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Guide to Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Mount Adams

A reference to the city center for MPMFers

By Staff · August 23rd, 2013 · MPMF Visitors' Guide
annman_otr_washingtonparkmusichall_jf01Washington Park and Music Hall - Photo: Jesse Fox
The redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine has headlined Cincinnati’s city center’s urban renaissance, but the downtown business district still anchors the city’s economic engine, while hilltop Mount Adams looms proudly over downtown and the river. 

View from Carew Tower

From a fort in the 1780s to an 1800s riverfront boomtown to the home of Fortune 500 companies like Kroger, Procter & Gamble, Macy’s and Fifth Third, the downtown business district will always be the symbol of Cincinnati’s rich history and bright future. downtowncincinnati.com. 
  • EAT — Find restaurant clusters near the ballet-to-Broadway Aronoff Center for the Arts (650 Walnut St., cincinnatiarts.org/aronoff) and the Zaha Hadid-designed Contemporary Arts Center (44 E. Sixth St., contemporaryartscenter.org) or The Banks (thebankscincy.com), a booming mixed-use riverfront development between the Reds and Bengals stadiums. Award-winning chef David Falk’s restaurant group encompasses some of the best downtown eateries: traditional Tuscan trattoria Sotto (118 E. Sixth St., sottocincinnati.com); world-class French-Italian upstairs sister Boca (114 E. Sixth St., bocacincinnati.com); and modern Mexican hotspot Nada (600 Walnut St., eatdrinknada.com). The Moerlein Lager House (115 Joe Nuxhall Way, moerleinlagerhouse.com) at The Banks is the local brewery’s multi-level dining destination, with 25 beers on tap. For 2 a.m. noodles, Shanghai Mama’s (216 E. Sixth St., shanghaimamas.com) is a must. Eat lunch in the L.A.-style outdoor wooden tepee at Cheapside Café (326 E. Eighth St., cheapsidecafe.com) in the Eighth Street Design District, which also offers locally foraged housemade soda. A more affordable version of French master chef Jean-Robert de Cavel’s menu at Table (713 Vine St., jrtable.com) is available via their bar-only Lunch Tray — four courses for $15. 
  • DRINK — Grab a beer and famous wings at downtown dive Knockback Nat’s (10 W. Seventh St., 513-621-1000), a single-malt Glenfiddich 18-year at Scottish pub Nicholson’s (625 Walnut St., nicholsonspub.com) or head to the 21c Museum Hotel (609 Walnut St., 21cmuseumhotels.com/cincinnati), voted best hotel in America by Condé Nast Traveler readers. Take a secret elevator up to their rooftop terrace and watch the sun go down over downtown with a cocktail in hand. Enjoy a Great Gatsby-esque Fleuri 75 (gin and champagne) surrounded by an Art Deco interior at the Bar at Palm Court (Hilton Netherland Plaza, 35 W. Fifth St., orchidsatpalmcourt.com). At more than 150-years-old, cozy Arnold’s (210 E. Eighth St., arnoldsbarandgrill.com) is the oldest continuously operated tavern in the city. And cocktail lounge Obscura (645 Walnut St., obscuracincinnati.com) offers an upscale night out. Fountain Square (Fifth and Vine streets, myfountainsquare.com) has almost nightly programming, with alcohol vendors (or grab a drink from the Tyler Davidson Fountain; the water that flows from the four figures around the rim is fresh).
  • SHOP — Batsakes (1 W. Sixth St., 513-721-9345) hat shop has been around for more than 100 years, and calls celebrities like Bruno Mars and Jack White customers. 
  • EXPLORE — Historic and hidden, the Dead Poet’s Society-esque Mercantile Library (414 Walnut St., 11th Floor, mercantilelibrary.com) is full of spiral staircases, Grecian busts and leather chairs; you have to be a member to check out books, but their prestigious public lecture series has featured authors ranging from Ralph Waldo Emerson to John Updike. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (719 Race St., cincyshakes.com) — one of five U.S. theaters to complete Shakespeare’s 38-play “canon” — offers the Bard and other classics. Tour a historical Kentucky slave pen at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (50 E. Freedom Way, freedomcenter.org) or have an exhibition-inspired lunch at the Taft Museum of Art’s (316 Pike St., taftmuseum.org) garden cafe. The historic mansion is in the Lytle Park Historic District, where a rare, beardless statue of Abe Lincoln stands sentry. Downtown is also home to all of the major sports teams’ arenas: the Reds’ Great American Ball Park (100 Joe Nuxhall Way, cincinnati.reds.mlb.com), the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium (1 Paul Brown Stadium, bengals.com) and the Cyclones’ U.S. Bank Arena (100 Broadway, cycloneshockey.com). 
  • MUST — For $2 and a 49-story elevator ride, see everything Cincinnati has to offer from the Carew Tower Observation Deck (441 Vine St., 513-241-3888). Visit Dixie Terminal (49 E. Fourth St.) for breathtaking French Art Deco. Once home to a streetcar terminal, the 1920s building now houses offices, but you can still view the exterior Rookwood Pottery entry arch and ornate ceiling for free. Rent a bike (wheelfunrentals.com) and ride along riverfront park Sawyer Point (705 E. Pete Rose Way, cincinnatiparks.com), or neighboring Smale Riverfront Park (W.

