After 60 Years in Business, You Learn a Few Tricks

Earlier this week, a local joint on the northern fringes of Cincinnati celebrated 60 years in business. Not bad, huh?

The Root Beer Stand has served hungry folks in Sharonville the same homemade root beer and chili since 1957. This is the kind of spot that does a few things–and does them very well. If you’re looking for root beer that tastes fresh and crisp, this is your spot. If you’re looking for a burger topped with cheddar cheese, nacho cheese, and bar-b-q, this is your spot. And, if you’re looking for a famous hot dog served with everything on it all at once, this is for sure your spot.

By the way, employees make gallons of fresh root beer every day at this joint. Every. Single. Day.

The folks in Sharonville love this restaurant. On any given day during the spring and summer, you’ll find it packed with folks enjoying a few twists on basic fast food. Many say The Root Beer Stand is synonymous with their neighborhood.

Which meant they didn’t let the drive-in’s 60th anniversary pass without a celebration. Not only did the city declare last Monday “Root Beer Stand” day, but city leaders and officials turned out with cupcakes for a root beer toast of 60 years service to the community.

Here’s to 60 more…

When Dive Bars are the Best Bars

img_4701-1Sometimes, you just want a cold one. Or a quick stop somewhere that isn’t about scene or a fancy drink menu. Sometimes, you’re just looking for a place with no frills.

And the dive bar does the trick.

Down the street and around the bend, we’re lucky to have one such spot. The Vogue has been serving up beers and quenching thirsts in Cincinnati’s Hartwell neighborhood since 1925, and I love it for that. The bar is tiny and spartan, but that’s part of the major appeal. It’s also located in a nondescript part of town anchored by a grocery store and a few other struggling businesses.

 People of all races and classes mix at the bar, and the staff doesn’t overcharge. Recently, my husband and I shared a beer and a margarita while watching March Madness.

We paid $6.50. Total.

The Vogue is fun. Unique. A mainstay. And always a good choice when you just want a change of scene. Bring cash, though, if you go. They don’t accept credit cards for payment.

The Thrill of the Hunt

I love a good find–especially a good vintage, mid-century modern find. Over the last few years, I’ve developed quite a passion for furniture, artwork, lamps, and more made right in the middle of the “American Century”. I love the clean lines, bright colors, hopeful tone, experimental craftsmanship, and quality of so many of the pieces. They never go out of style.

So, I was in heaven this afternoon at the Sharonville Convention Center, which played host to the “20th Century Cincinnati” vintage design, art, furniture, and fashions trade show.

I arrived expecting a small crowd and maybe two dozen exhibitors. Instead, I found hundreds of people, vendors from all over the US, and sales happening everywhere I looked. Apparently, I’m in good company when it comes to my mid-mod love affair.

We had fun just browsing, and talking with people about the booths they curated. So many of them see antique and vintage preservation as a passion, and I heard it in their voices as they shared where they’d found special items and stories about the pieces. We made about four trips around the show before I felt like I’d seen everything–and while browsing didn’t turn into buying, I walked away with plenty of ideas for future decor.

Good news! The show lasts through this weekend. It cost $8 to get in the door, and parking is free. It all kicks off again on Sunday at 11.

Cincinnati’s Best Culinary Secret is 105-Years-Old

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The Queen City is in a bit of a renaissance right now, with many fabulous restaurants opening up all over town. So many great spots have debuted in the last three years that it is hard to keep up.

But that doesn’t mean the old isn’t great, too.

We recently dined at Scotti’s Italian, a small restaurant on Vine Street with a century of history in the city. We left asking, “Why haven’t we done this before?”

Places like this don’t come around every day. Immediately upon walking in, it is easy to feel transported to Italy. The charming décor features olive oil bottles across the ceiling, a hodgepodge of tile on the walls, low lighting, wine bottle candlelight, unique family artwork, and small tables that promote intimate dining.

The food is even better, and the menu might have the largest selection of pasta, veal, and Italian favorites in the city. I ordered mozzarella pasta, while my husband tried the breaded and stuffed loin of veal ala Guido. Both of our dishes came with minestrone soup, bread, and house salad. Our group also tired the spumoni for desert.

We’ll be back. You should go, too!

Guilded Age Beauty in College Hill

IMG_1570Laurel Court, also known as the Peter G. Thomson house, might be one of the most gorgeous homes in Cincinnati. It also might be one the best kept secrets in the city.

It shouldn’t be.

Built in 1902 as a private residence, this home hearkens back to an era of tremendous Cincinnati growth. Stately mansions, new parks, public transportation, growing suburbs, skyscrapers all cropped up around during the period between 1880 and 1920. In College Hill, then called Pleasant Hill, Peter G. Thompson, founder of The Champion Coated Paper Co, selected a large tract of land for what would become his massive family home.  His architect designed the house with the Grand Trianon in mind.

The home turned out grand, indeed.

Today, guests can enjoy Laurel Court as an event venue, and that’s how I first came to see it. I attended a wedding there, and it was an elegant backdrop for the ceremony and reception. The couple married in the garden, guests drank cocktails on the first floor of the mansion, everyone joined together for a fantastic dinner on the lawn, and we finished up the night with dessert and dancing in the solarium.

Perfection.

You don’t have to be part of a wedding party to visit this fantastic slice of Cincinnati history, though. The homeowners regularly schedule private tours, and keep the house open for guests.

What are you waiting for? Visit!

Urban Serenity in French Park

It’s no secret that Cincinnati has some amazing parks. In fact, the city has won numerous awards over the years for the high quality parks enjoyed every year by thousands of residents and visitors.

French Park, located in Amberly Village but owned by Cincinnati, is one of the better ones. It’s also one of the more overlooked, with many area residents thinking of Smale, Ault, and Eden Parks ahead of French.

They shouldn’t.

My husband and I spent part of a recent weekend at French Park, and the best part about this park is the open green space. 275 acres of wide lawns, rolling hills, a small trail system, and creek make up the majority of this park. It also has volleyball courts, picnic areas, and the famous French house, which can be rented for special events.

During a time when everyday live can seem so stressful, and we’re bombarded with a lot of sad, terrible news, I’m thankful for the natural serenity that a place like French Park provides. It’s easy to escape the constant whirl of real life with an afternoon at this park. Getting back to nature is a good idea for anyone.

College Hill Coffee Co.: Great Beans, Better Atmosphere

It’s no secret that I love coffee. A lot. I’m a writer by trade, so that’s almost a given. Writers drink coffee by the boatload, and I have an avowed addiction to Starbucks.

But I also appreciate those small little local joints, the places were the beans are handpicked, the décor is unique, and the coffee comes with a certain charm. In College Hill, a Cincinnati suburb, no one does that better than College Hill Coffee Company.

Tucked into the main drag, this café, coffee house, and gift shop delights immediately upon entry. This is the kind of place where a writer (like me) could sit for hours working on a manuscript and be perfectly content. Soft music plays overhead, guests can choose from a variety of seating, and the menu goes far beyond a delicious cup of java. Sandwiches, pastries, wine, beer, and desserts all make the list. To the side of the main checkout desk lies a few rows of off-beat shirts, accessories, jewelry, posters, and small gift items. Many of those have direct connections to Cincinnati.

Never been? Put the place on your list. You won’t be disappointed.