The much-ballyhooed barbecue joint needs some refinement.
Popularity sometimes disguises the truth, covering up the blemishes so glaring on those of less-fortunate circumstances.
Things are no different in the restaurant world, where folklore can trump accomplishment.
The first central Ohio location of Cincinnati-based Montgomery Inn is popular -- wildly popular -- and some of the hype is understandable, a clear sign that Dublin-area diners hunger for more restaurants.
And there's a more obvious explanation: Central Ohio devotees of the Reds fondly recall a trip to the barbecue joint on their way back from a baseball game in the Queen City. Bites of ribs slopped with red sauce and frothy
suds seemed a fitting celebratory dinner.
On our visits, success was painfully mixed. Some of that can be attributed to the relative youth of the Inn, which is now about six weeks old.
The kitchen tended to be heavy-handed with the salt, servers intermittently brought out extra napkins and wet naps and it seems everything was covered, or at least sided, with the house barbecue sauce. It is pretty basic -
very sweet, leaving a vinegar tang on the palate with no smoke or multi-dimensional appeal.
It was glazed on the Greek meatballs ($6.95), an odd fit, and served as a dipping sauce for the Saratoga chips ($4.95) -- thick, crunchy and positively addictive. Gratefully, it wasn't anywhere near the decent crab cake
($9.95). A bit heavy on the celery flavor, the cake was full of lump meat, served with a whole-grain mustard sauce and aioli.
Something to counter the sweetness: a colorful Greek salad ($6.95) with hints of oregano, slightly tart dressing, spicy pepperoncini and chickpeas, an unusual but welcome touch.
In the pristine Shoppes at River Ridge, the Inn is more clubhouse than cafeteria, a big space divided into several different rooms, with lots of natural illumination to fill the corridors predictably lined with sports memorabilia.
As for the ribs (petite, $15.50; slab, $25.95; and king, $28.95), the kitchen was spotty in achieving firm-but-yielding meat. On two visits, the pork ranged from dry and splintered to soft and sumptuous, and always profusely
slathered with sauce. On their best day, they're good, but they left us yearning for an inflection of smoke.
Yet, the kitchen had resounding success with a few dishes, such as the half duck ($23.95), moist and intensely earthy, served with two dipping sauces: an orange sherry and the original barbecue sauce. Don't use either if
you want the pure taste of the duck. Another winner was the Coho salmon ($20.50), sprawled across a steamed vegetable medley. Simply seasoned with salt and pepper, the filet had the right degree of moisture.
Entrees are served with one side, and the choices are routine: mac 'n' cheese, fries, baked potato and such. We tried a healthier angle by ordering steamed broccoli and fresh green beans, a veggie of the day on one visit.
For a worthwhile and less sweet dessert, the homemade shortcake ($7.50) was rustic, topped with fresh strawberries in a light syrup and was capped off with a scoop of Graeter's vanilla ice cream.
Within a couple years of its 60th anniversary, Montgomery Inn is legendary in the Cincinnati area. It has a few kinks to work out locally before it reaches such celebrated status.
Pricing: Moderately expensive to expensive
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday