Small Endeavors
Owners' entrepreneurial spirit shines forth in bakery, wine shop and eatery

The Cincinnati Enquirer

People who like food and wine often dream up the kind of restaurant they'd like to have someday. Most of us are too risk-averse to go ahead with those plans, but some scrape up the money, take the plunge and start working 80 hours a week.
The Production Line
Where: 3210 Madison Ave., Oakley.
When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. lunch; takeout dinner 2-6 p.m., Monday-Friday.
Prices: Lunch sandwiches $4.50-$4.95, soup $2-$2.75, complete takeout dinners $7.95-$14.95, desserts $.50-$2.50.
Miscellaneous: Excellent vegetarian choices; no smoking; dining room wheelchair-accessible, but not restrooms; outdoor patio in summer; catering.
Paying for it: Visa, MasterCard.
Information: 321-1205.
Le Cezanne
Where: 1 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Breakfast $7.50; lunch specials $4.10-$5; pastries $1.70-$3.60.
Miscellaneous: No smoking; handicapped-accessible.
Paying for it: Cash only.
Information: 948-9399.
Henke Wine
Where: 701 E. Epworth Ave., Winton Place
When: 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and 1-11 p.m. Saturday.
Paying for it: Cash only.
Miscellaneous: Smoking and non-smoking sections; handicapped accessible.
Prices: Wines $2.50-$3/glass; $7-$9/bottle; snacks $2-$10.95.
Information: 541-3177.

Often, their vision is small a lunch and take-out dinner place, or a bakery. Those ventures are often my favorite spots, reflecting as they do their owners' aspirations, backgrounds and tastes.

The Production Line Cafe in Oakley was so much an expression of its owner Kyra Alex that it's hard to imagine anyone else running it. But new owners Theresa Poynter and Pam Dwertman, who bought it in August, have kept its basic concept as an eat-in lunch and takeout dinner spot. It's always been one of my favorite lunch places -- for its warm, comfortable feeling as well as its satisfying food. I'm glad to report those qualities have endured the change in ownership.

The approach to lunch hasn't changed -- there are always two soups, two specials (one vegetarian and one meat) and the salad and sandwich menu. The simple-but-inspired pig and apple sandwich (ham and cheese with slices of tart apple), ($4.95) is still there, as is the tuna melt, ($4.95) the Italian turkey, ($4.75) and veggie ($4.50). They've added a delicious Cuban sandwich, ($4.95) made with roast pork and ham, cheese, grilled onion and pickle. This is as rich as the pig and apple, with lots of butter and mayonnaise. Another new sandwich, the Big Bella, ($4.95) based on grilled portabella and artichokes, is lighter, dressed with tangy and bright vinaigrette on chewy bread. Desserts are homey -- as homey as Rice Krispy treats or seven-layer bars.

Dinner, though, has changed. No longer do you have to order dinner by 2 p.m. They are experimenting with having a choice of eight or 10 specials for a week -- four meat and four vegetarian -- and not requiring call-ahead.

Le Cezanne in Wyoming offers Cincinnati a small corner of France. Owners Fabrice Collot and Martine Delcroix-Collot arrived here last fall and opened their bakery and salon de the in December. The Provence corner of France gives the bakery its theme and visual tone.

Pastries are available to take home or eat there. There are also several savory choices served as a light lunch. The sweet pastries are the stars, but don't pass up these lunch items. After years of bad quiche and croissant imitations, it's a revelation to sink a fork into this quintessential quiche lorraine ($4.10): a large slice of delicate, quivering custard, a rich crust, little squares of ham, a delicately cracked top.

There are both individual-sized sweet pastries and larger tortes that serve 12 or 20. The pastries are the restrained, elegant classics of French patisserie: tartelette de fruits de bois, a lemon tart with a bright filling in an almond-scented crust; perfect eclairs; cream puff swans.

When I say restrained, I don't mean they're light. It's that they rely on the simple, pure tastes of whipped cream, butter, heavy chocolate and fruit in glaze. The pyramide de chocolate is a small pointed pyramid of nothing but sweet, almost milk-chocolate ganache, and one hidden raspberry, coated in a matte dusting of cocoa. The only pastry I didn't care for was the baba au rhum, a somewhat coarse brioche cake soaked in a very sweet rum syrup. The larger tortes and gateaux are where M. Collot, who was formerly the chef at the French Embassies in Kiev and Tel Aviv, shows off his artistry.

Service can be unorganized. This doesn't bother me. What does is that the coffee hasn't been good and some of the pastries cry out for good coffee. Order tea instead.

Joe and Joan Henke both work full-time jobs before they show up at their family enterprise, Henke Wines. They make and serve wines in one of the most out-of-the-way spots you can imagine. Epworth Avenue in Winton Place takes some finding. Originally a candy and ice cream store in the 1920s, Christos and Drivakis was a vegetarian restaurant in the early '80s and most recently a country kitchen-style restaurant. The Henkes took the etched black glass tables, which the original owners brought from Greece, out of storage, replaced the mahogany booths and mirrors, added red velvet Victorian sofas and created a gracious place to serve their wine. It's a charming surprise to walk in to.

Joe is the winemaker -- amateur for many years until he decided to start making larger batches of five kinds of wines and serve them only at the winery. All are made with grapes from Ohio or New York -- there's Chardonnay, Seyval, Vidal, Cellar Blush and Vin de Rouge, all pleasant and easy to drink. I liked the buttery, smooth Seyval. You can taste all of them -- 1 ounce each -- for $2. Glasses are $2.50-$3, bottles $7-10. Mr. Henke will tell you about the grapes and the winemaking process for each, and is happy to give tours of the winery, down in the basement.

There is a small menu of wine-friendly food. We tried a seafood ''ziza'' ($10.95), essentially a thick-crusted pizza with lots of big chunks of garlic embedded in the crust and plenty of shrimp and cheese. There's also a plain ziza, and regular pizza, bread and cheese trays, shrimp cocktail and good desserts.

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