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Hungry Bros. food truck to make Taste of Cincy debut


The 39th annual Taste of Cincinnati food festival will take place this Memorial Day weekend, featuring new additions and a goal of breaking last year’s record-tying attendance of 550,000.

More than 25 percent of Taste's offerings this year are brand new to the festival, with nine new restaurants and five new food trucks, according to festival director Cynthia Oxley.

Hungry Bros. food truck is one of those newcomers, and the popular mobile restaurant is coming strong out of the gate with three "Best of Taste" awards already secured.

With first-place finishes in the festival's food truck "Best Dessert" and "Best Go Vibrant!" categories, as well as a third-place finishin the "Best Appetizer" food truck category, Hungry Bros.' culinary director Matthew Neumann says he is “elated” and slightly intimidated by the honor.

This is the first year we have been invited to participate in the Taste, and we are beyond stoked to be a part of it,” says Neumann.

Festival goers who choose to sample Hungry Bros.’ winning fried cheesecake dish should also be pretty stoked, as Neumann himself is not hesitant to admit how good it is. It's a dish he and his partners wanted to put on the menu for quite some time, but it wasn’t until this year, when the team's third Taste entry was accepted, that they were forced to make it happen.

“It wasn't until two hours before (applying) that we actually dropped a piece of cheesecake in the graham cracker tempura batter and deep fried it," says Neumann. "We hoped, at the very least, it was going to be good enough that we weren't going to embarrass ourselves, but after tasting it, we knew we had just made something beautiful. It's real tragic for a chef to proclaim how good their food is — but this thing is stupid-good.”

Dishes from Hungry Bros. make up a fraction of the more than 250 menu items that will be available at this year's Taste.

Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market, Findlay Market, will also make its first-ever Taste appearance, with vendors and “foodpreneurs” from Findlay Kitchen serving fresh, new flavors.

There will also be new beers, new signature cocktails and new, local sponsors.

For Neumann, it’s a chance for individuals to come out to see and sample everything that makes Cincinnati great.

“We want our food to show how much we love this business and how much we love the city,” he says. “Cincinnati is a constant theme in all of our lives, so how could we not be enamored with it and want to be a part of every cool thing and every event that's going on in this town?”

 


Historic Mohawk area the next up-and-coming section of OTR?


With the ongoing rehabilitation and redevelopment of Cincinnati, specifically Over-the-Rhine, the consideration of businesses, residents and growth opportunities are a must.

This was just one of the many aspects that became the forefront of the discussion for the Mohawk Area Plan, which is geared toward not only enhancing the Mohawk Area of OTR, but also to engage those involved.

Also known as the Mohawk District, the neighborhood runs the full length of Central Parkway as its western boundary with eastern boundaries running along Clifton Avenue, Zier Place and Kletter Avenue. The northern boundary is at Brighton Bridge Approach, and the southern boundary extends well into OTR along Findlay Street.

To coincide with a strategy already in place for properties, businesses and residences, the City of Cincinnati formed a committee to take on the task of forming maps, a collection of assets and opportunities and sections that need attention. The Steering Committee held three meetings between Nov. 2016 and March 2017 to draft strategies with the assistance of Brewery District leadership, city planning leaders and business executives.

The public was able to weigh in through a series of meetings — public forums were held between July 2016 and May 2017 to get input on both the progress of the neighborhood and the challenges it could face in the future.

According to the city, two "open house" working group meetings were held in July and Sept. 2016, where residents and stakeholders came together for an interactive mapping exercise. Using a variety of multimedia annotations, attendees identified where they lived, worked or owned property, as well as areas they felt were assets, opportunities or in need of help.

According to residents and committee members, one of the biggest challenges faced in OTR both past and present has been a concern of safety. The Mohawk Area Plan hones in on developing a safe and walkable entertainment district, making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

Construction will undoubtedly play a role in this part of the plan, as the Brighton Approach connector is set for demolition, and another connector route will need to be put in place. This also opened the table for discussion on how public transit could help to enhance the neighborhood. According to the Plan, ideas like Cincy Red Bike, bus stops and streetcar stops could be beneficial for visitors and residents. Additional surface parking lots are also being considered.

In terms of economic development, the goal is to show people why the neighborhood is the place to be. By highlighting neighborhood assets like parks (Hanna Park, Bellevue Park, Cincinnati Open Space and Fairview Park), breweries (Rhinegeist, Cliffside and Jackson), entertainment venues (the Imperial Theatre, which is readily undergoing renovations; Mockabee Arts Building; and Dunlap Café) and businesses (the APEX building, Rookwood Pottery and Robin Imaging), investors and startups could be more drawn to the area with the proper economic investment and amenities/space to grow readily available to them.

The residential goal is to make use of abandoned space along Renner and Hastings while maintaining the historic structural components of the neighborhood and establishing a network of open communication for residents

In alignment with the 2002 OTR Comprehensive Plan, and similar to the Brewery District Plan, the future of the Mohawk area is starting to take shape. The general timeline for approval by the city won't take place until later this summer, but residents and community leaders are ready to reshape the future of the neighborhood.
 


