Posts Tagged ‘downtown’


this was almost a post about terry’s turf club, but we had been advised to get there around 5:30 if we wanted a seat and we did not heed that advice. so when we showed up, friends in tow, at 7:30 the place was PACKED and the wait was long and we thought perhaps it would be best to go elsewhere. and that elsewhere was nada.

now, nada is not the kind of place we intended to head on this particular saturday evening. we were seeking a casual joint for a quickish, comfortable bite to eat; nada is a little pricier, a little more sit-down-y, a bit more scene-y than we were geared up for. but we shifted gears, headed downtown, and made a mexican night of it.

it took a while to get a table, but the people-watching and margaritas eased the pain. it really is a scene — even the best-dressed real man in america showed up. so did a quintent of blondes, loudly celebrating their bff’s last night as a single woman. and i’m thinkin’ a few things didn’t show up: the rest of the poor black skirt that otherwise ended at a nice young woman’s crotch; the back of a dress that dipped low enough to reveal a colorful thong. no wonder i was worried about overdressing.

fortified with tequila and a few good shots of snark, we sat down to a fun meal of really good food . apps included the sopes and queso fundido, which we inhaled and would certainly return for. entrees included tinga poblana cazuela (a tasty spiced shredded chicken stew served in an iron pot) and the mahi-mahi soft tacos. (i liked that the fish was oh-so-fresh. i did not like the absence of mango, which for better or worse, i really gotta have in my fish tacos.)

the scene at nada may not have been our scene (or more accurately, was a bit more scene than we were ready for), but at least now we know how to dress to fit in next time.  and the food is the real deal — good stuff, well-prepared, and most definitely not your average tex-mex take on south-of-the-border cuisine.

but we still gotta get to terry’s. i’ve a feeling we’ve already got the right attire.

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a sweet hit of an off-broadway show, “i love you because” is currently running at the know theatre. the surprisingly good thesis project of two nyu students, the show follows the lives of four youngish new yorkers in search of, well, that elusive “something” that draws, and maybe even keeps, two people together.

fang du’s austin is so adorable as an uptight, tie-wearing republican that you just want to wrap him and shake him ’til he rattles and loosens up and starts ordering electric-colored drinks with cute little umbrellas. as his brother jeff, daniel s. hines and his ’80s fashion (non)sense — the too-high-waisted jeans worn with white tennis shoes, the moussed-into-spikes-hair — hits a nice counterpoint to his sweet vulnerability (how many guys do you know who would cry over a my little pony abacus?). courtney brown’s marcy fitzwilliams is a believable bohemian who unintentionally sweeps austin off his feet, while jenny guy as diana bingley seems to capture exactly what it is like to be a sex-starved actuary (at least, i think she does…since i’m not much of a number girl myself it’s hard to say).  

“i love you because” is a musical, which after seeing “christmas yet to come” i believed was not the know’s strength. while i’m still not sure it is, this production has better-balanced sound and fewer out-of-tune tunes, making it much more enjoyable. the show’s instrumental quintet sits behind the stage in the midst of the new york city silhouette that is the play’s backdrop, and while at times i wanted their volume to drop so that i could better hear the actors’ voices, it’s a nice touch to have live music as a literal backdrop to the play.

my favorite things about the know are still the space and the ambiance. the bar/lounge area is a nice spot for a pre-show drink, with an eclectic decorative mix of urban industrial and public-school cafeteria. plus i like being able to sip slowly on my cocktail and take it with me into the theatre instead of guzzling it (or tossing it) at the door. the theatre space itself has a funky urban feel, with its steel stairs and metal grates leading up to what is basically a black loft with a stage area. given the group’s smallish space and minimal funds for sets and props, the shows we’ve seen imaginatively create various senses of place to carry the actors through their scenes. it’s a theatre for our times: economical and funky, doing good work with the resources at hand, it provides work for young up and coming actors and affordable entertainment for those of us who love theater.

i miss my days as an undergrad when i could get a rush ticket to big-city theatres for $5. but with $12 tix (shout out to the know for that one!), as well as a ticket stub worth 20% off a meal at the nearby mixx, a night at the know can fit into even a frugal budget. and everybody loves that.

