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Design firm relocates to the heart of downtown Newport


Notice any changes on Monmouth Street near Ebert’s Meats? Following a historic building remodel in what used to be a pet grooming business, another firm has set its foundation in Northern Kentucky.

Eighty Twenty Design Group, owned by Fort Thomas resident Michael Smith, is now headquartered in Newport. The building was purchased last October, and renovations led up to a grand opening held earlier this month.

Eighty Twenty is a residential and commercial interior design company specializing in residential room makeovers, remodel planning and design and commercial design consulting. The firm was founded by Smith in 2013 and has grown with the area, becoming one of the most innovative and balanced design companies around. While the company isn’t necessarily new, the presence it will have in Northern Kentucky continues to highlight the area's business boom.

The design firm's core offerings include startup and commercial interior design, residential interior design, paint and accessories, furniture placement and installation, antique furniture restoration and custom-made furniture. A unique feature of Eighty Twenty is that it doesn’t rely on a single supplier, which allows for an infinite selection of styles and retailers. Smith prefers customers to be involved in the process so that they can learn simple techniques to upkeep the design over time.

Using design software, Eighty Twenty can implement the desired design techniques and know exactly how a room or home is going to look before the item is purchased and renovations even begin. High-definition, 3D and virtual reality renderings take customers on a virtual tour through their redesigned home or office space.

Eighty Twenty's portfolio is extensive, from exterior residential painting and hardwood floor restoration to house flips and custom made built-in furniture and storage. You can view some of its past interior design projects here.

The Newport location will house the firm’s office and design studio, along with a retail home store and event space, "Headquarters” will sell home décor, accessories and furniture, as well as host DIY workshops and other events. Products from the home store are available both online and in-store.

If you missed the grand opening on Sept. 2, be sure to catch a glimpse of the projects and products available when Eighty Twenty is featured on the Newport Beyond The Curb Urban Living Tour on Oct. 1. Tickets are available for the self-guided walking tour here.
 


Two engineers embark on entrepreneurial dream with poke restaurant


Two engineers are about to step into the foodie world with a Chipotle-style, Hawaiian poke restaurant in the heart of Over-the-Rhine.

Sally Lin, who works at P&G, and her fiancé and GE employee Baret Kilbacak, chose OTR as the location for Poke Hut because of the diversity in the neighborhood and a lack of fast-paced restaurant options for busy young professionals.

“We're trying to break the mold; we're trying to offer something that fits people's lifestyle,” Kilbacak says.

Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish that consists of raw, cubed pieces of fish. It is usually served in a bowl with rice and veggies.

Poke Hut will serve poke with sushi rice and a variety of toppings and sauces. The menu will also feature cooked meat dishes. The restaurant will have a beach-theme mixed with a little bit of Cincinnati. There will be bubble tea, a bar (with alcoholic bubble tea), poke burritos and steamed buns for those seeking a healthy late-night snack.

The couple are first-generation immigrants — Lin’s family is from China and Kilbacak’s Armenian family is from Turkey.

“We grew up seeing our families in small businesses, which is typical of immigrants, and I think we kind of miss that,” Lin says.

The idea for a poke spot started when Kilbacak went on an impromptu trip to Hawaii with his brother and a close friend. After a long day of surfing, the group stumbled upon a poke shop in search of a quick bite.

“We went to a shop, and within just a few minutes we had a bowl in our hands and we went to the beach,” he says. “The lifeguards were off duty and there was a lifeguard shack. We went right up there, threw our feet over the edge and watched the tide roll in and ate our food.”

After a year of planning, Poke Hut anticipates a soft opening in October or early November.

Although owning and operating a small business is something the couple has wanted to do for a long time, they don't plan to quit their day jobs. Instead, a third partner will oversee the restaurant's day-to-day operations.

Poke Hut will be located across from Taft's Ale House in the Allison Building at 1509 Race St.
 


