Now that the All-Star Game is over …

I can hear the question now: “But what is there to do in this city now that the All-Star Game festivities are over?!” Uh, everything?

Photos (left to right, top to bottom): Music Hall interior; Cincinnati skyline from Northern Kentucky at sunset; Poutine from Senate; food truck goodies during City Flea; John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge; Great American Ball Park at dusk; Alms Park pergola overlooking the Ohio River; Music Hall from Washington Park; Findlay Market architecture.

No city comes without its faults. Some are what people consider dirty; some experience higher crime rates; some display higher likeliness of police brutality; while others suffer from high unemployment rates and dipping economies. But even what many consider “bad” inherently makes up the fabric of the city with what makes it good. And Cincinnati has a lot of good going on. It shouldn’t be defined for merely what’s negative. I kept hearing how the city was “alive” and “buzzing” throughout the All-Star Game festivities. I don’t doubt it was — did you expect the Reds to put on anything less than an incredible event? (Mike Greenberg raved about it, too.) — but I feel that same buzz frequently. We don’t need to be in the national spotlight for our city to be alive. It’s alive every single day.

There are more than enough things to do in Cincinnati without All-Star Game festivities, so let’s keep the excitement alive today and going forward. Our small city is mighty; enjoys a robust arts scene; has professional (and semi-pro) sports teams across the region; keeps springing new breweries on us; is ranked tops in the U.S. for parks and recreation; is one of the most livable cities in the country; and features quite the food scene. And that’s without touching on all the ongoing events and festivals, Findlay Market, schooling, architecture, and expansive vistas of the rolling seven hills. Or the fact that it is in the top places to relocate, visit, spend your staycation, or start a business.

I’ve never been shy about why I love my great city — in fact, I wrote an entire post about it — but now that everyone else is in the know, it’s time we get back to our regularly scheduled awesome.

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My First Opera


I’ve said it before, but living in Cincinnati — a comparatively smaller city — is something for which we should all be grateful, as it is one of only so many cities in the U.S. (last I read was 13) that features all five of the arts: museums, symphony, opera, ballet, and live performance. Cincinnati’s art scene is so robust and is there to be taken advantage of — whether it’s by way of checking out a Cincy Shakes, Know Theatre, or Playhouse in the Park performance; seeing the Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, or Cincinnati Opera; or touring the American Sign Museum, Contemporary Arts Center, or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. And that is only a handful of
hundreds of options in the Greater Cincinnati area.

I won’t pretend that I am some sort of expert and that I have the jurisdiction to review Don Pasquale, so instead I would like to advocate for the local arts scene and simply point out some highlights from my experience:

  • Music Hall is so unbelievably stunning and we are so fortunate to house that kind of architectural beauty in our city
  • The performance itself was funny and charming, and much easier to follow along than I previous believed (thanks to supertitles throughout)
  • All of the title characters were fantastic, but, Ji-Min Park, the tenor who played the role of Ernesto, really stood out

In fact, because the arts are so important and so expansive, I’ve decided to create a list that I will update regularly that details all of the options in our city for you to reference.

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Weekend Recap: No Plans Edition

A weekend without an itinerary is hard to come by in these parts, so it’s always fun and interesting to see where a weekend of spontaneity can take us in this great city we are lucky to call home.

Top (left to right): Kevin Bacon Ranch Fries from Hungry Bros. food truck and crowd at The Woodburn during Walk on Woodburn. Bottom (beers from left to right): DogBerry Great 8 imperial red ale, Christian Moerlein Cherry Blonde (Belgian), Fifty West Tastee Whip (ice cream ale), and Victory Summer Love (golden ale) from The Growler House.

We knew we wanted to check out Walk on Woodburn on Friday night, where we started with a beer at The Growler House before heading to The Woodburn Brewery and Taproom, where seemingly everyone Walking on Woodburn found solace in refuge from the rainy weather. Solace in addition to live music; The Woodburn and Fifty West beer; and food by way of Renegade Street Eats, from where we got six teriyaki wings (some of the best wings in the city) and a Sausage Burger. At some point after doing a ton of fraternizing with and meeting so many people from our neighborhood, BK — the man of few words —looked at me and said, “I love our neighborhood … everyone loves drinking beer, talking, and having fun.” Yup.

