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Posts Tagged ‘clifton’

recently we secured a babysitter and made our way out for an evening of holiday merry-making. our plan? grab a dinner out and head to a holiday party. once we recovered from the vertigo of not having children in our arms (or on our hips or heads or knees), we headed on a lark and several word-of-mouth recommendations over to tinks in clifton.tinks-interior

we walked in without reservations, and were welcomed to sit at the bar…tinks-wine

…and suddenly we didn’t care if we ever even made it to the holiday party.

maybe my impression was affected by the pleasure of dressing up just a little, or the holiday season, or an awareness of the rarity of such evenings out recently, or a combination of all of these, but all those together don’t dim the fact that tinks has a great atmosphere, with great food, and (in our case at least) great service.

the menu is inflected with  southern flavors, but by no means limited to them. we had the shrimp & grits and focaccia & olives to start. i think the focaccia & olives were good (i know they were), but i was busy gushing over the best shrimp & grits in town. hands down. how good? we almost ordered the entree portion after slurping down the appetizer, but then we would’ve wanted shrimp & grits for dessert, and breakfast, and — it wouldn’t have been pretty, so we had to break the chain early and diversify.tinks-sg

over our delicious entrees (kobe burger and gumbo) we chatted with our server and he introduced us to the chef and we praised his shrimp & grits and the rest of the food on the menu and the atmosphere and promised to come back and we meant it.

after dinner we wandered next door to paolo, a small jewelry and design shop. we were pleased to find another locally-owned shop producing beautiful, unique goods, and we’re intrigued by the growing trend for adjacent businesses to open their shared doors to each other (walk back and forth between lavomatic and metronation next time you’re in the gateway quarter). fun, too, to eyeball the servers’ jewelry (they often model paolo’s newer designs) and then dash through the door to see if you can find something that looks that good on you. (odds are you can.) priced somewhere between tiffany’s and your local art fair, paolo’s jewelry is now our go-to jewelry shop when we need a little extra special something. especially since we can get our shrimp & grits fix at the same time.

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i’ve been really curious about sitwell’s for months. i first noticed it going to a movie at the esquire, and then again doing some mad-dash holiday shopping on the ludlow drag. recently i had reason to take myself through the doors when three friends decided we should meet there for a sunday afternoon of knitting and girl-talk.

i like sitwell’s for a number of reasons: it’s funky and has that cool bohemian i’m-a-smart-college-student-type feel. the crowd is young-ish, hip-ish, and tends only slightly toward the white-kids-wearing-dreads-and-too-much-patchouli sort. it’s crowded and noisy and generally has a happy but laid-back vibe.

but i might also dislike sitwell’s for that same vibe. it would all depend on why i was there.

if you’re in the mood to sit and gab, sip coffee that you don’t care to have refilled, and people-watch, then you’re in the right place: sitwell’s will likely entertain you for several hours. however, if you’re in the mood to, say, eat and actually get table service, well, you might be in the wrong place. the food is good (well, the cheese quesadilla i had was good) but you have to be willing to yell and scramble to get it. and usually, i’m just not.

our server came to our table, and none of us were ready. she did come back–this time–and two people ordered coffees. i told her i’d need a few minutes, and would order something when the coffees came. but i asked if i could have a glass of water in the meantime. she said yes, but she clearly meant no. when the coffee showed up i asked for the quesadilla. “anything else?” um, well, i’d like some decaf, but not quite yet…right now i’d really just like that glass of water. “oh, sure, yeah, ok.” when my quesadilla showed up 20 minutes later, i asked again if i could please please please quench my parched throat. she was very apologetic and brought my water immediately. maybe 10-15 minutes later i was ready for my decaf. but i never got a chance to ask for it, because the server never came back to our table. oh, she eventually showed up when she needed the table space and so dropped off our check to kick us out, but by that time i’d spent 30 minutes trying to get her attention (no luck) and looking around, wondering if the coffee was perhaps self-serve (nope). since i was too fed up to brave any additional exchanges with her, i gave up, went home, and brewed some damn decaf myself.

now, had i not wanted service, my time at sitwell’s would have been quite lovely. i was especially charmed by the sitwell quote on the front of menu: “i am an electric eel in a pool of catfish.”  and it’s hard not to feel, oh, just plain smart, and cool, and interesting, and oh-so-early-twentieth-century bohemian when you’re sitting in a place named after the lovely ms. sitwell. so i’ll go back. but i just may take my own coffee.

