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Family movie nights return to Avondale area with PL grant project


FamilyFlickn, a newly funded People’s Liberty project, is bringing back movie nights to the neighborhoods of Avondale, Bond Hill and Roselawn. The first event of a four-part free movie series will happen on Aug. 12.

PL project grantee and Bond Hill native Amber Kelly noticed the lack of opportunity for families in these neighborhoods to go to the movies. After almost 20 years in business, Showcase Cinemas in Bond Hill closed in 2009, and since then, the area hasn't had a movie theater.

Kelly describes the joy of taking her children to the movies, but says that the biggest hurdle is that it's expensive. She wanted to create the opportunity for families in her former neighborhood to experience that same family event without the steep costs.

Although Kelly now lives in Kennedy Heights with her family, she's involved in and invested in community building and saw this idea as an opportunity to bring together families and strengthen communities.

The movies will be shown at Mercy Health (1701 Mercy Health Place), at the same location as the former cinema. The first of four free movie nights will be shown on four party buses rented for the occasion, each showing a different movie. Fitting 25 people per bus, about 100 people will be able to enjoy a movie at a time. Movies include Boss Baby, Red Dog, Smurfs and Sing.

The event is first come, first serve, but Kelly didn't want to hinder those latecomers from attending; an overflow room at the Mercy Health complex will allow for those who didn't make it on the bus to catch a film.

"Because this was directly for the people, it was easier to obtain a grant,” Kelly says. FamilyFlickn fits within PL's vision to address challenges and enact change in communities.

Showtimes for the first FamilyFlickn are from 12 to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. The next scheduled event is Oct. 22, which will feature two party buses and two showtimes (12 to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.). The third one is Feb. 3 and will be held indoors (3 to 5 p.m.); a date for the fourth event hasn't been announced yet, but will be an outdoor screening.

More information and updates can be found at FamilyFlickn's website. All moviegoers will receive popcorn, candy and a drink.
 


Pho Lang Thang owners team up with Eli's BBQ for East End roadhouse


The Lang Thang Group, which owns Pho Lang Thang and Quan Hapa in Over-the-Rhine, have teamed up with Elias Leisring of Eli’s BBQ to create a new roadhouse for East Enders called The Hi-Mark.

Located alongside Riverside Drive, the restaurant will reportedly be a laid-back affair, serving all kinds of beer — including local craft varieties — and highball cocktails, as well as bar food, with some food inspiration from Eli’s, Quan Hapa and Pho Lang Thang.

The current plan for The Hi-Mark menu is to develop items over the coming months, but some things we're working on are housemade dips to complement Hen of the Woods' chips, wings, fries and sandwiches,” says Mike Dew, a partner in the Lang Thang Group.


The Hi-Mark has about a 150-person capacity, and space includes a bar area, a second-floor mezzanine, an outdoor deck and a game room in the basement, which could open this fall.

Located at 3229 Riverside, it's right down the street from Eli’s, and was named The Hi-Mark due to its location and history.

After the 1997 flood, the whole East End was considered a disaster area. Therefore, the group had to raise the building out of the danger zone and remodel the entire space.

For us, this meant getting creative with the construction of the building and essentially gutting the entire inside, raising the floor out of the floodplain and designing an entirely new floor plan,” says Dew. “Our neighborhood's history with the flooding, coupled with the new building design, made the name a natural fit.”

Even through the group is focusing on its newest restaurant, Pho Lang Thang and Quan Hapa will remain open.

The slow roll out opening for The Hi-Mark started on July 27, with the hours of 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 14, and the hours will then shift to 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends.
 


OTR A.D.O.P.T. organizes clean-up of vacant West End church for new concept


Local redevelopment organization OTR A.D.O.P.T. has begun rehabbing the church at 1815 Freeman Ave. It's been vacant for over 30 years, and the hope is that it will become the first climbing gym in the city of Cincinnati.

On Saturday, volunteers gathered at the church to clear out the trash and begin basic refurbishment work.

Constructed in the 1880s, the intricate structure has sat vacant since the 1970s, and was filled with trash with graffiti covering the walls.

OTR A.D.O.P.T has been involved with the church building for about five years, but the project is just getting to the beginning stages. Brenden Regan, project manager for OTR A.D.O.P.T. says, "If it’s going to be anything, it’s got to be watertight. The main goal is to get the building stable, dry and secure by winter."

