Bringing New Life to the Neighborhood

Just over two months ago I moved to East Walnut Hills. In the ten or so weeks I’ve been here, I’ve seen a slow trickle of new businesses calling the community* home. Over the next couple of months, we’re going to see the flood gates really burst open, starting with openings at Myrtle’s Punch House, Mardi Gras on Madison, and O Pie O — all located at or near DeSales Corner. Considering the outstanding establishments that already call the Walnut Hillses home (Suzie Wong’s, Parkside Café, Brew House, Fireside Pizza, Café DeSales, Kitchen 452, and a number of existing establishments and retail spaces to name a few), we are experiencing a really exciting time.

When I moved into the neighborhood in mid-September, I knew it was exactly where I was supposed to be. As a lifelong resident and zealot of this great city**, I knew it would be a fun yet daunting task to find the perfect neighborhood for me (and there are 52 of them!). Merely walking to and from DeSales Corner leaves me feeling a love and energy I’ve never felt before, and reaffirms the decision to move here. To be a part of this community — especially during its so-called “renaissance” — is special in a way that is difficult to describe. And I’m not one for being speechless.

Cheers to The Growler House!

Cheers to The Growler House!

64 oz. growlers at The Growler House

64 oz. growlers at The Growler House

Finding a part-time job (in addition to my 9-to-5) was something that I really wanted to do, and I am so unbelievably fortunate that I found one in my neighborhood (five blocks north of my place, to be exact). The ability to work a couple of shifts per week at The Growler House isn’t just an opportunity to socialize and make friends (though we all know there will be plenty of that), but what I consider to be the most important aspect is that it will give me the opportunity to truly be an advocate for this historic, beautiful, charming, picturesque, walkable neighborhood. Being a resident allows me to advocate for and push for the advancement of the community, but working for a neighborhood establishment, in my opinion, will afford me the opportunity to promote the neighborhood to people who don’t live in the area, to support the success of a local business, and to give back by providing my “service” to the community.

I am incredibly excited and fortunate to be working for the owners and GM with bringing The Growler House to life. I have never been a part of opening a local business, and it has proven to be a motivating, energizing, and exciting journey, much like moving to East Walnut Hills ten weeks ago. More than anything, it has been invigorating to bring new life into the neighborhood.

The Growler House opens on Tuesday, December 2. Regular hours will be:
Tuesday – Thursday, 3pm to 9pm
Friday, 3pm to 11pm
Saturday, 12pm – 11pm
Sunday, 12pm – 6pm

Follow The Growler House on social media:
woodgrain_facebook   woodgrain_twitter   woodgrain_instagram

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Week 46 – Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria

Week 46 is also Pizzannati Tour Stop #4, as we continue our venture for greater Cincinnati’s Best Cheese Pizza. We could very easily stop here and have had the best in the area. Alas, we trudge on…

Strong's Brick Oven Pizzeria – Exterior

Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria – Exterior

Top: cheese pizza; bottom: large pizza with vodka cream sauce (half extra cheese; half pepperoni and bacon)

Top: cheese pizza; bottom: large pizza with vodka cream sauce (half extra cheese; half pepperoni and bacon)

Swarles, BK, The Sisters, and I met at Strong’s, where we were seated in what we commented felt like was inside a house (in quaint Northern Kentucky fashion). The interior was, of course, great, and our service was pretty great, too. We decided against appetizers and went right for the good great stuff. BK’d had Strong’s a number of times previously and couldn’t recommend the vodka cream sauce enough. So we went with one standard large cheese pizza and one large pizza with vodka cream sauce — half with extra cheese; half with pepperoni and bacon. And ranch. I can’t forget the ranch.


This is the Pizzannati tour stop to end all tour stops. From here on, all pizza places will be compared to Strong’s. Is was that good. And we have had some seriously good pizza so far. The rankings:

1) Strong’s
2) Fireside Pizza
3) Red Rose
4) Adriatico’s

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Midweek Must Mention – Liberty’s Bar and Bottle

We recently met up with some friends who live near Liberty’s Bar and Bottle, one of Cincinnati’s newest drinkeries that opened its doors not quite two months ago. Before the weather broke for the colder, we were there one day that was sunny and still pretty warm. Therefore, the front windows of the place were open, which made for a really great atmosphere and experience.