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adios, chipotle

if you’re still eating your quick burritos at chipotle you need to stop. now. and start eating them at habanero in clifton.

habanero is an unassuming little place on ludlow just west of the esquire theatre. like the place you are going to quit patronizing it is an open space and is a hybrid of self- and full-serve: order at the counter, watch your food be made while you pay for it, then grab a seat.

in order of personal preference i would rank the deliciously squash-y “chuba cabre” (a burrito with lightly seasoned squash and green apples) just slightly above the “arroyo hondo” (the steak burrito with a kick), and both above the “porkopolis” (an under-seasoned burrito with tender pork and green apples).

the chips are home-fried flour tortillas that feel like the vat-fat is still clinging to them; i’m sure they are terrible for my arteries but they are nonetheless oh-so-delightful to munch on. wash ’em down with a beer after a movie and call it a successful night out.

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for those fun-loving girl-types (of all ages) on your list — you know, the ones with such fab-u-lous taste — head to cincy’s favorite trio of shops: pangaea, kismet, and toko baru.

sibling stores, these three eclecto-funk locations will share returns (don’t like what you got from pangaea? return it to kismet!) and carry a terrifically colorful cross-selection of similar items. yet each store has its own sense of self and carries items you won’t find at the others. start at pangaea on ludlow in clifton’s gaslight district, where you can make your girlfriend’s blah-gray season by surprising her with a pair of mid-calf, holly-berry red boots with buttons up the side. or warm her up with an all-cotton nepalese hoody with very now, extra-long-a-line sleeves (this is not your 1970s blanket-style pullover). if she’s been very, very good, take her for a spin ’round the dance floor in the perfect crimson holiday dress with sweet chiffon cap sleeves and a lustrous gold ribbon cinching the waist. is she a little more daring? try the olive-green backless velvet number. yum. (the best part? treat her and your pocketbook to any of these for 35-70 (not-so) big ones.)

not her style? in that case, exit pangaea and head across the street to toko baru, where you can pick her up a set of translucent nesting boxes that will store her favorite little things and look good while doing it. or glom onto the glamor of a sequin-studded picture frame. not yummy-smelling enough? grab an organic soy candle. not funny enough? don’t pass by the crazy cat lady action figure.

still not tickling your fancy? skedaddle out of the gaslight and head to kismet in o’bryonville, where you can choose from an eye-catching array of oversized gemstone jewelry, and even find an oversized crocheted beret to match. if that’s too close to hippie, check out the smart red corduory blazer near the front of the store. if that’s not warm enough, browse the unusual coat selection in the back, where you can find everything from a swingin’ tweed car coat to an elegant knee-length coat in dark wool with embroidered sleeves and neck. for the price of a coat from target, your girl can wear something original and stylish and, um, lasting.

for those last-minute stocking stuffers, grab the stockings themselves: brightly-striped knee socks from chinese laundry and jewel-patterned tights are yours for the asking.

if your bff is a little one or has little ones of her own, don’t miss toko kidz back on ludlow. you’ll find happenin’ mary janes and zippy tennies from pediped and see kai run, a nice selection of zutano clothing, and all the right brain-building toys. they’re hosting a special shopping night this thursday, when they’ll stay open late and you can shop for everyone all in one fell swoop.

if you’ve ended your shopping spree on ludlow, stop by sitwell’s coffee house for a late-night warm up. if you wind up your adventures in o’bryonville, stop to relax at the coffee shop on madison ave. either way, enjoy your goodies — and the local-shop-supporting feel-good buzz you’ll take home with you.

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