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7. Senate

Best Restaurants 2012

Phone message overheard being left by a man sitting next to me at Senate’s bar: “Yo bro, what up? I am in a restaurant in Cincinnati eating something called poutine. Fries, topped with short ribs, cheese curds, gravy, and an egg. It is man love bro...pure man love. Made me think about you. Miss you, bro.”

That is the best summary I’ve ever heard for the Canadian specialty that’s been rocking the Vine Street gastropub for the past year and a half, and a snapshot of Senate’s menu ethos: food with a bit of swagger and hip-lifting strut mixed with just enough warm and fuzzy to make you feel as if you are easing into a warm candlelit bath. Chef Dan Wright has never rested on the haute dogs that sounded his arrival to the local culinary scene, but consistently complements them with puckishly intelligent dishes like lobster BLT, a pork belly and Johnny cake sandwich, and a barely warm potato, bacon, and egg salad. Beer makes a big splash here—a $3 Hudy 14-K and $25 Goose Island bookend the three-dozen or so choices—and everything is served by a graciously attentive staff.

1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-2020, senatepub.com

Originally published in the March 2012 issue.