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Bruschetta / Image: Leah Zipperstein, Cincinnati Refined // Published: 10.17.17

When It Comes To Good Food, The Rook Isn’t Playing Games

As a frequent victim of not-knowing-cool-things-until-it's-common-knowledge-and-being-super-embarrassed-about-not-knowing-them, I've become used to hearing my exasperated friends' elevated voices as they yell "You haven't heard of (insert thing Phil should know)!?"

Which leads us to the mission of this site — we seek to educate others about the good stuff in Cincinnati so this type of shame doesn't befall them, too.

So today, I want to give you a little tip that'll save you the embarrassment of being oblivious to a well-kept, accidental secret of the city. You know the board game parlor The Rook on Vine Street in the Gateway Quarter of Over-the-Rhine? It has an incredible menu that actually rivals the non-board game parlor restaurants around it.


When owner Zach Leopold and his team opened The Rook, they wanted to provide three things: great entertainment, great drinks, and great food. They nailed two of the three out of the gate, but having great food needed some work.

That's where Chef G comes in. Kicking open the proverbial saloon doors and emerging from his framed silhouette, the former executive chef of Son of a Preacher Man stepped into the spotlight as The Rook's new menu mastermind.

"I saw this place about three days before I saw the ad that Zach was looking for someone, and when I checked it out, I went 'I know what this place is missing... Me.'" Chef G says with a smile. Zach brought him aboard, and the two immediately got to work.

They began interviewing regulars to see what they wanted when it came to food, and they spent months playing around with concepts. "If we want to get the perfect game night, we gotta get the perfect food out there," said Zach. "I want [people] to say The Rook is the best place to go for a dining experience."

And Chef G, ironically, wasn't playing games. He prides himself on his high standards, even going so far as to say he's never dipped below a four-star rating on any Internet resource. "I strive daily to make sure that's going to continue to happen," he says. It shows in his redesigned menu, which debuted in April of this year.

His goal was to reinvent All-American classics as gourmet meals, while giving each dish a dollop of nostalgia to complement its new spin.

For example, Chef G's Ticket to Ride Cheesesteak does away with the low-end ribeye common in standard cheesesteaks and replaces it with strip steak blanketed with four European cheeses on a bialy roll. And his World Domination Cubano does away with traditional yellow mustard and replaces it with a house-made apple butter variety that's simultaneously spicy and sweet. Other options, like pretzel bites, tater tots, and pizza rolls follow suit; they aren't the rubbery, freezer-variety snacks you've had before.

"If something starts to feel stale to me, I have to put a new spin on it," Chef G says. "I just want everybody to come on down and have a good time."

This well-kept, accidental secret in Cincinnati is now yours to know, my friend. But instead of keeping your cards close to the chest, impress your clueless friends by taking them to The Rook for a meal (or carry-out... they do that, too).

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Above is a gallery of photos highlighting several dishes offered by The Rook as part of Chef G's redesigned menu. The Rook is located at 1115 Vine Street (45202).