The development is in the very early stages, and the climbing gym concept is still young. The gym is the first viable offer OTR A.D.O.P.T. has received. Other options included a music venue and doctor’s office, but the stakeholders were unable to pursue the project.

A big room with 30-foot ceilings is a difficult space to work with. But a climbing gym could be just the right match for the historic building.

OTR A.D.O.P.T is a nonprofit organization that looks to historic buildings that have long been empty and ignored. To save these dilapidated structures, it takes notice of and fixes them up in the hopes that they will be more attractive to a buyer. According to its website, OTR A.D.O.P.T. matches "deteriorating historic buildings in Cincinnati’s core neighborhoods with new owners."

Right now, the organization is working with around 10 properties. And contrary to its name, OTR A.D.O.P.T. is branching outside of Over-the-Rhine, and has worked in a number of developing neighborhoods, including Covington, Mt. Auburn, Camp Washington and Walnut Hills.

As for the West End? "It has a lot of great buildings that deserve to be fixed up," Regan says.
 


Second location will allow Taft's Brewing Co. to ramp up production, introduce New Haven-style pizza


As part of a multimillion dollar expansion, Taft's Brewing Co. is opening a second location to function as a taproom, beer garden, brewhouse and distribution facility to keep up with demand.

The 50,000-square-foot space on Spring Grove Avenue, formerly occupied by a P&G testing lab, was purchased for $1.7 million in July 2016. Because it was previously occupied by a large company, the facility was almost move-in ready — this was necessary because the brewing setup at Taft's Ale House couldn’t handle the production increase.

The “Brewporium” will focus more on special releases and New Haven-style pizza, which is a crispier version of Neopolitan-style pizza that gets a little charred over coals before serving. Taft's plans on importing flour from Italy, making the dough the main focus.

According to managing partners of the brewery, a number of seasonal pizzas will be available daily with beer-infused crust. The menu will include six specialty pizzas, sandwiches and more. They also plan to offer special beers not available at Taft’s Ale House.

The plan for the kitchen and taproom is quick but with top-notch customer service, with orders placed at a counter and a picnic-like area for dining. Hanging string lights and glass garage doors will highlight the facility and allow for open air when the weather is nice.

The space will also feature a gaming area with custom-made tabletop shuffleboards and darts. Customers will be able to enjoy live music on occasion as well. Plans for an outdoor patio have begun, with hopes to open that portion of the space by spring 2018.

Current capacity is 15,000 barrels, but the brewery could expand to accommodate as many as 100,000 barrels. With the expansion to this location, Taft’s Ale House will be primarily used for experimental and test brews, with the new production facility handling the bulk of the traditional beer production.

While the brewery has been up and running since April, the 5,000-square-foot taproom and kitchen will open to the public later this summer. The taproom/kitchen will be open Wednesday-Sunday with a focus on dinner service, but lunch will be offered on certain days. Hours are still being determined at this time.

For more information on the new brewhouse and when regular hours will go into effect, visit Taft’s Facebook page.
 


Fifth Third focuses new Neighborhood Growth Fund on six Cincy neighborhoods


As part of Fifth Third Bank's community investment commitment, Fifth Third recently signed a five-year, $30 billion investment plan to help improve neighborhoods in 10 different states, including Ohio.

Eleven billion dollars will go toward mortgage lending, $10 billion toward small business lending and $9 billion toward community development lending.

More specifically, Fifth Third will be helping transform underdeveloped neighborhoods in the Cincinnati area.

In May, Fifth Third donated $100,000 in seed money to the Community Development Corporations Association of Greater Cincinnati to help build underdeveloped neighborhoods in the region.

Cincinnati is our hometown and we felt it was important to help spur revitalization and community development,” says Mark Walton, director of community and economic development for Fifth Third.

The CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati manages the Growth Development Fund and is an umbrella company that supports local organizations, such as the Community Development Corporations, Community Urban Redevelopment Corporations and Community Housing Development Organizations, throughout the city.

The money will be used to create the Neighborhood Growth Fund, which will help develop cleaner, safer and stronger neighborhoods.

