Spread Eagle Tavern
 Hannoverton, Ohio           Date of Visit  03/01/14          

A long journey to rural Hannoverton Ohio and the Spread Eagle Tavern was recommended to us some time ago.  It may take us a bit but we usually get it worked out eventually. The crew was assembled and long after freeway turned to crooked and hilly back roads, we found ourselves in a historically rich setting. There is a lot of bluster about a visit from Lincoln (yes, the president) but if you read the fine print it is rumor more than fact.



The Back Entrance From The Parking Lot

The place is nice in that worn creaky sort of way. Politics are nailed to every wall, from Washington to Columbus it seems our elected public “servants” aren’t wanting for time or $. The most awesome part of the structure is the rathskeller on the bottom level, it certainly gives the feeling of a speakeasy and seems to be close to the purported hidden tunnel used to whisk freed slaves across the street on their way to freedom. I like the place. It does take a sextant and graduate work in navigation to find your way out, depending on where you're sat.

We had a front and back waiter. Karen and Doug. Doug started the evening with a small maneuver of promise. He walked around the table and dropped a lemon wedge into each glass before retracing his steps and pouring the ice water, adding the citrus but keeping the fruit trapped under a layer of ice. Nice.


We were in a little room (The Taft Room to be precise) on our own which seemed to amplify Karen’s voice dramatically, Doug seemed a little frightened of us and kept the talking to a minimum. I think they are much more accustomed clientele more adept at polite, political doublespeak (lying with a smile on your face) than our brash crew du jour. Karen did steer us in a good direction on the appetizers but she also told us everything on the menu is wonderful…definitely a campaign promise.


Functional Warm Bread Was Served With...

What Became Known As The Exquisite Butter

We were delivered a basket of warmed bread and two plates of exquisitely scooped butter. We started with the recommended bruschetta, stuffed peppers, pasta pin wheels and the Liberty “not French” onion soup. The soup was fine at best, absent browned crispiness on the cheese from a stay under the sally and caramelized sweetness from the onions. The broth was beefy, the onion straws were nice and the sherry shown through but the sweetness and blistered cheese were sorely missed.

The pasta pinwheels contained Prosciutto, basil and Parmesan, all beneath a blanket of thick garlic cream sauce. The sauce essentially buried any of the internal ingredients, it was a take it or leave it option.

Onions Needed Additional Caramelization & We Missed The Browned Gruyere

Too Glumpy To Succeed

One of our crew felt there was too much cheese in the stuffed Hungarian peppers, there is no such thing as too much cheese but there is such a thing as not enough other to balance the cheese. In the peppers what was missing was the punch of the pepper itself. Too mild to send a tangy kick through the sausage or Alfredo sauce, they ended up cloying, heavy and boring.

Karen recommended the bruschetta which was topped with basil pesto, tomato, red onion, feta and parmesan cheeses, then drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This was the appetizer which managed a satisfying balance, nothing to get excited about but it turned out to be the best option.


All That Was Missing Was Punch From The Peppers

The Bruschetta Beat Out Other Apps

Dinner, sadly, fared only a little better. Mixed greens with thick but underseasoned dressings comprised the salads. A cup of corn chowder was dominated by heavy cream, rich but short on flavor, just like the salad dressing. We ordered five entrees, trying to hit every section of the “you can’t go wrong” menu. Final score:

Pretty Good – 1
Acceptable – 1
Disappointing – 2
Garbage – 1

The elk loin was done to a beautiful mid-rare, topped with powerful demi, and served with mash and the skinniest asparagus spears you can imagine. The demi may have been a bit much but the loin beneath was tender and succulent. Had only all turned up like this.

A tomahawk pork chop arrived topped with apples and feta. The first comment I heard was “I don’t understand the apples and feta.” I thought to myself, “apples are good, feta is good, which don’t you like?” When I tried it, I didn’t like them either. Nothing bad but the round chop on the bone was so much better without them. Karen had to be stopped at one point, having not asked for a temp on the pork, to ensure we didn’t get a chewy disk of dry, overly denatured protein. They cooked it well, it was quality pork, there were perfect hatch marks from the grill, all of which was hidden by the pile of apples and cheese on top. If you scraped it off, you saw the diamonds and could taste the quality of the pig and the cook.


