After hearing many good things about Dutch’s Bar & Bottle Shop from both our beer friends and from our foodie friends, Charlie and I decided to finally stop by for dinner and a beer last Friday night. It was quite an experience and took some getting used to but in the end I was so impressed I wanted to write a review not only to share my experiences but also help other newcomers navigate Dutch’s unusual combination of bar, bottle shop, and restaurant.
Dutch’s feels a bit like Narnia. You walk in the front door into a deli and wine shop and it is not clear immediately where this great restaurant and bar is that you have been hearing about. Frankly the beer selection doesn’t even look that great from this perspective. But you go through the deli to the patio and then down to some stairs and you find yourself in a cozy communal eating area outside a shotgun bar. Then go through the bar, step outside again and you find yourself standing in front of a wall of beer at their bottle shop. It can be disorienting but once you get the hang of it you feel like you have discovered something special. My one complaint of the staff is that they didn’t seem to go a great job of explaining the situation to newcomers. They need to train their staff to stay something quick and simple like “If you want to buy food or wine to go order here, if you want to eat in and have a drink go to the bar, and if you are looking for the bottle shop it’s in the back.” Charlie and I spend the first five minutes there feeling like we were in the wrong place and wondering if we should leave because all six seats were taken. But we stuck with it and I am glad we did.
Charlie and headed for the bar and ordered our beers and our food. I got the Firefly Amber Ale from Jackie O’s in Athens and Charlie got the Shamrock Irish Cream Stout from Listermann’s. The bar had 6 to 8 different beers on tap, most of which I’d never heard of, plus you can order any bottle of beer or wine that they have and drink it there. The beer is the main attraction at Dutch’s but the wine selection wasn’t bad and they did have a small selection of quality spirits on offer as well. We took the beers to the communal table and waited for our food. This is not the place to go if you are looking for a quiet place to talk or a private, romantic dinner but if you are meeting a group of friends to grab a quick bite and have a few beers this is the place for you. There were several groups of people doing just that at the communal table but it was big enough that we never felt crowded.
I was very impressed by how quickly the food came out and then again by how good it was for the relatively affordable price. $8-10 for a sandwich and a side is reasonable at a Hyde Park deli but the quality really did exceed my expectations. Both the portobello mushroom sandwich and the prosciutto mozzarella were great. The prosciutto was especially good thanks to the addition of fig jam. The sides were small and the mixed green salad that I ordered was the only think I take issue with. Not really much in the way of dressing and the lettuce was some kind of stringy, hard to eat variety. Order for health reasons only. I made up for it by snagging Charlie’s truffle popcorn every chance I got (much better and more affordable than Mayberry’s Bacon Popcorn.) The meal was filling but not the kind of meal that will leave you stuffed and it didn’t break my budget for the night.
This was an interesting place for reasons that go beyond architecture and menu. You see, there has been some discussion lately on Queen City Drinks about how to get more women into craft beer. We debated whether it is cultural conditioning, differently evolved taste buds, or even condescending male attitudes that keep craft beer a male-dominated scene. Even though I know that I and many other women enjoy beer of all kinds, my experience at Cincinnati Beerfest and other beer festivals seem to support the theory that women who are into beer are a rarity. But at Dutch’s communal table, 12 out of the 15 people there were women and 9 of those women were drinking beer. Obviously I can’t extrapolate too much from on data point but I think this shows that creating a welcoming environment with great food and comfortable seating will bring out the female beer lovers. And the fact that it has one of the prettiest bathroom I’ve ever seen probably helps as well.
Bottom line is that I will be back, especially as the weather gets warmer and we could make use of the patio for extra seating. A great quality beer with reasonably priced gourmet food is a great draw for either gender.