CINCINNATI -- Since opening in July 2016, The Littlefield's food has been well received -- so much so that the Northside bistro and bourbon bar added lunch service to its lineup at the start of the year.
"People kept coming to the door during the day assuming we were open for lunch," said John Ford, operating manager and joint owner. "It seemed like a natural step to let that be the case."
For those who've tasted Littlefield chef Shoshannah Hafner's cooking, this move isn't entirely surprising. Hafner, formerly chef and co-owner of the now-shuttered Honey in Northside, has a strong following.
The Littlefield has not added a second menu for lunch but instead offers a lower-priced special every day, she said.
"We're using the same menu because we have a tiny kitchen and having a second menu would be difficult," Hafner said.
The kitchen is a tight 300 square feet, but somehow Hafner and her crew manage to churn out enough food for a place that accommodates 120 patrons when full.
According to Ford, when he and the other owners started The Littlefield, they were looking to create a bourbon bar.
"When we first opened, I hired a bunch of bartenders and just one server," he said. "Then the first person walked in, sat right down at the table and waited to be served."
Ford quickly switched gears and hired more servers.
The inclusion of food was "fate," he said. After the owners met Hafner, the concept of a bourbon bar quickly morphed into a bistro as well.
"I didn't know if I wanted to be a chef so soon after Honey," Hafner said. At that time, it had been a little more than a year since she closed. "But I fell for their concept, I loved the space and how (the owners) … embraced the neighborhood."
Originally from Buffalo, New York, Hafner is a self-taught chef whose approach to food is to "step back 100 years" and pump up the classics with modern-day ingredients. She is an early adopter of locally sourced ingredients.
"It's simple food but with the ability to source so many wonderful ingredients," she said. "I love my farmers."
Hafner's BLP sandwich incorporates fresh, seasonal ingredients in the classic BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich. The "P" in BLP represents a fruit component instead of tomato. Originally, Hafner used peach, but depending on the season, it also could be plum, Asian pear, pineapple or simply pear.
"I love BLTs, but I would have to have summer heirloom tomatoes," she said. (She refuses to serve out-of-season tomatoes in winter.) "Nobody wants to have an orange or white tomato that has no flavor."
The top-selling item is not an entree but, quite literally, bread and butter -- Sixteen Bricks bread with bourbon moody blue cheese butter, to be exact.
"It's brown butter that I make with moody blue cheese, local honey from Carriage House Farm and fleur de sel," Hafner said.
Although the bourbon pecan pie is the most popular dessert at The Littlefield, Hafner said her favorite items are the braised meats. "Right now, it's the braised pork shoulder with white bean ragout and local greens," she said. The dish is braised for seven hours with seared root vegetables and bourbon.
The bar is stocked with roughly 65 varieties of bourbon and 90 types of whiskey. The Old Fashioned, a crowd-favorite cocktail, has Bulleit bourbon, simple vanilla syrup, Luxardo cherries and house cherry bitters that are barrel-aged for two months. Another drink that stands out, though, is the spicy ginger beer -- "It's my dad's recipe," Ford said -- which also goes into cocktails like the popular Mad Anthony.
"It has ginger beer, balsamic vinegar, basil simple syrup, bourbon, and we smack a basil leaf and put it right on top," Ford said. ("Smacking" the herb with the hands helps to release its aroma.)
True to its roots in the community, The Littlefield features a new drink every month and donates the proceeds to a nonprofit group from the area.
"Right now, we're supporting MyCincinnati," Ford said. MyCincinnati is a free youth orchestra program in Price Hill that offers children from the neighborhood the opportunity to learn an instrument and play in an orchestra.
Ford acknowledged that when they first opened The Littlefield, they didn't know what to expect.
"I'm completely happy with what it is," he said. "The community side is very important to me. It's a very positive space."
3934 Spring Grove Ave., Northside.
http://littlefieldns.com | 513-386-7570
Bar: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Lunch: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday (brunch)
Dinner: Monday-Thursday 5-10 p.m.; 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 4-8 p.m. Sunday
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO.com. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.