We parked a few blocks away on Main Street downtown, as the parking situation isn’t what you’d call ideal. But the trek was worth the opportunity to see Liberty’s, its new space, hang out with friends, and get a couple of drinks in the process.

Liberty's Bar and Bottle

Liberty’s Bar and Bottle

Liberty's Bar and Bottle

Liberty’s Bar and Bottle

I got Cava (a champagne-like Spanish sparkling wine) followed by a pumpkin beer, while BK, of course, got a couple of decent beers he ordered of the chalkboard menu. The taps are often rotating, so the menu changes frequently. Liberty’s also sells beer by the bottle, which BK really liked, too.

We really liked this place and, if the parking situation was a bit better, we’d go back more, but we’ll go back regardless.

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Week 45 – Tellers of Hyde Park

I have a confession. BK and I went to Tellers for the first time within the past year but I didn’t write about it. I didn’t love my first experience and I think that was because — due to my current eating habits — I am not able to eat as much food in one sitting, and I found myself to be uncomfortably full. That’s all I could think about, which tainted my overall impression of our first Tellers experience.

We were given a gift card to Tellers by my mom as a sort of congratulations for moving in together, so we decided to give it a second try. Thank goodness we did, as our second tryst far outweighed the first.

Soy Glazed Salmon

Soy Glazed Salmon

Sausage Bolognese Pizza

Sausage Bolognese Pizza

I wanted to start with Chop Salad, while BK started with his usual beer. He got Soy Miso Glazed Salmon, and I ordered the Sausage Bolognese Pizza [with ranch]. All of it was very, very good, and from my first experience at Tellers, I’d been wanting to try the pizza. For good reason!

Our service has been outstanding each time, and I have loved the atmosphere sitting both inside and outside. I am glad I got to go back for a much better experience the second time and will happily return in the future — hopefully for brunch on the back patio in warmer months.

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Week 44 – Deep India

Located on McMillan Street, Deep India is another Indian restaurant that makes up Clifton’s notorious conglomerate of North Indian restaurants; another Indian restaurant BK and I thought necessary to try, especially as we have recently made eating Indian food on Sunday nights a sort of tradition.

Deep India’s setup is perfect for ordering carry-out, as its no-frills interior — truly no frills, as everyone but a few people seated when I went appeared to be waiting for carryout orders — lends itself to doing just that. And seeing as the parking situation isn’t ideal, the setup is also great for being dropped off out front, then being picked up the same upon getting and paying for our food.

shahi paneer (front); chicken tikka masala (back)

Shahi paneer (front); chicken tikka masala (back)

BK got his standard Chicken Tikka Misala, which he seemed to really like, I got my new favorite dish, Shahi Paneer, and we got garlic naan, which is a staple across the board. I recently got Shahi Paneer from Delhi Palace, a new Indian restaurant in town, and fell in love. Delhi Palace truly does it the best, so maybe I should only get it there and continue getting my staple dish (Paneer Makhani) everywhere else. Everywhere else, it just doesn’t quite compare.

To be fair, as with most to-go food, it isn’t quite as good and fresh as eating it inside the restaurant. So, while Deep India does to-go well, I think Indian food is best suited to eat it fresh and in the restaurant from where you get it. If and when we find ourselves jonesing for to-go Indian, Deep India is certainly an option, but I would love to try eating it in instead.

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Week 43 – Coffee Emporium

My coffee “expertise” goes a little something like this: the more creamer, the better.

That being said, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that maybe I’m not the most discerning coffee drinker. Or even at all knowledgeable. But I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I love me some Coffee Emporium.

My first tryst with this Cincinnati institution happened at Yelp’s Summer Bucket List Bash this past summer, when I was fortunate to try the life-changing Glacial Mocha. It was truly monumental in my coffee(ish) drinking experience, and it has opened my eyes to all the possibilities that Coffee Emporium provides to its lucky patrons. BK is a coffee guy through and through, so I think he’s really enjoyed taken advantage of my new found love for a coffeehouse. I mean, I make the trek around the corner to Coffee Emporium for a bagel, Glacial Mocha, muffin, and mocha to fuel up for early morning soccer at Rhinehaus every weekend; of course he’s a fan. (The East Hyde Park location is almost as awesome.)

