December 8, 2008

Our Year of Living Steakishly: November, Guenther's Steak & Seafood House

When last we left our intrepid Steakish Livers (Lifers?), they had enjoyed their finest meal yet just a few minutes from home. This month, they find themselves even closer to home, at Guenther's Steak & Seafood House, listed in the Cincinnati Magazine article as "the sleeper". Let's join them as they begin tonight's review, shall we?

Guenther's is close to home. Like real close. I pass it on the way to and from work almost every day, and it's probably a five-minute drive from The Homestead, so we were hopeful that we'd find a fine dining establishment practically in our backyard. That, added to the fact that the reviewers said that we could get a great steak at Guenther's for half the price of the steaks at the other places, made for some pretty hopeful dining.

There was a bit of trepidation, however, as we had tried Guenther's a few years back, during our first year in West Chester. It looked like - and turned out to be - another old people restaurant, populated largely by Blue Hairs who like places like Maury's Tiny Cove - which is horrible, by the way. The article, however, mentioned that Guenther's was under new management within the past couple of years. Maybe things had changed for the better. Maybe Guenther's was deserving of their top twelve listing. Maybe Charlie Weiss will win a big game.

Guenther's from the outside - thanks to their website. Oh, don't bother clicking there. It's just an image.

We headed to Guenther's on a weeknight - perhaps indicative of our diminished expectations - and walked right in without a reservation. Our entrance, through the side door beneath the awning in the photo, took us through their lounge area which was pretty typical of what we saw at the Pine Club and the Oakwood Club - very much old school, leather chairs and low lights, a place to go and drink. You're not at Guenther's to impress or entertain; you're there to drink or eat.

Guenther's main dining room. Note the paneled walls topped with the plywood dividers.

The decor of the dining room itself isn't impressive either as the chairs are an odd sort of island-theme wood (not wicker, not bamboo, just weird - check the photo to see) and the walls a very plain, stained paneling. Atop the paneled walls dividing the restaurant's main dining area - as well as atop the booth in which we sat - are plywood screens with inelegant designs cut into them. The decor hadn't changed since we last tried Guenther's, a sign that we didn't take encouragingly. Above our booth was a rawhide globe lamp that made both The Girl and I think of putting the lotion in the basket.

Of the rawhide lamp, the less said, the better.

We dutifully, however, perused the menu and ordered our typical Steakish Living meal:
  • Bacon-wrapped scallops, appetizer
  • The Girl
    Petite filet mignon, medium rare
    - baked potato, butter & sour cream
    - salad, no onion, house garlic ceasar dressing on the side
  • ChemGuy
    8oz NY Strip Steak, medium rare
    - red potatoes with butter
    - salad, house garlic ceasar dressing
As we waited, the tried the bread from the basket, brought attentively by the server as she took our order. The bread was a simple, nice light rye with not too much crust. Admittedly, the presentation - wire metal bowl with deli paper and a plastic cup of butter - left something to be desired, but the bread was a nice was to pass the time as The Girl and I discussed our respective days.

The bread basket filled with a nice, light rye

We both finished our two slices of bread right about the time that the appetizer came out. Guenther's online menu doesn't mention it, but the physical menu did warn us that the appetizer was two (2) scallops with cole slaw, and we had asked to make sure was presented on the side. The scallops were, indeed, wrapped in bacon and were acceptably cooked, developing a nice, brown finish. The bacon around them was also cooked but lacked any crispness to offset the scallops' texture. The bacon was, in fact, soft...flacid...blech. The sauce served with the scallops was a Russian dressing that was fairly inedible - too sweet and vinegary at the same time. Neither of us can speak to the cole slaw as we didn't even try it - bad reviewer, sorry. For $8.50 we got two middle-of-the-road scallops with nothing for sauce or garnish - other than a sprinkling of paprika on the plate. Things weren't starting well.

Two (2) bacon-wrapped scallops with cole slaw - why? who knows?

So, good bread. Bad appetizer. On to the main course.