Mehring Way, mysmaleriverfrontpark.org), which is slated to get a carousel in spring 2015. Try your luck on penny slot Kitty Glitter at the Horseshoe Casino (1000 Broadway St., horseshoecincinnati.com), a 24/7 stop with several restaurants (including Bobby Flay’s Burger Place, with booze milkshakes) and a bar. 

Krohn Conservatory

The neighborhood’s steep hills, winding streets and city views make it unique among the Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, and its eclectic collection of local businesses, restaurants and bars have become a prime area for YPs and many longtime urban dwellers. mtadamstoday.com
  • EAT — Find plenty places to grab dinner before a show at the Tony Award-winning Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (962 Mt. Adams Circle, cincyplay.com). The Rookwood (1077 Celestial St., therookwood.com), housed in Rookwood Pottery’s old building — you can even eat in a kiln — has Cincinnati-centric favorites like Hanky Pankys (goetta and bechamel on rye). The Celestial’s (1071 Celestial St., thecelestial.com) four-star and four-diamond award-winning steakhouse houses the Incline Lounge with a full-window view of the Ohio River. Mantra on the Hill (934 Hatch St., mantraonthehill.com) offers a refreshing, urban take on classic Indian entrees. Mount Adams Bar & Grill (938 Hatch St., mtadamsbarandgrill.com), once a speakeasy, is now a great place for burgers.
  • DRINK — This dense neighborhood is packed with bars catering to a younger YP set, but there are also more laid-back haunts. Grab a Guinness at Crowley’s (958 Pavilion St., 513-721-7709), Cincinnati’s oldest Irish pub. City View Tavern (403 Oregon St., cityviewtavern.com) has one of the best bloody marys — and views — in the city. Tap & Go (950 Pavilion St., tapandgocincy.com) is a rugby-themed hangout. Visit the The Blind Lemon (936 Hatch St., theblindlemon.com) for live music and a romantic evening on the sequestered, secret-garden patio; or Bow Tie Café (1101 Saint Gregory St., bowtiecafe.com) for coffee and cocktails.
  • EXPLORE — Mount Adams, one of Cincinnati’s seven hills, has great views in the city; try the Celestial Street Overlook (corner of Celestial and Hill streets, hillsidetrust.org). Walk across the registered-historic Ida Street Viaduct (once a wooden trestle that carried the 1880s streetcar) into Eden Park (950 Eden Park Drive, cincinnatiparks.com) for another overlook and a running/walking path around Mirror Lake. 
  • MUST — Two of the city’s best attractions reside here: the Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Drive, cincinnatiartmuseum.org) and Krohn Conservatory (1501 Eden Park Drive, cincinnatiparks.com). The art museum offers free public tours of their collection — which includes the likes of Andy Warhol and Van Gogh — Tuesday-Sunday; the 1930s Art Deco conservatory is famous for its annual spring butterfly show (and plants). 
Photo: Jesse Fox

