Strolling through O'Bryonville

O’Bryonville is a neighborhood that invites its visitors to stroll, and strolling truly is the best way to experience what residents and shop owners have dubbed the “eclectic mile.” The street is literally packed with a delicious assortment of shops, each of which shares the same retail passion: to provide unique products and services as well as the highest quality of customer service. Nestled between Walnut Hills and Hyde Park, O’Bryonville boasts one of Cincinnati’s most charming collection of shops and restaurants. Factor in the tranquility of Owl’s Nest Park and you can see why this historic strip has long been a beloved destination for Cincinnatians.

Originally known for its large and beautiful semi-rural estates, the area was planned in the early 19th century as an exclusive “country living” district just outside the center city. The purchase of 72 acres by the Irish farming family, the O’Bryons and the subsequent influx of other Irish families gave the community its name O’Bryonville. Its rapid growth into a well-balanced business and residential community in the late nineteenth century remains evident today.

Start your stroll at the east end of the O’Bryonville Business District where you’ll find Federation Antiques, Cincinnati’s oldest retail antique shop. Just looking in the window takes you back 150 years. Looking for something specific? Federation can use its network of contacts to find whatever you’re looking for with no-obligation to buy. They also offer in-home maintenance and interior design services.

One of the most unique stops on your tour should be What’s for Dinner, a delightful place for lunch or dinner or, even better, for taking home a complete meal for your family or dinner party. A sign reminding visitors “Don’t Postpone Joy” welcomes you as you are greeted by co-owner Toni Davena who beams when she talks about her adopted neighborhood. "This is a small business community and it's been here for years. I've been feeding some of my customers since before they were born - they've eaten my macaroni and cheese in utero." When asked why she thinks O'Bryonville has succeeded for so long she cites the choices the neighborhood offers. "It's not all show with no substance."

Tucked in a bit just beyond What’s For Dinner is a Cincinnati keepsake. Since 1983, the award winning BonBonerie bakery has been turning out their signature tortes, pastries, wedding cakes and all other things sweet for those hosting parties of 2 or 200.  If you know anyone getting married, find someway to horn in on their wedding cake tasting to truly understand how the BonBonerie built its reputation as one of the city’s best. For something truly unique, plan ahead with reservations for a proper Afternoon Tea in the adjoining Tea Room.

If tea’s not your bag, just a few doors down is the Coffee Shop on Madison, a small but cozy space featuring fair trade coffee as well as delicious desserts and other delectables. On weekends, you shouldn’t miss the fresh Belgian waffles courtesy of the Belgian waffle maker, Jean-Francois Flechet.

You’re not into coffee either you say? Wet your proverbial whistle then at O’Bryon’s Irish Pub. There you’ll see a crowd enjoying the friendly staff, a game of pool or the big game on any of the large-screen TVs. Come summertime, the pub puts to use its fabled rooftop patio.

O'Bryonville has its roots firmly planted in its history and the selection of shops reflect a Cincinnati past that adheres to a code of civility. Beyond the high tea services, another store owner chose the eclectic mile to set up her own stationary story. Margot Madison Creative Stationery has had their exclusive line of personalized stationery products featured in multiple local and national magazines including In Style and Brides, as well as Colin Cowie's Extraordinary Weddings and even on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Already a beautiful place to park your tired dogs, Owl’s Nest Park on O’Bryonville’s western border is scheduled for a makeover by several hundred volunteers this spring with major infrastructure improvements over the summer.

Across the street you’ll find Bob Roncker’s The Running Spot. Named one of the top 50 running stores in America for the second consecutive year, Bob’s is much more than just a shoe shop. Cincinnati’s rabid running community has found a home where they can learn exactly why petroleum jelly is a runner’s best friend as well as the difference between a $75 and a $300 running shoe. Whether a beginner or a pro, the shop provides more information about running and walking than most would believe existed.

Next door, Ten Thousand Villages is a regional shopping destination.  Fair traded items created by artisans from around the world mean you’ll be doing good while you’re shopping well. Staffed by volunteers, the store features truly one of a kind gifts and unique crafts you won’t find anywhere else.

If you’re looking for something fun and educational, The Art of Entertaining is the place for you providing everything you need to know about cooking that perfect dish. Featuring Rookwood fireplaces, cozy dining room chairs/tables and table topping ideas, the real highlight of this comfortable shop are the “demonstration” and “hands on” cooking classes led by area chefs. Each of the superb menus are easily replicated at home. With Chateau Pomije next door, the perfect wine pairing suggested by the friendly staff is as easy as it gets no matter what your price range.

MiCa has its finger on the modern look in clothes, gifts, carpet and wall sculptures. Owner Carolyn Deininger attributes O’Bryonville’s success to the neighborhood’s sense of community. O’Bryonville is “a great core of independent business owners who help and support each other. And the folk nearby really care about us.”

Most days of the week, O’Bryonville’s galleries and shops close by 6 p.m., but every third Thursday of the month beginning in April more than 20 businesses host their acclaimed Wine Walks from 5 to 8 pm. Residents and visitors look forward to the relaxed evenings of complimentary wine and refreshments along the newly renovated tree-lined sidewalks. A fun, welcoming and laid back event each month, this party show’s the best of the neighborhood’s hospitality. Once you’ve taken the stroll, you’ll be back.

Photography by Scott Beseler