Helping to build strong communities is part of Fifth Third’s DNA,” Walton says. “We are always looking for the most effective ways to support community growth.”

As part of that community growth, the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati will target development in burgeoning neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods have not yet been announced, but they're working on the process for the development efforts.

“The grant is a good faith grant that demonstrates confidence in the CDC Association of Cincinnati’s ability to allocate resources to the communities that can most easily be helped,” Walton says.

Exact plans for these neighborhoods are still in the works, but development projects will be inline with work that the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati has done in College Hill and Walnut Hills.


The organization helped spur develop at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and North Bend Road, as well as get the ball rolling on the restoration of historical Walnut Hills buildings that are now apartments and restaurants.

Although this isn't an annual grant, Fifth Third will continue to support the community and the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati.
 


Drink Local event to support businesses and engage the community


On July 29, Give Back Cincinnati will showcase an assortment of 25 locally made beverages at the Mockbee during its Drink Local event, which will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. The free event aims to introduce and promote local businesses, much like What's Feeding Cincinnati, which was held in 2015.

“We want to show the benefits of drinking local, and we’re trying to get people aware of how they can support local businesses,” says Brian McLaughlin of Give Back Cincinnati.

While Cincinnati's brewery scene is already a strong point of interest, drinking local doesn't just mean beer. It will bring together drinkeries from all over the city that specialize in a wide genre of beverages, including wine, coffee, tea, juice, kombucha, bubble tea and beer. More than 10 of these options will be non-alcoholic.

Attendees will be able to try wine from Skeleton Root, Skinny Piggy kombucha, Boba Cha bubble tea, Essencha teas, Smooth Nitro coffee and Rooted Juicery.

In terms of beer, the event will focus on smaller, lesser known breweries and some of their summer features. Woodburn Brewery will bring its Hans Solo, a coffee-infused blonde ale. Urban Artifact will have its Key Lime gose, and East Side breweries Streetside and Nine Giant will also be in attendance.

Give Back Cincinnati hopes to relay the benefits of drinking local and inform residents on how to do it. By drinking — and buying — local, residents and vistors alike are putting money back into the community and helping startups get a foot in the door.

Give Back Cincinnati is a volunteer nonprofit that strives to increase civic engagement between volunteers, local businesses and Cincinnatians. Its Civic Engagement Committee plans events that draw attention to timely issues in order to provide residents with a place to discuss and engage.

McLaughlin hopes that the Drink Local event will provide opportunities to forge new connections and fortify existing ones. A number of speakers will be on hand discussing their small business journeys and the importance of supporting local businesses.

You can register for the event and view a full list of participating local businesses here.
 


Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra to introduce new director during Summermusik festival


The Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s summer concert series, Summermusik, will help the group introduce and celebrate its new director, Eckart Preu. A variety of shows will be held in different locations around Cincinnati from Aug. 5-26.

LeAnne Anklan, general manager of the CCO says, "The CCO strives to make itself more assessable and relevant to different demographics."

While the CCO has maintained a loyal following over the years, it's gaining popularity. It's proud of the younger audiences that are now filling up the seats. Summermusik will include shows for both newcomers and seasoned audiences with opportunities to see shows in the evening and afternoon, as well as in and out of downtown.

Anklan describes the common misconception of chamber music to be very stuffy and boring. On the contrary, the CCO is hip and strives to produce creative and innovative music, offering a well-rounded experience for all. The musicians usually sit in a small venue or close to the edge of the stage to create an intimate experience for the audience.

Summermusik is unique in that it features three different types of concerts that are tailored to everyone's musical tastes.

For newcomers, Anklan says, the "Chamber Crawl" series is a good place to start. These events will be held at local bars like MadTree Brewing and The Cabaret at Below Zero. The short performances are about an hour long, and ticket prices include a drink and snack. After the performance, attendees get the chance to mingle with the musicians, including Preu.

This year's longer, more orchestral programs will be held at the SCPA and will include a prelude talk by Preu. These events coincide with themes and feature guest artists and speakers.

Lastly, the series "A Little Afternoon Music" is a softer option that will take place on Sunday afternoons away from downtown in neighborhoods like Mariemont and Covington.