But our Friday night didn’t end there. We made the impulse decision to head to Volkfest (“the People’s Festival” in German), a beer festival hosted by Listermann Brewing, which featured food trucks (we got the Kevin Bacon Fries from Hungry Bros.), a rotating list of at least 16 beers on tap from a handful of breweries, and live German music. When we finally ran out of our $2 beer sample tickets, we hopped in an Uber to head back to East Walnut Hills, where we met up with a couple of friends at The Growler House before having a beer and calling it quits for the night.

Left to right, top to bottom: family photo with the Washington Park All-Star Game mustache statue; Franklin posing in front of the Washington Park entrance to City Flea; a crowd shot of City Flea with Music Hall as the backdrop; Sourdough French Toast Sticks from Wake and Bake Breakfast and Vladimir Poutine from Hungry Bros.

Saturday morning we woke up and headed to Washington Park, where we grabbed breakfast at City Flea (Vladimir Poutine from Hungry Bros. and Sourdough French Toast Sticks from Wake and Bake Breakfast), then headed to Washington Park Dog Park for Franklin to wear himself out play. We even tried getting a family photo, which was more hilarious than fruitful. 

Top to bottom: White Pie pizza with pepperoni from Fireside Pizza and sushi rolls from Cloud Nine.

Saturday evening, I was fortunate enough to sing with 20 other members of the YPCC SWAT Choir as a way to sort of “open” for the Don Pasquale performance at Music Hall. That was pretty awesome. I even got to see Don Pasquale, my first opera, following our concert. What a cool experience. It didn’t end until pretty late, so BK and I had to eat somewhere the kitchen was up and going at 11pm. Cloud Nine it was. And, as always, it was delicious (we got shrimp shumai to start, then Made in China, Phoenix, Cucumber Eel, Bengals, and —of course — Sunday Morning rolls).

The weekend felt complete to hang out around home all day, watching a movie and having Skyline and Graeter’s at different points during our lazy Sunday.

The weekend felt complete to hang out around home all day, watching a movie and having Skyline and Graeter’s at different points during our lazy Sunday. It was the most appropriate way to end the weekend.

Our city was so lively this weekend with the start of All-Star Game festivities. And since Saturday’s weather was the first day in weeks that was awesome, seemingly everyone was out enjoying it. I hope you did, too!

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The Tour de Cincinnati Store

TDC_productstickerAfter a lot of research and preparation, I decided that it is finally time to launch my Tour de Cincinnati Store.

mustachegrid

With the All-Star Game festivities underway in Cincinnati, it feels especially appropriate for the first piece of merchandise to be an 11″ x 14″ commemorative print of sixteen of my favorite photos of All-Star Game mustache statues around the city. This print is great for gifts, will fit any standard 11 x 14 frame, and is shipped in a tube that includes a description of the mustache locations. This will be a limited release, so get your orders in as soon as you can!

Please visit the Tour de Cincinnati Store to make your purchase, and to keep your eye out for more products to be added. Thank you so much for your support and your patience — both are very much appreciated.

Happy All-Star Week!

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COMING SOON!

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I’ve had something in the pipeline for what feels like forever and I am so, so excited to finally launch this new passion project of mine. Keep your eye out for what’s to come first thing Monday morning.

Happy All-Star Week, everyone!

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Favorite Five: French Fried Potatoes

fries

I have a problem and it’s that I don’t take near enough pictures of my fried potatoes. Anyway, from top to bottom: my favorite fried potato dish, Poutine from Senate; Belgian Frites, served with chipotle aioli that I could funnel, from Taste of Belgium; Tachos (forgot to 86 the jalapeños) from Nation.

