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End of Summer Dining News & Notes

By Anne Mitchell · August 29th, 2012 · The Dish

Washington Park is without a doubt the jewel of this excellent summer in Cincinnati. And it’s drawing crowds — whether to its well-chosen events or just to enjoy its well-designed spaces. And crowds, we know, travel on their stomachs. 

Now, the folks that bring you The City Flea are working with Emanuel Community Center to create PARK(ED), a mobile food court across from Washington Park. Food trucks, including veterans like Café De Wheels and Eat Mobile Dining, will stage their wares from Emanuel’s parking lot at the corner of 13th and Race streets.

Sounds like a great opportunity for the trucks, but I contacted City Flea co-founder and PARK(ED) organizer Nick Dewald to ask him about the reaction he might expect from the brick-and-mortar restaurants in the Gateway District. 

“PARK(ED) is going to be pretty low-key,” he explained. “ I would like to think that the restaurants see that there are people spilling out of their doors.”

When I asked about the new restaurants, Anchor and Zulu, which are opening directly across from the park, he remained positive. “Trucks add flavor and excitement to the area. My thinking is that it’s important for these trucks to be established first, before the new places open, to draw diners to the area.”

I hope the Washington Park crowds stay big enough to keep everybody happy and that the restaurant owners are open-minded about the concept. I will say that when we went to search for a snack after this summer’s Over the Rhine concert — a Sunday night — we went home hungry, since everything in the Gateway was closed.

Well, that’s not true — we did have a beverage at The Lackman. But since the food trucks have flexibility, they’ll help fill that gap, plus alleviate the frustration that arises when there’s a long wait at the restaurants and you just want to grab a quick sandwich to take to the park. 

PARK(ED) will operate only in the evenings and on weekends when the Emanuel Center is closed. For details, follow them on Twitter, @EAT_PARKED.

Speaking of eating in OTR, Gateway District pioneer Lavomatic (1211 Vine St.) recently decided to freshen up and, on first look, I loved the results. (Caution: I’m not an interior designer and they didn’t serve any food for me to review, but I’ve seen countless restaurant interiors, and Lavo’s new look is great.)

The design work was done by Lavomatic’s neighbors, SWITCH Lighting and Design. Switch partners Bertie Ray and Drew Dearwester kept Lavomatic’s historic laundromat inspiration, but toned it down and made it a little more whimsical. They worked with Rookwood Pottery to find a design element, Rookwood’s classic Celestial tile, which then sparked the colors and shapes for the rest of the space. 

The Celestial tile has three “bubbles” in its pattern that tie in with the laundry theme but don’t beat you over the head. I liked the way the bubbles are echoed in other places, especially in Dearwester’s photographs of dryer drums, which I’d never thought of as particularly interesting until I saw the cool way that these graphics captured them. (Check out our review of Lavomatic here.)

Switch commissioned local artisans at Such & Such on Main Street to custom create a new bar top and a service stand. Lavomatic has always sourced much of their food locally, so it’s nice to see this design work lean local, too.

New place I can’t wait to try: Tacocracy has opened in the “Northside International Airport,” a building housing a collection of five retail spaces and a Bathroom Art Gallery at 4029 Hamilton Ave. Hey, sounds really Northside to me!

I spoke with owner Aileen McGrath, who also co-owns and operates Fabricate, a boutique and gallery just up the avenue. McGrath and Chef/Artist Kevin Pogo Curtis have their taqueria off to a soft start with dinner from 4-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. Lunch hours are expected to be added in the next few weeks. 

The menu, which you can find at tacocracy.blogspot.com and on Facebook, sounds amazing, especially when McGrath tells me that “We’re really small — I tell people we’re a glorified indoor food truck.” They’ll eventually have a liquor license, but for now are sending diners to their friends and neighbors at The Listing Loon to pick up BYOB supplies.

“We doubled (the Loon’s) business the first week we were open,” McGrath says with a laugh. “I keep telling them they need to come up with taco/beer pairings!”

CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: amitchell@citybeat.com



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