On July 30, my wife and I moved to a new apartment in the West End Community of Cincinnati on Ezzard Charles Drive just across I-75 from Union Terminal. While our old place was close to Clifton and the University – which was a necessity while I was in grad school – we are very excited about living within walking distance to downtown.
This past Saturday, we decided to head towards the heart of the city and grab a bite for lunch. Strolling down tree-lined lanes and passing through Washington Park beats driving on an interstate any day, and it certainly beats having to deal with the headache of finding downtown parking.
In the past, we tried to avoid downtown on the weekends – especially Over-The-Rhine – in favor of sleepier neighborhoods like Oakley, Hyde Park and O’Bryonville. Now that we can walk everywhere in the city so easily, though, a new culinary adventure awaits!
At first, we went through Washington Park looking for food trucks, but since none were around, we headed to Court Street to eat at Huit Craft BBQ. My wife had been there once before for lunch with her work, but I had yet to try it. From what she told me, it seemed like a delicious and unique spot, so I was eager to give it a try.
One of the great things about eating at restaurants in the Uptown Business District on the weekends is that places which are usually packed houses during the weekdays are surprisingly vacant. This holds especially true in the area between Central Parkway and Eighth Street – near the courthouse – since the businesses and courts aren’t open. We’ve driven here in the past a few times to eat at favorites like Cuban Pete’s and Tom+Chee, but it was much more enjoyable to walk.
When we walked through the front door of the restaurant, we were greeted by a refreshingly empty and quiet dining room. The interior of Huit feels very eclectic – much like our waiter who wore a handlebar mustache – with large photos of people eating food on the walls, a unique light fixture with hanging wires and exposed bulbs and a menagerie of cookbooks and mason jars of spices in the bay windows.
For drinks, we both ordered the Jalapeño Lemonade Fizz, which also includes juniper syrup. While this may sound like an odd combination, the light heat from the peppers and the floral notes of the juniper play extremely well with the citrus. All in all, it was one of the best non-alcoholic mixed drinks I’ve had in quite a while.
Moving on to the main course, my wife ordered the Huit Pho Xào and I settled on the classic Eight Spice Pork BBQ Rice Bowl with a side of Brussels sprouts. Her dish – which the menu states is a Vietnamese version of Pad Thai – included rice noodles, a light tamarind sauce and roast pork. The bite I tried didn’t remind me of Pad Thai, but the sauce and noodles made for an exceptional dish.
My entrée – the restaurant’s signature item – blended top-notch pork barbeque with brown rice, a decadent sauce and plenty of braised veggies. While the pork was delicious on its own, with the perfect rich and smoky saltiness you expect from great barbeque, with the sauce it was even better. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that Huit’s pork rivals Eli’s, although overall Eli’s is a better and more traditional BBQ joint. The sauce was flavored with the namesake eight (huit) spices, and was less sweet and vinegary than American barbeque sauces.
With a tip, our meal only cost around $35 – eight of which came from the drinks – which for downtown eating is a great price. Also, the portions sizes are larger than average for lunch, so you get plenty of bang for your buck.
Overall, it was a great lunch, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an eclectic barbeque restaurant in a quiet part of downtown on the weekend. I hope you too can pig out at Huit Craft BBQ, especially when it’s empty, and I hope you enjoy its unique fare like we both did.