College Hill has everything a revitalizing community needs. It has a killer coffee shop in College Hill Coffee Company. It has a stylish brewery in Brink Brewing. And it has a steadfast diner in Bacall’s Cafe.
The momentum around College Hill—the mixed-use projects, the walkable entertainment district, the influx of new residents—hasn’t changed Bacall’s. The restaurant is much the same as it was when it opened in 1982. It’s still a neighborhood place with a neighborhood sensibility. That is, you feel at home the moment you walk inside.
The Art Deco decor has a lot to do with that. It’s old-timey in the best way. A frosted pane of glass decorated with Union Terminal and a 1920s car sits prominently near the hostess stand. There are retro flourishes on the menu, in the lighting fixtures, and along the bar. When sitting there, you feel like you’re on the inside of a good local joke and you can’t help but smile.
You’ll like the menu. In fact you’ll love the menu. It doesn’t try to be more than it is—great diner food.
There’s an obvious place to start, though it’ll cost you a few inches along your belt line. Order the cheese nuggets. They improve on the mozzarella stick paradigm by cutting the traditional planks into cubes, which means you get more breading in every bite. Also order the ranch fries, about which I needn’t say more than this: waffle fries, ranch dressing, shredded cheese, and scallions. Fin.
From there it’s up to you. The salads are better than you’d think, and the burgers are both large and cooked to perfection. But, subscribing as I do to the Liz Lemon philosophy of life, I would direct you to the sandwiches. In particular, I would direct you to the reuben because it's the perfect sandwich and because Bacall’s version is flawless.
The sandwiches are served with your choice of onion straws, parmesan steak fries, fresh fruit, or the vegetable of the day. We can safely scrub the last two options from the list, meaning we’re left with onion straws and parmesan steak fries. This merits mention because there are criminally few places in the city where you can get onion straws, and they might be number one on the list of most delicious things at Bacall’s.
That said, the parmesan steak fries aren’t far behind, and, to the further detriment of your waist line, you should consider getting both.
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Bacall’s Cafe is located at 6118 Hamilton Avenue.