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.

stonebowl

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.

Total
21.2/25

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.

Total
21/25

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Week 38 – Delhi Palace Indian Cuisine

There’s a new Indian restaurant in town, which Cincinnati isn’t experiencing any sort of shortage on, but as they say, “the more the merrier!”

A friend lives nearby and, while we originally had plans to meat at Mekong Thai for dinner, we learned that Mekong had closed its doors (RIP). We decided that Indian was a nice consolation prize and opted to try out Cincinnati’s newest take on Indian cuisine.

Delhi Palace is located in Silverton where “Cincy Burgers” once resided, which doesn’t have the best facade, although it certainly features ample parking options, which is great.

Chicken Makhani (rear) and Shahi Paneer (front).

Chicken Makhani (rear) and Shahi Paneer (front)

I was really in the mood for something other than my standard Paneer Makhani, as I was craving the flavor of Chicken Tikka Masala. After discussing this with our server, he suggested I try Shahi Paneer (basically paneer tikka masala). Its presentation is a bit different than I’m used to, as the paneer was grated instead of cubed but man was it good. I absolutely loved the suggestion and may have a new favorite dish to order wherever possible. In standard Indian restaurant form, we also ordered garlic naan. It wasn’t the best around, but it was a nice addition to our meal.

While the exterior and interior of the restaurant are nothing to write home about, the service and food are well worth the trip. I actually read on Yelp that the Shahi Paneer is the best, which is not hyperbole. I think that assessment is fair, as my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

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Follow Friday…

Tour de Cincinnati on Twitter

…except my recommendation for who you should follow is, in fact, a request that you follow Tour de Cincinnati on Twitter. I know that’s not really how that is supposed to work, but work with me here.

What better way to engage, interact, and share information with fellow Cincinnati lovers than on Tour de Cincinnati’s brand new Twitter page, which will detail everything great about The Queen City, including its food, architecture, and various goings-on around town?

Have questions about where to eat this weekend? What place(s) someone might recommend for your anniversary? Or what about where you might find the best local beer? A non-restaurant that is a must visit? What about a free event taking place you would like to check out? If you’re like me and often have a hankering for French fries, here’s your chance to inquire for opinions about who in Cincinnati does them best. I look forward to interacting with my fellow Cincinnati lovers about recommendations they have, too!

You can also like the page on Facebook and follow Tour de Cincinnati on Instagram.

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Week 37 – Suzie Wong’s

In honor of BK’s and my impending move to the neighborhood this weekend, I felt it was best to write about one of our favorite Asian restaurants that we will be soon be frequenting much more often. Suzie Wong’s, situated prominently on DeSales Corner (intersection of Madison Road and Woodburn Avenue), enjoys proximity to telltale landmarks as well as ample street and lot parking. Additionally, its red awning lends a hand to the ease in which it’s seen from an otherwise busy thoroughfare.

Clockwise from top left: Mongolian Chicken, Beef Bibimbap, BonBonerie Opera Cream Cake, Grilled Halibut

Clockwise from top left: Mongolian Chicken, Beef Bibimbap, BonBonerie Opera Cream Cake, Grilled Halibut

Our most recent tryst with this Asian fusion restaurant included Crab Rangoon and Suzie’s Potstickers to start, while BK got the Beef Bibimbap, I decided on Mongolian Chicken, and the others opted for Mongolian Beef and the Grilled Halibut Special. Suzie Wong’s Crab Rangoon garners a lot of accolades as some of the best in the area. Rightfully so, too, as they are amazing. They’re not greasy and serve as an outstanding precursor to the rest of the meal. Of the places I’ve been that serve Bibimbap (admittedly not many, but still a few), SW serves my favorite version. I crave it often. Everything else was great, too, and we even got to have BonBonerie Opera Cream Cake for dessert, which was great as expected.

It was all just as good as I remembered from our first trip to Suzie Wong’s nearly two years ago. Our dinnermates loved it, too. I am thrilled to be moving to the neighborhood this weekend and even more thrilled that we will have SW at our disposal.

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Week 36 – Everything Bagels

I’ve made it no secret that, in 2014, it has been a bit trickier to get to one new place per week, seeing as I have spent the better part of this year as a Weight Watchers member. Alas, bagels are one of my favorite food groups, a decent “splurge,” and can be eaten while adhering to the Weight Watchers lifestyle. Therefore, when I found myself out in the nether regions Cincinnatians call Eastgate, I remembered there was a bagel place I’d be wanting to try.

