The Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar at the Elk Run Country Club: Great golf, great food, and wonderful history–open to the public

Since I’m a pretty controversial character, by choice, I am reluctant to stir the waters of conformity with my endorsements.  But there are some nice things going on in my community that are worth talking about in the face of a lot of political unrest in the world outside the borders of Liberty Township, Ohio—where I live.  One of the great things coming is the opening of the new Cabela’s in West Chester which is just across the street from the Liberty Township border at Liberty Center. I am excited for all the new developments and unusual dining options that often come with these new constructs.  However another fine little discovery that has emerged of late is the Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar at the Elk Run Country Club at the western diagonal edge of Liberty Township that was quite a surprise—and worth a mention regarding quality.image

I live along the Elk Run golf course.  My wife and I have always loved the place; it is certainly a wonderful course, very scenic with a lot of risk & reward holes.  With it being in such close proximity to RT 4, yet having such a spectacular view of the Trenton valley, it’s a unique place.  It reminds me often of the fine golf courses in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or the scenic establishments at Hilton Head Island.  Yet it’s right in Southern Ohio in the heart of Butler County and is to me a real treasure.  Additionally, it has sentimental value because it’s been there for a long time—back when Chuck Nuxhall was still playing as a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, The Elk’s Club was the place to be.  This was of course before the Becket Ridge Country Club came about—which is where my wife and I were married many years ago—back when that was one of the most premier establishments in Cincinnati as far as country clubs go.  The Elk’s Club in its heyday was open and thriving when LeSourdsville Lake just down the road was competing directly with Kings Island as two amusement parks of nearly the same quality.  I was a kid when all these things were happening, and I remember them—so there is a sentimental loyalty that I have for their preservation.

Other golf courses and country clubs offering the latest and greatest appeal to a much younger demographic is the Shaker Run course in Monroe, Wetherington in West Chester, and Four Bridges just down the road from the new Cabela’s—which represent the upper crust of social hierarchy.  These are great places after a hard day of work to take a few hours to live in absolute luxury—associate with people who are economically affluent—and step away from the world’s problems.  And yes, I put an emphasis on “economically affluent” because it matters.  People who make money tend to be smarter than people who don’t, and their company is more enjoyable.  They don’t laugh so much at fart jokes and they care about the quality of their golf equipment.  Affluence means generally that people have been productive, and I prefer the company of affluent people because of it.  But for a country club complete with a round of golf to work correctly not just for its resort qualities, it needs to be the kind of place you’d take business associates to conduct business—away from the office on ground that is elevated in its presentation.  It is much better to discuss hard topics on a golf course instead of a conference room, just because the energy surrounding such places promotes business association—which is extremely important to the furtherance of capitalism within America.  As much as people from outside of country clubs refute the country club culture—it is on golf courses and fine dinners where most of the best deals are made promoting economic growth.  It is a form of communication among productive people that is generally understood within business.

In Liberty Township with all the great golf surrounding the region, the newer more affluent golf courses get most of the attention. This has left Elk Run to mainly appeal to the silver haired crowd who remember when it was “the” place around town—back in the day. However, the course is still just as wonderful as it’s ever been.  It’s not surrounded by million dollar homes and has a few trailer parks near it, which hurts its appeal.  And there is a Tractor Supply right across the street which I think takes people away from the appeal of a golf course and the luxury that is expected.  But I like these colorful infusions of demographic mobility—I enjoy the dynamic quality of a car losing its muffler driving up RT 4 in front of the golf course while players haul around thousands of dollars worth of golf clubs, dressed well and conducting their lives responsibility.  I like the theater of life, and the Elk Run Country Club provides an oasis in the middle of this dynamism that is extraordinary.

The trouble with the club is not the course which is every bit as great as it was 50 years ago.  It’s the buildings, they are a bit dated reflecting the power and prestige of a generation that is currently old, but has seen its greatest generation leave for Heaven’s gates.  This is quite the opposite effect that you get at Wetherington, where the clubhouse is immaculate and modern, but the course itself is flat and featureless—relatively speaking.  Wetherington will impress business clients because of its reputation.  Elk Run has been a good memory but won’t impress with its clubhouse—which is a shame, because it’s really quite good, with a banquet area that overlooks the beauty of its marvelous view.  My first daughter was married in that banquet hall because of its beauty, and we will never forget it.  But with great golf and productive business meetings comes great food, and at the Elks, this is where they have struggled over the last decade.  Several restaurants have tried to make a go at the classic club house and failed leaving the country club appeal of the Elks missing an important ingredient.  At the Elks this is even more important, because they have a very nice kitchen that is oversized—built during a time when such things were important, so they can handle a lot of good food for a tremendous number of people.  The equipment and furnishings are dated lacking the luxurious appeal of modern décor, but everything back then was built to last, and it still does the job.  So the Elks have been missing a nice restaurant experience to go along with the golf.  No longer, a Jordanian gentleman came to the rescue and opened up the Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar and it is quite good.  My wife and I recently visited it for the first time and came away extremely impressed.

My measuring stick for fine food is Jags in West Chester.  There are some great restaurants in downtown Cincinnati and in other cities, but I personally respect Jags as far as fine food.  I’ve never had a meal there that wasn’t great or the service enthusiastic, which you expect when paying the kind of money it costs to go to Jags.  Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar is a legitimate substitute for Jags and it’s open to the public—you don’t have to be a member of the club to dine there either.  You can just pull up and park to get some fine food prepared by a staff that obviously cares a great deal about the food they put on the plate.  It was a dining experience that the chain establishments just can’t or don’t provide and it had an energy to it that was very enthusiastic.  The food was great, the service robust, worthy of a 25% tip, and the menu wasn’t so crowded that there were too many option, but just enough to cover nearly every pallet preference of most customers.  More importantly, it was a great family environment.  For families in Liberty Township, Fairfield, and Trenton– Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar is the place to go for diner offering an experience worthy of a night out.  The food was fresh and certainly better than most customers could make for themselves in their own kitchens.

The good news for the Elks Club is that finally they have a restaurant worthy of the country club experience, which hopefully will attract a new generation.  I wouldn’t hesitate to take business associates there for a round of golf and dinner.   I mean the place literally has everything, a great driving range which is completely hidden from the outside world.  A 27 hole facility surrounded by rolling hills and large mature trees—not the kind that were planted 15 years ago like what is seen on the newer courses, and now it has a first class restaurant which deserves community support.  You could literally spend the day at the Elks Club in Liberty Township playing golf and associating with clients escaping from the pressures of the outside world in a way that just isn’t possible anywhere else.  And with that support, the Elks Club can modernize things a bit and get up to speed with some refurbishment.  Because what they have now is actually better than the new stuff offered with fresh paint and processed wood.  The Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar captures that history with a respectful tip of the hat to a generation long gone, but one that laid the foundations for everything that came after.  The entire facility is family friendly and non pretentious, but that doesn’t affect its quality one bit.  Don’t feel intimidated to visit the Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar by thinking that you have to be a member of the country club.  Just pull right in and park next to the giant Elk statue.  Then step inside to a restaurant owned by a guy who really cares about his food.  And enjoy an establishment rooted in history that has something unique to offer Liberty Township from a fairly remote location which is literally in the backyard of so many people.  The food at Silver Tee Kitchen and Craft Bar is good enough to compete with the kind of dining you get downtown—but you don’t have to travel 45 minutes south to get there.  All you have to do is just step out your back door and enjoy something that is truly special.

Rich Hoffman


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