Grocery stores adapt to the recent changes in Cincinnati's food landscape

 

Various Cincinnati neighborhoods are in transition, experiencing a shifting landscape with grocery stores either entering or exiting: Kroger closing in Walnut Hills, the proposed downtown Kroger development, the new Corryville Kroger, Clifton Market, Apple Street Market in Northside and the The Epicurean Mercantile Co. in Over-the-Rhine — among others.

In May, the owners of Findlay Market staple Fresh Table opened EMC on Race Street just across from the Market, as they saw a need for a full-service grocery store in the area.

“There was a real need [for a grocery store] in OTR, but also the Central Business District,” says Meredith Trombly, owner of EMC. “We always knew we were going to form a new business, whether that was a food truck, herb garden or what have you.”

The 5,000-square-foot store is also home to The Counter, a 1,000-square-foot restaurant that serves food for dine-in or carryout.

Trombly believes that being along the streetcar line offers a convenience to downtown residents and the surrounding neighborhood, and that including a restaurant sets them apart from others. She also sees a need for other grocery stores to offer something different in the current economic landscape.

“We wanted something unique for the neighborhood — something different but also functional. People are looking for that kind of convenience, that kind of spark.”

Similarly, Clifton Market, which opened in January, has since filled The Gaslight District’s grocery store vacancy following the closure of Keller’s IGA in 2010. The market’s model is also different than other grocery stores in Cincinnati, with its many shareholders making its opening possible.

The market’s board first met in Aug. 2013 to discuss opening the grocery store, which incorporated in Jan. 2014 and opened in Jan. 2017.

“We went to a co-op startup conference in 2014 and we told them we just got incorporated, and then we told them we wanted to open up in 2-3 years,” says Marilyn Hyland, founding board member of Clifton Market. “They told us, ‘No, you can’t do that. It takes 5-9 years to open up a food co-op.’”

Clifton Market began selling shares to the community in March 2014, and by Dec. 2015, it had raised nearly $1.65 million in owner shares and owner loans. It currently has more than 1,700 shareholders.

“A lot of why we felt it would be feasible to raise the money for the grocery store was in the Clifton tradition of rolling up your sleeves and planning and making happen the picture of the community that people have," Hyland says.

The market is beginning its third phase of fundraising, aiming to raise $100,000 this month and $500,000 within the next six months. This new round of fundraising will focus around a variety of events and share drives to provide a better startup cushion for the store.

Clifton Market is also preparing to offer online delivery at a cost of $2 to collect groceries in-store and $10 for delivery within a five-mile radius. There are future plans to extend the delivery service to anywhere within the I-275 loop. Hyland sees this as an opportunity to bring people from outside of the neighborhood into the area.

“The grocery store is a social space, as well as the heart of a community,” Hyland says. “But you don’t have to live in Clifton to love it. You can go there, shed your car and be a part of everything.”


PassivHaus brings unique approach to Cincy sustainability


A 2016 Xavier University grad is shaking up the region’s building industry by dramatically reducing building energy expenses and consumption. And in a day and age where Cincinnati is gearing toward a future of sustainability and environmental savviness, this couldn’t have come at a better time.


Ronald Vieira, founder of PassivHaus, has been conducting research to figure out how to decrease the extra expenses people have to pay for in order to build a "passive house." While there are several passive houses currently being constructed in Cincinnati, they have yet to be certified.

What is so important about incorporating environmental consciousness into area homes? According to Vieira, PassivHaus is doing things a little bit differently.

“There’s a lot of people trying to figure this out, but what we are doing differently is approaching this issue with a cost-effective mindset without compromising ideal energy performance,” he says. “All of our efforts are in place to take away the champion title that buildings have for being the most polluting in the whole country; more than transportation and industry. To reach minimal (and zero) status, we are reducing emissions with innovative and efficient design and then generating electricity on-site as much as possible.”

So what is a passive house?