“i love you because” runs through february 21. showtimes and more information about tickets at knowtheatre.com or 513-300-5669. curious but not ready to commit? check out a youtube clip, here.

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tazza mia

next time you find yourself downtown hoping for a quick and simple bite to eat and something warm to drink, consider heading to tazza mia at 441 vine street. while it is still true that, for me, nothing compares to some quality time at the coffee emporium, i’ll wager that tazza mia might give them a run for their money, if only for its central location (adjacent to the carew tower, right near fountain square) and for its more regular weekend hours (they’re open saturdays til 10 pm, and sundays 9-2).

this particular saturday afternoon past, as i walked the streets of downtown chatting and decompressing with a friend who suggested we stop somewhere for a cup of tea, i was delighted to find a local competitor to starbucks that was closer to my central downtown location than central parkway. and while tazza mia does not look particularly inviting from the street — the interior seems bright and spare rather than cozy and welcoming — it would be a mistake to pass it by. the upstairs seating area, while small, is quite comfortable, suffused with a golden light and a gentle hum of busy-ness from the first floor.

the tea was hot (something that should be a given, but isn’t) without removing my tongue’s taste buds. the “serene green” tea had a wonderful hint of fruitiness that added a little something extra to the fresh wholesomeness most green teas evoke, and the ginger tea smelled so good i wanted to sit and steep in it myself. and while i didn’t sample their food or taste their home-roasted coffee, i’ll be back for both. it would make for a picture-perfect ending to an afternoon of shopping in carew tower, or skating in fountain park. or, as was my case, just wandering around, downtown, just because.

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if you have not yet filled your christmas lists there is still time to shop locally, save money, and do good all at once:

your purchases at the downtown coffee emporium this weekend send 20% of sales to the know theatre.  while you’re there, pick up an ornament tag to buy a gift for a needy child; gifts accepted through monday the 16th.

the folks at park & vine  (which just earned their second notch in cinti mag’s “best of” belt, as well as 2008 recycling award) “are in love with” (honestly — that’s what dan said) the folks at the spotted goose (which also won a 2008 cinti mag award for best children’s clothing store). evidence? any purchase at p&v thru 12/31 earns you 20% off at tsg, a shop where a discount might come closer to making some (very nice) things affordable.

as you wander the gateway quarter you might notice that the storefronts between mica 12/v and metronation are now full and humming: switch (a new lighting store) and mahatma are both open, along with incredible creations hair salon. just next door the buzz from lavomatic fills metronation with a nice urban vibe, while across the street a lucky step is open for business. if you still need holiday greenery stop in at city roots for all things wreathy and swaggy.

so hop on the bus or grab and friend and carpool, head to otr, buy lunch and a latte on central parkway, meander through the gateway quarter, and end your evening with a cocktail. what better pre-holiday treat to yourself? c’mon…you know you want to.

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(with apologies to prince)

okay, first things first: the menu really is tiny, and the food is (or was on friday) uneven.

we’re a little late on blogging lavomatic — everybody’s been there, with mixed responses to the food, the service, and the atmosphere.

rather than cover everything in great detail, let me say that if you want to go sit outside in a little urban nook and have a glass of wine or a moerlein otr or a sparkling water with lime with a few good friends, the second-level patio (now open) would be hard to beat. and my sense is that sharing a few items from the “washboard” menu would be a perfect complement to such an experience. the full dinner menu, on the other hand, left a little to be desired: slightly dry rabbit, and monkfish buried in an overpowering relish, to name just a couple. (the salad special, on the other hand, was a delight: fresh local greens, a lemon vinaigrette, diced fresh peach, and a sprinkling of ajwain seed adding a savory flourish.)

but i have to say that we hit lavomatic on a perfect evening: delightful company, sun quickly dipping behind next door, cool breeze rustling between the row houses. our service was slowish but attentive, and that was fine, because we were slow to decide, and we sat a long time, chatting, and no one pushed us to leave sooner, and suddenly it was ten o’clock, and we’d been there for almost four hours.

you gotta love evenings like that — they’re rare, and worth trying to find again and again. so lavomatic is one of those spaces that i will go back to. and now i think i know what to order, and what to expect, so next time it’ll be perfect. right?

