We ate at Senate on Saturday night - the day after the opening. Apologies off the bat - we didn't take any photos inside the joint. But, with no menu online, you'll be happy to find it below.
The Story & Setting: Senate is one of the new restaurants in town that has done a great job of harnessing social media and the blogosphere to get its name out. They had over 1,000 Facebook friends before they even opened. Getting a liquor license was apparently a problem, but the wait seemed to increase the hype. I liked the owner's idea of a place where politics get done, and am always interested in what will happen in OTR, my home for nearly 10 years and where my office is still located.
Several friends from the night before said the kitchen had run out of food after the CAC Shepard Fairey opening (not the worst problem to have on opening night), so we went "early" at 6:30. It was full when we got there, and there was a 30 minute wait for 2. By the time we were seated though, there were plenty of spots open. Because the bar is so big, it felt more packed than it was.
Funny how Ikea has taken over our lives since it opened in Westchester - our friends and Senate have the same coasters. Overall, the design is solid. While the kitchen seems small and the bar seems large, it'll probably help keep things cozy in a good way. The blank brick wall and hardwood decor give the place a sturdy, old feel, but not in a stodgy way - more like you're in gentrified, hip Brooklyn. It would probably warm the place up just a bit to let some coats hang at the end of the bench seating, and I assume they'll get some art on that brick at some point.
A quick mention on the service: not notably good or bad - the wait time was on point, our food came quickly enough, our water bottle got filled up consistently.
The Food: First off, it was refreshing to look over a whole menu and feel like it was strong from top to bottom - interesting, thoughtful, fun. We pretty quickly narrowed in on our choices (after learning they were out of falafel and lobster blt sliders): poutine from "bites," grilled cheese from "street & savory," and hello kitty from "hot dogs."
The poutine was wonderfully flavorful. As is always the problem with putting things on top of french fries, the fries get soggy - and this was no exception. But, the braised shortrib was delectable and the cheese was tasty.
As for our other 2 dishes, it was a split decision - Sarah liked the hot dog and I liked the grilled cheese the best. Momofuku pork buns are all I can think about whenever I see pork belly on a menu any more. I can't help it. We made them, they were very good. So, pork belly on a grilled cheese sandwich, also very good. Unfortunately, when you use fat + fat + fat (pork belly, cheese (which we couldn't taste), and avocado) it shouldn't be a surprise that we had to strip the bottom bread off the sandwich it was so caked in oil. I asked for some sriracha on the side and I think it would be a nice kick on the regular. The hot dog had a nice crunch, and the coleslaw on top gave it good texture. We both could have gone for more wasabi, and the bun was so big we couldn't get our mouths around for a bite. After tearing off half of the husky side of the bun, it was balanced just right.
No drinks, no desserts - we were on a budiet (budget/diet - pronounced BOO-dee-ay).
The Ingredients: Lots of interesting stuff going on, but no mention of local or seasonal ingredients that we noticed. The beer list (see below) does sport some local options though, so that's a start.
We're looking forward to going back every now and then - at $9 for a hot dog, its not cheap eats, and its hard to imagine how much politicking will go on (even if Pat DeWine was in attendance) due to the tightness of the spot. But, if we want some interesting options in a hip city setting, Senate will be high on the list.