My wife and I almost always go out for dinner on Tuesday evening. There are never any crowds, it’s a great way to take a break from cooking and it allows us to disconnect from the start of another busy workweek. On Oct. 11, however, my wife was feeling under the weather, so instead of going out for our weekly tradition, we decided to get our dinner delivered instead.
Many casual dining restaurants downtown – and quite a few in other neighborhoods like Clifton and Hyde Park – offer delivery service through OrderUp. While the restaurants don’t deliver your food themselves, they partner with drivers through OrderUp for a minimal fee. Delivery usually costs about $4, and with a good tip, delicious, freshly made food can be brought to your front door for only 8 bucks.
For our Tuesday dinner, my wife and I settled on Gilpin’s Steamed Grub. Although they have a few locations around Cincinnati with slightly varied menus, we opted for the original downtown location. My wife had eaten there once before on a lunch outing with her work, but it was completely new for me. She gave it a great review, so intrigued by the concept and hearing nothing but good things, I agreed we should give it a go.
As the name suggests, Gilpin’s has carved out a niche for itself in the local food scene by exclusively focusing upon steamed foods. Instead of sticking to commonly steamed foods like dumplings, though, Gilpin’s offers a menu consisting primarily of deli and pub fare. Sandwiches, burgers and even pizzas are all featured, and everything is cooked with steam.
Since meats like chicken and pork, baked goods like cookies and heavy leafy greens like kale all have a tendency to dry out with normal cooking, Gilpin’s use of steam ensures that everything stays moist. Moreover, because these items retain more moisture during cooking, they also keep that moisture longer, meaning your decadent cookie still tastes rich and gooey hours after it’s been cooked and your burger stays juicy even when it has lost some of its heat.
Although the burgers looked excellent, my wife and I decided to try sandwiches for dinner instead. My wife chose the Christopher Walkin – with chicken pesto – and I went for the heartier Pride of Porkopolis – with pulled pork barbeque and bacon. For a side, since Gilpin’s doesn’t offer the standard fries, we opted for a healthier alternative: steamed balsamic kale salad. Finally, for a less-than-healthy end to our meal, we each got steamed cookies.
The Christopher Walkin was a balanced, light and flavorful sandwich. The chicken – which often gets over-cooked and dry when it’s not fried – remained perfectly moist, and the herbaceous pesto added a nice zip to the neutral chicken. Add to it the namesake cowbell green peppers and slices of melty, steamed provolone cheese, and you’ve got a deli classic that’s been elevated just enough to make it taste new again.
Although my wife loved the lightness and freshness of the Christopher Walkin, I enjoyed the richness and meatiness of The Pride of Porkopolis. Due to the steam cooking, the pulled pork was tender and succulent, and it soaked up every ounce of the sweet and tangy barbeque sauce. Coupled with two strips of well-seasoned bacon, lettuce and mayo, this porky sandwich hit all the right notes. Keeping with the name, it was served with a bag of Grippo’s BBQ potato chips – Cincinnati’s hometown favorite – on the side for a crunchy, textured counterweight.
Both of our sandwiches came on pretzel buns, which held up excellently to the steam. Since pretzel buns – much like chicken and pork – tend to dry out on a sandwich, especially when they sit for a time, steam cooking keeps them moist, warm and slightly soft. Additionally, the pretzel buns soaked up the pesto and barbeque sauce more than usual since they hadn’t been toasted, allowing those bold flavors to permeate throughout each bite.
Our side kale salad brought a light and healthy element to the meal, complete with refreshing avocado slices. I do recommend, however, that you pay attention to how much balsamic vinegar you pour over your salad. Gilpin’s gave us much more than we needed, and I overestimated how much to add, making the salad a bit more astringent than expected.
The cookies, meanwhile, ended our meal on an always-appreciated sweet note. My wife’s cookie was filled with Reese’s Pieces and mine was loaded with chunks of toffee and chocolate, although both had the same batter. Once again, as a result of Gilpin’s steam cooking, the cookies were unbelievably gooey and moist, making them taste like they just came out of the oven. Usually, restaurant cookies leave plenty to be desired, but these simple desserts were perfectly executed and worthy of the best bakery in town.
Overall, our meal came to $32 – including $8.50 for delivery and a tip – which was well worth the convenience and the taste. Although Gilpin’s might not at first appear to be an exciting and delicious restaurant, after one bite of their succulent sandwiches or ooey-gooey cookies, you’ll be ordering-up from them too.