The CCO's new director is also helping make the orchestra more accessible. “Eckart stood out in a number of ways, particularly for his creative approach to programming," says Anklan. "He is nice and down-to-earth, and the musicians play so well with him."

Check out the CCO's events page and purchase tickets ($25 for each show), as shows are quickly selling out.
 


Westwood and East Westwood make strides toward safer, healthier communities with NEP


The communities of East Westwood and Westwood have teamed up to make their neighborhoods safer, healthier and more fun. Through support from the city’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program, East Westwood and Westwood have introduced five projects.

The projects include:
- A KABOOM playground on the campus of Cincinnati Urban Promise on Harrison Avenue
- A KABOOM playground in Hawkins Field in East Westwood
- A community garden on McHenry Avenue
- An urban farm in Bracken Woods
- Jubilee Market, located at the corner of McHenry and Harrison avenues, which will sell fresh produce from the urban farm and will operate as a thrift store on the weekends

Shawnteé Stallworth Schramm, president of the Westwood Civic Association and owner of the recently opened Muse Café, says that the process began when members of both neighborhoods were concerned about the violence.

“We [WCA] had done a lot of work with Westwood Uniting to Stop the Violence in Nov. 2015 in order to stop gun violence occurring all over the community,” she says.

The work to end violence by the WCA, local faith groups, city departments, civic organizations and other community partners caught the eye of Ethel Cogan, the NEP coordinator for the City of Cincinnati’s Department of Economic and Community Development. Cogan approached the WCA and partnering organizations about participating in the NEP to help sustain the reduction in crime in that area.

One of the projects, Jubilee Market, resides in the former U.S. Market. Stallworth Schramm says U.S. Market used to be a “hotspot” for criminal activity. “U.S. Market had a lot of loitering and the ownership was sort of nefarious. They claimed they didn’t know what was going on."

Law enforcement eventually shut down U.S. Market and the space was made available for the Jubilee Market project. Stallworth Schramm says that the addition of the new market cultivates a safer and healthier environment for citizens.

“Westwood is a food desert for produce; it’s great to have another access to fresh vegetables,” Stallworth Schramm says.

Since the NEP projects began, Stallworth Schramm says that Westwood’s crime score has been cut in half, and East Westwood’s crime score has been reduced by 70 percent.

“It’s a quality of life issue. The projects have greatly changed those areas. The people living near there have more reasons to go out and there’s a positive reason to go out.”
 


Former marketing researcher takes an innovative approach to craft coffee trend


A former Neilson marketing researcher turned his love of coffee into a nitro brewing business. He’s now using his marketing and innovative skillset to operate his very first store in the heart of downtown.

Dan Thaler started handing out samples of his nitrogen infused coffee, Smooth Nitro Coffee, at festivals and markets in 2016.

He’s been selling his coffee at local breweries and restaurants throughout Cincinnati, including at DIRT: a Modern MarketFigLeaf Brewing, The Growler Stop in Newtown and Streetside Brewery.

It wasn’t until March that he opened up a store at 525 Vine St. between Macy’s and Huntington Bank in the Central Business District.

“It seemed like the perfect location; it’s the right size,” says Thaler. “I didn’t want anything bigger or extravagant, just a little bar that I could bring in kegs of coffee and sell from.”

The Xavier graduate came up with the idea of brewing nitrogen coffee because he wasn’t a fan of the morning coffee that his co-workers would brew at Nielsen. “So I was quickly inspired and decided on a whim, ‘I’m going to roast my own coffee, and I bet I can do a better job than this terrible office coffee.’”

Thaler bought unroasted coffee beans and a popcorn popper and started roasting his own coffee. The idea to bring nitrogen into the mix came from Thaler’s background in marketing trends — he realized that nitro coffee is very popular on the coasts and wanted to bring it to Cincinnati.

“Being a Cincinnati native, I am very aware that anything that’s popular on the coast, it takes like 5-10 years to actually make it to Cincinnati,” he says.

The nitrogen is what makes the coffee creamy and smooth, much like a beer that's served on nitro. The actual coffee beans are mostly from Mexico and are organic and fair-trade, and Smooth Nitro Coffee gets its coffee beans from nearby Urbana Café (located next to Nation Kitchen & Bar in Pendleton).

The process of brewing the coffee and adding the nitrogen takes at least 24 hours before it can be sold in stores.