Heavy Cream Suppresses Flavor

Flavor Didn't Show Up In The Dressing Either

The Elk Looked Beautiful

And In Most Ways It Was

The Pork Was Also Well Done

But Needed "Shaved" Before You Could Taste It

Beside the elk, all other entrees were served with a passable house veg of carrot and broccoli. Starch was accomplished with historic roasted fingerling potatoes. I wish they were historic in the manner of recipe originally used by Mary Todd Lincoln, but they were more likely historic in actually being cooked by her. Yes, that’s a ridiculous exaggeration, but the long ago cooked, poorly stored, and even more disastrously reheated tiny tubers were ridiculously awful. Not even a big scoop of exquisite butter could lend aid. The potatoes hurt not only the pork plate but the three that would follow, not that they needed help.

The Australian rack of lamb was meant to be served with a mushroom risotto but we lucked into another helping of Lincoln taters, maybe it was a good thing.? The lamb was cooked to the ordered mid-rare and cleanly frenched but still had some of the fatty flap, some like their lamb that way others don’t, no points lost there. Where the lamb went awry was in the smoking, the degree of which obliterated lambiness. Boo.

Lamb Was Arrested For Second-Hand Smoke

At Least They Tried To Hide The Potatoes

Then there was the Beef Wellington. The flavors were there, duxelle, beef; but the pastry was mealy and dense instead of puffy. The only time we were asked for a temp was the lamb. The Wellington arrived well done. Criminal. Barbaric. Philistine. Dry meat and clunky bread do not for a stellar Wellington make, we had proof. Those two dishes were the disappointments. Then there was mine.

I Hear Cows Sadly Lowing...

And Gordon Ramsay Shrieking

My order turned out to be the garbage. I ordered fish, expensive fish, Dover Sole. Served with a sauce of browned butter, lemon and white wine, I had made this in the classic French heavy seafood kitchen cycle in culinary school. Ala meunière. Nitpicking…there could have been more sauce. Punching in the gut…anyone who serves that fish should be ashamed. Waterlogged and mushy in a disgusting sort of way, the smell and the taste of ammonia guaranteed there was no way they didn’t know this half of the fish was miles past it’s prime. I have had fresher fish with better texture and flavor out of a bag of sticks discovered in the back of the freezer. Shame. Shame on you.

This Crime Was Clearly Premeditated

It Could Be Argued A Capital Offense

We might have skipped dessert but it was clear we wouldn’t be making the long trek back to Hannoverton, at least not to eat here, so we split three. A crème brule, French silk pie and bread pudding. Karen told us the crème brule was the house special but it wasn’t all that special. Set too thick and rubbery, little vanilla essence, and topped with something…can’t tell you what…Karen couldn’t taste it. Somewhere between the whipped cream and the raspberry sauce something had gone wrong, way wrong, spoiled wrong. We all tasted it…I hope they stopped serving it…we eventually stopped trying it. The French silk pie wasn’t very French or silky but at least it hadn’t spoiled.

Some Thing Was Off. Well, Everything Was. But One Thing Was WAY OFF!


At the last minute we added the bread pudding, mostly because we couldn’t believe it was white chocolate and blue berry. When it arrived, it looked like a brick in a pool of crème anglaise. But, contrary to recent events it turned out to be really nice.

White chocolate added a nondescript light sweetness, noticeable berriness, smooth English sauce, less dense than it appeared custardy bread, it turned out to be a piece of flotsam to cling to after quite the shipwreck. Not your first choice for accommodations, but it keeps you afloat.

I didn’t expect great things from the Spread Eagle Tavern, I certainly expected better than we found. Go and have a look around inside the tavern, then I would recommend Grinders in Minerva or Aunt Mabel’s in East Rochester or even the McDonalds on 30 if you’re feeling peckish. Try the Filet ‘O Fish.

It Wasn't Great But That Made It Wonderful



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