Gorilla Cinema is launching a new brand strategy that's sure to shake things up


Gorilla Cinema, the masterminds behind The Overlook Lodge, The Video Archive and Pop Art Con (its newest concept), have launched a possibly radical new marketing plan: abandoning the over-crowded newsfeeds of Facebook.

“It’s a process and evolution for how we use Facebook,” says Jacob Trevino, owner. “We’re moving away from regular posts toward more video marketing about the experiences we provide. We still want people to be actively engaged with the brand, we just don’t want to be the only ones shouting.”

Facebook users won’t see an abrupt departure but more of a gradual exit over the next year and a half. Meanwhile, Gorilla Cinema will ramp up its events and emphasize its uniqueness through other outlets.

“Life is hard, and we want to give people an escape from the every day — where the world can come to you,” Trevino says. “We want to create more experiences outside of our bars. Experiences that everyone wants to talk about because they surprise our audiences.”

For Trevino, it’s also about creating an expectation of excellence and an engaged staff. “We don’t hire ‘just’ bartenders. We look for creatives and forward thinkers who make people feel welcome and create amazing experiences, but who can also make picture-perfect drinks.”

Gorilla Cinema has several big announcements planned for the coming months, including more details on its largest cinema event to-date, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 at Washington Park, as well as more movie pop-ups and the 2018 Pop Art Con.

So if there will be fewer posts on Facebook, how will you know when there's an event?

“If people really want to be the first to know, they should visit the bars since we make announcements there first, plus the bartenders often let something slip early,” Trevino says. “We’re focusing our social media efforts on Instagram, but look for new videos on our website and Facebook too.”

For Trevino, movies are something that can bring people together to share common experiences. He's built his bars around cinematic concepts and creating a sense of community.

“We want to take people on a new adventure and get people into exploring new places,” he says. "But we also want our bars to be for the people who already live in the neighborhood. We try to be active in the community because it’s important that the neighbors and other businesses know and love us first.”

As Gorilla Cinema ramps up its new marketing efforts, Cincinnatians can expect to see more events and experiences outside of Pleasant Ridge and Walnut Hills (where The Overlook and The Video Archive are), as Trevino and his team bring their love of cinema magic to larger audiences.
 


All about the beer: Three more breweries coming online later this year

 

In the second half of our exploration into new breweries, we looked at those that are opening in late summer or early fall of this year.

You might have to wait a bit longer to taste these brews, but rest assured that the experience, flavors and distinctive interiors will be worth it.

 

Rebel Mettle, 244 W. McMicken Ave., Over-the-Rhine

Opening: Spring/summer, 2018
 

“The people of Cincinnati are beer drinkers; we are a melting pot that just likes to drink,” says Mike Brown, CEO and president of Rebel Mettle Brewery.

 

The idea for the brewery started with Brown and his friends Ryan Renner, Greg Goeke and Duane Donohoo sitting around a kitchen table.

“We wanted someplace that had character,” Brown says. “I was adamant that we open up in OTR for the heritage. It has the largest number of pre-Prohibition era breweries in the nation.”

 

Rebel Mettle will offer a selection of ales, lagers and sours; there are plans for ciders as well. Brown says that they hired a secret weapon — a mysterious master brewer he wouldn’t name. He says that combining the master brewer’s education and experience with his team’s home-brewing skills will set Rebel Mettle's beer apart.

 

Also known as the former Clyffside and Sohn Brewery, the 40,000-square-foot space will host the brewery, a tap room and the Clyffside Event Center.

 

 

Humble Monk, 1641 Blue Rock St., Northside

Opening: Late summer, 2017
 

Mike Kemp and his son Paul are the head brew master and CEO, respectively, for Humble Monk Brewing Company. As the name suggests, Humble Monk will utilize a process similar to the famous Trappist Monk style of brewing.

 

“My dad prides himself on full-bodied, in-your-face style beers,” Paul says.

 

Trappist style means that each brew can yield three different types of beer, known as partigyle. The partigyle used in this method of brewing guarantees that there will be a variety of flavors and gravities, or alcohol levels, in each beer.

 

The brewery and taproom will be in a warehouse space a block and a half from Northside’s main thoroughfare. The Kemps describe the space as “barren but cozy” with an industrial feel.

 

Sonder, Duke Boulevard, Mason

Opening: Late fall, 2017
 

Justin Neff, president of Sonder, started out brewing beer at home but had dreams of his owning a brewery. When he met his business partners Daniel Schmerr and Jennifer Meissner, those dreams came true.

 

Neff fell in love with the meaning behind the word sonder, which is defined as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

“It became so much more than just a word — it’s a culture we started our company on. We believe every beer has a story just like every person does.”

