The “OTR” in this restaurant’s name is code for “Over-the-Rhine,” a burgeoning Cincinnati neighborhood that was once a center of the city’s German immigrant population. The “Rhine” in this instance was actually the Miami and Erie Canal that was just south of the area.
OTR is now a busy area of shops, microbreweries and more restaurants than you can count. The Mercer OTR just happens to be one of the best, as will be attested to by everyone in our group of six diners who recently enjoyed a scrumptious meal there.
We entered a restaurant which was starting to get crowded and noisy, yet through some acoustical trick were able to carry on conversations without resorting to shouting. The effect was to boost the excitement level without raising the stress level with it.
The small plate selection to start is pretty creative. I enjoyed the veal meatball slider, nicely spiced with tomato-pepper sauce. Some of my dinner companions ventured to try the rabbit stew and reported that it was delicious. Fortunately, they were the sharing type, so I was able to sample the pork belly risotto, which (an interesting combination) and a simple, but elegant Caesar salad, which was crisp and cold – just the way I like it.
For an entrée I chose a pork loin with pureed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, set off with apples in brown butter. Just a delightful combination, well prepared and tasty.
Happily, a member of our group is something of an oenophile, and he made excellent selections from both the red and white site of the wine list. It reminded me just how much the right wine in the glass adds to the enjoyment of the food on the plate.
Just when we thought we were sated, our clever waitress tempted us with the dessert menu. I chose to share again and split an order of doughnuts, which were only distantly related to the breakfast staple you might be imagining. These were a pastry chef’s dream, drizzled with a chocolate-orange ganache and mascarpone, set off with strawberries. A yummy way to end a memorable meal.
I must make a special note about our waitress, who deftly managed an active and outspoken group, paced the meal nicely, and was quick to make suggestions that always seemed to be on target. Unlike many servers encountered nowadays, this professional knew her menu inside and out. She made our experience at The Mercer OTR an enjoyable one.
If Cincinnati is on your travel itinerary, take the trip “over the Rhine” and make your way to The Mercer OTR. It is a great stop in a very pleasant town.
1324 Vine St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202