Even with his own storefront, Thaler is continuing to sell coffee through his various retail partners to expand his business and continue to support those other local businesses.

“I would love to continue to grow with other coffees and help them have a nitrogen product,” Thaler says. “At the end of the day, there are a few big corporate competitors that can afford to lose a couple cups of coffee and not hurt them in any significant way.”

Smooth Nitro Coffee is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. As an added perk, there is free 10-minute parking in front of the building.
 


Four CFTA members specialize in dishes that are done 'just right'


Our third and final phase of new food trucks focuses on trucks that are devoted to their craft. Whether it's Chicago-style favorites, wings, patriotism and good food or pizza, these trucks know how to do it right.

These trucks are also members of the Cincinnati Food Truck Association, which has grown from just 11 members in 2013 to a whopping 53 members today. It's an allied group that strives to represent the best interest of food trucks and owners. Not every food truck in town belongs to the group, and they don't have to — it's just the best way for best practices and concerns to be heard, and the group even hosts a yearly food truck festival.

Check out part I here and part II here.

Adena's Beefstroll
Known for: Chicago-style food like the Italian beef sandwich, Chicago dogs and Adena's fourth generation recipe for Ma's Meatball Sub & Ma's Sauce; most popular item is the Italian Beef Sandwich and Strolls, which won first place at the Taste of Cincinnati
Owners: Adena and John Reedy
Launched: Feb. 2016

How did you come up with the name?
My first name is Adena, and it's not a very common name," says Adena Reedy. "I told myself if I was ever to own my own business, my name would be included. The word ‘beefstroll’ is a play on words, when spoken out loud it sounds kind of like ‘bistro.’ I wrote a list of words I wanted to be known for: Italian beef, street food and the rolls that the beef is served on.”

What are you known for?
“We get a lot of customers that are originally from Chicago, or love the taste of Chicago. At first, these customers give us a hard time: ‘Are you really from Chicago? Is this a real Chicago beef?’ We ask them to try it for themselves and let us know. We are yet to disappoint."

What sets you apart?

“We are the only food truck in the area that sells Chicago-style Italian Beef and the true Chicago-style hot dog, using Vienna beef hot dogs. It's our passion to share the food we grew up on with our new hometown.”

What makes your food truck special?
“Our food and fast, friendly service, but also our design of the truck. My design won the silver award in the state of Ohio for best overall design out of 300 trucks in the state.”

Follow Beefstroll on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram (@beefstroll)

Bones Brothers Wings
Known for: grilled wings, Chicken Bomb Nachos and the Bones Burrito
Owners: Jim and Lauren Dowrey and Bryan Reeves
Launched: Nov. 2015

How did you come up with the name?
“We brainstormed and researched names, and narrowed it down to a few and chose Bones Brothers Wings because it reflects how our special method gets flavor throughout the meat down to the bone,” says Jim Dowrey.

What sets you apart?
“The signature flavor you can only get from us. We have a little something for everyone.”

Bones is known for its unique, original hancrafted signature wing sauces that are featured just about everywhere on the menu.

What makes your truck special?
“Our menu contains offerings that not many trucks have. Overall, we're a unique truck in a few different ways and that makes us special, but that's what food trucks tend to do nowadays — specialize.”

Follow Bones Brothers on Facebook, Twitter (@Bones_BroWings) and Instagram (@bonesbrotherswings)

Patriot Grill
Known for: Philly cheesesteak and the Patriot Burger
Owners: Chris and Angie Damen
Launched: March 2016

How did you come up with the name?
“I am a Marine Corps veteran, so my wife and I thought it would be fitting if we kept an American patriotic theme,” says Chris Damen. Patriot Grill is known for supporting the troops — active military members eat for free.

Patriot Grill is family owned and operated — Damen's wife and their four kids help out whenever they can. He says he couldn't do this without them, and appreciates all of their time and effort.

Follow Patriot Grill on Facebook and Twitter (@PConcessions)

Pizza Tower
Known for: fresh, fast slices of pizza
Owner: Robert Speckert
Launched: 2014

The Pizza Tower food truck is an extension of the local business, which has locations in Loveland and Middletown.

