The Wine Guy Bistro at the Banks Review
One of my favorite days of the year is Reds Opening Day. To many sports fans in Cincinnati as well as me, it’s the first day of spring. Baseball begins, with every year being hopeful at first, some more than others. Opening Day has always been about huge crowds…sports fans and non-sports fans alike gather to watch the parade, to celebrate the actual game, or to just get drunk. I’ve taken work off for the last several years to either go to the game or to watch the game at the bars with a friend.
The norm for me is to stop at Hofbrauhaus for a drink and an appetizer of pretzels with bier cheese, and then continue on to another place for lunch before going to the game itself. I’ve stopped by several different places in the last few years to eat, and this year my wife and I decided we’d go to the Banks (the still fairly new development between Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium) and try to grab a drink and a quick lunch. We were hoping to go to the Moerlein Lager House or the newly opened Yard House, but the lines down the block for both of those places made us look elsewhere. Pushing through the block party at the Banks outside of the GABP entry, we spotted the Wine Guy Bistro (http://thewineguywineshop.com/thebanks.htm). We got in, and there were a few spots open so we grabbed a seat at the bar in front. I’ve never been to the one in Rookwood, but my wife had and noted it was a similar look…lots of wine shelving to the left holding a rather impressive inventory of which you could purchase wine by the bottle, the flight, or the pour to enjoy. They also have bottles of beer available and a keg of Bud Light for the masses of the day’s events (that may be a statement of the taste of much today’s crowd, but I’m not here to judge…). There is a room to have a private party in as well as plenty of seating (on most days, anyway) to the right of the bar. My wife enjoyed a red wine blend and a Bloody Mary, while I enjoyed a Duvel Belgian Ale and a Mt. Carmel Amber Ale. A quick note…the house vodka is Grey Goose, which is very impressive and really makes their drinks stand out. Service started out well at the bar and started to steadily tail off as the crowd poured in not long after we were lucky enough to get a seat. This place is not trained or setup as an establishment to serve the masses and it started to show. But that’s OK, as I’m very happy to see that there aren’t just sports bars at the Banks…it’s a good mixture of different types of places to eat, drink, and socialize. When it came time to order food, my wife chose the meatball appetizer (three good-sized meatballs in a house marinara with grated Romano cheese) and I went with the Bistro Burger. Both were made with a combination of sirloin, brisket, and short-rib. The meatballs were very good, as was the sauce that they were in. The hamburger had provolone cheese as well as the standard lettuce, tomato, and onion with a pickle on the side. The meat was juicy and well cooked, slightly blackened on the outside, yet still medium as I had ordered on the inside. The bun was also very good…a nice pretzel bun that I’m very glad they used. The kettle chips it came with were a tasty compliment to the burger with a nice bit of chives sprinkled on them.
Overall, I thought this place is a great addition to the Banks and had a wonderful wine list as well as a nice food menu for what is essentially a wine bar. It would be great to see them bring in some permanent taps dedicated to craft beer. I know that there are plenty of bars in the area that do, but I know a lot of couples where one prefers wine and one prefers beer (my wife and I included) and it would be nice to have that as an option. Other than that, we both enjoyed it and I definitely see us going back for more.