BEST WAY TO UP THE GAME AT YOUR NEXT DINNER PARTY
The Boardwalk Hobby Shop carries a variety of obscure and entertaining board games including murder mystery dinner kits so you can host your own murder mystery at your next dinner party. Cocktails and … MURDER. They also carry a ton of other games — trivia, world dominance, any iteration of Monopoly (Dogopoly, Cincinnatiopoly), Scrabble, Apples to Apples, vintage war board games and anything else you can imagine there’s a game for (and then some you can’t). They also specialize in models: trains, planes and automobiles. Boardwalk Hobby Shop, 1032 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-871-2110.
BEST ESTATE SALE SHOPPING WITHOUT HAVING TO GO TO AN ACTUAL ESTATE SALE
Everything But The House is a revolutionary online personal property and estate sale service provider. EBTH organizes, photographs and catalogs accumulated items from estates and personal collections across the country — and makes them available for bids and purchases online via an auction-style format. Find goods ranging from beautiful hand-knotted rugs, vintage china sets, jewelry to interesting collectibles. Everything But The House, 4650 Wilmer Ave., East End, 513-242-3284, ebth.com.
BEST LOCAL AUDIO DEVICE INNOVATION
Believe it or not, Cincinnati is becoming a tech city. Mike Sarow and Matthew Dooley have invented Kapture Audio, a stylish wristband worn as both an accessory and an audio recording device. The device is always buffering your conversations but doesn’t record until you tap it. After a tap, the last 60 seconds of audio are delivered to your smart phone for you to save, edit and share on social media. It’s a neat idea, considering there isn’t anything like it currently on the market. The whole point of the device is to bring back something called face-to-face interaction. Remember that? The guys hope to officially send out the product this spring. kaptureaudio.com.
BEST AND EASIEST WAY TO HIRE (AND AFFORD) YOUR VERY OWN PERSONAL STYLIST
Cincinnati local Elizabeth Van Dulman wanted to offer the help of a stylist to any woman in need of some fashion advice, whatever the situation or occasion. With that in mind, she launched Modster, a start-up that matches you with the perfect stylist (or “style influencer,” as Modster calls them), regardless of whether you need one outstanding outfit, some help choosing accessories or a complete wardrobe overhaul. You set how much you want to spend, what you’re shopping for and define your personal style. Modster matches you with a real stylist whose own fashion sense feels tailor-made to match your own. Whether you need help solving a fashion emergency or just want to go shopping without leaving the house, Modster is your answer with just a few clicks of a mouse. modster.com.
BEST USE OF A DEMOLISHED KENTUCKY BARN
The proprietors at Frameshop — Jake Gerth, Jake Baker and Troy Gribler — have found a cool niche by creating beautiful framed works with reclaimed wood from Kentucky barns. That and vintage frames, custom frames, commercial framing options, handpicked frame molding, TV frames and more. Gerth is a local artist, Baker worked as a framer throughout high school and college and Gribler, an Art Academy of Cincinnati graduate and printmaker, joined the team a year in. They now have two locations: one in Over-the-Rhine and one in Lexington, Ky. Both offer framing services, delivery and a wide array of oddities for sale: taxidermied animals, neon signs, beer ephemera and whatever other quirky stuff they pick up. Frameshop, 1317 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-275-9916; 401 W. Main St., Lexington, Ky., 859-904-8048, frameshopusa.com.
BEST REASON TO LEAVE NORTHSIDE FOR VINYL
Everybody’s Records has been a city staple since 1978. They’re a full-service record shop that offers new and used albums, CDs, cassettes — in every genre — and other music merchandise. They also offer a large selection of import and used records. CDs start at $3.99 and vinyl at 99 cents. Check their upcoming events section online for great in-store music performances. Everybody’s Records, 6106 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-531-4500, everybodysrecords.com.
BEST WAY TO GET YOUR KIDS TO DO THEIR CHORES
The geniuses at local tech start-up ChoreMonster finally conceived a way to make chores fun for your kids. That’s right. No more pestering, pleading and begging your kids while they come up with lame excuses as to why they can’t clean their room. Here’s how it works: On ChoreMonster’s web or mobile app, parents create scheduled chores with point values and add rewards that your child can “purchase” using their point collection. The child can then log-in, view their chores for that day and see the possible rewards they can save up to get. When your child says they’re done with their chores, you click to approve and they get the points. choremonster.com.
BEST PLACE TO RENT A SUIT OR TUX ON THE EAST SIDE
With three locations throughout Cincinnati, the family-owned, Cincy-based Folchi’s Formal Wear and Fine Men’s Apparel has been offering designer tuxedos and fine formal wear for more than 40 years. They recently expanded into men’s custom clothing, including shirts, sport coats, trousers and more. Expert men’s and women’s tailoring services are also available. Fiancés take note: Rent five or more groomsmen suits and the groom’s suit is free. Folchi’s Formal Wear, 7344 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, 513-891-9930; 7661 Voice of American Centre Drive, West Chester, 513-755-9930; 7466 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 531-231-9930; folchis.com.
BEST CONSPIRACY CORNER
Located in a booth in the Ohio Valley Antique Mall, Cincinnati’s largest multi-dealer antique mall (open daily), is a weird little corner full of conspiracy theory information. The vendor has built a structure around the booth, and inside you’ll find assorted books and ephemera on pretty much any historic conspiracy you can come up with: aliens, World War II, the JFK assassination, etc. And if you feel like getting more out there, like outer space out there, head to the “Star Wars corner” in the back of the mall. You’ll find a ton of affordable, kind-of-crappy old action figures and vintage toys — mostly Star Wars-related. Or spend a day scouring the mall for a special corner of your own. Ohio Valley Antique Mall, 7285 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, 513-874-7855, ohiovalleyantiques.com.