What makes your food truck special?
“Our service on our trucks is extremely fast,” says Speckert. “This benefit has allowed us to serve very large private parties, such as weddings and very large corporate lunches, without hiccups.”

Follow Pizza Tower on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram (@PizzaTower)
 


BBQ food truck expands its repertoire with physical location in Mt. Washington


Mt. Washington has a new spot to satisfy cravings for all things delicious, as Sweets & Meats BBQ made its mark with a ribbon cutting for a new brick and mortar location on July 12. The physical locaiton is in addition to its food truck, which has been operating since 2014.

Sweets & Meats is female-owned and specializes in smoked meats, homemade sides and desserts.

“My significant other has always had a passion for good food and BBQ in particular,” says Kristen Bailey, co-owner. “I, on the other hand, am a social butterfly and love to entertain. We started out hosting cookouts in our backyard, and what started out as a hobby developed into a business.”

The cookouts were followed by a setup on the weekends in the neighborhood Creamy Whip parking lot, then a food truck and a rented commercial shared kitchen. The new space will help Sweets & Meats expand to catering and carry out.

“We bootstrapped and kept reinvesting,” Bailey says. “Our partners have been tremendous resources for us, but all of this has required blood, sweat and tears — literally.”

Without traditional financing to get the ball rolling, Bailey says things have been in that “bootstrap mode” since the very beginning.

The store’s opening was even delayed as a result, but on the day of Sweets & Meats’ ribbon cutting, they served more than 200 customers in just two hours.

“It was an incredible day filled with love, anticipation and excitement,” Bailey says.

Pop-up restaurant dates will be posted to Sweets & Meats’ Facebook page, and the official grand opening is set for Aug. 6. Until then, the business will finish out the season catering and servicing guests via its food truck.

For Bailey, a sense of accomplishment has set in, and she says a huge weight has been lifted.

“We felt like vampires after working in the building with brown paper on the windows for nearly seven months as we figured everything out and built up the space,” she says. “Now the sun is shining, and our future is bright.”

Follow Sweets & Meats' Facebook page to keep up-to-date on the restaurant opening.
 


New establishments are filling in holes in the Pleasant Ridge business district


While seasoned staples like Gas Light Café, Everybody’s Records, Pleasant Ridge Chili, the Loving Hut and Queen City Comics have kept the Pleasant Ridge business district afloat, the strip of Montgomery at Ridge Road with its vacant buildings has remained somewhat sleepy.

In the past few years though, new establishments including Nine Giant Brewing, Share: Cheesebar, Casa Figueroa, Molly Malone's, The Overlook Lodge and Red Balloon Café + Play have joined the community. Over-the-Rhine restaurant Revolution Rotisserie recently announced it will be opening in PR.

Emily Frank of Share: Cheesebar, which is set to open in August, has lived in Pleasant Ridge for the past four years. After moving back to Cincinnati to be with her family, she started a food truck (C'est Cheese), and her love for all things cheese lead her to open the Cheesebar in her neighborhood.

These plans were put on hold after a horrific accident that led to a trying recovery. Yet, she was encouraged by her Pleasant Ridge neighbors. She says the “community was insanely supportive” throughout her long recovery. 

Frank is a self-proclaimed “Ridger” through and through and couldn’t be happier about the developments.

Brandon Hughes, co-owner of Nine Giant, landed in Pleasant Ridge in what he calls a “Goldilocks” situation. The space and the neighborhood were just what he and his brother-in-law were looking for. Huges felt that at the time, the business district was underserved.

"We wanted to be part of a community and liked the idea of a revitalization,” he says. Nine Giant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

While newer businesses are filling in the gaps, the senior establishments have been standing strong for decades.

Matt Parmenper who’s been with Queen City Comic almost since it opened in 1987, is encouraging yet skeptical of all of the booming new businesses. “It’s great. It does seem trendy. Hopefully they do well.”

Longtime resident Dave Smith grew up in Pleasant Ridge, and he still lives there with his wife Debbie. “I’m excited about the city in general. It’s fun to see it coming back to life; fun to see people and businesses moving back here.”

Smith has watched the business district thin out. Although it’s never been totally empty, he describes the Pleasant Ridge he grew up in as a vibrant business district that declined with the opening of Kenwood Mall.

