CINCINNATI - Ché, the long-awaited Argentinian restaurant and bar from the owner of Hyde Park’s Alfio's Buon Cibo, opened in Over-the-Rhine on Friday.
I decided to visit the eatery with two co-workers for a quick bite as soon as it opened. The eatery is located at 1342 Walnut St., just a block away from 16-Bit Bar + Arcade.
Atmosphere: Ché is housed in a building typical for OTR. It is a long, narrow structure divided into two main interior areas. The restaurant’s front room is filled with tables on the left and a small, exposed kitchen on the right where you can watch food being made. Knotty, pale wood is used for most of the tables and accents. The rear section of the restaurant houses a full-service bar, cowhide-covered bar stools, copper high seats, tables and polished wood posts. The darker interior is bathed in soft lighting and the glow of four flatscreen televisions. A generous number of purse hooks and USB plugs are mounted between seats underneath the bar. (Since it was dreary and starting to rain when we arrived, we didn't explore the outdoor patio area, which is separated from neighboring buildings by a high privacy fence.)
Service: Ché’s staff was poised and ready to greet their first customers when we entered. We opted to sit at a small table in the bar section. The friendly waitress answered our questions about the menu knowledgeably, making solid recommendations and politely explaining in advance that a few of the specialty drinks were unavailable, as their key ingredients hadn't yet arrived.
Drinks: The drink menu is impressive. It contains an ample amount of craft beer, including local brewers such as Braxton from Northern Kentucky. There is also a wide variety of wine and hard liquor available. We decided the lack of some mixed drinks such as the "Che hatten" (a blend of Knob Creek, femet and Luxardo cherry liqueur) just meant we had another of many reasons to come back.
Food: Because we had drooled over pictures of empanadas posted on Ché’s Facebook page, we opted to order a variety of them and compare notes. Classic empanadas cost $3 each. New empanadas cost $4.
On the “new” side of the menu, we tried the breakfast (sausage, scrambled eggs and cheddar), spicy smoked pork belly (braised pork belly, carmelized shallots and cheese) and shrimp scampi empanadas (sauteed shrimp in garlic and herbs, mozzarella and provolone). For the classics, we sampled the de carne (spiced beef, hard-boiled egg and olives), spinach (spinach, mozzarella and provolone) and queso y cebolla (onions, mozzarella and provolone).
We all agreed that the breading for each empanada was light and non-greasy. Both types of beef — de carne and pork belly — were very tender and tasty. The pork belly, in particular, was rich but light, and it was a favorite for myself and another eater. The breakfast empanada also received solid reviews. The scampi was good but slightly messier to eat. The empanadas came with gorgonzola, cilantro and pesto dips.
People with food allergies be warned: It was hard to tell the difference between the variety of espanadas, which were initially served together on one long plate. Bringing them out on separate plates would probably be more practical (though slightly less impressive presentation-wise).
First take: As we left Ché, my group agreed the restaurant was a nice addition to the neighborhood. We could see ourselves eating there after a night of drinks, or starting an evening there with one of the larger plates, such as the delicious-looking ribs and pizza we saw being served to other diners.
1342 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine
Open: 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays.