If the names Mary Kroner and David Tape sound familiar to you, it’s for a very good reason. Both have been on the Cincinnati food scene for decades. Kroner and Tape first met back in the late 1970s while working for the famous Jim Tarbell at Arnold’s Bar and Grill.
After long and extraordinarily adventurous careers both separately and together, most notably Mullane’s Parkside Café and a political street theater group during the ’80s, which dealt with everything from the U.S. involvement in El Salvador to the politics of food, the pair are again joining forces in a Northside eatery called Ruth’s Parkside Café. Located in a factory bay at the American Can Building, Ruth’s offers diners a mix of comforting, well-known classics from Mullane’s as well as new dishes.
Recently, Kroner took time out from her busy schedule of opening up a restaurant to sit down and answer some questions about her storied Cincinnati food career.
CityBeat: Your history in Cincinnati’s food scene is legendary; tell us a bit about it.
Mary Kroner: It all started when David and I met while working for Jim Tarbell at Arnold’s Bar and Grill in the late 1970s. We both came and went through different adventures together and separately, rejoining at Mullane’s Parkside Café in the 1980s.
Mullane’s was founded by our fellow server and visionary from Arnold’s, the late Kim Cole. When Kim passed away, she left Mullane’s to David. He ran it through the ’90s and I was the manager for six years. This is where we met Kevin Worthington, who is now our chef at Ruth’s.
If you think this is a lot of names and places to keep track of, you are picking up on the rich history of many overlapping groups of not only restaurant people but artists and lovers of community in Cincinnati.
CB: How long have you been working on the idea for Ruth’s?
MK: All our lives, but really two or so years if you don’t count all the casual conversation about it.
CB: How did you come up with the name for the restaurant?
MK: The café’s namesake, Ruth Cummings, was the Mullane’s bookkeeper in her retirement.
She and David became close friends, and upon her death she bequeathed him what became the seed money for the endeavor that we never quit talking about.
CB: Why Northside? Why the American Can Building?
MK: I moved to Northside in the ’80s and I remember taking long walks that included passing The American Can Building. I remember thinking what a shame it was that such an amazing building was just sitting there decaying. When the building began to be revitalized, David (also a Northside resident) and I took notice. When Northside’s business association applied for an entertainment district designation, we realized we could actually consider affording to open a new restaurant, rather than buying an old one.
I grew up in a family-run business and loved/love the involvement of my dad, and now my brother, within that community through their business. Both David and I look forward to that opportunity to be involved in Northside.
CB: How did you come to choose Kevin Worthington as your chef?
MK: We liked working with Kevin at Mullane’s. We know how much he has learned over these years and that he is not only talented, but is a great man to work with. We are flattered that he will work with us.
CB: What can diners expect to see on Ruth’s menu? Will there be some of Mullane’s favorites?
MK: Ruth’s will feature favorites from Mullane’s, such as the spinach sauté and red beans and rice. Everything will be made from scratch and there is plenty for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Fresh roasted turkey, homemade soups, pies and daily specials will keep the menu exciting. Our goal is to create a community space with delicious and affordable food and spirits. As David puts it, “We aim to be the best damn restaurant on the Mill Creek!”
CB: The space at the Can is huge (4,100 square feet). How will you go about offering a cozy dining experience?
MK: We’re excited for the public to see the transformation that our factory bay has undergone. Working with architect Tim Jeckering and interior designer Carole Maloney, we have created what is being described by early visitors as “amazingly cozy” and full of surprises. We have aspired to what they call “warm factory.” Every seat in the house offers a completely different view.
Ruth’s Parkside Café is located in the American Can Building at 4101 Spring Grove Ave. in Northside. Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Friday and dinner Saturday. For more information and to view a menu, find them on Facebook or call 513-542-7884.