BEST PLACE TO GET SCHOOLED ON HOW TO DO ANY PAINTING PROJECT
Not only do the guys at Oakley Paint & Glass know everything there is to know plus way more than you care to know about paint, but all the professional painters shopping the aisles can’t help but give you advice on whatever project you’re working on. The company has been serving the Tristate since 1928 and offers a vast selection of paint supplies for residential, commercial and industrial clients, plus custom glass services. P.S. Don’t go in and ask for white paint unless you want to spend about 30 minutes discussing the nuances of shades of white. Oakley Paint & Glass, 3078 Madison Road, # 1, Oakley, 513-871-5036, oakleypaintandglass.com.
BEST NEW WAY TO GET AROUND
Transportation network companies offer an alternative to driving, catching a cab or taking the bus to get around the city, and they’ve been popping up across the United States. Using smartphone apps, these services connect those in need of a ride with nearby drivers, and with all money transactions occurring digitally. Two San Francisco-based companies have set their sights on Cincinnati as Uber and Lyft will begin service locally this year. Uber is the more traditional transport option, using professional drivers with mid-range or hybrid cars offering more reliability with a lower price point than a comparable taxi. The company also has a luxury option, UberBLACK. The Lyft experience is described as, “your friend with a car,” as it employs non-professional drivers in its rideshare program. We’re yet to see the local response as Uber just launched in March and Lyft is still in the works, but they’ve both acquired plenty of buzz — Uber already has backing from Bengals punter Kevin Huber and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. Uber, uber.com/cities/cincinnati; Lyft, lyft.com.
BEST THING INSIDE THE 21C MUSEUM HOTEL THAT ISN’T ART OR FOOD
The 21c Museum Hotel downtown is known for a lot of things: its rooftop bar, world-class dining at the Metropole, outstanding art exhibits. But there’s one thing patrons and Cincinnati residents seem to overlook — the Spa at 21c. In a hotel rated No. 1 by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, you’d expect nothing less than the best, and the spa delivers. Spa-goers are greeted by the calming site-specific installation Field of Grass, which recreates the feel of a windswept, grassy expanse. Inside, this prime pampering destination features three treatment rooms — including a couple’s suite with a whirlpool tub, steam shower and heated floors. The spa menu includes signature facials by RéVive skincare, massages (deep tissue, Swedish, river stone), body wraps, nail services, waxing and a variety of pampering rituals packages. They also offer spa services directed at men: back facials, the CEO, the Dude’s Detox. Basically, something for everyone, including brides, mommas-to-be and express treatments. Almost all services can be done in-room as well. 21c Museum Hotel, 609 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-578-6600, 21cmuseumhotels.com/cincinnati.
BEST LIGHT-HANDED TATTOO ARTIST
Carrie Crutcher of Hybrid Image Tattoo on Short Vine has been tattooing since 2007 and opened Hybrid in 2008. She’s a trained artist with degrees from local art schools and specializes in realism — color and black-and-gray. But the No. 1 reason her clients love her besides her talent? Her light hand. Getting a tattoo is never going to be comfortable, but Crutcher’s technique, approach and pricing make it not so bad. View her portfolio on Hybrid’s site. Hybrid Image Tattoo, 2721 Vine St., Corryville, 513-221-TATT, hybridimagetattoo.com.
BEST CUSTOM TREEHOUSE BUILDER
According to their website, Canopy Crew provides professionally designed and built arboreal abodes. And with three years of personal experience living in a treehouse, Django Kroner and his team have more hands-on, live-in training with treehouses than most. Their building techniques put as little stress on the tree as possible (something they value as naturalists and also as quality tree care providers), but they can still create everything from a simple elevated platform to enjoy an evening glass of wine to a branchy wonderland of rope swings and crows nests. They also offer treehouse vacation rentals at Red River Gorge, in case you want to test one before you buy. Canopy Crew LLC, 5675 Belmont Ave., College Hill, 513-284-3338, thecanopycrew.com.
BEST PLACE TO “CLOCKWORK ORANGE” YOUR HOME
We’re not talking about the milk or the ultra violence or the giant ceramic penises, more along the lines of the Midcentury Modern furnishings. Mainly Art Vintage Home Furnishings is Cincinnati’s largest all vintage-modern furniture, home accessories and lighting store, covering the 1930s Art Deco period through the ’40s, ’50s and up through the 1970s. They carry pieces from designers ranging from Charles Eames and George Nelson to Milo Baughman and Paul McCobb, plus Danish and Italian Modern and Hollywood Regency items. Mainly Art frequently travels to 20th century shows in Miami, Palm Springs, Calif., Chicago and New York, but you can find them — and their artful items — right here in your own backyard. Now you just have to find the cash. Mainly Art Vintage Home Furnishings, 3711 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-378-8261, mainlyart.com.
