Home to Kings Island, The Beach and Great Wolf Lodge, Warren County seems to have found a spot-on nickname in Ohio’s Largest Playground. What you may not know about the southwestern Ohio county, however, is that it’s also home to some great restaurants!
If you have followed any of my work on Stories from the Playground, you know by now that I love food and tend to take dining out pretty seriously. That being said, there are four basic things I typically look for whenever I try out a restaurant: quality, service, freshness, and value (not necessarily cheap, but it better be worth the price!). For the most part, my Warren County dining experiences have passed the test in all four categories. Let’s recap, shall we?
If you are looking for great food and even better entertainment, La Comedia Dinner Theatre is a sure hit for all ages. While I would recommend visiting their web site beforehand to view a current menu, play schedule, directions, ticket options, etc., my biggest piece of advice is simply to show up hungry! Even though I’m not a big fan of buffets as I sometimes feel quality suffers, I didn’t find that to be the case at La Comedia. Though I won’t go into too much detail regarding its wide range of menu offerings, I will say that the food was outstanding. They are well known for their Sweet Potato Soufflé, which just melted in my mouth! The combination of dinner and theater made for a great value in my opinion.
For a local, farm-to-table experience (at a restaurant that was farm-to-table before it was the “in” thing to be), I highly recommend Wildflower Café in Mason. What I would not recommend, however, is showing up without a reservation (see my May, 2013 blog). Set within a farmhouse with only a handful of tables, Wildflower’s arrangement allows for an intimate environment and personal service, but doesn’t lend itself to much capacity. As for the menu, the Truffled Mushroom Fonduta is a must-have. Made from Sheltowee Farm mushrooms, local pastured eggs, Snowville cream and salty feta, it’s baked with Ohio cheddar and Swiss cheese, drizzled with truffle oil and served with toasted Blue Oven bread. It’s also incredibly rich, so plan on sharing it with your table as a starter. As far as your main dish is concerned, all I can say is that I have never had a bad meal at Wildflower, so I don’t think you can go wrong with any of their selections. Whatever you get, just be sure to leave room for dessert! Their pastry chef comes in to bake every morning during the wee hours, and their dessert menu changes regularly.
If you are ever in Waynesville (and if not, you should plan a trip to check out its cool boutiques and antique shops) go to Cobblestone Village Café. It offers a local, homegrown feel, as its owners serve many of their own herbs and vegetables. The food is fresh and made to order, and their desserts are particularly fantastic. See my June, 2013 blog for the full story.
The Golden Lamb in Lebanon is a Warren County must. Anyone who lives in or visits the area simply has to go there for lunch or dinner. Steeped in history, it is recognized as the oldest continuously operating business in the state of Ohio. In my opinion, its menu has improved immensely in recent years, as it now features a little something for everyone. You can read my blog for a more in-depth look, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their sauerkraut balls and Sister Lizzie Shaker Sugar Pie right away. Both are signature items, and both are delicious.
Lastly, be sure to check out the wide range of restaurants housed within Miami Valley Gaming in Lebanon. The racino features three different eateries—Acres Seasonal Buffet, Trifecta Eatery, and Cin City Sea and Steak—each of which offers a different culinary experience. My favorite is Cin City, which is a fine dining restaurant, and one where you can really take your time to make an entire evening of your dining experience. As I mentioned in a previous post, it truly rivals many of Greater Cincinnati’s best steakhouses. It’s pricey, sure, but if you are out for a special occasion or just really craving a great meal, it’s highly recommended.
Though the entire Cincinnati region has plenty of fine options in regards to dining, Warren County is special in that it offers both locals and visitors top-notch restaurant choices in a less crowded, easygoing environment. Stay tuned for more on the best eats in Ohio’s Largest Playground.