OTR is definitively the coolest neighborhood in Cincinnati — for young, old, married, gay, single, parents, childless, black, white and everyone in between. It’s constantly changing and growing, but consistently offers the hippest in buzzworthy cultural attractions — from food to fashion — while still maintaining its grittier, secret urban spots and preserving one of the largest collections of historic Italianate architecture in the nation. otrchamber.com
  • EAT — OTR is the epicenter of Cincinnati’s dining scene, so be prepared to wait a while for a table. (Pro tip: Most restaurants will call your cell phone when a table is ready if you prefer to hang out at a nearby bar while you wait.) Also be prepared for the au courant in culinary: foraged, local, seasonal, poached eggs on top of things, organ meats, etc. Newcomer The Eagle OTR (1342 Vine St., facebook.com/theeagleotr), housed in an old post office, offers antibiotic-free, all-natural fried chicken. Nicola’s Ristorante (1420 Sycamore St., nicolasrestaurant.com) is a top Zagat-rated authentic Italian restaurant. Food & Wine magazine’s 2012 “People’s Best New Chef – Great Lakes Division,” chef Daniel Wright, owns two side-by-side restaurants. His Mediterranean tapas-style stop Abigail Street (1214 Vine St., abigailstreet.com) boasts wine on tap, and Senate (1212 Vine St., senatepub.com), features gourmet hot dogs and great cocktails. Bakersfield OTR (1213 Vine St., bakersfieldotr.com) is a California-inspired taco joint with a ton of tequila and whiskey; A Tavola (1220 Vine St., atavolapizza.com) has a pizza oven imported from Italy and toppings like sweet pea and Wagyu beef meatballs; and Taste of Belgium (1135 Vine St., authenticwaffle.com) has high-end chicken and waffles. There’s also a strong Asian component on Vine with Japanese gastropub and sushi bar Kaze (1400 Vine St., kazeotr.com) and Asian street food purveyor Quan Hapa (1331 Vine St., quanhapa.com) — famous or infamous for their fertilized duck egg. The Anchor OTR (1401 Race St., facebook.com/theanchorotr) serves up remarkably fresh seafood; Zula (1400 Race St., zulabistro.com) does big pots of steamed mussels; and chef Jose Salazar’s eponymous Salazar (1401 Republic St., salazarcincinnati.com) creates house-cured and –potted rillettes. Gomez Salsa (107 E. 12th St., gomezsalsa.com) does walk-up tacos until 3 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. For quick-and-dirty authentic soul-food carryout, get in line at Alabama Fish Bar (1601 Race St., 513-241-2255) or try to get a trolley-side table at Ollie’s Trolley (1607 Central Ave., 513-381-6100), parked underneath a mural of African-American leaders, including Barack Obama. 
  • DRINK — OTR bars are places to see and be seen. Enjoy a wine flight at 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab (1215 Vine St., facebook.com/1215winecoffee) or one of 14 beers on tap at The Lackman (1237 Vine St., lackmanbar.com), a convenient detour on the way to any of the Vine Street restaurants; sit on the giant, dog-friendly patio at The Famous Neons Unplugged (208 E. 12th St., facebook.com/neonsunplugged); get down to some free live music at MOTR Pub (1345 Main St., motrpub.com) or take in a gay cabaret at Below Zero Lounge (1122 Walnut St., belowzerolounge.com). If you’re serious about cocktails and history, visit Japp’s Since 1879 (1134 Main St., japps1879.com) for pre-Prohibition style spirits. Rhinegeist Brewery (1910 Elm St., rhinegeist.com) is a huge local brewery, taproom and entertainment complex, whereas Rhinehaus (119 E. 12th St., rhinehausbar.com) is the only sportsbar in OTR. Grab a local or rare craft growler to go at HalfCut (1126 Walnut St., halfcut.com). For a caffeine buzz, grab a cortado from craft coffee bar Collective Espresso (207 Woodward Ave., facebook.com/collectiveespressootr).
  • SHOP — Sloane Boutique (1216 Vine St., sloaneboutique.com) meets clothing needs for the style-blogger set; Article (1150 Vine St., articlemenswear.com) is the menswear equivalent. For unique home, art and design goodies, try MiCA 12/v (1201 Vine St., shopmica.com). Park Vine (1202 Main St., parkandvine.com) is a green general store, with kombucha on tap. Mannequin (1311 Main St., mannequinboutique.org) sells high-end vintage and donates proceeds to local charities. Full-service print and design shop Steam Whistle Letterpress (1342 Main St., steamwhistlepress.com) sells prints, cards and Cincinnati chili patches in-store. To see them all in one place, head to Second Sunday on Main (secondsundayonmain.org), an eclectic neighborhood festival, June through September, or The City Flea (thecityflea.com), a curated urban flea market held monthly May through September in Washington Park.
  • EXPLORE — Much of OTR was built by German immigrants between 1865 and the 1880s, with architecture ranging from Greek Revival and Italianate to Art Deco. Book an American Legacy Tour (1218 Vine St., americanlegacytours.com) for more history or an Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Tour (otrbrewerydistrict.org) to go below the streets into hidden brewery tunnels and Cincinnati’s rich brewing history. Stroll Findlay Market (1801 Race St., findlaymarket.org), Ohio’s oldest continually operating public market, on Saturday morning for farm-fresh food and weekend $7 wine flights at Market Wines (128 W. Elder St., market-wines.com). For the latest in avant-garde theater, check out Know Theatre of Cincinnati (1120 Jackson St., knowtheatre.com), which has started offering free Wednesday night showings. Go online for an ArtWorks (artworkscincinnati.org) mural map. The arts nonprofit paints murals on the sides of local buildings every summer.
  • MUST — The six-acre Washington Park (1230 Elm St., washingtonpark.org) is a renovated 150-year-old public space that today offers a dog park, children’s playground and almost daily free events, live music, movies and more. The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal (1301 Western Ave., cincymuseum.org) is a 1930s Art Deco railroad station converted into a natural/history museum, OMNIMAX theater and children’s museum. (Fun fact: the Super Friends’ Hall of Justice is modeled after the building.) Tour historic classical performance landmark Music Hall (1241 Elm St., cincinnatiarts.org), featuring haunted tours in fall. Reputedly it’s one of the most haunted places in America — it was built over a pauper’s cemetery. Or catch the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops, Cincinnati Opera or May Festival (one of the world’s longest-running choral festivals) there.


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