Sunday, September 7, 2003

Campbell's Scoop

It's taken a Village to feed Mariemont

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Where to eat like it's 1963: The Village Kitchen in Mariemont turns 40 years old this week. Naturally, the owner and staff are celebrating, because turning 40 is a major feat for any restaurant - many don't make it past the first few years.

It's not a splashy celebration, though, because the Village Kitchen is anything but splashy. For 40 years, people in Mariemont have come in for breakfast, for sandwiches and for daily specials at dinner - cabbage rolls, pot roast, baked chicken.

The restaurant's owner, who has the perfect restaurant owner's name of Maureen Plate, is giving away free beverages Monday and free desserts Wednesday.

Tuesday, the actual anniversary, the whole menu will be available at 1963 prices, if you make a minimum $5 donation to the Mariemont Preservation Society. That means soup will be 35 cents, pot roast and noodles $3.10 and pie 40 cents.

Plate is just thanking Mariemont, she says, for all the years of patronizing her restaurant.

It began as her mother's place. Bert Wasserman's husband suddenly passed away when he was 52, and she was 50. Needing a way to support herself, Wasserman turned to her good reputation for baking and cooking and began serving breakfast and lunch at the location on Mariemont Square. She soon added dinner.

"The restaurant opened on my daughter's first birthday," says Plate. "My grandmother and I sewed the curtains and made aprons. I didn't expect to work in the restaurant, but in 1984, when (her mother) made the second addition to the space by buying the Colonial Dress Shop next door, I came to help out. When she passed away, I kept it."

Since then, Mariemonters have been coming in steadily.

"People have met here, started romances. Our tables are close together, and people do chat and get to know each other. There are regulars who come for three meals a day," Plate says.

Things haven't changed too much over the years. Every evening, five special entrees are offered. It's always baked chicken on Wednesday, cottage ham on Thursday and roast pork on Friday, but there might also be cabbage rolls, roast beef, prime rib or meat loaf - many made from recipes her mother used. Dinner specials run $5.25-$8.95.

Plate is thinking of adding a few things to modernize the menu. Not seared tuna or carpaccio.

"If we can't pronounce it, we certainly won't serve it," she says. "We are what we are, but there are so many new young families in Mariemont we'd like to attract."

Plate doesn't expect the restaurant to stay in the family, as her children aren't interested in the restaurant life, though her 11-year-old grandson has some ideas of how he'd operate the business.

The Village Kitchen, 6914 Wooster Pike (between Graeter's and the Mariemont Theater) Open 7 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for breakfast and sandwiches Sunday. 272-0178.



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