They got it right the first time!

They got it right the first time!

And, to think, they even spelled my name right one time. I can imagine the inner-monologue going on in the barista’s head like this:
“Linsey. L-I-N-S-E-Y. Wait, what kind of moron would spell her name that way? I’ll get it right the second time.” Ah, well. You had it right the first time.

Coffee Emporium is so much more than just coffee, and that is why I love it. But don’t be fooled: it does that well, too.

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Week 42 – Stone Bowl

We love Asian food and we eat it often. Stone Bowl, situated across from Crossroads Megachurch in Oakley, is in one of those hit-or-miss locations. From what I understand, the owners are hoping to reap the benefits of taking up residence across from the new Oakley Station development despite the past handful of years witnessing a string of failed eateries in the same location. The good news is that there are seemingly always cars out front, so I’m happy to report that they are getting steady business. That is a great sign for Stone Bowl, Cincinnati’s newest 1/2-price sushi and Korean restaurant.


Being pretty big fans of Bibimbap, we knew that trying out Stone Bowl was necessary. Therefore, as soon as we had a free weekend date night to check it out, we went. We started with pan-fried potstickers, and tried out a couple of sushi rolls before our main course in beef bibimbap.

In addition to the good food, I also really liked the interior. With my former favorite half-price-sushi joint now defunct (RIP, Dancing Wasabi), Stone Bowl is the perfect consolation price for good, reasonably-priced food, in a nicely designed space.

We will be back.

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Week 41 – Fireside Pizza

Rounding out some of the awesome restaurants in the Walnut Hills area (my new neighborhood), Fireside Pizza Wagon, the mobile “brick-oven-on-wheels” pizza eatery often seen around town, recently transformed the city’s oldest firehouse and opened a “brick and mortar” establishment in its place. Therefore, Swarles, BK, and two friends met for dinner here to try it out for Stop 3 of Tour de Pizzannati.

Fireside features salads, a decent list of specialty wood-fired pies, customize-your-own pizza options, good beer on tap, and order-at-the-counter and seat-yourself service. The menu, however, ends there. Unlike the first two places we’ve been, there was not a breadstick option. Rest assured that was the only downside in our experience at Fireside.

Parking was not at all a problem, as there was a pretty large lot adjacent to (and across the street from) the restaurant. If that should ever fill up, street parking was also available. I personally love counter service and enjoyed that aspect as well.

Grand Opening celebration of Fireside Pizza in Cincinnati's oldest firehouse.

Grand Opening celebration of Fireside Pizza in Cincinnati’s oldest firehouse.

Fireside's chalkboard menu.

Fireside’s chalkboard menu.

Caesar salad.

Caesar salad.

Cheese pizza (front) and Redlegger pizza (rear).

Cheese pizza (front) and Redlegger pizza (rear).


On to the official scoring:

Cheese (How much and how delicious?) – 4/5
Very good, but not quite enough. There were “bare” spots on the pizza that exposed the sauce, but the mozzarella/provolone mix was pretty great. Must get extra cheese next time.

Sauce (How much and how did it taste) – 3.8/5
There was a little more than I’d like, but I generally liked it. I know to get light sauce next time.

Crust (Style of crust and texture) – 4.8/5
New York-style pizza, which was on the thin side of hand-tossed. Crust was crispy and delicious—just how I like it.

Overall Flavor (How did it all come together?) – 4.8/5
The pizza was great. Loved the cheese and crust especially.

Temperature (How was the pizza cooked?) – 4/5
I love my pizza just cooked enough; cheese with little to no brown. Our cheese pizza was cooked a little more than I typically like, but that didn’t detract from the overall flavor.

Ranch (This won’t break a place, but it could very well make one.)
The ranch was amazing. Seriously. So good. I’ll take all of it.

Other (Notes go here.)
We also got the Redlegger Pizza, which featured red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, red onion, and roasted red peppers. It was also very good.


