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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
We wound up cycling through Cincinnati on the way to Hawaii on one trip. Delta had just launched non-stop service between CVG and HNL and the fare was just too good to pass up on. Besides, it gave us an opportunity to spend a wonderful evening with our friends - Dr. Don Carpenter and his wife Kaye.
Dr. Don had been, up until recently, the morning host on B-105 radio in Cincinnati, the country station. He was taking a breather at the time of our visit. I am delighted to say, by the way, that Doc is back in Detroit where he belongs working on 99.5 WYCD.
Meanwhile - back in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area -Doc and Kaye offered to take us to dinner and they picked one of their favorite places - Tropicana.
Tropicana is located "just a block and a bridge" from downtown Cincinnati in Newport, Kentucky. When I worked in the Queen City back in the 70s and again in the 80s, Newport was "sin city." Monmonth Street was full of "hootchie cootchie" joints including the notorious Della's Street Lounge. Illegal fireworks factories were always blowing up, etc. Now, city fathers have done a complete 180 and created a beautiful development right on the riverfront directly across the Ohio from downtown Cincinnati.
They've taken an old warehouse complex and turned it into a thriving entertainment hub complete with restaurants, shops, movie theatres--even a beautiful aquarium.
Tropicana is one of Jeff Ruby's creations. Doc has really become fond of his restaurants and from our experience here, it's easy to see why.
Tropicana tries to capture the "naughty" days of Newport in a fun sort of way including the "greeters" you'll find in the restrooms. Check out "Nick" who was assisting the ladies that night. No wonder Cindy and Kaye were away from the table for so long!
Life is sometimes unfair. I was drinking beer that night. Cindy was drinking iced tea. Yet her bladder filled up sufficiently for a trip to the restroom while I didn't find a need to make the trip. Doc did make a run and pronounced the "greeter" in the men's room on a par with Nick if not better. Next time I'm definitely gonna hit the head!
We were seated quickly thanks to a reservation made by Doc and Kaye. We ordered a round of beer and our server recited all the menu items and the specials.
Doc insisted that we start with an order of incredibly large shrimp. I think they were called Firecracker Shrimp but don't hold me to it. The order came with four huge shrimp that had been wrapped in a light tortilla or wonton and lightly deep fried. They were served over a bed of mashed carrots and special, colorful sauces. Kaye was really curious about the sauces and tried to pry the recipe out of our server. Whatever was in the sauce, it complimented the shrimp nicely. On a scale of 1-10, the giant crustaceans were a 57!
For our main dinners, Doc and Kaye both got the traditional Surf 'n Turf. Nice filet mignon and a big lobster tail. My wife and I both went with a New York strip with a special lobster and crab sauce. Each couple shared an order of fabulous "lobster" mashed potatoes. The potatoes were reddish-orange with sizeable nuggets of lobster. They were to die for!
Everything was perfect. Prompt service. Steak cooked right on the money, etc.
Doc succumbed to Crème Brule to cap the meal off. I can't remember if Kaye had anything. Cindy ended her meal with a deliciously rich chocolate cheesecake with strawberries. In fact, she's here in the room right now as I do this review and she's reliving just how good the meal was. (Pipe down, Honey. I can't concentrate!)
Tropicana is located right on the riverfront in downtown Newport, Kentucky and it's literally only a block and a bridge from downtown Cincinnati. Reservations are essential. Their number is (859) 491-8100. Jeff Ruby has several other outstanding restaurants in the Cincinnati area.
PS-I'm checking this review out in February of 2012 and I don't see Tropicana mentioned in Jeff Ruby's stable of restaurants. I hope it's closed temporarily for renovations or something. It would be a shame to lose a restaurant as good as this one.