Poutine
Senate Pub, OTR

Cheese-Topped (and Ranch-Accompanied)

  1. Nina Style Rags/Cheese Fries (Steak Nina, Springfield Twp.)
  2. Ranch Fries (Bacall’s, College Hill)
  3. Roadhouse Skins (Silver Spring House, Symmes Twp.)
  4. Rag Fries (Habits Cafe, Oakley)
  5. Gravy Cheese Fries (Pleasant Ridge Chili, Pleasant Ridge)

French Fries (this gets its own list)

  1. Truffle Fries (Senate Pub, OTR)
  2. Belgian Frites (Taste of Belgium, OTR)
  3. Grippos Fries (The Rookwood, Mt. Adams)
  4. Truffle Fries (BrewRiver GastroPub, Walnut Hills)
  5. Fresh-Cut (Terry’s Turf Club, East End)

Saratoga Chips
Steak Nina, Springfield Twp.

Tater Tots (this also gets its own list)

  1. Tachos (Nation, Pendleton)
  2. Sweet Potato Tots (Nation, Pendleton)
  3. Tater Tot Poutine (Revolution Rotisserie, OTR)
  4. Standard (MOTR and Taft’s Ale House, OTR)
  5. Cheese Tots (Adriatico’s, Clifton)

Honorable Mention: Pulled Pork, Nacho Cheese Poutine (Pontiac BBQ, OTR), Truffle Fries (The Rookwood, Mt. Adams); Spicy Honey Glaze Fries (Mardi Gras on Madison, East Walnut Hills); Sweet Potato Fries (Habits Cafe, Oakley); Loaded Tots (Nation, Pendleton)

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Tour de Pizzannati: The Gruff

We decided to head to Northern Kentucky for the 9th — and lowest attended — stop on our Tour de Pizzannati: The Gruff, which sits near the base of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Covington, Kentucky.

The Gruff

Photos [left to right]: cheese pizza and Philly Cheese Steak pizza with the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in the background; The Gruff clipboard menu; Pickle Fries

The Gruff had opened about six months prior and featured pizza (of course) and deli-style sandwiches, plus salads, soups, sides, and desserts. It also had a pretty bitchin’ view of the Suspension Bridge from where we sat inside. There was also outdoor seating, but it was a bit too hot for that. I’d heard the Pickle Fries were a must, so we started with those before our cheese pizza, Philly Cheese Steak, and Smoked Brisket pizza entrees. I liked all of the pizzas we got, but I really liked the cheese pizza, which was great, considering it is the flagship dish of our Tour de Pizzannati*.

In short: our service wasn’t great, but there was plenty of parking, the food was really good, they had a decent beer selection, and the location was pretty awesome — prime for taking a short stroll after our meal (Riverside Drive, where one of the All-Star Game mustaches calls home, was only a short walk away). I was a big fan of this place, and would love to come back for brunch, which is served on Saturdays.

*Pizzannati came to life when @SwarlesBarkley_ and I set out to determine where in the Greater Cincinnati area has the best cheese pizza. If a restaurant cannot master the basics, how can it be considered quality?

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Pontiac BBQ

unnamed

This past weekend, BK and I wanted to try somewhere new [to us] after the Pride Parade, so we walked eight blocks north to finally give Pontiac BBQ its time. We were initially seated at the bar, where we each had a beer (Blank Slate RYEsing Up for me; Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale for BK) and Pulled Pork, Nacho Cheese Poutine before we had another friend join us and we moved to the communal table up front.

At our second location, we got more beer (Founders Curmudgeon for me and Friend; Leffe Blonde for BK), BK and I split the Brisket Burrito (salsa on the side), Friend got the half order of Brisket, and we all split fries. Which brings me back to my favorite three things among an all-around great experience at Pontiac:

  • Ranch Dressing. This house-made delicacy was ON FLEEK, and you know how I like my ranch. And how infrequently I use that word.
  • Pulled Pork, Nacho Cheese Poutine. While a little salty, this stuff was awesome. Forgot to 86 the jalapenos, but at least we know for next time (and they were easy to pick off). Made with crinkle fries!
  • The service. Huge fan of our server and his general zeal for ranch dressing.

