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It’s not just tapas anymore

MJ’s On Main
18 Main Street, Milford, OH 45150 (513) 831-9888

What do you get when you cross a male college culinary chef, with a female college instructor who loves cooking? Wait, add into the mix the mutual desire to leave the higher education racket (after 25 years) for a more satisfying and rewarding career. Hold up, before you answer, factor in one simply beautiful restaurant who’s owners are ready to abandon ship. Are you getting the picture yet?
That’s just the recipe that created the new MJ’s on Main (Old Milford). The name’s the same, the building’s the same, even some staff names are the same but the menu, the prices, the hours and the owners are all new.
New owners Jason & Keri Rominger (the afore mentioned, chef and professor) along with family members Andrew & Sandra Anderson pooled resources, bank accounts and free time to buy MJ’s on Main. The previous remodel (by Latitudes) still shines bright and beautiful. After Latitudes it was transformed into MJ’s but owner Margie threw in the towel not long after her purchase. The Romingers decided to keep the name, but revamp the food and prices to reflect their concept of quality and value. “We felt the previous portion-to-price ratio was too high” Says Jason. “We didn’t want to just cut prices and keep the smaller portions, rather, we wanted to increase the portions to merit the price”. In the ruthless come-and-go restaurant world, that’s a solid foundation many fail to realize.
Both MJ’s and Latitudes were known for small tapas style portions, superb quality and stiff prices. Neither previous owner had stellar success with that recipe so it’s safe to say the new superb quality, large portion menu will be a welcome addition for local diners no doubt.
Nothing on the new menu is closer to my heart than Jambalaya. CV has held a few Jambalaya contests and we know a good one when we see one. Sadly to say in our fair city we can recommend only two Jambalayas, Anna Ree’s Andouille and Lebo’s. Everything else I’ve seen is a poor reflection at best and most flat out make me laugh. I think I’ve tried them all but all but two disappoint.
After feeding on a plate of MJ’s Cajun creation, I have to admit it’s well worth ordering. Cajun spices sing with perfect balance, it’s chock full of chicken, chunks of andouille sausage and plump shrimp. The rice is cooked perfect, the sauce is just the right consistency & color, it even has that “right” aroma. It’s a belly buster to boot. Jason proudly says “I’ve yet to have anyone finish it, it’s a heaping portion.” Heaping it is, and it earns a spot on the short list of our recommendations for a good Jambalaya.
Another belly buster is the White Chicken Lasagna. Right off you’ll notice it’s not stacked with the usual fat, store style cheapo noodles. Delicate sheets of fresh pasta are layered with of creamy white sauce, chicken & cheeses. It’s baked and topped off with a slather of rich red sauce. Herb essences peak out of the velvety goodness. The splash of red sauce zings. It makes Olive garden look like a bad TV dinner and bests Carabbas in spades. It’s what you would expect from a quality chef created meal. It’s massive but the flavors are both bold and delicate at the same time. Both dishes are well portioned and priced considering the quality.
These dishes are an example of how GM Tracy Cacchiotti and Executive Chef Mark Potratz work seamlessly with Jason & Keri to provide the concepts principle mission. The mission is; offer diners interesting, high quality food, that leaves you well stuffed and well satisfied. You won’t need to order three dishes per person here anymore. One will most likely be enough for dinner and even lunch the next day. Or you may find it’s sooo good, you get stuffed half way though and just keep on stuffing. Not recommended mind you, but understood (and excused under the circumstances).
The big meal dinner deals don’t stop there; Ratatouille with zucchini, squash, eggplant, onion, sauteed tomatoes is a rare find. Eggplant Parmesan with Angel Hair is a rich and righteous veggie entree option. The Sesame Ginger Rice Bowl stands out with grilled chicken, scratch made sauce over Asian veggies and steamed rice. A filling yet heathy option. Pineapple Bourbon Glazed Pork Chop with white truffle mashed potatoes and warm bacon haricot vert sounds too good to pass on for pork fans. The Tequila Lime Swordfish with grilled asparagus and pepper quinoa salad makes pappadeaux look like peaux peaux.
Steak fans may choose (if they can) from a 5 oz center cut filet, basted in a fine wine reduction, served alongside the white truffle mashers and grilled asparagus. Or the big 12 oz Cajun ribeye, served with black bean pineapple cole slaw and bacon glazed haricot vert. Or, another 12 oz ribeye slathered in herb butter with mashers and asparagus. Whew! This ain’t tapas people. This is feedin’, even if you’re on the plump end of the girth spectrum, you’ll get enough to eat here, I “gare-awn-tee” (My best Justin Wilson in-print impersonation).
There is much to discover here, all obviously chef created, interesting and inspired items, all of fine quality. But I really want to make you understand you get what you pay for here. This is a dinner destination. In fact, if you’re dining in Milford and still opt for Texas Roadhouse for your next steak, you’re not just stupid, you’re slack jaw slobbering stupid. Those corporate flash frozen vacuum sealed steak dinners out of a box, can never and will never come remotely close to this level of quality. Yet somehow people fall for the neon hype in droves. Drive seven minutes further down the road and see what you’re money buys you at MJ’s. Serious chef food, serious portions, serious quality. Money spent smart.
MJ’s is open for lunch as well. Whether it’s a quick bowl of White Bean Chicken Chili, or a big fat Bison burger there’s more interesting, quality food on the lunch menu here than at most dinner destinations. The Blackened Tilapia Tacos beg to be devoured. The Drunken Pig Carnita Tacos are crazy unique. Braised tenderloin is slow cooked in IPA beer and topped with pineapple black bean slaw, chipotle creme and cilantro. Damn that sounds good. The Philly-ish Sliders are already a lunch hit and the new restaurant has barely been open a few months.
There is much I don’t have space to mention off the menu. Many items that sound so good reading them, you ought to opt for an appetizer just to give yourself time to decide. If you’re a foodie, you’re going to need more than a few minutes to take it all in. I suggest The Brew City Black & Tan Onion Rings. Thick cut onions in layers of Bass & Guinness batter served with house made horseradish aioli and chipotle dipping sauce. That should hold you over until you get your mind right about what to order.
There are veggie options in every category. Meals for light eaters and meals for big appetite folks. Scratch made soups, chili, salads, wraps, and tapas. Yes, they do still serve terrific tapas items the locals have been used to enjoying here in the past. Difference is, now, it’s not all they serve. Not by a long shot.
Weekends feature live music and the bar still hops. The new owners did not try to change every aspect, they kept what works, but added a new menu for people that work and want good quality at good value.