field trip: cincinnati

I went to college in Cincinnati.  While I really liked my school, I really did not like the city very much.  In fact, I came back to Louisville most every weekend.  Maybe it was because of the race riots that occured in my neighborhood.  Or perhaps because of its ultra-conservative voting patterns.  Maybe it was the arrogant attitudes I felt Cincinnatians had towards Kentuckians. The truth is, I don’t think I really gave Cincinnati a chance to grow on me, or took the effort to really appreciate its character.  Anyway, since graduation I have come to know Cincinnati a little bit better and found a lot to do and enjoy on a recent visit.  Maybe you will, too.


Cincinnati is a very historic city and has one of the largest groupings of German-style architecture in the United States in an are of town called “Over the Rhine.”  This is an interesting area that has been economically depressed for years, but in the past five or so years has become revitalized/gentrified as high-end businesses  and condominiums have opened.  You could spend an entire day checking out the unique architecture in Cincinnati.


Cincinnati’s strong German heritage is in full effect at the city’s annual Oktoberfest celebration.  However, you can get excellent German food at a number of places.  The Hofbräuhaus in Newport, KY (across the bridge from Cincinnati) is a great place to start.  It is based on the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany.  While it is a chain restaurant, it is a darn good one.  The one in Newport is also the first one that was opened in the United States.  The brewed in house beer is outstanding (try the Hofbräu Dunkel) as are fried appetizers like potato pancakes, pretzels & beer cheese, and fried sauerkraut balls.


Speaking of Newport, the Newport Aquarium is fantastic.  However, I would recommend going during the weekday, when kids are in school.  It was very crowded when I went.  You do get to pet a shark, so that made up for it all.


While in Newport, head over to the Greenup Cafe for the most delicious, flakey, buttery French pasteries ever.  Also, if you show up after noon, all of the baked goods go for half price.


One of the greatest reasons to visit the Cincinnati area is to go to a grocery store called Jungle Jim’s International Market.  Jungle Jim’s is a six acre store located right outside of Cincinnati in Fairfield.  The store features one of the largest wine collections in the United States, live seafood tanks, an in-store cooking school, several animatronic displays, such as a lion that sings Elvis Presley songs at regular intervals and a “rock band” composed of General Mills cereal mascots, and gigantic sections devoted to different ethnic foods and cultures.  Although I am vegetarian, I enjoy looking at some of the exotic meats and seafood they stock:




Other places to visit:


Honey– great  place in Northside specializing in local, organic products.  A little pricey, but well worth it.  The restaurant has a great atmosphere, too.  Some items are vegetarian or vegan or can be prepared that way.  I had a ridiculously good homemade gnocchi served in a capriole goat cheese sauce which blew my mind.

Melt– another place in Northside, much more causal.   Many vegan and vegetarian options, and also free-range, organic meat items.  They are known for their soups, salads, and sandwiches, and also have a delicious brunch on the weekends.  I tried a Thai Pumpkin soup with a grilled three-cheese sandwich.  I come here every time I visit Cincinnati.  It’s that good.

Habenero– an independent Mexican fast food place.  Think QDoba with a lot more creativity and flavor, and even more addictive.  Try the tofu mango burrito. 

Bars/ Music Venues:

Northside Tavern– Really cool bar which features multiple rooms, an outdoor area with woodburning stoves and a fantastic room for live music.  The best part is that there’s never a cover to come check out local and touring bands.  All the musicians get paid by the bar, and there’s guaranteed to be a good crowd.  Oh yeah, and they have a bunch of delicious brews on tap.  We need a place like this in Louisville.

The Comet– Great small bar with lots of good beers.  They have a good food menu, too.  Try their burritos with a featured “salsa of the week.”  They feature live music most nights.

The Southgate House– In Newport.  Beautiful old hostoric mansion/former brothel turned into a great venue for live music.  Books a lot of good touring bands as well as locals.


Casablanca Vintage– really bizarre vintage clothing shop.  It’s really more like a warehouse.  Totally cluttered and eccentric store, packed from floor to celing with trash and treasures.  Check out the mountains of vintage hat boxes.

Shake It Records– Huge independent record store with a whole basement filled with vinyl.  They sell just about everything from every imaginable genre. The owners are run a record label of the same name and are ardent local music history geeks.  You can access a lot of Cincinnati music history through their website.

Krohn Conservatory

Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center

Eden Park


2 Responses to “field trip: cincinnati”

  1. 1 Kaiser Wilhelm I
    April 30, 2009 at 3:03 am

    Good German stuff from good German stock, I’d say. Loved the Schwartz’s Point relic and wish someone would restore it. The Hofbräuhaus sounds good, but fried sauerkraut balls? That’s maybe a little too German.

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