Vieira says that it's a series of building standards that, if followed properly, will reduce up to 90 percent of the heating load of your house, building or facility. Overall, it reduces up to 75 percent of a building's overall energy consumption.

The main principle behind a passive house is the use of super insulation — or continuous insulation — because the idea is to isolate the inside temperature of the house from the outside environment. Whether the outside is hot or cold, mild or humid, the goal is to preserve the indoor environment to the best of the indoor’s ability. In turn, this requires a high-powered, high-quality air filter to maintain the stabilized inside climate without the air getting stale.

Vieira says that one PassivHaus is already in the works, but many of the details are underwraps. It's the first in Cincinnati, and is a single-family building that will be at least 75 percent more efficient than a built-to-code home. “This project will depict how we believe that sustainability must come at no compromise.”

Implementing passive houses on a broad scale is more complex than it may seem. The houses require more material, as well as high-driven (and certified) talent to design the buildings. Most architects and builders don’t yet understand the new materials and ideas associated with a passive house.


Growing up in Venezuela and having experience with extreme poverty, Vieira felt he was more qualified to tackle a non-social challenge following his college career at Xavier. In researching energy efficiency, he wanted to know more about how to get people to generate energy in an environmentally-friendly way. 

The property tax abatement for 15 years on certified passive houses in Cincinnati is huge. Plus systems are bought in bulk thanks to the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, and Cincinnati is one of the best cities for startups.

“We are designing customs homes in Cincinnati along with running research on construction techniques and materials to make green building affordable across the housing stock in the Cincinnati area,” Vieira says. “For the future, our objective is to make Cincinnati and the world cleaner places to live. We are tackling pollutants by their dimensions; in this case, buildings being the largest one. Getting a large organization like 3CDC in charge of redeveloping a lot of buildings is the goal.”

If you are looking for a new home and are curious about energy efficiency and how it helps you save money, check out PassivHaus or email the Vieira at ron@passivhauscincy.com.
 


New Herzog Music in the CBD much more than record store

 

As soon as you walk into Herzog Music, it’s obvious that this place is more than a record store.

Andrew Aragon describes himself as the “day-to-day guy” at Herzog Music, which officially opened July 22. Aragon says Herzog was the brainchild of Elias Leisring, the owner of Eli’s BBQ.

“Even though he’s known for the barbecue, music is a huge part of his life — it’s a huge part of everyone’s life,” Aragon says.

Herzog Music resides in the former Herzog Studio, the last standing space where Hank Williams Sr. ever recorded. Leisring is a member of the Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation, an organization that managed the studio space before Herzog opened.

“We’re here so we can bring awareness to that space, the history and its importance to the city,” says Aragon. “The ultimate end goal is to make sure that space is not only preserved, but transformed back into a working studio so we can keep the music heritage of Cincinnati flowing.”

The store prefers an “adopt, don’t shop” policy, stocking vintage records and antique musical instruments that range from rare guitars to well-loved saxophones and an Omnicord. Aragon says Herzog will acquire new things, but they are fortunate to have a diverse inventory. Their records span genres that represent a little of everything: Christmas albums, comedy, indie, R&B, classic rock and more.

“Overall, we want to facilitate not only people that play music; we want to be able to help out people that just love listening to it. We want to grow that community in the central part of downtown,” Aragon says.

In addition to its eclectic merchandise, Herzog endeavors to be more than a store.

It's also home to the Queen City Music Academy, where student musicians of all ages can take lessons. In the future, the space will host other educational opportunities for the community.

“We’re going to have everything from a kids’ folk puppet show to a clinic on how to spot vintage guitars and how to use microphones properly,” Aragon says.

Herzog hopes to draw residents and tourists to experience Cincinnati culture in a different part of downtown.

“It’s just like any culture, you experience the most of it through the food and the music,” Aragon explains. “We’re trying to put the best foot forward of our culture here through the things that we know the best.”
 

 


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.
 


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.
 


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.
 


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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