The best steaks have a dark, flavorful crust achieved by cooking at very high heat. They are also thick so that the rich crust is balanced by a sizable volume of still pink center.

My strip steak was neither thick nor well crusted. It did have grill marks, so it looked kinda pretty, and the center was appropriately pink. The meat, however, had little flavor and was nothing more impressive than what you could buy at Kroger, and I probably wouldn't have chosen one with such a large ribbon of fat along the edge. This was not a steakhouse steak in the least. It was a good backyard grill steak, yes, but Cincinnati Magazine's claim that it rival the steaks at the other steakhouses was absurd. The side dishes were no more impressive. The red potatoes with butter turned out to be a singular, boiled, overly large red potato in a dish with neither butter nor flavor...and with the skin slipped off in a couple of places. This was inellegence at its purest form. Luckily, the onion rings weren't bad. They were far from special, true, but they weren't band.

ChemGuy's entree before

The Girl's steak was no better, as she stated very simply that "we [were] never coming here again." Her steak had similar grill marks, without the cross hatching of mine. No crust, nicely pink. If our scale were based on a good backyard steak being a 10, then this would be an eight. We, however, are searching for a great steak. The kind of steak that stops you from chewing and forces you to stare as you savor the richness. The kind of steak that makes you weep. On such a scale, this was a four.

At least The Girl's potato had some flavor - mostly because of the butter and sour cream.

The Girl's entree before

Plus the steak knives were serrated. That's a downer, too.

ChemGuy's entree after - yum, fat!

The Girl's entree after - note the half-finished potato and unconsumed onion rings

And yet we bravely headed for dessert. Mostly because our $10 coupon wouldn't kick in until we spent $50, and we were looking at a $45 tab. We could actually save a couple of bucks by going for the dessert. The hostess - the owner's wife, we think - stopped by and offered us a verbal preview of the desserts as their printer was down for the day, and they were unable to print up the dessert menus. (The music in the place was also out on the day we visited, topping everything off.)

The hostess said that she made most of the desserts herself, that morning - except for the admittedly store-bought freezer pie. We went for the peach cobbler with ginger-snap crust and vanilla ice cream, passing by peanut butter pie and a few other options.

The monotonic cobbler

The peaches were canned. The gingersnap stuck in the side was stale. The whole thing was a mushy mess. Edible, yes, but not anything that I couldn't have manage to make myself in about ten minutes time.

And that's never a compliment.

So, things weren't good, but let's check how it all plays out by the numbers...
  • Appetizers/Dessert - 5 - a five really isn't a compliment at this level, kids
  • Steak - 4 - Meh
  • Side dishes - 4 - My potato was a three. The Girl's was a five. The onion rings probably should get a 5, but my potato was so bland that I'm not giving the benefit of the doubt.
  • Atmosphere - 4 - It wasn't so ugly that we ran out of there, but it certainly hasn't had any updating in the last few decades.
  • Cost - 8 - With tip and without coupon, we would've been at about $60. Value, however, would be a different question as we both felt ripped off even at our coupon price.
  • Service - 5 - Hostess and waitress were both nice, but their recommendations were so far from our thoughts on the same dishes that they don't get any moves upward.
  • Total score - 30 (out of 60)
Flatly and easily, last place...and deservedly so.

Don't know what's up for December just yet. We're probably not hitting a steak joint until the weekend before Christmas as we're swamped with weekend activities 'til then.


achilles3 said...

I wish you would have asked someone if there was a story about why the place is called Guenther's.
That's a funny name.

CrimsonMirage said...

It's kinda ironic that the day I promise to comment on your the day that the post is about steak. Just saying.

TL said...

I want to go back to Jag's Steak and Seafood and try some of that infamous Kobe beef... I deserve a massaged cow's muscle for dinner.

PHSChemGuy said...

Guenther's has to be a dead guy name. I'm going with dead white guy...or or the other...

irony is everywhere, CrimsonMirage...begin to accept this, and you'll be much better off...

TL...I think Jag's is on the list, but when we went there previous to the Year of Living Steakishly, neither of us got the's that good, huh?