BEST SALON FOR DUDES WHO FEEL WEIRD WALKING INTO SALONS
Guys need haircuts just like ladies, but they don’t always feel comfortable going to a salon (and they frequently want something better than a Great Clips $5 suck kut). This is where the Northside Chop Shop comes in. The exterior looks a little like a tattoo shop — dark grey with an American Traditional tattoo style logo painted on the side — and the inside, while still looking cool, is all-professional. Owner Scott Ponder wanted to create a space where people could get the best, most consistent and personalized service without the pomp and attitude of most big salons and, along with stylist Jen Knarr, the Chop Shop does just that. They offer everything from cuts and color to blow-outs, event styling, make-up application and brow and lip waxing. They can accommodate any requests, whether that means you just want a trim or you want to go full-on punk. And, guys, if you don’t know what you want, just go see Jen. She’ll make you look cool and lady-approved. Plus, you can text for an appointment instead of calling. Northside Chop Shop, 1609 Hoffner St., Northside, 513-591-2467, northsidechopshop.com.
BEST ENERGY HEALER
As a holistic healer, Jen Painter works to nurture the mind, body and soul through yoga and energy healing — a type of hands-on body work that restores balance in a person’s electromagnetic field. By approaching each session with joy, support and compassion, Painter’s goal is to help her clients let go of any past tension, pain or negativity in order to feel more positive, healthier, grounded and less stressed. Her approach to helping her clients achieve complete health is shared and practiced by world-renowned hospitals and clinics like The Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, as well as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (just to name a few). She is available to travel to private homes, corporate offices, fitness centers and events in the Cincinnati area, plus she offers group and private appointments at her studio. The Light Body Studio, 274 Senator Place, Clifton, 513-379-1020, thelightbodystudio.com.
BEST PLACE TO FIND A GREETING CARD THAT ISN’T BULLSHIT
Poeme is a full-service stationary shop offering everything from completely unique, quirky and designer greeting cards for any and every occasion — babies, marriage, birthdays — to calendars, specialty gift wrap, fancy pens, erasers that look like animals and recipe boxes. Find a gift, get a decorative cardboard safari trophy head, grab a notebook, buy a clock or personalize some type of desk ephemera. They offer custom invite and announcement services and personalized wedding suites, including the ever-popular letterpress variety, plus custom embossers. Poeme, 3446 Michigan Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-4999, poeme-online.com.
BEST PLACE TO STOCK THE LIQUOR CABINET
DEPs fine wine and spirits liquor outlet is known for its wide selection of wines from around the world, beer (24 on tap at the Fort Thomas locale) and booze. And they’re also known for their insanely low prices. Each time you go in, you’ll find a different deal — and it’s not on shit liquor, either. A case of 24 beers for less than $10? A bottle of whiskey for $8? It’s all there. Plus, a lot of their prices on typical brands are at least $1 cheaper than other Kentucky liquor outlets. And they have coupons for mail-in rebates at the check-out. DEPs, 424 Alexandria Pike, Fort Thomas, Ky., 859-781-8105; 670 W. Third St., Covington, Ky., 859-291-2550, depsfinewine.com.
BEST WAY TO KEEP YOUR FEET FROM FAILING YOU
You’ve probably never heard of it and it sounds weird, but Yamuna Body Rolling is amazing. YBR is the practice of standing on or rolling around on different sized balls to create space between muscle and bone to improve posture, range of motion, alignment and more. Under the coaching of Anya Carl-Heinbaugh, Cincinnati’s only officially certified Yamuna Body Rolling practitioner, you’ll find joints you didn’t even know your body had. Small group classes offered the first Thursday of every month at Studio S in Hyde Park. Studio S, 3456 Michigan Ave., Hyde Park, 513-254-9760, studioscincinnati.com.
BEST PLACE TO GO INDUSTRIAL CHIC ON THE CHEAP
If your decorating style is industrial chic — or just cheap and unique — The University of Cincinnati’s surplus equipment sale (generally held the first Saturday of every month) has everything you need. The university sends their surplus equipment there to sell, and you can find crazy things like old chemistry sets, sinks, chairs and computers. 5121 Fishwick Drive, Finneytown, 513-556-5654, firstname.lastname@example.org, uc.edu.
BEST ONE-STOP POP-UP SHOP FOR EVERYONE ON YOUR HOLIDAY LIST (AND A CHANCE TO GET A NEW HAIRDO, TOO)
This past winter’s inaugural City Flea Small Mall drew stylish shoppers out of the woodwork, and the shop-’til-you-drop mentality was palpable right alongside the holiday spirit. While literally rubbing elbows with shoppers in the creatively crammed 21c Museum Hotel, Small Mall let you check everyone off your list, grab a cocktail from the hotel’s bar/restaurant Metropole and support local artisans, who were selling their handmade, local and oh-so-on-trend items. An added bonus to make the slight claustrophobia worth it? Parlour salon was on-hand offering walk-up haircuts. The crowds were big, but it felt so good to shop small. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we’ll get to do it all over again this year. thecityflea.com.
BEST HIP HOP COUNTERTOP IN A CLOTHING STORE
Covington, Ky.’s only men’s boutique, flow — a shop for men, sells nice threads and everything — especially cool socks — but it is owner Jerod Theobald’s Hip-Hop-album-inspired countertop that gets most of the shop’s attention (that and his dog, Ravi).
Theobald met designer and crafter Tara Heilman of ROBOT Inside at a City Flea, and they started discussing the concept of her designing tiles for his shop. He gave her a list of some of his favorite Hip Hop albums, and she turned the iconic album covers from artists like OutKast, A Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z, Mos Def, 2Pac and Beastie Boys into decorative tiles, which Theobald and his dad worked into the rest of the register countertop. If those Hip Hop tiles weren’t enough, Theobald happily blasts Hip Hop records in the shop. flow — a shop for men, 621 Scott Blvd., Covington, Ky., 859-291-3569, gentlemanflow.com.