"Gaslight Café is a favorite watering spot of the locals, and Everybody’s Records has been there a long time too." 

There are still open spaces and local businesses are showing more interest. While parking is tough, there are plans for more strategic public parking in the making.

The neighborhood is hosting its Pleasant Ridge Day/Night from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Check out the event's Facebook page for more info.


Entrepreneurs dream up tasty food trucks featuring best-of dishes


Cincinnati's foodie scene continues to expand, with long-time Vine Street staple Senate opening a second location in Blue Ash, and Thunderdome Restaurant Group branching out and opening local favorites in Indianapolis and Columbus. 

But not every food entrepreneur opens a restaurant — some go the food truck route. Our food truck culinary adventure started in 2014 at the beginning of the food truck frenzy, with a roundup of 30 trucks, carts and trailers. In just three years, that number has doubled, and we know we're only brushing the surface of the new businesses that have burst on the scene.

These mobile chefs are preapring top-notch best dishes out of some of the city's smallest kitchens. Here's our second installment of newer food trucks, featuring Venezuelan street food, unique comfort food and world-class BBQ. (Click here to read the first mini-roundup of food trucks.)

Empanadas Aqui
Known for: Bad Girl Empanada, The Hairy Arepa and tostones (fried plantains), all of which have received awards
Owners: Pat Fettig and Brett and Dadni Johnson
Launched: June 2014

How did you come up with the name?
“It means ‘empanadas here,’” says Fettig. “We sell empanadas, arepas and tostones — Venezuelan street food.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“The uniqueness of our food sets us apart from other food trucks. We also have fun, friendly, respectful owners and staff.”

Follow Empanadas Aqui on Facebook and @EmpanadasAqui on Twitter

Street Chef Brigade
Known for: Street Chef Burger and Fried Crushed Potatoes; more creative dishes like Porketta' bout it and the Insane Pastrami are close seconds
Owner: Shane Coffey
Launched: June 2015

What's next for Street Chef Brigade?
“The plan is to get the Street Chef Brigade brand out there and associate it with quality, creativity and edgy comfort food. I'm currently building my second truck, which will assume a new name as a part of The Street Chef Brigade along with my current truck.”

What sets you apart?
“A highly trained executive chef that headed very popular restaurants in New York City, Aspen and the Turks and Caicos."

Street Chef Brigade specializes in edgy comfort food that is showcased in its creative, diverse and veggie-friendly menu.

Follow Street Chef Brigade on Facebook, Twitter (@StreetChef513) and Instagram (@StreetChefBrigade) Facebook: Street Chef Brigade

Sweets & Meats BBQ
Known for: Sliced brisket and mac 'n' cheese
Owners: Kristen Bailey and Anton Gaffney
Launched: March 2016

How did you come up with the name?
“We were having drinks in our backyard at a cookout among friends in the summer of 2014 and were talking about our dream of opening a BBQ restaurant,” says Bailey. “We were talking about what it would look like and I remember saying how it would be perfect if our restaurant had really good desserts too. Everyone gets a sweet tooth and no other BBQ restaurant was really making it a focus. Hence, Sweets & Meats was born.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“We try to deliver the full BBQ culinary experience. Not only do we have the best in smoked meats, but we also focus on made-from-scratch sides and desserts. Quality is always important and customer service is second to none.”

Sweets & Meats menu features ribs and brisket, plus rotating dishes like smoked meatloaf, the BBQ 4-Way, the Triple Bypass Sandwich, smoked pork belly, rib tips and bacon wrapped pork loin. Homemade sides include mac 'n' cheese and sweet potato casserole, and you can't forget the desserts.

Follow Sweets & Meats on Facebook, Twitter (@SweetsandMeats) and Instagram (@SweetsandMeatsBBQ)

Stay tuned for our third and final portion of new-to-you food trucks next week!
 


Price Hill coffee staple relocating but staying in loyal neighborhood


The locally beloved BLOC Coffee Company in Price Hill is moving, but it won’t be going far. When the coffee house first announced the move in early 2017, residents worried about the potential loss of their award-winning coffee shop.

As proud Price Hill business owners for over a decade, BLOC has no plans to leave the community. It will move just a few blocks away from its long-time location at 1801 Price Ave., to 801 Mt. Hope, at the corner of W. Eighth St.

