Read about the changes at Marietta, Ohio’s Levee House [classic article]

Several years ago, I had eaten at Marietta, Ohio’s Levee House, the town’s last remaining original riverfront structure, dating from 1826. Marietta is a tremendously historic town, the first settlement of the Northwest Territories. When I first started eating there years ago, it was an upscale dinner establishment whose strengths were in their classic appetizers — like a fantastic house-made chicken liver pate — rather than their entrees. Today, the restaurant has different owners and chef. There have been several changes, many of which, quite frankly, are not for the better.

Sure, it still has a great river view, though I wish they would get the city to stop allowing cars to park right in front of the tables overlooking the Ohio River. With the restaurant’s outdoor tables, I was happy to have been able to sit at the end table with my new puppy.

I ordered a Manhattan — a classic drink for a classic establishment. It was pretty much the worst cocktail I ever had. The glass was filled with tons of ice, very little bourbon, one maraschino cherry and no muddled orange. There’s no dedicated bartender and servers seems to be left to their own (untrained) devices.

The menu seems to have been scaled really, really down . . . surprising for a town with a fine liberal arts college, successful fracking across the river in West Virginia, lots of manufacturing, tourism, etc. The cuisine doesn’t seem to have a theme or thought process, either. Ohio and West Virginia have a marvelous bounty of local produce, but one would not know it from Levee House.

I ordered the Ploughman’s Platter, an antipasto of the day type starter. My server couldn’t tell me what was on the plate either before or after serving it. After sending her back to the kitchen, I found out that there was braunschweiger (which seemed to befuddle my server) and gyros meat on the plate along with the things I could identify on my own, including olive tapenade, pizza pepperoni out of a pack and chopped up string cheese Mozzarella. Where do I start? This isn’t the server’s fault: she was very attentive. She just wasn’t trained at all, never sampled things in a family dinner with the chef as many restaurants do. People need and want to know what they’re eating, for taste preferences, religious reasons and dietary concerns. The platter had a mish-mash “fusion” of pre-packaged things — and not good quality at that. There were cubes of Colby-Jack and Pepper Jack that had no rhyme or reason to the flavors. The braunschweiger was kind of a nasty example of the meat spread. Frozen gyros meat slices on a plate? Chopped string cheese? I’ve never, never, ever seen those things in a restaurant setting. It came off like I visited friends during a power outage and they just threw whatever was thawing out on a plate while we watched tv.

Surprisingly enough, the entrees were pretty tasty and very modestly priced: they’re all under $20, almost unheard of in this day and age. I got the nut-crusted chicken stuffed with goat cheese and lightly sauced in sun-dried tomato cream sauce. It had crunch and was perfectly done, juicy chicken. Quite flavorful! But, like a beautiful girl with something stuck in her teeth, it was served with what seemed to be Hannover brand steamed veggies out of the bag and the potatoes I selected: “baby baked potatoes”. They didn’t work because they were overcooked and not seasoned.

I also tried a special: honey almond trout. It was a nicely done fish.

The desserts recited seemed to be rather basic, so I took a pass.

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