Seasons Bistro & Grille shows promise, progress in Springfield
By Elizabeth Fields Hogue Kenerly
I grew up in this town; I’ve worked in the restaurant industry in this town. Springfield, in my youth, had a few gracious, but modest restaurants mostly owned by local families that served the community well enough, but lacked the “big city” vibe (never quite being at peace with its blue collar image). Springfield was and is rife with fast food restaurants, at one point having the dubious distinction of being the one town in America that ate fast food more than any other.
Now, Springfield is chock-o-block full with corporate chains, all concentrated in one little area, all serving the same basic fare sauced a little differently for the culinary naïve. Progress, yes; but also the demise of the family-owned restaurant.
New local markets have emerged focusing on “close foods” with strong community support. There is a genuine “movement” towards better food around the Miami Valley, though I must say it’s not well organized. The potential is great, but a “big city” marketing team’s eye needs to be brought to bear on these magnificent, though isolated, efforts. Such is the story of Seasons Bistro & Grill where another local and regional effort to revitalize the “family-owned restaurant” culminates with panache.
Seasons would be the pinnacle of that effort to bring caché to Springfield’s food scene while maintaining the trust of its constituency with good honest basic dishes done extremely well with a new twist for adventure and culinary challenges to the Midwestern “meat and potatoes” mentality. Brother and sister team, Doug McGregor and Margaret Mattox, ventured away from Springfield – as most young locals do – to see the world and make their careers only to find themselves wanting to help the little town they grew up in and fondly remember if for nothing else than its need for, you guessed it, progress.
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-trained chef Keith Wicker, Seasons owners Doug and Margaret, and their parents have kept their slick, modern bistro humming quite nicely during a massive national recession and an even deeper local recession … in downtown Springfield – an economic wasteland for decades, no less.
When asked their story, you’ll get the humbled version of what can only be called a miracle. In the worst possible location, Seasons is up against multiple corporate food halls, serving a palette of limited experience and opportunity, yet the former dishwasher and special education teacher are making a profit and have ingratiated themselves in the community.
Seasons’ menu, which changes with each season (hence, ‘Seasons’ Bistro), has been a hit with locals and visitors alike. Quickly, they have garnered a very loyal clientele of both business lunch customers and eager dinner guests with customer favorites like locally grown Maple Glazed Pork Chops ($18), seasoned with a light hand of cumin served with Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes. I was very impressed with the protein that immediately communicates its quality handling from producer to cook in taste and tenderness, as well as the fine balance of the Gorgonzola in the potatoes.
This serves those meat and potato eaters well while the more adventurous can take a taste of the Sumac Chicken Sandwich ($8.50), served in a warm pita with fresh greens and a lemon yogurt. Here, I was less impressed that the chef was not making his own yogurt, nor had found a quality commercial Greek yogurt or sought out one of the local community-based dairies for that product. A detail some might not notice, but to an educated palate, it is an obvious oversight in an otherwise very good dish that is getting raves amongst locals.
This brings me to dessert, which I never eat, but one small taste of the Buckeye Peanut Butter Chocolate Tower ($5.50) sent me into a compulsive reaction that I’m not proud of. I nearly ate the whole thing with its Italian cheese base of cream, nuts, peanut butter and chocolate.
Seasons’ Bistro & Grille. Good atmosphere, good people, good food in the heart of Springfield, Ohio … progress.
Seasons Bistro & Grille is located in downtown Springfield at 28 S. Limestone St. They are open for Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Happy Hour is Wednesday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the restaurant is often open late after weekend shows at the Kuss Auditorium.
Reach DCP dining critic Elizabeth Fields Hogue Kenerly at firstname.lastname@example.org