Since its beginnings, Herbie's Vintage '72 has been a dining destination for locals and visitors alike, anchoring the northern end of Euclid Avenue in the Central West End. The space's current incarnation boasts plenty of ancillary amenities like private dining and a cigar club, but regardless of the additional accoutrements, at Herbie's, the food still is very much the focus.
Herbie's has long been one of our favorite rooms, equal parts comfort and class, and provides an atmosphere that's amenable for a last-minute dinner or celebrating a special occasion.The enclosed 'sidewalk cafe' section provides good people-watching opportunities and allows for a quasi-patio experience all year round.
For dinner service, two menus are available: one featuring larger plates and the bistro menu, which offers more casual fare. We opted for the main dining-room menu this time around. There also are plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian items to be had, as well. A cup of the soup of the day started us off, a mild Tomato Soup ($4) that was both simple and delicious, and a tasty antidote to the blustery winter weather. It's hard to find a restaurant that hasn't incorporated kale into their salad selection, though Herbie's Kale Salad ($9) is a real standout from the crowded field, thanks to the subtle crunch of pumpkin seeds, shaved carrot and radish, and a mild miso vinaigrette. Each element is allowed to shine through, and the dressing is incorporated judiciously and treated as an ingredient in and of itself, not an afterthought.
The Wellington of Beef on the Herbie's menu is almost legendary, likewise, the Lobster Mac & Cheese. On our most recent visit, it was definitely tempting to get reacquainted with both, but two other dishes begged for attention: the Bacon-Wrapped Quail ($28) and the Peppercorn and Coriander Encrusted Yellowfin Tuna ($29). There has been something of a bacon backlash among some chefs and diners of late, due to its overexposure on many menus. But the use of bacon in this quail dish is restrained, with just enough salt to used to counter the fig glaze on the perfectly roasted birds. The two small quail were big on flavor and surprisingly filling, given their diminutive size. The tuna came with bok choy and edamame, and a green pea miso. Just a touch of heat was provided, courtesy of some soy wasabi. The crust was just spicy enough to bring out the subtleties of the fish without overwhelming it. These two dishes provide a good example of the breadth of the Herbie's menu, which runs the gamut from traditional European fare to American comfort food to lighter Asian-inspired offerings.
Simple and classic are two of the defining characteristics of the cuisine at Herbie's. Case in point, our dessert choice, Haley's Cupcake ($9). This red velvet delight is named after a former employee (according to our server), and is the epitome of a time-honored classic, just like the restaurant itself.
-- 405 North Euclid Ave., 769-9595, herbies.com.
Herbie’s Bacon Jam
Yields approximately 3 qts.
∙6 lbs. bacon
∙8 yellow onions
∙12 cloves garlic
∙2 c quality bourbon
∙2 c brown sugar
∙1/2 c cider vinegar
∙1 c sorghum (maple syrup works as well)
∙3 c coffee
∙2 t black pepper
∙Heat heavy bottomed pot (stock pot, Dutch oven or roaster) on medium-high.
∙Cut bacon into cubes, if using slab, or into 1” pieces if using sliced. Brown the bacon, being careful not to burn it.
∙Remove bacon from pot, turn heat to medium, sweat onions and garlic until completely translucent, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
∙After the onions and bacon sweat all the way down, add remaining ingredients and bacon back to pot and bring to a boil.
∙Boil for two minutes, then drop the heat to low.
∙Cook low and slow until mixture in pot is syrupy, stirring occasionally.
∙When mixture is syrupy, process in a food processor or whip it with a whisk attachment on your mixer.
∙Allow to cool.
∙Store in air-tight container for up to 3 weeks.