IRON HORSE INN reopens!
Closed since early January 2008, the IRON HORSE INN in Glendale Ohio has recently reopened. The building has a storied history, and it is great to see it open again under new ownership. Wendy and I have dined there twice as guests of the restaurant. This is a “preview-review”. Both of our meals have been in the upstairs dining room, so this review focuses on that space.
The IRON HORSE INN has clarified the vision of the restaurant, envisioning it now as two distinct eateries contained under one roof — downstairs presents a fine dining menu while upstairs has re-adopted the original name of the restaurant “Bracker’s Tavern” (which is slightly confusing…) and offers upscale bar food. It is possible to enjoy an informal meal with a cold beer or a nice glass of wine upstairs or to dress up and enjoy the fine dining options offered in the formal dining room downstairs. The downstairs dining room also features a chef’s table that, while not located in the kitchen, promises as-yet-unknown (to me) special treatment from the chef.
The exterior of the building has been spruced up — and it needed it since it had been neglected. The restfully-colored exterior is invitingly lit and the restaurant beckons with a warm glow. The patio out front is a great place to get a drink and a meal on a comfortable evening. Entering the front doors of the restaurant, you can either climb the short set of stairs to the second floor (an elevator is available and the entire restaurant is handicapped-accessible) for an informal meal or meet the front-of-house manager straight ahead, whose desk is placed at the French-door entrance to the downstairs (formal) dining room. The manager’s desk is imported from Vietnam and is decorated with crushed eggshells (really! — we checked this out with Robin, the owner) and is prettier than you would imagine.
Upstairs, there is a new sitting area just past the top of the stairs that provides a nice place to wait for a table, should the need arise. This new sitting area replaces a small dining room that was wasted space most of the time, and it houses another of the eggshell-decorated furniture pieces. The dark green walls, exposed ceiling beams, and long dark-wood bar of the dining room create a comfortable lodge-y feel. The tables are well-space, so your dining neighbors do not become your dining companions.
The kitchen has received a face-lift with the appointment of Chef Stefan Marcus as Working Chef in charge of the kitchen. His team puts out creative, confident dishes that give testament to Chef Marcus’ years of experience. The kitchen demonstrates restraint — there are no superfluous ingredients or garnishes on the plates. In conversation with Chef Marcus, his enthusiasm for the new venture is evident and infectious. He’s got big dreams for the IRON HORSE, and appears to be in a good position to make them come true.
In our meals there so far, we’ve sampled Jerk Chicken Quesadillas, Crab Cakes with house-made Remoulade, Clam Chowder, Buffalo Chicken Penne with a bleu cheese sauce, and a couple different Paninis with Sweet Potato Fries. Everything has been top notch (standout favorites include the Buffalo Chicken Penne, the Crab Cakes, and the Sweet Potato Fries) and the menu offers sufficient variety to remain interesting for some time. I don’t know if they run specials upstairs or not; on our two visits (one of which was a preview) there were no specials.
They offer “Funny Name Wines” in Bracker’s Tavern, too… an ever-changing selection of value wines with, well, funny names. While I think the idea is somewhat hokey, it seems to work and the couple different wines we’ve tasted have been very good values and reasonably drinkable.
For the most part, the IRON HORSE INN feels like an established restaurant, mostly free of the “opening jitters” experienced by some new places. However, on our visits, there have been a few issues ranging from menu grammar & spelling errors (“Tuna Tar-Tar”, anyone?!), the lack of short descriptions (or even just regions) on the “Funny Name Wines” list, and a few service issues (the wrong entrees were delivered to our table on one visit) reveal that this is, in fact, a new restaurant with a few growing pains.
But the IRON HORSE INN is worthy of your visit right now, and will continue to grow and mature through the startup. It might just become your new (old) favorite restaurant.
(We will eat downstairs soon and I’ll post about that.)
Contact the IRON HORSE INN at 513-772-3333.