 

With the help of New Glarus Brewing's Chase Legler, Sonder will focus on high quality and true-to-style beer.

 

“We’ll ensure that a German hefeweizen tastes like the same hefeweizen that was brewed in Germany generations ago,” Neff says.

 

Sonder is building its own two-story facility in Deerfield Township. The 6.5-acre property will include bars and outdoor patios on both floors. Neff says that they hope to grow their own hops on-site and the green space will be a gathering place for community events.

 

Neff says Sonder will be a place “where Mom and Dad can bring their kids and have a date night as well.”

The ambitious campus will include sand volleyball, a wiffle ball field, fire pits and a walking path where visitors can sip a beer as they go for a stroll.
 


Local musician opening coffee shop and jazz club in Walnut Hills

 

Walnut Hills is quickly redeveloping into one of the top places to find food, beverage and entertainment in Greater Cincinnati. With that, it has become the foundation for many new businesses, making it a destination neighborhood not only for residents but also tourists.

In a move to make Walnut Hills the center of jazz in Cincinnati, Brent Gallaher and his wife are opening Caffe Vivace, a combined coffeehouse and jazz lounge, on the first floor of the Trevarren Flats development on E. McMillan.

Slated to open this fall, Caffe Vivace will provide drinks, bites and a constant flow of music, highlighting the rich jazz heritage in the area. "Caffe" is Italian for coffee and "vivace" is a musical term that means lively, so the literal English translation is "lively coffee,” a phrase that resides in the core of what the Gallahers hope to bring to Walnut Hills.

Their concept was inspired by Brent's own jazz career — he broke into the jazz scene at the former Blue Wisp.

He plays three instruments (saxophone, flute and clarinet) while also being a leader in the local jazz community by teaching, composing and leading a local band. He currently holds positions with both the Cincinnati Contemporary Jazz Orchestra and the Blue Wisp Big Band, which now plays Wednesday nights at Urban Artifact in Northside.

As the focal point of the business, jazz music will be constant, as Gallaher plans for live performances Monday-Saturday with local school groups and talent performing early in the week and more seasoned jazz musicians slated to play on the weekends. Students and other local talents will have the opportunity to showcase their skills and passion for music, something that the area is no stranger to.

From the first recordings of Louis Armstrong to the lengthy shows of Bix Beiderbecke and Walnut Hills' graduate Frank Foster, who wrote the hit “Shiny Stockings,” Cincinnati has seen many jazz greats shape the genre.

Walnut Hills is also home to longtime jazz club The Greenwich, maintaining not only the presence of jazz music but also poetry readings and visual arts over the last several decades.

Aside from being a jazz club, Caffe Vivace will also serve as a bar and restaurant. It will offer coffee and espresso drinks from Carabello Coffee, as well as maintain a full liquor license to serve mixed drinks and craft beers. In terms of a menu, the club will offer breakfast sandwiches and bagels in the morning and salads and sandwiches for lunch. There will also be a separate, smaller menu for dinner. Gallaher plans to keep it simple and use local vendors and bakers for most of the menu items.

For more information regarding Caffe Vivace or to keep up with announcements on an opening date, visit its Facebook page.
 

All about the beer: These breweries will be pouring near you this summer

 


It starts with a beer and a dream. Homebrewers and entrepreneurs around the Tristate are reviving Cincinnati’s heritage as a world brewery capital. Breweries are bubbling up all over town with unique flavors, nods to nostalgia and taprooms to suit every sort of hangout.

In a two-part series, Soapbox is taking you on a "tour" of the breweries that are planning to open before the end of the year.

Bircus Brewery, 322 Elm St., Ludlow
Opening: Spring 2017

“Real clowns subvert authority,” says Paul Miller, chief “goof officer” of Bircus. Miller and his team plan to disrupt the craft beer market by pairing beer with the circus.

Circus Mojo already calls the old Ludlow Theatre home, but they’re in the process of renovating the building to accommodate the brewery operation. The site is home to an eclectic assortment of events, including high school reunions, monthly square dances, professional wrestling and of course, circus acts. Miller says he’s excited to pour Bircus' own beer for these events.

Bircus’ brews promise to celebrate Ludlow nostalgia and the circus with its innovative recipes — and names. The Belgian blonde owes its namesake to another blonde, Anne Lee Patterson, a Ludlow native who won the Miss USA competition in 1931. Bircus also partnered with Blue Oven Bakery to create “The Breaded Lady”, a bread-beer hybrid brewed with an Old World process to referment bread into beer.

The debut of its beers around various bars in Kentucky will feature fire-eaters, live acrobats, jugglers and hula-hoop artists.

13 Below Brewery, 7391 Forbes Rd., Sayler Park
Opening: Early summer 2017

Doug Menkedick noticed that the homebrews from his friends Dick Busche, Ray Busche and Bob Luebbering got better year after year. He said they should talk if they were ever serious about starting a brewery, and that's how 13 Below was born.

