Happy New Year! To begin 2012, I’m going to start a new series-Bite From the Past Dines Out-where I’ll be talking about enjoying food at historic restaurants in Cincinnati and beyond.

This is not really going to be a food or restaurant review. I’m not qualified to do that and, to be honest, I tend to think ALL food is good! Rather, we’ll just talk about restaurants where the menu and the setting are historic.

For New Year’s Eve dinner this year, my friends and my husband let me pick the location. I chose Mecklenburg Gardens, a German restaurant in the Mount Auburn section of Cincinnati. I’ve driven past this beautiful restaurant nearly every day for the last 15 and a half years. Now, I can finally say I’ve eaten there!

The restaurant first opened in 1865 as John Neeb’s Mount Auburn Garden Restaurant and Billiard Saloon. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It became Mecklenburg Gardens when Louis Mecklenburg, a German immigrant who was John Neeb’s head waiter, purchased the restaurant from Neeb in 1881.

302 East University Avenue in Cincinnati. Photo courtesy Mecklenburgs.net

Stepping inside, it’s everything you would expect a German restaurant to be-heavy wood décor, beer steins as decorations, beautifully painted grapevines on the walls, and a full German menu including wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten, hasenpfeffer, and Bavarian goulash.

I chose one of the small plates (the restaurant’s smaller portion dinners) not really for the portion size, but because it was one of the few things on the menu served with sauerkraut! I had slices of goettawurst, bratwurst and mettwurst with peppers and onions over a bed of sauerkraut. YUMMY!

Our table enjoyed the fried pickles and soft pretzels with cheese as appetizers.

My husband had the prime rib special-which was flavorful, not overly fatty and was prepared correctly. My eldest daughter downed a bowl of sausage and potato soup and tried to finish the portabella spaetzle but had to take it home-too much food!

Our friends and my daughters ordered one of each of the desserts on the menu-strawberry swirl cheesecake, a Bavarian crème puff, the Mecklenburg pie (pecan chocolate chip crust with mocha filling, topped with mocha mousse-delicious!) and my personal favorite, the apple strudel, which I hope to recreate in my kitchen soon!

The service was very friendly. It’s a great family restaurant and we’ll definitely be going back.

Next blog post: If you have a man in your life that enjoys beef, bacon, and gravy-you’ll want my recipe for Beef Olives!