Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At Lavomatic with CityBeat's Best of Cincinnati Card

I've been meaning to get to Lavomatic Cafe since, oh, I don't know, a year and a half ago when everyone else went. Thankfully, it's still rocking the Gateway quarter of OTR in late 2009. Alex and I made the trip down Central Parkway for a Friday night dinner.

I took the opportunity to put the CityBeat 'Best of Cincinnati' card to work. It's a program that offers members a 40% discount at a slew of local restaurants. There's a $25 fee to get your own card started, but once you've got one you'll add money to it like a gift card. The 40% discount comes out when you load the card with money. Take a look at all the rules here.

Full disclosure for you, me and the FTC: CityBeat gave me a card with $50 so that I could give it a try. They're offering the card now at a $25 discount (so, for free basically) if you use promo code boc4free when you sign up for one.

Like the great adorkandhispork once said, I don't like calling what I do reviewing a restaurant. There are plenty of people in Cincinnati who do that, and they do it very well. I'll just tell you about my experience and let you decide whether you want to take your dining dollars to Lavo or not.

The dining room is elongated like a train car and stacked with a bar on the first floor and more seating upstairs. The kitchen is partly visible from the doorway, like an invitation to hurry up and get something to eat. We started off with the tater tots: your standard tot, but with bacon, truffle, and a tomato-based puree. Delicious, sort of greasy, and pretty filling.

We moved on to more re-purposed diner favorites. Alex got the meatloaf cupcake and I ordered the grilled cheese. He cleaned his plate if that tells you anything about the quality of the meatloaf cupcake. My grilled cheese came alongside a bowl of thick tomato soup with a generous sprinkling of basil and garlic. Simple and very good.

Our server was fairly attentive, though the wait times for an appetizer plate to be cleared and a glass of wine to arrive were longer than we would have preferred. Full credit to our waiter, though, who had to make mini cardio workout trips up and down the staircase to deliver food and drinks from the first floor.

Take a look at the restaurant list if you're interested in the card. It's not a bad option for a holiday gift, especially if you get in on the $25 off promotion. If one of their partner restaurants is on your usual dining out hit list, then it would be a better value for you.

A couple of facts:

  • There are no limits on what you can order
  • Tip isn't included
  • Can NOT be used on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or New Year's Eve
No explanation necessary, Lavo rang up our dinner on the CityBeat card without a problem. My card with $50 would have cost me $30 (if we ignore the initial fee). Our dinner with beverages, an appetizer and dessert included came up just over $50. Essentially, we got a $50 meal for $30 (though we still tipped our waiter on that $50). In my book, that's a pretty nice deal.

As for Lavomatic, I couldn't be happier that I finally made it. Though you could easily spend more than $50 on dinner for two there, the options are flexible with many less expensive plates to share over a cocktail or glass of wine. Next time I'm in the Gateway Quarter shopping for a set of trendy kitchen towels, count me in for another meal at Lavomatic.


VisuaLingual said...

I've had mixed experiences at Lavomatic but, with all of its internal changes, it's almost been a new place every visit. The last time, I sampled this new "casual" menu. It was okay, but my "loaded" fries cost $4.95 and were loaded with garlic salt. Honestly, I felt like a sucker. It's a good thing there are other viable options in the basin!

Matt Morris said...

okay, well their website seems inactive. i was trying to figure out if Wade has continued Lavomatic's frankly delicious sunday brunch. similar to what you experienced with wine, waiting for coffee could get a little ridiculous (partially b/c they keep very low, attractive but impractical coffee cups for a morning set who all need coffee to start their sunday.

like maya, i've also had mixed experiences with L in general. i had a salad with foie gras that was a real stunner once upon a time. i have had my best success focusing on the wine and having a charcuterie platter or something similar to nibble at while appreciating what has been a pretty fulfilling wine menu.

5chw4r7z said...

We mostly go to Lavo for drinks, its relaxed and we always end up spending more time there than we planned or realized.
And you have Molly to mix you drinks, what more could you ask for?

Allison Johnson said...

Sounds like we all liked the drinks and shared plates atmosphere, it's such a shame that their talented bar tender is gone. Matt, I also noticed their website is MIA, and I saw a mention somewhere (Polly Campbell's blog, I think) that they're going to a more "pub" oriented menu. It will be interesting to see what Lavo is in a few months.

Courtney said...

Thanks for the post. I was actually thinking about getting the Best of Cinci card and this sealed the deal. I'm going broke with this eating out habit I have...

J Man Studios said...

Thanks for posting the Best of Cincinnati Card promo code. I've been contemplating purchasing the card for a couple weeks now and finding this code on your blog sealed the deal for me! FREE card + 40% dining discount = killer savings! THANKS! =)