes, it will spoil your diet, but it will be worth it.
Moving on to the next course is the hard part. With so many delicious dogs and other dinner delights, you know immediately when you look at Senate's menu, you'll have to come back to try more.
Remember to listen closely to your server's dog of the day, but the mainstays of the menu that are always worth ordering will tempt new-comers and returning-visitors alike.
The Korean ($9, homemade kimchi, braised short rib and pickled cucumber on a on a beef hotdog nestled in a brioche bun) and the Trailer Park ($9, American cheese, coleslaw, crushed grippos on a bacon-wrapped beef hotdog nestled in a brioche bun) are two crowd favorites, but a personal preference is the Lindsey Lohan (yes, the Lindsey Lohan, $10, goat cheese, carmelized onions, bacon, arugula & balsamic on an all-beef dog).
And don't forget a side of Lobster Mac & Cheese for the table. You'll never look at Kraft the same way again.
Read the full menu at http://senatepub.com/menu-food/ .
The drink list compliments all your dining choices. It's carefully selected, and not overwhelming. The beers are craft brews, and the wines are diverse.
For dessert, you'll likely be full, but if you somehow find room, a safe bet is the Pretzel Beignets ($7.50). The other two choices are riskier (Chocolate & Bourbon Bread Pudding, $7.50, and Foie Gras Crème Brûlée, Toasted Hazelnuts & Brandied Cherries, $11), but if you're feeling adventurous, they won't disappoint.
And coming in June, Senate will open its doors Sunday for the first time (10 a.m.-3 p.m.), serving up brunch as unique as its dinner with Banana Captain Crunch French Toast, Oreo pancakes and Toad-in-the-Hole Eggs Benedict, just to name a few.
While the food will blow you away, Senate's atmosphere also sets it apart. Senate's space is sparely decorated, with long, exposed brick walls and a formed concrete bar that's really handsome with two TVs on the walls, often showing Reds games. The restrooms are very nice, behind paneled doors that can scarcely be discerned from the wall, and the crowd is inviting, giving the intimacy of a restaurant, but the energy of your favorite bar.
There are a few downsides, namely that they don't take reservations and space is limited, but on any given night, it can be well worth the hour-long wait to sit down. Having said that, don't anticipate any less of a wait than that after 7:30 p.m.
You may have had Ruby's and Montgomery Inn and thought they were the best steaks and ribs you've ever had. Prepare to visit Senate and have the best hot dog of your eating career.
Go: 1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.-11-p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday; 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday; NEW IN JUNE 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $9-$18
Accessibility: Fully accessible but narrow
Some information used in this report came from CityBeat.com .