Following more than a decade of growth that’s resulted in a nationally recognized dining scene, Cincinnati is experiencing a shortage of kitchen talent. Social OTR—a nonprofit restaurant that serves as a 12-week job training program partnership between Findlay Market and workforce development organization CityLink Center—seeks to narrow that gap, giving disenfranchised individuals the skills they need to succeed in the culinary industry. The dinner menu, mainly snacks and small plates, is ideal for communal dining and conversation, but even more so for the education that such a diverse set of offerings can provide its students. A Mediterranean hand pie, Spanish charred pulpo, and Mexican elote, among other international dishes, sit side-by-side. The papaya salad was a surprising standout, with a remarkable balance of flavors and textures: Finely julienned jicama and slices of papaya, scallions, and radishes, tossed in a dashi lime vinaigrette, was studded with sweet bursts of pomegranate seeds. Handmade raviolo was perfectly al dente, stuffed with a generous portion of tender short rib shreds, and sauced with a bright and tangy roasted tomato demi-glace. Everything we tried possessed a careful finesse that was impressive for a cook at any skill level, let alone one with only a few months of training. Area restaurants should take notice: We may just have a group of future industry leaders on our hands.
Social OTR, 1819 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 263-6893