BEST ONLINE FASHION PORN
Stiff Upper Lip is a newish fashion blog and online fashion publication based out of Cincinnati. They update every three weeks or so and feature a profile on a local person, a fashion photo editorial and usually some story about fashion icons or trends. And tied to Stiff Upper Lip is Evolution Studio, a vintage and designer warehouse manned by Tony Tiemeyer, a man blessed with a museum-worthy knowledge — and collection — of couture and vintage clothing. Head to Evolution’s website to gawk at couture you can’t afford — so much Chanel, so much McQueen. You have to log-in to view prices and shop alongside the museums, stylists and collectors snatching up Tiemeyer’s finds. Evolution Studio, 1645 Blue Rock Road, Northside, 513-560-1983, evolutionfashionstudio.com; stiffupperlipeditorial.com.
BEST PLACE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHILE STILL SPOILING YOURSELF
There are more than 27 million victims of human trafficking in the world today, and It’s Only Fair, a little shop in Covington, Ky., sells products made by trafficking survivors in order to enable them to earn a sustainable income and restore their hope and dignity — some of the merchandise even comes with a signed card by the person who made it. Find fair-trade jewelry, shoes, scarves, bath stuff, clothes and more at a great price. Head to their website to learn about the organizations they work with and information on how to throw in-home It’s Only Fair product parties; like a fair-trade Tupperware party. It’s Only Fair, 610 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-443-1079, facebook.com/itsonlyfair.
BEST NO-FRILLS WAXING SALON
Located in a converted home on Marburg Ave., the best part about getting waxed by Heavenly Bodies Skin Care owner Alesia Buttrey or any of her experienced waxers is the speed. You’re seriously in and out in 15 minutes or less. It’s definitely a no-frills place (curtains section off parts of the house and waxing rooms), but the atmosphere is comfortable — it smells like lavender, everyone there has kind of a hippie vibe and, well, it’s a house. If you’re used to getting waxed at a salon, the experience here is less clinical and more like your BFF is really into removing your body hair. They specialize in Brazilians but offer all types of hair removal, and the prices are on par with most other salons. You can even book online now via their improved website. It still hurts, and they don’t apply numbing cream, but you can grin and bear it for 15 minutes. Heavenly Bodies Skin Care, 3608 Marburg Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-8252, cincyspa.com.
BEST DOSE OF L.A. IN COLLEGE HILL
The whitewashed walls and hanging air plants inside the converted gas station that now houses Fern Studio will transport you to 1960s Laurel Canyon (or maybe modern day Brooklyn, N.Y., or Santa Fe, N.M., or somewhere other than Cincinnati). This lifestyle design store sells a curated assortment of plants, plant designs, custom vertical gardens and inspired items for the home. Find hard-to-find, curated goods like Kinfolk magazine, stone fruit planters from designers Chen Chen & Kai Williams, air plants mounted on deer antlers, succulents nestled in Pendleton Wool cozies, African woven baskets, Japanese ceramic cups, handcrafted terrariums by local artist Jessie Cundiff, white ceramic planters hanging from leather, wood-beaded necklaces on cord — and on and on. Fern Studio, 6040 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-910-7299, fernstudiocincinnati.com.
BEST LAID-BACK WINE TASTINGS
Wine Merchant has half-price tastings on Wednesdays, and they have some amazing, super-expensive wines in their tasting “machine.” It’s pretty cool to have a glass of $150-per-bottle wine for about $3. And tastings really are a good way to learn about wine with no pressure — and they’re a fun date-night, too. Wine Merchant, 3972 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-731-1515, winemerchantcincinnati.com.
BEST NON-BRANDED BARRE CLASS
Pure Barre is a thing — a big thing — with a cult following of people looking to lengthen and tone their muscles in dancer-chic style. All the Pure Barre-inistas have the branded grippy socks, hair ties, car decals, iPhone cases, towels, etc., but if you want the workout without the hype, try a Barre Alive class at any one of the three local Yoga Alive locations. Traditionally known for their hot yoga program, Yoga Alive’s Barre Alive classes use tried-and-true barre methods to achieve quick results. And with a variety of teachers, individual instructors bring their own energy to class, whether that means more of a yoga-vibe to center while you tone or getting your ass kicked in a barre bootcamp. There’s a class for every personality and they frequently offer membership deals on their website. Yoga Alive, 8110 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, 513-834-8043; 214 Calhoun St., Clifton, 513-221-2548; 2713 Edmonson Road, Hyde Park, 513-841-2548, yogaalive.com.
BEST REASON TO DRESS BOHEMIAN CHIC
Sister stores Kismet in O’Bryonville and
Pangaea Trading Company in Clifton have been around longer than the
average boutique’s lifespan, for good reason: They offer a chance to
shop local for items you actually want, with friendly service and
affordable prices. Offering unique fashion with a global lean (like
everyone’s favorite Chinese slippers or mukluks), you’ll find handmade
goods from local artists plus international items supporting charities
and worldly causes. You’ll also find on-trend seasonal clothing from
brands like BB Dakota’s more affordable Jack line, Tulle, Free People,
Dansko footwear and more. The flavor is a bit more eclectic and relaxed,
but you can find items to suit any style and budget — most items are
less than $50. And they carry everything to outfit you from head-to-toe:
intimates, dresses, shirts, jackets, shoes, socks, jewelry, bags, etc.
Pangaea Trading Company, 326 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-751-3330; Kismet,
2037 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-871-7879.