13 Below will have classics like a West Coast IPA, a Belgian white and a Scottish ale. The brewery is also inventing its own kinds of beer, including a “darker beer with some sweetness to it — somewhere between a porter and a brown ale," says Menkedick.

13 Below occupies the riverside space that was once the Mariner’s Inn in Sayler Park. Its one-story taproom is fully handicap accessible with an area of the bar where guests using wheelchairs can sit and enjoy their beer. Menkedick says his team imagines their brewery will be a family-friendly place with views of the river and nearby marina. With easy access off Route 50, he says it’s the perfect place to stop on the way to or from a ball game.

16 Lots, 753 Reading Rd., Mason
Opening: Summer 2017

Mike Burton was the chief marketing officer at Sunny Delight until he decided to switch his focus to the hard stuff — or beer. His partner, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been home brewing for about 20 years.

“The consumer knows what they’re going to get when they buy our product,” Burton says.

16 Lots will emphasize a “focus on style,” and will feature six beers that will rotate seasonally. Although the brewery hasn't officially opened, it has already released its Warhorse IPA and will follow that soon with its Muddy Creek Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery will occupy the former Mason Pub in the heart of downtown Mason. Burton describes the taproom's interior as an industrial farmhouse with intimate bar seating, gaming areas and a full view of the brewery.

Burton believes that the community has to come first. In fact, the name of the brewery references the 16 lots of land purchased by revolutionary war hero Major William Mason that eventually became downtown Mason.

“If you satisfy the neighborhood, you can build a nice thriving business,” Burton says.

Stay tuned for next week's issue of Soapbox, where we'll continue our list of up-and-coming independent breweries.
 


"Alternative" art fair at center of immersive art experience in Camp Washington


Although their neighborhood doesn't got a lot of local coverage, the Camp Washington Community Board has been working around the clock to build up and expand the Camp Washington community and what it has to offer.

On April 30, the Board is partnering with Wave Pool Gallery to bring an alternative art fair, studio sale, temporary mural unveiling and the grand opening of a refugee-run retail shop will put the neighborhood front and center in Cincinnati's arts-and-culture scene. This event, according to Wave Pool Gallery, won’t be your run-of-the-mill art fair.

Titled 9x18: The Parking Lot Art Experiment, the art fair will take place at 2927 Colerain Ave. and feature performance art, art actions, experimental engagements, ephemeral works and more.

Inspired by the growth of the Camp Washington community, Wave Pool curated the event in conjunction with Girl Noticed, the Camp Washington Community Board and the Welcome Project Café/Boutique.

The public will be able to enjoy an array of art from local artists who want to convey that art can be about immersion and not just about purchasing it. Artists will include Ingred Alexandra, Marc Governanti, Annie Brown, Elise Barrington, Nina Devine, Hugh Patton, Caravan, Erin Drew, POPP=D Art, Camp Washington Art and Mobile Produce and many more.

The range of work showcased by these artists will offer something for everyone. Alexandra and Governanti focus on visual arts with multimedia and video vignette performances, and CAMP provides a cart-and-bike produce and art immersion experience with fresh produce from the Camp Washington farm alongside coloring books with vegetables, recipes, etc. POPP=D Art runs under a mobile trend like CAMP, traveling in a repurposed rainbow caravan and bringing to the forefront that “it doesn’t have to be in a gallery to be considered art,” which is what the 9x18 event is all about.

9x18 aims to change the way that local (and national) art is perceived. Not all artists sell commodities to the general public; in fact, many artists run their careers on immersive experiences. They still want to showcase their work to a large audience, but until the idea of 9x18 came about, there has not been an art fair of this nature in the area.

In addition to the parking lot art fair, visitors can also view the studio sale in Wave Pool’s upstairs space (featuring gently used art supplies, home furnishings, etc.), the debut of a new temporary mural completed by Lori Practico from Girl Noticed (bringing awareness to the important role and the value of females in society) and the grand opening of the Welcome Project Café/Boutique, a storefront on Colerain for refugees and immigrants to sell their crafts and handmade goods. The new business was started by Wave Pool in collaboration with Heartfelt Tidbits.

The project was funded by a grant from The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation. The event will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.wavepoolgallery.org or call (513) 600-6117.
 


Tom McKenna creating own niche in OTR community with Allez Bakery


Allez Bakery, located at 1208 Main St., is the newest addition to Over-the-Rhine’s already impressive line-up of locally-owned restaurants, breweries and cafes.

Owner, baker and Cincinnati native Tom McKenna hopes to play a positive role in the community. His business approach is steeped in social conscientiousness and affection for the city he calls home.

“I genuinely want to be a positive force in the neighborhood by being a staple of people's diets and routines," he says. "Interactions, as small as they may be, can change someone's day, and if I can do that while making a living, I'm way ahead of a lot of people."

