Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hyde's Restaurant (Hamilton, OH)

(image courtesy of Google)

Hyde's Resturant is an eating institution in Hamilton, OH dating back to 1946.  It sits precariously on a concrete island in-between Hancock Ave. and South Erie Blvd. (Rt. 4).  Unlike most restaurants where I jump headlong into the food and my overall thoughts there's a bit of backstory here.  We'll start with a confession: I was scared of Hyde's.  Okay, maybe that's not entirely true, perhaps saying I was intimidated would be more accurate.  I'd heard some horror stories (like most heresy I assumed much of what I was told was largely fabricated and/or exaggerated), especially about its interior, their website also claims most of their business comes from regulars who eat there 1-2 times per day, leading me to wonder, would I stick out like a sore thumb?

So, to start, I'll tell you that I was pleasantly surprised and all of that concern was embarrassingly unnecessary.  The interior?  It was bigger than I'd expected.  I figured it'd be cramped but there were actually lots of places to choose from in regards to seating.  It was also cleaner and generally nicer than I'd expected.  After 50+ years of grease, smoke (thankfully in Ohio it's illegal to smoke indoors in public places now -- although I heard back in the day this place would be clouded in heavy cigarette smoke from open 'till close), etc. I wasn't sure what to expect.

I eyed a spot I wanted and we made our way right over.  The spot was one of the booths with a big window directly against it that looks out onto Rt. 4.  From the road, hundreds of times, I've peered over and seen that exact spot so it was only natural that's where I'd want to sit now that I'd finally mustered up the courage to go inside.

We did have a great view -- I always prefer sitting in booths or tables near natural sunlight and this definitely fit that bill.  At one point across the way a train went by and we could literally feel it vibrating through the earth and rumbling underneath us.

Here I am happily awaiting my meal and enjoying being back on the road doing restaurant reviews as it'd been awhile.

Here's my buddy Geo who had some childhood memories established here and was glad to be back.  He was impressed at how their menu had progressed and evolved, now having a lot more options, including some healthier fare than offered in years past.

Geo's vegetable soup looked like the kind your grandma would make and that's pretty terrific.

The breakfast special I ordered came with a drink but I declined and decided to stick with water.  At that point I hadn't had any soda in nine days.  But, the allure of Pepsi was too great, so I gave in and said I'd go ahead and take one.  Cola and breakfast are a combination for me that dates back to childhood, back then my mom would serve me eggs, bacon, and toast, I'd take a bite of each and hold them in my mouth until I took a sip of Coca-Cola and then I'd chew it all up together.  To my young tastes it was a delicious concoction.  To much information?

Breakfast is served!  The breakfast special comes with two eggs, potatoes, and your choice of meat.  I got bacon and it was a plentiful serving and about as good as it gets.  The eggs I got over medium, I don't like mine too runny, so opt out of over easy, but do enjoy yolk so it's my method of choice.  I don't think I've ever had a place make over medium eggs so perfectly, though.  That may sound like hyperbole but I'm being sincere -- they got it just right.

I'm also a huge fan of home fries, especially of this variety, and not enough places make them this way.  They were reminiscent of the kind cooked up in family kitchens all over this area and out towards Kentucky and throughout the midwest I'd guess.  The three components on my plate worked wonderfully together.

Then there was the toast, I went with rye, and while I'm not a huge toast eater this was one of the best pieces I've ever had.  It was saturated in butter, and no, that's not a complaint, more like a revelation of love, and I used both strawberry and grape jelly to really make it pop.  So good!

Geo had a roast beef sandwich, he sort of blanked when asked what he'd like on it, but did manage to ask for onions, so while maybe not the way he'd probably eat it again, he tackled it with light toppings, besides the onion just pickles and a little ketchup to moisten it.  Roast beef can sometimes be flavorless but he let me try it and it had some real flavor and is a nice, lighter lunch option.

Then it was time for dessert!  Now, Hyde's is famous for their pies, so even though I was rather full I couldn't refuse.  The one that most called my name was blueberry but I went with apple.  My reasoning?  Not getting the blueberry then would give me a bigger inclination to return and give me something to look forward to.  Also, apple pie is all-American, and I was in a distinctly American diner so it just felt fight.  Geo got strawberry rhubarb which he gushed about.  We both declined whipped cream or ice cream, although, I think a little whipped topping would have been a nice touch in retrospect, but we both did have ours warmed up which was a good choice.

Wow -- this was the thickest piece of apple pie I'd ever had.  The bulk of it is made up of what I can only describe as a sort of cinnamon apple filling, very thick and jelly-like, with nice chunks of apples mixed in as well.  The crust was the big star, though, it tasted defiantly homemade and was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the pie's interior.  My senior quote in my high school yearbook was, "I like pie", and those words never rang truer than when eating this.

Geo couldn't leave without a Silly Bandz bracelet.

Overall a very cool and enjoyable experience.  It's small, hometown, absolutely authentic eating.  It's quaint and with lots of character, but certainly not to be avoided, and I'd urge those like me who are filled with curiosity to definitely give it a shot.  My only regret is not having been sooner and more often, my parents' place is just a couple miles down the road, I could have easily rode my bike down when I was younger or drove by after classes years ago to get properly stuffed.  For under $10 I walked away full and happy and you can't ask for much more.

Overall Grade: A 

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