BEST WAY TO LOWER YOUR OFFICE’S COLLECTIVE STRESS LEVEL
Work Flow Yoga brings yoga to you. Based in the tradition of Ashtanga and Hatha yoga, these classes provide a safe, comfortable practice for beginners and yogis alike in your place of business. According to studies, incorporating yoga at work helps employees improve posture, focus, brain function, decrease stress and encourage healthier habits outside the office, which all lead to savings in absenteeism and health care costs — plus it gives employees a break to look forward to. Work Flow will design classes to fit your needs and transform your conference or break room into a yoga studio for 30-60 minutes once or twice weekly, and provide all necessary yoga accessories (mats, blocks, etc.). yogaworkflow.com.
BEST (AND ONLY) BREWERY IN A LIQUOR STORE
One day The Party Source had everything. Then they had everything plus beer, wine and whiskey tastings. Soon they’ll even have their own distillery. The Party Source recently added Ei8ht Ball Brewery to their shopping center where they feature 42 taps of national and local beer, including their own, and a Pegas tap growler filler. The Pegas fills growlers at the counter without adding oxygen. Since no air or funky impurities enter during the filling process, you can take your freshly filled growler home and let it chill in the fridge for weeks without it going skunky. You can also grab a pint of Ei8ht Ball and wander around the rest of the Party Source — including the new wine island with 16 on-tap bottles for tasting and the whiskey tasting cabinet. Between the tastings and their knowledgeable staff, you’ll find it hard to believe a party could begin anywhere else. The Party Source, 95 Riviera Drive, Bellevue, Ky., 859-291-4007, thepartysource.com, ei8htballbrewing.com.
BEST CHEAP GREENS
Head to Natorp’s Nursery Outlet in Mason for expert advice and thousands of cheap plants to up your landscaping ante. Since 1916, Natorp’s has been offering landscaping services to Cincinnatians — first through German immigrant, horticulture student and namesake, William A. Natorp. After nearly 100 years of experience, these are the people you can trust with your yard. And in 2012, Natorp’s decided it was time to let the customers see behind the viney veil when they opened the nursery outlet. Save a little dough and get a lot of plants. The outlet has 740 cultivars of annuals, 800 varietals of perennials and shrubs and 10,000 trees. Open April through the end of June. Natorp’s Nursery Outlet, 8601 Snider Road, Mason, 513-398-4769, natorpnurseryoutlet.com.
BEST FREE COMMUNITY EXERCISE CLASSES
Washington Park hosts a plethora of free exercise programs on its green all spring and summer. Yoga Bar led free classes in Washington Park this past summer during its Yoga on the Green program, filling the lawn with yogis of all shapes and sizes. And they’re doing it again from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2014. This instructor-led Vinyasa flow class blends asana, breath work and meditation against the backdrop of Music Hall. Bring a yoga mat, some water, a friend and your intention. The YMCA will also be jumping in on the action this year with a series of free summer workout sessions including Zumba, bootcamp, yogalates and more. Get details at myy.org. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.
BEST CRITERION DVD SELECTION OUTSIDE OF THE INTERNET
The remodeled and expanded Kenton County Library in Covington, Ky., attracts people for its books and community events, but it’s the expansive DVD selection that’s one of the most thorough in the area. The library has hundreds of titles of Criterion Collection DVDs, a specialty label that basically releases movies it feels are classics or are well on their way to becoming classics. Many titles include foreign films such as Godard’s Weekend and Antonioni’s L’Avventura, but they also offer Lena Dunham’s first feature, Tiny Furniture, and Rushmore. If you live in Kenton County, you’re in luck: Residents can check out all of those titles and more for free. Kenton County Library, 502 Scott Blvd., Covington, Ky., 859-962-4060, kentonlibrary.org.
BEST COMIC BOOK SHOP FOR GIRLS AND BEGINNERS
In geek culture, it’s not uncommon for girls to feel a little judged when they walk into a comic shop. But Queen City Comics is staffed by a clan of non-sexist, uncritical workers who really care about comics — they’ve been operating for more than 25 years — which makes it a great place to shop for women, men or beginners. Even if you’ve never picked up a comic or graphic novel, the expert staff will direct you to something you’d be interested in, without turning their nose up at you. And if you’re a fanboy or fangirl, they have all the back-issues (about 50,000 displayed), new issues (in-store every Wednesday), collectibles, trade paperbacks and variant covers you’re looking for. The shop is always fully stocked with fairly priced items (comics, trading cards, movie posters, toys), and they even offer customers a chance to open their own file, which means the staff will set aside your favorite books for you each month and offer you a discount. Queen City Comics & Card Co., 6101 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-351-5674; 6600 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, 513-860-5805, queencitycomics.com.
For 40 years, Benchmark Outdoor Outfitters has been a trusted source for high-quality outdoor gear and apparel, offering everything for interests ranging from climbing and hiking to skiing and kayaking. They have a ton of the best outdoor brands, an incredibly knowledgeable staff and frequently a dog or two in the store. Their new Beer & Gear nights offer, well, a chance to drink and shop for outdoor accessories for a good cause. The most recent event — featuring Mad Tree beer and gear discounts — benefitted the SPCA. Benchmark Outdoor Outfitters, 9525 Kenwood Road, 513-791-9453, benchmarkoutfitter.com.
