Wildflower Cafe & Coffee House
207 E Main St.
Mason, OH 45040
Lunch: Tues – Sat: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner: Tues – Sat: 5:30 p.m. – ??
Appetizers: $8 – $17
Soups & Salads: $4 – $9
Small Plates*: $9 – $13
Large Plates*: $18 – $25 (~$14 – $15 for lunch)
*Some items do not have prices listed, as they go by whatever the market price for that item is.
Located in an unassuming repurposed house is a cozy restaurant that is as homey as they can get. Homey in a good way as in – small and looks like they did all the decorations themselves – not homey as in “this place is kind of a dump but I don’t really want to say that explicitly.”
What attracted us most to Wildflower Cafe was their focus on organic, sustainable foods. It’s a market that is still relatively small but is steadily growing in popularity. Due to their focus on local foods, some dishes have no price listed – just an ambiguous “market price” is listed – and the menu is constantly changing. They do have some items that are consistent, particularly their appetizers, salads, soups and their burgers. However their “small plate” and “large plate” entrees change frequently.
As mentioned, Wildflower is located in what used to be a house, which now has a strong, earthy feel to it. The interior is warmly decorated with worn wood floors and walls covered in an muted yellow. A porch greets you in front, and in back is a small parking lot, handicapped entrance and a small garden.
The dining area is small, so I’d likely recommend reservations, although they did recently open up a bar area upstairs (It sounds a bit dangerous – drinking and stairs. I suppose that’s a good way to make sure people don’t drink too much!) that also has a bit more table space.
To start Adam and I got the Assorted Organic Cheese Board for two, while we perused the menu and waited for the waitress to return with what the day’s “Grass Fed Beef” large plate was. The cheese board had feta, crumbled bleu with a touch of honey, raw milk sharp cheddar, Ohio amish pastured cheese du jour, and a small bit of greens with salted nuts and an olive-based dressing. Oh, and of course crackers to put the cheese on.
Each cheese was very unique and delicious – I’ve never been a fan of sharp cheddar and much less a bleu cheese fan, but they both were really tasty and warranted second helpings. Unfortunately, the cheese-to-cracker ratio was a bit off, so we picked up our forks to finish off the cheeses and to break into the greens that capped the opposing end of the board.
When our waitress came back we were able to order our entrees as well as a bottle of wine. Wildflower has a decent selection of wines, almost all local from what I could tell. We chose the Burnet Ridge 2006 Pinot Noir. We thought it was interesting to find that the winery will not sell bottles outside of the state. The waitress also let us know what the specialties were, and wrote them up on the chalk board menu afterward.
I decided to get the grass fed beef special – which wound up being Beef Scallopini – herb crusted and pan fried with a burgundy sauce. Adam got the Webb Valley Farm Burger – supposedly #1 in the area according to Cincinnati Magazine. It is a burger made with grass-fed beef with double smoked bacon and fresh herb aioli on an English Muffin with either cheddar, swiss, feta or Bleu cheese – of which Adam chose the Bleu. It also came with a soup, the soup of the day that day being a Flounder Gumbo.
I didn’t realize it, but my dish also came with a salad, which I think was called the “Wildflower Salad” which is composed of edible flowers, mixed baby lettuces, grapes, shredded carrots and Bleu cheese tossed with a raspberry champagne vinaigrette and served with Blue oven bread and Jam Lady jam on top.
Adam’s flounder gumbo was absolutely fantastic. I am admittedly normally not much of a seafood person. There are some exceptions, but I just do not like that ‘fishy’ taste. The flounder gumbo had none of that – it was just ever so mildly fishy, but in a decidedly delicious, definitely not offensive, way. It was nearly impossible for me to discern what else was in it (Adam inhaled it a little too quickly for me to try to dissect) but it had a rich only slightly spicy flavor with delicate touches of that seafood taste framed by smoky bits reminiscent of Andouille.
The Beef Scallopini is a thin cut of beef covered with herbs (and usually flour although it was not mentioned) and pan fried, with burgundy then added to the pan to make a sauce. It is served on top of herbed mashed potatoes and seasoned green beans – the dish was completed by a scattering of greens decorating the plate, which when mixed with the mashed potatoes complimented them nicely.
It was full of flavor, every bite a joy to take. The mix of herbs and sauce really brought all the items on the plate together. I wish I could also say that the beef was tender and cooked just to my liking, but I unfortunately cannot. Instead the beef was a bit overcooked for my tastes, which also made it a little dry. However, thanks to the fact that it was a thin cut, and thanks to the delicious sauce and crust, I didn’t mind the dryness.