Best of Cheese Pizzannati ranking thus far:
1) Fireside (21.4)
2) Red Rose (21)
3) Adriatico’s (16.3)

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Week 40 – The New Neighborhood

BK and I recently moved to East Walnut Hills together and we have fallen in love with our new neighborhood and the wonderful dining options it has to offer. First, for those of you who have been reading since the days of “Date,” I want to tell you that I appreciate your sharing in the journey with us. It has been a wonderful 2+ years and I am so lucky to be able to have someone who is willing to share in these adventures with me. Truth be told, I probably would have never started Tour de Cincinnati without having his companionship throughout, so I need to thank him, too. (Thanks, bud!)

Intersection of Woodburn and Clayton in the Krug Building (c. 1895) where Kitchen 452 is located.

Intersection of Woodburn and Clayton and the Krug Building (c. 1895) where Kitchen 452 is located.

Looking north on Woodburn Avenue to St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church.

Looking north on Woodburn Avenue to St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church.

Wall decor featuring my love for Cincinnati.

Wall decor featuring my love for Cincinnati.

I want to use this post to focus on [East] Walnut Hills specifically and, while you all are probably also aware of how verbose I can be, I will try my best to keep this from getting out of hand.

Cafe DeSales
This particular cafe is open throughout the week for breakfast and lunch and, in the three short weeks we’ve been residents in East Walnut Hills, we have made at least one trip to the cafe every weekend. The weather has typically been beautiful and it is a 10-minute walk for us to get there, so this—I’m sure—will remain a constant. We absolutely love it. Not only has the food been great every time we’ve been, but the people working and the people patronizing alike are all so friendly as well.

Thus far, I can assure you that the potato salad is some of the best I’ve ever had. I have also tried bagels, breakfast sandwiches, a deli sandwich, and BK has had a cookie, bagels, a breakfast sandwich, lunch, and coffee. The breakfast menu, lunch menu, pastry options, coffee, and service are all outstanding. I am such a big fan and I look forward to patronizing regularly for a long time to come.

Breakfast croissant (top) and blueberry bagel with peanut butter.

Breakfast croissant (top) and blueberry bagel with peanut butter.

Kitchen 452
On our move-in day, we decided to take BK’s dad and brother to lunch. With Kitchen 452 being a mere 5-minute walk from our place, we decided that was a great option. Our guests decided to get the Banh Mi Salad and White Bean Soup, while I got a Grilled Cheese (no tomato spread) and Pita Chips, and BK got the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich. BK and I both really liked our respective dishes, while our guests didn’t love their salads. They agreed that the dressing was way too salty and intense, as it took away from the flavor of the salad itself.

We both liked it and would definitely return for more, but it is important to note that it is not cheap for a lunch option.

Exterior shot of Kitchen 452 and dishes we got.

Exterior shot of Kitchen 452 and dishes we got.

Parkside Cafe
From the exterior, it looks as though Parkside was once a Frisch’s. In fact, the buffets are still set up the same and there was crushed ice, too. All pluses. Alas, Parkside also had its own charm and its own take on breakfast and lunch options. BK and I went to Parkside with a couple of friends before a Bengals game and, while they all got the $7.99 breakfast buffet (served from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays), I wanted to order off the menu. I saw Eggs Benedict were an option and I simply couldn’t resist. That was, until I saw that tater tots were on the buffet! And here I thought getting French fries with my meal was going to be good. They were, but TOTS! Next time.

Eggs Benedict from Parkside.

Eggs Benedict from Parkside.

Suzie Wong’s
Suzie’s, as we so affectionately started calling it (since Suzie Wong’s is just too long of a name I guess), has become one of our favorite Asian dining spots. [Note: we love Asian food and, of all genres of food we eat, this one happens the most.] The first time we had Suzie’s was in the winter not quite two years ago and I had been dying to get back since. It wasn’t until we moved into the neighborhood that we’ve had it three times since. The great thing about Suzie’s is that there are so many great options to choose from. Our favorite dish is probably Beef Bibimbap, as Suzie’s serves my favorite bibimbap in the area. We have also gotten Crab Rangoon (also my favorite), Pot Stickers, Honey Garlic Chicken, Mongolian Chicken, Pineapple Chicken, Mandarin Orange Chicken, and even BonBonerie’s take on Opera Cream Cake for dessert.