Since Roger Rose took over as general manager and executive chef of BLOC in Feb. 2016, sales have doubled.

He brought in new style, décor and a menu featuring famous breakfast sandwiches, overnight oats, house-made sauces and seasonal dishes.

Owners hope the new location will better fit the needs of both BLOC employees and patrons.

With a full kitchen, the new BLOC Coffee House will feature all-day breakfast, diverse styles of eggs, Sunday brunch and more. BLOC has also secured a liquor license to accommodate wines and bourbons, barrel-aged cocktails and local beers. The new location will also feature expanded hours.

But this won’t be a party scene. Rose aims to maintain the current comforting community feel of the coffee house with low lighting and small personal places.

The 2,000-square-foot historic red brick building boasts hardwood floors, tall ceilings and large windows for plenty of natural light.

Rose says relocating has been a journey. There have been lots of hoops to jump through — and some still to go — but BLOC hopes to open this fall in its new home.

The top floors of the building will hold residential lofts. Future project phases will include a small deck or patio.

The longer forecast includes a rooftop deck view that will add to Price Hill’s famous views overlooking downtown, Clifton, West End, Ohio River and Northern Kentucky.

The current location will remain open until the move is complete.
 


Food truck scene expands to include variety of frozen treat mobiles


It's been a few years since we feature 30 of Cincinnati's must-try food trucks, but that doesn't mean the mobile food trend is going out of style. Some of the city's most sought-after trucks often frequent the City Flea, local breweries and the Troy Strauss Market on Fountain Square. Plus, you can find a plethora of food trucks at festivals like Bunbury, the CFTA Food Festival, the Summit Park Food Truck Festival and Taste of Cincinnati.

We know all about cult favorites like C'est Cheese, Catch-a-Fire Pizza, Marty's Waffles and Red Sesame, but what about the trucks that are newer to the street scene?

The miniLDW
Known for: creamy soft serve ice cream
Owners: Rick and Teresa Morgan
Launched: April 2016
Most popular item: Chocolate lovers like the Chocolate Mountain; caramel lovers like the Turtle Parfait; and the Hot Fudge Brownie is also a winner

How did you come up with the name?
“It's a play on words, as our concession trailer is a mini Loveland Dairy Whip, which is our soft-serve ice cream shop in Loveland,” says Rick. “The miniLDW is not only a mini but it also offers the same desserts as the Loveland Dairy Whip, just a smaller menu.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
"The mini LDW has an extensive menu, including ice cream cones, banana boats, six parfaits and kids' favorites like the Gummy Monster and the Clown Sundae."

Follow the miniLDW on Facebook and Twitter @the_ldw

Power Blendz Smoothie Truck
Known for: The Perfect Fruit Smoothie
Launched: May 2016
Owner: Power Blendz Nutrition
Most popular item: Strawberry and Banana Perfect Fruit Smoothie

How did you come up with the name?
“The Power Blendz Smoothie Truck got its name as an extension of the brand Power Blendz The Fitness Fuel,” says Sadie Boyle, account manager for Power Blendz. “Developed for the military as a great tasting, top quality, nutritional and performance supplement, The Fitness Fuel was the result of countless hours in the kitchen and in the labs, formulating a product that even our commander-in-chief would love.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“We developed and perfected our Pure Protein powder used in all Perfect Fruit Smoothies. The recipes were created and tested by us with the goal of great taste and your health in mind."

Follow Power Blendz Smoothie Truck on Facebook

Rhino's Frozen Yogurt & Soft Serve
Launched: July 2016
Owners: The Miller Family
Most popular item: vanilla ice cream

How did you come up with the name?
“We are a family owned business, and the truck is named after my brother Ryan,” says Rick Miller, manager for Rhino’s. “His nickname growing up was Rhino.”

What are you known for?
“We spent many months driving around to different ice cream shows to find the best quality and delicious product we could find. Our product is smooth, creamy and delicious.”

What sets you apart? What makes your food truck special?
“The customer has the ability to create their own treat just the way they want it. We offer six different flavors of soft serve and 25 toppings on the truck. We are sure to satisfy every taste bud.”

Follow Rhino’s Frozen Yogurt on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram @RhinosFroYo

Stay tuned for Part II next week!
 

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