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our version of break the chain day took us back downtown (is it remarkable to note that i’ve driven to and parked downtown exactly three times, and each time i’ve parked in exactly the same spot?). our best bets for christmas gifts:

at park & vine:

for your too-cool auntie: super-absorbent flour-sack tea towels, 2/$18

for your mobo bicycle co-op loving bff: “i rode my bike to work today” t-shirts, lusciously soft and surprisingly thick: $5

for the garden-loving friend: greeting cards with wildflower seeds embedded in the paper. plant the whole biodegradable card for a cornerful of cheer next summer.

at mica 12/v:

the most gorgeously luxe felted scarves (felted but, i’m pretty sure, not knitted) from super maggie: $58 (and worth every penny!)

for your upscale holiday party hostess: porcelain-like tree ornaments in the origami shapes of a reindeer and a swan: $6

for your bare-walled iconoclast: b&w photo of “the god squad” — a funny, funky and slightly freaky collection of jesus and mary icons: $300 (unframed)

at metronation:

for the tot you know: the cutest, locally-made socks you can find. i can’t remember the name of the company or the price for a box, but just go in and ask. the staff is friendly and will be happy to help.

but the real highlight of our adventure was finding the coffee emporium on central parkway. i did not expect it to appeal to me even as much as the location on erie and victoria, but i like it even more. it is big. wide open. comfy-industrial. and the aztec moka — hint of coffee, hit of chocolate, and a tongue-zap of spices — can not be beat.

the service will be slow, however, if while you are waiting for your coffee the mayor of cincinnati comes in. we ordered. the barista started our order. the mayor came in. the mayor chatted with the cashier. the mayor ordered. the barista tried to give the first drink of our order to the mayor. the mayor politetly noted that it wasn’t his drink. the barista tried to give the drink to me. i politely noted that it wasn’t what i had ordered. the barista tossed it. the barista started working on the mayor’s drink. the barista chatted with the mayor. some more. the barista finished the mayor’s drink. the barista chatted with the mayor, again, some more. the mayor left. the barista made my drink. the barista took a break to chat with the cashier. the barista returned and made s’s drink. twenty minutes later, we had our two 90-second drinks.

still, i’ll go back. on my bike. with my shopping list. if for nothing else, to see what else the sign will say.

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my enthusiasm for exploring downtown cincinnati has never been very high. before we lived here, when we “were just visiting,” i would ask, not very politely, where the skyline was. (i did not mean the chili-dog joint, either.) downtown seemed dead to me. granted, that was the impression i got driving past it on 71, or on the early saturday morning visit to findlay market. i never really entered it. i never seemed to have reason to. and while i may not be the most urban girl at the party, i do like a lively city center.

as a result of some recent explorations, however, i have fallen in love with vine. just the other night driving up vine we passed a guy washing his car. it took me a few seconds to process what i was seeing: disheveled man washing car. disheveled man washing car late at night nowhere near a streetlight (or any other source of illumination). disheveled man washing car late at night nowhere near a streetlight (or any other source of illumination) on dingy block of city street.

it wasn’t until we were past him that i fully processed it: disheveled man washing only bumper of car, late at night, on street with shady reputation.

this didn’t make me want to live on vine, but it did make me want to see more of it. so the other day i made my way downtown and parked in the first spot i found in the vicinity. this left me around the corner and one block over from the giant sign for ETC — ensemble theatre of cincinnati — that reminded me we’ve had reliable recommendations to go to the know theatre of cincinnati as well as the new stage collective. for a brief moment i imagined myself meandering through a vibrant theatre-district, triple cappucino in-hand, as i made my way from my tapas to my mezzanine seat. and then i remembered “nah, you’re in cincinnati now.” home of race riots and deflated downtown.

what a chump! i spent the next 30 minutes chatting with the owners of park & vine and mica12/v. both gave me an enthusiastic earful about current and future downtown developments. i heard all about 3cdc and its plans to help connect the river to the shopping district to over the rhine. about the grocery store and adjacent butcher shop going in right down the street and the dewey’s pizza opening soon. about the number of condos being developed and sold, and the projections for cincy’s future urban population. about the streetcar that can help connect all the downtown dots.

driving away all i could think about was how much i would want to live in a city like that.

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