BEST MOST ORGANIZED VINTAGE CLOTHIER AND COSTUMER
Sometimes walking into a vintage store is like falling into a clothes hamper — disorganized and partly stained. But owners Tim Willig and Ashley Marie Bowman are the knowledgeable overloads of Casablanca Vintage, a vintage estate tidily crammed full of clothing and accessories from the 1920s to the 1970s (plus some from the ’80s and ’90s). They specialize in quality vintage, separated by type and size, with decades written on the tags. They have several options for costume rental if you need glamour for the night, or they can also help you buy pieces from specific time periods for your personal collection. Tim also operates his Awesome Time Shoe and Leather Repair out of the storefront. Casablanca Vintage, 3944 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, 513-541-6999, casablancavintage.com.
BEST “DOCTOR WHO” SCARF KNITALONG
Adding a little cozy charm to Vine Street’s booming business district, Fiberge recently relocated to Over-the-Rhine from Montgomery. A friendly knitting and fiber arts establishment, the boutique carries a variety of yarns from luxurious Blue Sky Alpaca and Spud & Chloe to locally sourced blends, plus all your knitting accessory needs. Stop in the shop during store hours for open knitting or join one of their project assistance hours or classes, which include beginner knitting, crochet, beginner hat knitting and — our favorite — a Doctor Who scarf knitalong. Considering actor Tom Baker’s fourth doctor was known for his impractically long scarves, this knitalong might take a while. 5 p.m. Thursdays. Fiberge, 1407 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-831-9276, fiberge.com.
BEST REASON TO CONSIDER BUYING A $200 SCARF
Local knitter Melanie Wales makes cozy winter accessories out of super soft yarn from her English angora bunnies for her Pure Angora Knits shop on Etsy. If you don’t know what an angora rabbit is, Google — they are so damn cute. And warm. Pure Angora Knits uses 100-percent, hand-spun angora-fur yarn from rabbits raised on Wales’ homestead to create simple knits. Mass-manufactured angora items generally only include a small percentage of actual angora, which in turn comes from unhappy factory-farm rabbits. Each of Wales’ items comes with a picture of the happy bunny that donated his/her wool, so you know whom to thank for your knit goods. And supporting these well-loved and well-cared-for bunnies is probably the best reason to drop a Benjamin or two. etsy.com/shop/pureangoraknits.
BEST SHOP FOR YOUR FELIX
Unassuming from the outside, Meow Mart is quite possibly the best-stocked kitty shop ever. It has every cat-related toy or gift item you could ever want or need, plus basics like high-quality food, litter, cat trees, etc. Best of all, all profits go directly back into the operating funds for The Scratching Post shelter next door — a nonprofit, no-kill shelter for stray and abandoned cats. So it’s guilt-free, pro-kitty shopping. The Scratching Post, 6952 Plainfield Road, Silverton, 513-984-6369, thescratchingpost.org/meowmart.
BEST MUSICALLY INCLINED ART SUPPLY STORE
Rock Paper Scissors took over the former Smartfish Studio & Sustainable Supply storefront on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine last year. The new shop is an expansion of the previous tenant, offering similar sustainably produced, locally crafted art supplies, but RPS now offers local records and music merchandise, creative workshops and art exhibitions. Rock = music. Paper = art supplies. Scissors = workshops. Rock Paper Scissors, 1301 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, rpscincinnati.com.
BEST PLACE TO BE A DUNGEON MASTER
Level up at Yotta Quest, a Mount Healthy gaming store that specializes in table-top games, board games, role-playing games and card games. The store offers an extensive gaming space for players and GMs to unite. If you’re a player without a group, looking to join a new one or you just want to try out a game you haven’t tried before — Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Mutants & Masterminds, Magic, etc. — sign up for one of their gaming night events. There’s no better gaming paradise in town. Yotta Quest, 7607 Hamilton Ave., Mount Healthy, 513-923-1985, yottaquest.com.
BEST BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHER
Jess W Photography is a full-service pin-up photo studio offering the opportunity for women to become pin-ups for day. With classic retro sets — a ’50s kitchen, girly swingset, beauty salon, tiki hut, etc. — and boudoir offerings, owner/photographer/stylist Jess will turn you into Betty Grable or Bettie Page (you pick). Each session, which starts at $150 for one outfit, one set and five retouched photos, includes hair, makeup and props. You can even borrow items from their closet, which offers retro outfits including underpinnings. The studio consists of an all-female team to make you as comfortable as possible during the process, and you can even bring a friend; Jess offers party packages for bachelorettes, birthdays, bridal showers, or whatever else you’re celebrating. Jess W. Photography, 905 W. North Bend Road, Finneytown, jesswphotography.com.
BEST LOCAL MENSWEAR ALTERNATIVE TO FAST FASHION
Article menswear takes the stance that men shouldn’t have to shop the back of the store at a corporate retail chain; men are more than that. And Article offers a highly curated, highly designed, high-quality shop, crafted with men in mind. Their merchandise is genuine and made to last in both style and durability. Their brands run the gamut from local hand-sewn denim purveyor Noble Denim to historically tested Wolverine footwear and Beverly Hills, Calif.’s Baxter grooming products to Penfield outwear. You’ll also find high quality leather goods, rugged blankets and an assortment of accessories including salvaged pocket squares and ties — both regular and bow — from the locals at Artfully Disheveled. Plus, when you walk in the door, they offer you a Chemex-brewed coffee. Article, 1150 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-1150, articlemenswear.com.