While Allez is new to the OTR scene, McKenna got his start years ago. He learned the ropes at the New England Culinary Institute and then did a stint at Blue Oven Bakery before branching out on his own to provide fresh bread to the community.

“I opened the bakery because there wasn't the job I saw for myself already in existence in the city," McKenna says. "I wanted more control over what I did for a living and I had a skill that wasn't very widespread at the time. A lot of people are very good bakers but they either have other successful jobs or just don't want to do it as a career. I needed a career and had loads of support from friends and family and was able to turn that into a bakery."

The menu includes variations of the classic sourdough, such as urban sourdough, seeded sourdough and rye sourdough, along with items like ciabatta, French baguettes and sandwiches.

Morning offerings will soon include scones, biscuits and toast. The afternoon menu will feature sandwiches and beer, in addition to fresh bread. The craft bakery’s signature items are its sourdough and whole grain breads .

Items are available at both retail and wholesale prices to local restaurants. Fresh bread and sandwich delivery are offered via bicycle courier service.

Allez is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
 


Collective Espresso goes mobile to reach more Cincy coffee drinkers


Dave Hart is co-owner of Collective Espresso, a business that is synonymous with quality coffee in Cincinnati. It currently operates out of brick-and-mortar coffee shops in Northside and Over-the-Rhine, and just recently, a mobile coffee truck was added to the blend.

This development, called Collective Field Services, began around the same time Hart and his business partner Dustin Miller lost their lease at the Contemporary Arts Center. That was their third coffee shop; it was replaced with a second Bottle & Basket, a deli owned by the ever-expanding Wellmann’s Brands.

The coffee truck, a 1982 Chevy G30, made its first venture into the city at the first spring City Flea, and later that day, at the Pollination Festival in Northside. Hart spoke with Soapbox about what led to the acquisition of the truck and what it means for Collective Espresso’s presence in Cincinnati.

So what's the story behind the truck?
The truck also comes from Berlin, Ohio. It’s kind of an interesting story, how this all came about. It started in a very organic way. We had a meeting with the guys from Such and Such to fabricate a bike for us, and we’re building this bike — it’s a pedicab that’s going to haul kegs of cold brew — and it’ll just do weekend events. It’s not like a staple of the business or anything like that, it’ll just be for special events.

When we first started talking about this, we thought this could be the launch for a whole mobile food and coffee operation. At the time, this truck had been in the fold. Dustin’s brother had two delis up in the Berlin area and he does a hot dog cart during special events. He bought the truck to sell hot dogs, but he’s got a million things going on. Right around the time of our talks with Such and Such, we found an espresso machine, a Synesso, for a really reasonable price outside Philadelphia. It’s similar to what we have at Collective Espresso Northside but  smaller — it’s a two-group Synesso. We found a heck of a deal on it and we kind of just bought it with no real intentions. We knew at some point we would need it. It could have been a backup.

At this point, we have no CAC location and we have an espresso machine. We needed to do something. It was a week later when Dustin’s brother, Ryan, called and said he was selling the truck and asked if we wanted it. It all happened in the span of two or three weeks and it made perfect sense to us as a logical progression. We have a killer staff from CAC and we figured we could absorb them into something new that we do, so all signs pointed toward it as a no-brainer.

The truck is named after a bus that hauls Amish people from where Dustin and I are from, and it’s called Pioneer Trails. It takes Amish people from Berlin to Florida. A lot of Amish people go to Sarasota in the winter. We want to get “Pioneer Trails” painted on the front of the truck.

When did you buy the truck?
We bought the truck in November. It sat at my parents’ house for a while and we’d go up on weekends to work on it. We gutted the whole thing. It used to be a book mobile — growing up in the country, if your town doesn’t have a library, the book mobile will come to your school and once every two weeks, you’d get a break from class to go look at what’s in the book mobile. The truck had been decommissioned years ago and then it was owned by a television station.

What can customers buy from the truck?
It’s a basic coffee shop menu. We’re looking to do something with a keg for cold brew, but it’ll be just like any of our coffee shops. We’ll have light baked goods. Lots of food trucks have miniature espresso machines, but we have a full-sized espresso machine, so we’ll be able to work at the exact same pace as we do in any of our shops.

Are there any long-term plans where the truck can be found?
We’re going to start doing things to see what ultimately ends up being successful. The idea is twofold: to service the food truck areas — we have a customer base downtown from our CAC location, so it makes sense to stick near Fountain Square’s food truck space. Weekdays we’ll be there and also at Washington Park on nice days.

Weekends, it’s not just a mobile vending thing, it’s an opportunity for us to get in front of people we’re not normally in front of. If there’s a neighborhood that might warrant opening a Collective Espresso in it, this is a great way to go there, meet people and test market the business. We’d like to be in various different neighborhoods on the weekends: Walnut Hills, College Hill, maybe somewhere on the West Side. New people. Special events are also a given. We’ll see as it goes along.