Enter Everything Bagels.

Asiago bagel with egg and cheese

Asiago bagel with egg and cheese

French Melt (French toast bagel with egg, cheese, and bacon instead of sausage)

French Melt (French toast bagel with egg, cheese, and bacon instead of sausage)

Chocolate chip bagel toasted with chocolate chip cream cheese

Chocolate chip bagel toasted with chocolate chip cream cheese

Located in a small strip, EB isn’t small, but it is relatively unassuming. The menu is large enough to satisfy a number of people, but naturally I ordered from the breakfast menu, where I got my standard asiago bagel toasted with egg and cheese; light plan cream cheese on the side. My mom opted for the French Melt (French toast bagel with egg, cheese, and she got bacon instead of sausage), which she seemed to enjoy. It wasn’t until after we had ordered and paid that I learned EB had chocolate chip icing. Therefore, when I was finished, I got a chocolate chip bagel toasted with chocolate chip cream cheese. I had a few bites (truly, I only had a few) and it was alright. I don’t particularly love cream cheese masquerading as dessert (see also: cheesecake), but it was alright. The bagel itself was great and I’d have rather had it with butter. The little amount I had was plenty.

The bagels were good enough. I would compare my asiago bagel to that of Panera, where the bagels are perfectly fine. The service was great. If I ever find myself in those parts again, I’d be happy to return.

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Week 35 – Adriatico’s

Week 35 of 2014’s tour is also Stop 1 of Tour de Pizzannati, the newest 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. I’ve always gotten a lot of crap for loving plain pizza the way I do, but Swarles and I wholeheartedly agree that, if a restaurant cannot master the basics, how can it be considered quality? (Same goes for ice cream in my opinion.)

Surprisingly enough, I had never been to this Cincinnati institution, but it had appeared on my List for a long time. Thankfully, too, Swarles and I had been plotting the beginning of the tour, and decided it would be a great place to jumpstart our cheese pizza journey.

The Suspects: Swarles, Friend From Detroit (FFD), FFD’s Friend, BK, and myself.

The Goods: In standard Linsey fashion, I opted for breadsticks to start. With ranch dressing, garlic butter, and pizza sauce to dip—don’t be silly. In addition to breadsticks, the place served tater tots. TOTS, GUYS.* So we just knew that a platter of cheese-covered tots was necessary. For the main event, and for the namesake of the tour, the five of us also got two medium pizzas: one hand-tossed with cheese and another with Sicilian (thick) crust with half cheese and half pepperoni and sausage (that was for BK, who all but refuses to eat plain pizza).

Adriatico's

The Verdict: I liked Adriatico’s. I wasn’t blown away by it like I expected to be and considering how much everyone hyped it up. It was really good, though, and I especially liked the tater tots, hand-tossed crust, and ranch dressing.

Although it didn’t really live up to the hype, I generally liked Adriatico’s, and the ranch dressing was everything I could have wanted and so much more. Also, TOTS, GUYS.

Join us on the tour by using the #pizzannati hashtag, or by checking out our adventure on Facebook!

*I may have to create a tour based strictly on restaurants that serve tater tots because I love them so.

[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?) – 3/5
The cheese was good, but there wasn’t quite enough. It didn’t even meet the crust all around each of the pies.

Sauce (How much and how did it taste) – 3/5
There was more than I’d like, and it was just okay. Next time I’ll get light sauce.

Crust (Style of crust and texture) – 3.5/5
We got one hand-tossed pizza and one thick crust pizza. The thick crust, in my opinion, was mediocre. I much preferred the hand-tossed.

Overall Flavor (How did it all come together?) – 3.8/5
It was good enough. I was not nearly impressed with Adriatico’s as I expected to be, but it was still good.

Temperature (How was the pizza cooked?) – 3/5
I love my pizza just cooked enough; cheese with little to no brown. Adriatico’s cooks its pizza beyond that.

Ranch (This won’t break a place, but it could very well make one.)
The ranch was good. I definitely liked it and thought it was a great addition to our breadsticks, which would have otherwise been underwhelming.

Other (Notes go here.)
TATER TOTS! Easily the best part of the meal.

Total
16.3/25

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