Suzie’s prides itself in being an Asian Fusion restaurant, and it’s great to have the option to get any combination of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, or Thai food in the same meal. Partner that with really outstanding service (even when getting carryout), and Suzie’s is easily one of the best Asian restaurants in town.

Food (clockwise from top left): Mongolian Chicken, Pineapple Chicken, Beef Bibimbap, and Mandarin Orange Chicken.

Food (clockwise from top left): Mongolian Chicken, Pineapple Chicken, Beef Bibimbap, Mandarin Orange Chicken.

Cincy SFF
Last weekend was the Cincinnati Street Food Festival, which happens every September in Walnut Hills. Where McMillan was shut down to traffic, there were about 20 food trucks, live music, beer, street art, socializing, and even a restaurant’s grand opening celebration. Our group got various dishes from a number of food trucks, including Red Sesame, Andy’s, Bistro de Mohr, Eclectic Comfort Food, Catch-A-Fire Pizza, and SugarSnap! Sweet Treats. I am so happy I got to try a number of new dishes, but I wish I would have gotten C’est Cheese as I originally set out to do. The line was just too long. (Good for them!)

The Cincinnati Street Food Festival was such a huge success and a wonderful event. It made me love my new neighborhood that much more.

Cincinnati Street Food Festival (clockwise from top left): Fireside grand opening, Street Food Festival on McMillan, SugarSnap! Death by Chocolate cupcake, and street art.

Cincinnati Street Food Festival (clockwise from top left): Fireside grand opening, Street Food Festival on McMillan, SugarSnap! Death by Chocolate cupcake, and street art.

Next week…
will feature another Walnut Hills restaurant, but it warrants a post all its own. To be continued…

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Week 39 – Red Rose Jems Pizzeria

Week 35 of 2014’s tour is also Stop 2 of Tour de Pizzannati, the tour-within-a-tour as brought to you by myself, Swarles Barkley, and various guests who will join us throughout to determine which place in Cincinnati serves the best cheese pizza. Despite the crap I get for loving and ordering plain pizza the way I do, Swarles and I wholeheartedly agree that, if a restaurant cannot master the basics, how can it be considered quality?

Red Rose Pizzeria

A group of five of us met for pizza (and salad and breadsticks with cheese and Goat’s BLTs) and, upon walking in, we found seats at the front of the restaurant near the window. I loved the interior, the service was great (even if a little slow), and there was even a parking lot in the rear, which made for a much less stressful event than worrying about street parking.

The food was also really good. The breadsticks were interesting because they weren’t fluffy like you’d think they would be. Instead, they were flat like pizza, which was fine. The ranch was pretty good, I generally liked the Goat’s BLT (86 the T), and the pizza was also very good. There was plenty of cheese on top, it was cooked perfectly (hardly any brown in the cheese), the crust was crunchy, and I decided that, next time (and there will be a next time) I will get light sauce.

Ranking of cheese pizza from Tour de Pizzannati places thus far:
1) Red Rose
2) Adriatico’s

[Editor’s Note: I decided to make a more concrete way of scoring every cheese pizza based on consistent criteria for each place. Out of 5.]

Cheese (How much and how delicious?) – 4/5
Very good, but not quite enough. There were “bare” spots on the pizza that exposed the sauce.

Sauce (How much and how did it taste) – 3.5/5
There was more than I’d like, but it was good. Next time I’ll get light sauce.

Crust (Style of crust and texture) – 4.5/5
Hand-tossed style and very crunchy and delicious.

Overall Flavor (How did it all come together?) – 4.2/5
Very good. I was very happy with the cheese pizza at Red Rose.

Temperature (How was the pizza cooked?) – 4.8/5
I love my pizza just cooked enough; cheese with little to no brown. Red Rose did this well (but not well, if you know what I mean.)

Ranch (This won’t break a place, but it could very well make one.)
I thought it was pretty good. Not amazing, but a nice addition to the pizza.

Other (Notes go here.)
Service was pretty good. Our server was awesome. The food took a little longer than we were hoping.


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