BEST COFFEE SHOP TO READ OTHER PEOPLE’S THOUGHTS AND LEAVE YOUR OWN
Situated at every table in Aquarius
Star’s Om Eco Café is an open-ended, communal journal for customers to
either sift through or jot down their innermost thoughts. They’re like
anonymous journals where people can doodle, write poetry and leave funny
remarks with the hopes someone will look at it — or not. Your work may
not get discovered, but least you have a creative outlet while eating
one of the cafe’s vegan-friendly dishes or sipping on a mug of coffee or
tea. Om Eco Café, 329 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-381-3436,
BEST PROOF PHYSICAL BOOKS WILL NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE
In the past few years, large chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble have proven they’re not too big to fail, and smaller independent bookstores have demonstrated they’re able to take on the Goliath chains and win. No other local bookstore exemplifies this more than The Booksellers on Fountain Square — from the people that brought you Joseph-Beth — which opened last year across the street from Fountain Square. They sell these things called books — we’re talking about books made out of pulp, not downloadable, Kindle-loving e-books. Inside, the bookstore looks like a relic of Borders but on a smaller scale. You can purchase cookbooks, magazines, attend author signings and even buy a cup of coffee. Booksellers gives faith that the death of publishing and books made out of paper isn’t nigh. The Booksellers on Fountain Square, 505 Vine St., Downtown, 513-258-2038, booksellersonfountainsquare.com.
BEST BOOKSTORE TO LOSE A DAY IN
The Ohio Book Store offers five floors crammed with more than 300,000 books and magazines. With that much product, you never know what you’re going to find; it’s like a literary treasure hunt. Situated in a historic downtown building (a 1916 Gothic Revival), the bookstore has been open since 1940. On top of their huge selection of reads, they also offer rare book appraisals, book repair, custom binding, archival boxes, personalization and book restoration, specializing in preserving the period look and feel of books. Ohio Book Store, 726 Main St., Downtown, 513-621-5142, ohiobookstore.net.
BEST PLACE TO Have A $100 SUIT TAILORED TO LOOK LIKE A $10,000 SUIT
With a relatively nondescript storefront on Court Street downtown, Kim Dao of Kim Dao’s Alterations has 25 years of tailoring experience. During the ’80s, she started her own business and taught tailoring to students in Vietnam. In the 1990s, Dao moved to Cincinnati and worked in the Reading Bridal District doing bridal and formal alterations before relocating to Parisian and other local upscale department stores. Her personal alterations shop downtown offers competitive pricing and expertise. And although her website looks less-than-modern, one customer says, “Don’t be fooled by her DIY website … she is truly an expert among experts.” Kim Dao’s Alterations, 21 E. Court St., Downtown, 513-417-9203, kimalterations.com.
BEST COMPANY TO HELP YOUR CRAPPY BAND MEMBER SOUND BETTER
Boutique guitar pedal company El Rey Effects sells affordable, hand-wired analog effects pedals for musicians, by musicians. Jimmy Nielsen (former member of De Los Muertos, Switchblade Syndicate and Dr. Bombay) and his custom pedals have been featured in Guitar Player magazine and at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) conference in California. Find the pedals in-store locally at Tone House Music in Northside (4040 Hamilton Ave., tone-house-music.com), which carries used and consignment instruments of all types from violins to guitars and drums along with specialty items. elreyfx.com.
BEST EAST SIDE BREWING SUPPLY
Paradise Brewing Supplies is a one-stop shop for those with a passion for home brewing. They have everything you need to concoct your own beer and wine creations: from equipment, ingredients, additives, hops, malts, yeast and more. For those just starting out in the crafting business, they sell beer and wine kits perfect for beginners. They even make their own signature beer kits and serve samples so new brewers can taste what they’re getting themselves into. Paradise Brewing Supplies, 7766 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 513-232-7271, paradisebrewingsupplies.com.
BEST DUSTY TREASURE HUNT
Since last August, Janet Baltzersen and her team of friends and family have been holding monthly open houses to showcase and sell a staggering number of antique picture frames left behind in a former Castner Picture Frame Company warehouse in Over-the-Rhine. For more than a century, Castner frames were produced meticulously from scratch. Straight-grained lumber was kiln-dried and sawed into the double frame style Castner is known for. Frames then received finishing treatments such as antique metal leaf and, for more expensive frames, hand-mounted ornaments and gold leaf. Currently, the OTR warehouse is home to a variety of shapes, sizes and finishes, including small ovals, large rustic circles, gesso and antique gold finishes that date back to the 1920s and ’30s. The warehouse is located in the Mohawk Building, Castner Picture Frame Company, 2145 Central Parkway, Over-the-Rhine, email@example.com.
BEST PLACE TO MEET FELLOW MUSIC NERDS
It seems fitting that a neighborhood that can support more than one independent record store would have a record festival. The Northside Record Fair’s past incarnations have been so successful, it’s turned biannual, which means twice a year you can meet up with fellow vinyl addicts and dig through thousands of records from a wide variety of vendors, plus cassettes, DVDs, CDs, ’zines, posters, magazines, memorabilia, 8-tracks (?!) and more. The next fair is May 10. Northside Presbyterian Church, 4222 Hamilton Ave., Northside, northsiderecordfair.com.
BEST CONTEMPORARY KIDS GIFTSHOP
When imagining what’s inside the Contemporary Art Center’s gift shop, you’d think the items might skew a little abstract. And you’d be right … kind of. While the CAC is ultra-modern, it’s also quite kid-friendly. Their upstairs UnMuseum is an interactive gallery designed to offer kids and parents an innovative, enjoyable museum experience, where they commission first-rate artists to create special exhibits for young audiences — and they take the same approach to their gift shop. Find artful, intelligent and interactive items for kids such as color-while-you-eat placemats, landscape dinner sets, plush toys and more. Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org.