Going mobile, what’s the truck’s maximum radius going to be?
If there was a big event, we could take it far out of town, but it’s an ’82 — an older piece of equipment. I don’t think it’s going to be taking trips to Louisville every weekend. We kind of exist in these little bubbles where everybody knows what Collective Espresso is, but then I go to some big event in town and realize there are all of these people out there who still have no idea. There are even people in OTR who ask when we opened and it’s weird to tell them almost five years ago. I think that the truck gets rid of that limiting factor of having to be in these little, obscure up-and-coming neighborhood situations. There’s nothing wrong with a bunch of people knowing what we do.

To keep up with the coffee truck, follow @collective_field_services on Instagram.
 


Increased focus on development creates stronger neighborhood vibe in College Hill


Over the past 15 years, many of the businesses in College Hill's central business district have closed or relocated, leaving vacancies and a struggling business district. But fresh ideas and new businesses have started to spring up in the neighborhood, bringing new life to College Hill.

In the midst of the current community transition, Jacob Samad, College Hill native and VP of the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, believes one of the constants has been a group of engaged residents that never gave up on revitalizing College Hill. Through organizations like CHCURC, the College Hill Forum, the College Hill Business Association, the College Hill Ministerium and College Hill Gardeners, invested members of the community have stayed involved, continued to work with the city and ultimately developed a plan to address the unique needs of the neighborhood's business district.

"Much of the redevelopment work has been aimed at creating opportunities for people to call College Hill home for the majority of their lives," Samad says. "By increasing walkability and working on creating spaces for people to interact, there is much greater opportunity for neighbors to live life together in their neighborhood. While it is not new that residents of College Hill have cared about their neighborhood, there is a sense that that caring is beginning to pay off.”

By focusing on the mid-district area and acquiring blighted properties, CHCURC and other community partners were able to begin redevelopment by helping to encourage the new Episcopal Retirement Services development, Marlowe Court. CHCURC has also been redeveloping aging buildings along Hamilton Avenue with the goal of drawing in new business.

The most recent success was the opening of Brink Brewing. One of Cincinnati’s newest breweries, Brink has become a community gathering spot; it's been open a little over a month, and its Fashionably Late IPA recently won Tour de Cincinnati's #CincyCraftMadness.

Ultimately, Samad hopes the concentrated effort to improve the mid-business district will attract a large-scale development to the corner of North Bend and Hamilton. The idea is to fill the vacancy with mixed-use development College Hill Station, which will break ground in fall. Plans include first-floor retail with three stories of market-rate residential units above.

Local leaders hope the proposed development will increase population density while providing new rental options in the neighborhood.

“There is a palpable sense of excitement and expectation as new businesses continue to open and be announced that did not exist 10-15 years ago," Samad says. "The new development is the culmination of years of hard work and countless hours of planning and executing. It has galvanized the community and forced various parts of the community to come together to accomplish this together."


New ocean-inspired Eighth and English brings more than fresh fish to O'Bryonville


Longtime Cincinnati chef Chase Blowers is branching out on his own, with his new restaurant, Eighth and English, and a plan to deliver seafood-centric fare and eccentric flair to O’Bryonville.

Last month, Blowers hosted a series of soft launches in the space at 2038 Madison Rd., most recently home to Enoteca Emilia — a choice of both neighborhood and building that the new occupant says was very much intentional.

“I love O’Bryonville,” Blowers says. “The space itself is historic. The building from 1861 originally served as Mary O’Bryan's house. It has a lot of character — the exposed brick is genuine, and the mezzanine and private room double the size of the restaurant on busy nights.”

Though still new, Blowers says Eighth and English has received a warm welcome, with visiting foodies offering feedback and suggestions that his team is keen to hear.

In his first venture as a restaurateur, Blowers taps into years of experience cooking at local institutions like Boca, as well as industry relationships he’s forged peripherally in wine and spirits, to bring guests an experience he hopes will be a refreshing change from overly rich and heavier menu options often associated with fine dining.

The menu — which, according to the restaurant’s website, is subject to “change with season or rhythm” — currently emphasizes ocean fare with a daily raw/oyster bar and dinner menu featuring items like smoked rainbow trout, Sardinian baby octopus stew and grilled lobster.

“I wanted to fill a void in the market,” Blowers explains. “Although the cost of seafood is high and, if not managed correctly, the waste involved can be truly damaging, I think we have the right team to make it work.”

But Eighth and English also offers much in the way of turf — and at a very manageable price point compared to other restaurants of its caliber. An extensive array of pasta dishes, roast chicken, duck and lamb options round out a playful-yet-deliberate spread punctuated by thoughtful wine, champagne and cocktail pairings.

Eighth and English is as much about the vibe as it is about the food. The space features rotating installments by local artists, as well as a chilled-out private dining option. Second only to creating good food, Blowers expresses a desire for visitors to treat his restaurant like a second home.