Last time we were at Wildflower, I got a chicken dish, which I recall was so dry I had to keep taking sips of water between bites. I was hoping they wouldn’t overcook the beef too, which they did, but it was still very good. The green beans and mashed potatoes were just as good – if not a little better – than the beef itself.
The Webb Valley Farm Burger that Adam got was tall, juicy and delicious. Cooked all the way through and bursting with juices. The English Muffin it sat atop held up quite nicely and went surprisingly well with the burger. The other toppings, bacon, greens, the Bleu cheese and the sauce all melded splendidly with the flavor of the beef. Adam’s only potential complaint, and it was a mild one, was that the flavor of the sauce was a bit overpowering at times. That being said, he wholeheartedly confirmed the selection of Wildflower as the home of Cincinnati’s best burger.
Chips came along with the burger and were, well, chips. I was a bit surprised that they were even served, as they were a bit sub-par and I could have bought better from the store. They weren’t inedible, just seemed like super-crunchy plain fried potato slices. They may have been organic and everything, but they could have been out of a bag from Whole Foods and I’m not sure I would’ve known the difference.
By this time, I was full and ready to be done, however Adam really wanted dessert – and we still had half a bottle of wine to go through. So, we ordered a slice of carrot cake and a plate of bread pudding. Shortly after we ordered, a large group came in and the waitress asked us if we would mind being moved upstairs. I think some people would have been off-put by it, and maybe a bit unhappy at it, but we didn’t really mind – and actually had no clue that they had anything upstairs so we were happy to go up.
Up the rather steep stairway (I suppose I should have expected that, since it is in an old house) they have a small bar and a few other tables. The bartender was very friendly and chatted with us a bit about wines, and even let us have a try of another of Burnet Ridge’s wines, this one a blend (and as excellent as the Pinot Noir which had preceded it).
The wait for our carrot cake, bread pudding and accompanying coffees was brief, and we were eager to dig in. My carrot cake was, well, a prime example of what a cake should be. I’ve always hated everything about cakes – the texture, sponginess, dryness, icing, flavor, etc., until Adam turned me on to carrot cake. Now it’s the only cake I’ll eat – and even then some are just terribly dry or too sweet for me.
However, Wildflower’s carrot cake had the perfect combination of sweetness, moisture, texture and flavor. It was sweet, but not overly so, moist, smooth in texture and the icing and flavors were just perfect. I had to keep taking breaks while eating it – but only because I was so full. The icing was particularly interesting, and a big part of what set it apart from other carrot cakes. Rather than glaze it with the standard cream cheese icing, theirs was spiked with a very subtle orange flavor making it both reassuringly familiar and refreshingly new at the same time.
Adam’s bread pudding was also a great example of a dessert done right. It was warm, creamy and succulent with a velvety texture that resisted for only a moment before succumbing to the pressure of the spoon. The creme Anglaise in which the bread was drenched was also delightfully, but not overly, sweet and was well balanced by the raisins suspended within the bread. It well surpassed both Claddagh and Brazenhead’s incarnations.
Wildflower definitely gets a lot of points from us for having a focus on organic, local, sustainable foods. I’ve heard some complain that Wildflower had a “pretentious air” inside it because of it, which I don’t agree with. Yes, they do have posters around advertising local, sustainable foods, etc. however it is, likely, because they want people to be aware of the fact that they serve those kinds of foods.
Some people can take caring for food and the environment to a pretentious level, but I don’t think Wildflower does. When farmers and chefs are passionate about what they do, and treat the food with love and care, it definitely comes through in the taste – even if it is a little over done.
One thing does leave me puzzled though – which is the “coffee house” part of their name. We ordered coffees to go with our desserts since we had heard they were good – which they were – and were better than most restaurants, but not like what I’d expect at a coffee house.
Our meal had it’s high points and low points, everything tasted great and nothing was offensive – the only real downside being my dish seeming a bit over cooked which made it dry. Everything tasted good – which is what really counts. It is a bit pricey – but I suppose that is to be expected at some level when they are serving organic products.
Would you try Wildflower Cafe? What have you experienced there? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
Verdict: Mason’s Gourmet Secret
Wildflower Cafe and Coffee House is a small, warm restaurant in downtown Mason well deserving of the accolades it’s had heaped upon it and bolstered by friendly staff that love the environment and making gourmet dishes. They have a strong focus on obtaining organic, sustainable and local ingredients, and even grow some items themselves on site. Our appetizer, entrees and desserts were all delicious, and we will definitely be back. We advise having a reservation as they are a really small restaurant and can fill up quickly. If you want good food in Mason, Wildflower will not let you down.