Celebrate the past. Taste the future.
That’s the tag line for Cincinnati’s Christian Moerlein Lager House and it sums up the restaurant’s philosophy and approach well.
The sleek $10 million dollar facility offers modern appointments with striking views of the river.
The location couldn’t be more prime — sandwiched between the Queen City’s two downtown stadiums. It’s the next step in the future of entertainment, architecture and urban planning, helping to redefine and move an important part of downtown Cincinnati forward.
Despite the style and flash, the building’s decor and menu has an old-school touch, paying homage and respect as often as possible to the brewing company it follows in the footsteps of that was founded in 1853.
On multiple visits the staff seemed to be as open and welcoming as the massive windows that can be found on the first and second floors. The restaurant seats more than 700 indoors, but still is able to maintain a warmth due to both layout and service that is typically only found in smaller venues.
The first thing to turn to on the menu is the beer. It’s used as a cooking agent in multiple dishes on the menu, ranging from the straightforward soft pretzels with beer cheese and spicy mustard ($7) to the Hops Smoked Pork Belly ($17). Not surprisingly it’s also the main star on display at the full service bar and busy beer taps that are especially popular on game days.
Of course, having a working microbrewery on the premises clearly means beer takes center stage. The restaurant is filled with vintage beer advertisements and signage that hearken back to days gone by.
The brewing company, which was purchased in 2004 by Gregory Hardman of Cincinnati has set out to accomplish the taste and vision for beer set out by Christian Moerlein when he established in in 1853.
The dishes on the menu seem to place an emphasize on quality ingredients served up fresh.
Highlights included the signature Moer-Burger ($13) made with Cheddar, pastrami, applewood bacon, fried egg, sweet onion relish and black pepper mayo. The decadent sandwich is every bit as delicious and bad for you as it sounds.
Fish Tacos made with Red pepper slaw, cilantro aioli, guacamole, and tomatillo salsa are a light, flavorful choice that seemed to be perfect for an afternoon of patio dining and baseball. Several other seafood dishes including the Tampico Shrimp ($22, Jalapeno corn risotto, caramelized onion quesadilla, roasted tomato salsa and guacamole) and Blackened Tilapia ($20, Over dirty rice with black bean-cucumber salsa, cilantro aioli and guacamole) also fit the bill for summer on the patio.
The list of side dishes ($3 each) seemed to be more plentiful and creative than you find at most restaurants. With 14 to choose from there seemed to be an option to compliment every dish on the menu. The portions that were served were generous and packed with flavor. Highlights included the Brussel Sprouts and Horseradish Potato Gratin.
There’s also a number of Entrees that are heavy and perfect for winter (Short Ribs, Meatloaf, Ribs), but the weather seemed to call for lighter fare on repeat visits.
The meat and cheese trays served with grilled beer bread, spicy mustard, applekraut and pickles (a choice of two for $10 or 3 for $14) features a goat cheese fritter as one of many options that shouldn’t be missed.
The star of the show is the beer — you don’t include Lager House in a restaurant name for nothing after all. Featuring 28 beers on tap, including eight house-made beers, 53 bottles and 3 cans, there’s plenty to choose from. For those not familiar with the Moerlein line, a good selection to start out with is the Over-The-Rhine Ale — one of the brewery’s signature beers that can be found in grocery stores in the Southern Ohio market. The beer strikes a nice balance of hops and malt that is earthy and smooth and would seem to go well with most things on the menu. Be sure to ask about the rotating specials as well. If you find something you can’t live without a growler might be in order ($16 to purchase growler and beer, $12 for a refill with special $7 refills available at certain times during the week).
Although the restaurant is just a little over a year old, it is sure to become a Cincinnati tradition. Between service, views, location, staff, food and drink it’s a destination worth seeking out.
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How to go
What: Christian Moerlein Lager House
Where: 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati
Hours: 11 a.m.-Midnight, Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday
More information: (513) 421-2337 or www.moerleinlagerhouse.com
Parking: Valet parking is available through Central Parking for $12 per car and is located directly in front of the Moerlein Lager House on Joe Nuxhall Way. Valet is available during Reds games for $20 per car (in front of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center a few blocks away), but is not available for Bengals games.
Central Riverfront Garage Parking with the best entrance into the Moerlein Lager House is just west of the facility on Mehring Way. Numerous entrances are available into the garage including, Second Street by Main, Joe Nuxhall Way, and Race, please follow the signs to the Event Lawn.
Take the Event Lawn elevator or stairs right at the Moerlein Lager House. Price is $3 for one hour, $5 for two hours, $7 for three hours, up to $9 maximum daily, except during Reds and Bengals Games where special event pricing applies.
Cincinnati Public Landing just East of the Moerlein Lager House located at 435 East Mehring Way. Parking is conditional – weather permitting at this location and no overnight parking allowed.
Off- street metered parking is available throughout the Banks development and downtown, just north of second street.
Cincinnati Beer Heritage and Brewery Tours
Guided tours of Moerlein Lager House brewery are available. Tours led by a Moerlein brewer last 75-minutes. Two commemorative beers, or non-alcoholic, drink tokens are be provided.
When: 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Cost: $10 a person
More information: (800) 763-0659 to purchase by phone or visit www.moerleinlagerhouse.com