I’ve never been a big barbeque person (I swear, I’m coming around), but I really liked Pontiac and will absolutely be back.

BK’s Final Take: The barbeque was really good. The fries were a bit too salty, but the poutine was good.

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Weekend Recap: Cincy Pride Edition

weekend

Photos (top to bottom, left to right): Breadsticks with cheese from LaRosa’s in Dublin; pizza box from LaRosa’s; Scripps Center “dressed up” for the upcoming All-Star Game, as taken from Smale Park; Pride Parade from Fountain Square; hanging out with BK at Taft’s Ale House; Yappy Hour with Franklin, Nyoh, and Boomer at The Growler House; Pride Parade; Jim Obergefell in the Pride Parade; Sugar N Spice coffee mug

This past weekend was a busy one and, while I felt like I was constantly on the go, it was also really great, and included: a quick jaunt to Columbus and checking out LaRosa’s in Dublin; a lot of good beer from The Growler House, Taft’s Ale House, the OTR Beerfest CANival at Washington Park; the Cincinnati Gay Pride Parade; checking out a new [to me] restaurant*; breakfast at Sugar N Spice*; and an adventure around town to locate as many All-Star Game mustaches as we could find in three hours*.

Given the SCOTUS Marriage Equality Decision that was made on Friday, the Pride Parade on Saturday morning was awesome. Everyone was in high spirits and it was a fantastic event shared by the LGBTQ community and its allies. There were so many children in attendance and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. Of many highlights, my favorite was seeing the man, the legend, Jim Obergefell, riding on a float in his hometown parade. I’m always proud to be from this city, but seeing Jim Obergefell, the man who took his fight to SCOTUS, and experiencing another Pride only added to that.

It was yet another eventful summer weekend in Cincinnati. I hope you all had a great one, too!

*More on this later.

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Nation Kitchen and Bar

Nation Kitchen and Bar

Left: Tachos; Right: Quesadilla Burger and sidecar of Loaded Tots

There are plenty of cheeseburgers to try in the greater Cincinnati area and Nation was another great tryst with my favorite American delicacy. Nation is first and foremost a bar, but also happens to serve pretty good food. And a decent bar they are because they also serve jager bombs. I was sure to ask whether that was something they had because it is my primary criteria when judging bars in the OTR area (I know it is technically located in Pendleton, but work with me here), as very few serve jager bombs, Fireball, and flavored vodka. What can I say, I drink like a frat guy and don’t care for muddled, pulpy drinks. One point for the good guys. Another point for the good guys when I heard The Essex Green playing on their soundsystem — a song I’ve never heard in public, no less.

The space was pretty great. Not a huge bar, but plenty of seating, including an outdoor patio that was well lit with string lights and looked awesome. If it weren’t Hell°, we’d have considered sitting outside. Instead, the eight of us were fortunate enough to find seating in a secluded back room where there was also a TV to watch the NBA Finals as we hung out, drank beer, and had our respective burgers.

Nation featured order-at-the-counter (er, bar) service, which is my favorite, although the service we did have was pretty awesome. There were many things ordered at our table, including Tachos for an app (spoiler alert: they were awesome) and BK and I decided to split the Quesadilla Burger (pico on the side) and a sidecar of Loaded Tots (with extra ranch of course, don’t be silly). Aside from the tater tots being a bit too salty, they were generally awesome (tots, guys!). The Quesadilla Burger was really good, too, although I am really jonesing to try their namesake Nation Burger (there is a deal called The Hatchet, which includes the Nation Burger, fries, and Carrie Ale — Nation/Listermann collaboration and Nation’s flagship brew — for $12). Unfortunately, BK and I were not hungry enough to justify ordering all of the above. I also got to try Sweet Pot Tots and they were fantastic. I’ll likely opt for those in the future.

Everyone liked what they got (including the couple who had been about five times in the first week Nation was open to the public) and I’m really happy that there is a new bar and burger joint about five minutes down the road (and just around the corner from the others we were with). I will absolutely be back. Maybe even for jager bombs. And definitely for brunch.

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