“I want the staff to know by name and listen to every guest, and I want every guest to know the staff by name,” says Blowers, who has no desire to cater to any one type of patron. “If you want to drink a $200-plus bottle of wine or if you want to throw back a few High Lifes and eat some bottarga fries before a Reds game, we are here for both.”

Rothenberg School's Rooftop Garden is hosting a unique fundraising dinner at Eighth and English from 5 to 9:30 p.m. on April 27. Thirty-five percent of the proceeds from the event will support the garden in providing enhanced education to its students in an outdoor classroom setting. Garden lessons integrate math, science and reading into hands-on experiences that complement the students' academic curriculum.

Reservations are required; call 513-386-7383 or visit Eighth and English's website to book a table.
 


Molly Wellmann opening second Bottle and Basket location in CAC


Later this spring, Molly Wellmann and Wellmann’s Brands will open another Bottle and Basket location in the Contemporary Arts Center.

Opening on the ground floor of the CAC, the restaurant will be a reflection of the partnership that Wellmann’s Brands has developed with the CAC over the years.


The space will be renovated in stages to accommodate the new concept. The café area was recently occupied by Collective Espresso, whose lease was up in late March. The coffee shop chose to close and focus on its locations in Over-the-Rhine and Northside rather than renew.

The café area of Bottle and Basket CAC will open at 8 a.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The menu will be similar to what is available at its other location in Over-the-Rhine — breakfast and lunch items, pastries, baked goods, coffee and other beverages. Wellmann’s Brands executive chef Lisa Kagen will oversee the CAC menu and plans to add to it over time.

Like its sister businesses, Bottle and Basket CAC will have a bar on the Walnut Street side of the Kaplan Hall lobby. It will open at 4 p.m. when the restaurant's menu will switch over to dinner. Many of the signature drinks and other cocktails found at other Wellmann locations will be featured at Bottle and Basket CAC. 

Other bar biz updates from Wellmann's Brands


Wellmann's Brands also owned and operated The Famous Neons Unplugged in OTR, which closed in mid-December after its lease expired. Plans to reopen are unknown, as the owners continue to search for a new operating space that will allow more seating, better access to parking and a larger outdoor space.

Another of its restaurants, Melt Eclectic Café in Northside, is moving from its long-time home next to Northside Tavern to a new, larger space in The Gantry. An opening date is yet to be announced, but you can keep tabs on its progress on Facebook. Until then, you can purchase a variety of Melt's menu staples on Wednesdays at the Northside Farmers Market.
 


Braxton Brewery announces second NKY location at former Ei8ht Ball space


Expect a totally different look inside Party Source's Ei8ht Ball Brewing space as Covington's Braxton Brewing Company takes it over this summer.

Braxton announced its plans last week, along with alerting consumers that the space will close for a few months for remodeling. This expansion comes just after Braxton celebrated its second birthday this past weekend.

The brewery will open Braxton Labs — a brewery and a taproom — that will become an innovation facility to make unique, small-batch beers, says Jake Rouse, co-founder and CEO.

Beers will be brewed in 15 barrel batches and available on tap, but only a limited amount will be packaged.

Much like its current location, the remodeled space will capture the spirit of the garage, which is where Braxton was born. That original garage on Braxton Drive in Union, Ky., was where head brewer Evan Rouse started his career.

"We'll definitely infuse some of our garage motif into the space, but the real point of emphasis in Braxton Labs will be the product that is poured from the taps, says Jonathan Gandolf, chief marketing officer for Braxton. 

While consumers are waiting for the new taproom, folks can find everything at Ei8ht Ball 50 percent off until they close April 1, says Hannah Lowen, general manager of New Riff Distilling Company, which owns Ei8ht Ball.

Even though Ei8ht Ball was doing well, Lowen says that New Riff wants to focus on distilling. It's beginning a $7.5 million project in Newport, which involves renovating the original Greenline Bus Building and building a 17,300-square-foot building for a rickhouse (where the barrels are stored for aging).

Rouse says that Braxton had to think about its next steps because the brewery wants to "push the envelope."

"We saw an opportunity to create an entirely new facility dedicated to focusing on experimenting and imagining new beers, and we can’t wait to share this experience with you in a few months," he says.

Experimenting is in Braxton's blood. A partnership with Graeter's lead to the creation of the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Milk Stout. They've also created a 1957 English Style Mild Ale to celebrate the baseball season.

Last year, Braxton partnered with Carabello Coffee in Newport to launch Bourbon-aged Starter Coffee from Braxton Brewing Co. Coffee, which is inspired by their dad Greg who liks his coffee black with lots of cream and sugar.

The new location will also allow Braxton to literally expand — as of October, the brewery was at full capacity for fermentation. They're planning on adding more fementers this year.

After Ei8ht Ball closes, Braxton will begin work on acquiring the necessary permits and making the taproom their own.
 


Second Sight Spirits looking forward to new products, expansion and the Bourbon Trail


This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Bircus Brewing here.

Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner, founders of Second Sight Spirits, shared an innovative dream. They knew what it took to make a world-class product, as their earlier careers involved creating Las Vegas shows Cirque du Soleil LOVE and Viva Elvis. The sights and sounds of their roots are the inspiration behind Second Sight and the unique and creative experience it has brought to Northern Kentucky since it opened in 2015.

Second Sight originally offered white rum, but has since expanded to include spiced rum and bourbon barrel rum, as well as several flavors of Villa Hillbillies moonshine. New products and projects are in the works for 2017 and 2018, says Couch.

“We will be releasing several new products this year, including a smoked cherry rum, dark rum and bourbon,” he says. “We are also working with local officials and other businesses to develop a local bourbon themed experience.”

A recent expansion has allowed for Second Sight to further connect with other local businesses. The $70,000 expansion, which included turning the 1,200-square-foot facility into a 3,500-square-foot operating space, connected the distillery with neighboring Wynner’s Cup Café for special events. It was partially funded by a Duke Energy grant.

Driven by the passage of Kentucky Senate Bill 11 in July 2016 that allows distilleries to operate more like breweries (in terms of what they can sell and what size samples they can offer), the expansion will allow the distillery to operate an event space, meeting space, cocktail bar and more.

Second Sight has also recently launched a new bourbon program where customers can invest $500 in grain and barrels to make a batch of bourbon and be involved in the distilling process. In doing so, the customers can taste their product during the aging process and be part of the bottling party where they can sign each bottle of bourbon that they helped produce. The original $500 can then be used to purchase a bottle of bourbon and the barrel it was aged in.

This is just one of the many elements of Second Sight that set it apart from other local and national distilleries. The process, in addition to the atmosphere, help to build a one-of-a-kind experience for customers.

“We have taken the idea of craft distilling a step further by not only handcrafting spirits from high-quality ingredients but by constructing our own still and the theatrical elements in our tasting room as well,” Waggoner says. “We developed a theme based on the future and designed our still to look like a fortune teller with a custom crystal ball condenser. We think we may have created the world’s first themed art still.”

Couch says that Second Sight will be increasing its bourbon production this year in hopes of joining the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2018.

Second Sight's tasting room is open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and from noon to 8 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays. Tours are given at 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m. on Thursdays and at 12:30, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Tastings and tours are free. For more information, call 702-510-6075 or visit Second Sight's website.
 


Bircus Brewing serves first beer, focuses on community partnership

 

This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Second Sight Spirits here.

A local clown is taking major steps to rejuvenate and nurture Ludlow's business interests, and he’s not joking around.

Paul Miller, a.k.a. Pauly the Clown from Circus Mojo, is a forward-thinking businessman. His newest venture into beer brewing, Bircus (pronounced beer-cuss) Brewing Co., is projected to be a means to an end for his already existing circus education program that provides both job training and entertainment to Ludlow’s residents.

Bircus thinks, acts and spends locally. Inhabiting the old Ludlow Theater, Miller and his troupe aim to invert the old idiom of “the circus comes to town,” and instead, bring the town to the circus.

“We are not going to worry about canning, bottling or putting Bircus on grocery shelves," Miller says. "The goal is to become a destination. For seven years, we’ve been doing events in Ludlow, but we’ve been selling other people’s beer. The margins just aren’t there.”

Mixing hospitality with live entertainment, this business model is nothing new. Miller has collaborated with Matthias Vermael of Circus Planeet, a similar brewhouse-circus venture in Ghent, Belgium. The intent is to mix the theatrics of circus performance and the concessions of a brewery to maximize showtime profits.

The first public batch of Bircus beers was recently sold in the brewery’s parking lot patio area during this past weekend's Shop in Ludlow event.

Crowdfunding is the primary source of income for the fledgling brewery, whose funds currently stand near $300,000 of the $500,000 goal. Bircus is the first brewery under a new section of federal law that allows crowdfunding investors to buy equity.

“I did that so I can maintain control because I don’t want to argue with someone about whether or not 'bellydance night' made sense, or something like that,” says Miller. “I’ve said no to money for a long time, where people have said ‘I’ll give you all the money you want, I just want 50/50.’”

The goal, he says, is to keep the heart of the business beating and to refuse any notions of straying from the best interests of his circus and his local community of investors.

“I don’t want to be a Rhinegeist, I don’t want to buy 8,000 kegs and 40 trucks, there’s no reason. I can’t depreciate what I didn’t spend and I don’t have any loans, so there’s no amortization. Our self-distribution will be the biggest turnaround. Instead of making maybe fifty cents each six-pack, we hope to be making four or five bucks a pour.”

Bircus has signed a three-year lease with Norfolk Southern for a parking lot near the brewery to ensure convenience for visitors. This was procured so the brewery’s adjacent parking lot can be utilized for outdoor patio space.

The brewery is still under construction with no established opening day yet announced. Keep tabs on its Facebook page for up-to-date information.
 

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