BEST ANIMAL ACUPUNCTURIST
Dr. Neubauer, a veterinarian at the Mt. Healthy Animal Hospital, specializes in holistic pet care and alternative medicine for animals. And he’s one of the only, if not the only, pet acupuncturists in town. Veterinary acupuncture is basically the same as human acupuncture: Pressure points throughout the body (or specific treatment area) are stimulated with needles to promote healing and energy flow. It’s thought to be effective for ailments ranging from digestive problems to chronic pain. Dr. Neubauer injects the vitamin B12 into the acupuncture points instead of using a dry-needle approach. It doesn’t work for every animal, but when it does, the results are astounding. Mt. Healthy Animal Hospital, 9199 Pippin Road, Mount Healthy, 513-931-9127.
BEST NEW GAY CRUISING SPOTs
Word on the street is that the Hyde Park T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods stores in Rookwood Pavilion are the new, go-to Saturday morning gay cruising spot. According to reliable sources, “The gays love it and you can always spot some picking up a Jack Spade bag or new designer throw pillow.” So if you aren’t doing the club thing, you can always do the Starbucks-Joseph-Beth-home-décor trio when scouting for a new man. Rookwood Pavilion, 2692 Madison Road, Norwood, tjmaxx.com, homegoods.com.
BEST PROFESSIONAL DOMINATRIX
Who knew our little Midwestern town could be home to such a high-caliber of professional dominatrix? Mistress Devlynn Desade is a professional lifestyle dominatrix who offers sessions to respectful submissives in her elaborate private dungeon. She’s a sadist and humiliatrix open to clients with any level of BDSM training, and her specialties run the gamut from bondage (mummification, shibari, suspension) and sensation (flogging, needleplay, electrotorture) to roleplaying and medical examinations. Her “academy” is a private, secure location near downtown with a turn-of-the-century schoolroom, ’50s medical examination room, steel and leather dungeon and more to fit any fantasy. She also offers couples training to teach you how to teach your man to submit fully. Mistress Desade allows you to explore your dark and taboo desires in a safe environment (her application even includes spaces for “health issues” and an “emergency contact”). mistressdevlynndesade.com.
BEST NATURAL HEALTH FOOD CHAIN THAT ISN’T WHOLE FOODS
Cincinnati Natural Foods is a family-owned-and-operated business that’s been serving the Cincinnati area since 1978. With locations in Madeira and Colerain, you’re bound to be close-ish to at least one of these shops, which sell natural products to enhance your well-being. Browse their selection of whole foods, supplements, green cleaning items and natural health and beauty products, or head to the counter and talk to one of their knowledgeable staff members. Their Madeira location even offers doctor-administered health injections of supplements like B12, alpha lipoic acid, glutathione and more. Monthly product coupons are available online. Cincinnati Natural Foods, 6911 Miami Ave., Madeira, 513-271-7777; 9268 Colerain Ave., Colerain, 513-385-7000, cincinnatinaturalfoods.com.
BEST WILL-TRAVEL WEDDING PLANNERS
With home bases in both Columbus, Ohio and Louisville, Ky., Pink Peony Events wedding and event planning services span the Tristate area. Adria is a freelance designer with a passion for paper goods and creative DIY details; Jamie has spent the last seven years working with some of Kentucky and Indiana’s leading event professionals and caterers. If you want wedding-blog-worthy nuptials, they’re your girls. Both approach planning with creativity and a fresh attitude, offering as little or as much help as you need. If you want more control, pick and choose from their à la carte services. If you want less control, they’ll do it all. And whatever you want to spend, they can accommodate. Best of all, they’ll travel to Cincinnati for you or to parts of Indiana and Kentucky for mini-destination weddings. 502-779-0328, pinkpeonyevents.com.
BEST DOG GROOMER IN A DOG BOUTIQUE
People drive from all over town to visit Strasse Dog in MainStrasse — and it isn’t just for the adorable selection of doggie outfits and toys. Owner Shirley is one of the best (and most affordable) groomers around. She’s kind, fearless and clips nails like nobody else — the perfect combo. Strasse Dog, 605 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-431-7387.
BEST WEDDING REGISTRY TO GET WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
SimpleRegistry is a Cincinnati-based online wedding registry website where you can register for whatever you want from any retailer. Anything you can think of and assign a cost to can be added to your wedding registry. A duvet from Anthropolgie? Their SimpleAdder lets you add it. Esoteric honeymoon activities and extras like lift tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Or maybe boxing classes? Add ’em. And if you have trouble coming up with items, your friends and family can recommend items they love. You can also split expensive gifts — like refrigerators or washing machines — into smaller monetary portions to make gifting easier. But the best part of the registry is that instead of sending you the actual items, they send you MONEY. Yes, money. They’ll send you a bank check or bank transfer for all the items purchased from your site so you can purchase them on your own, or decide to use that money for a down payment on a new family car. They even keep track of what each person bought you so you know who to send thank you cards to and for what. It’s genius. simpleregistry.com.
BEST URBAN FAMILY BOUTIQUE
If you’re looking for organic, inspiring and entertaining clothes, learning tools and toys for tots, head to Tantrum in Northside. The store offers products that turn cardboard boxes into monsters, backpacks into sharks and Punk rock onsies that turn your baby into Mommy’s little Misfit. They also have all the Danishy wood toys and European brain-training items that are hard to find in the Tristate. And while you’re there, find stuff for your home (candles, incense, spiritual wall hangings, quirky paper products) and yourself (jewelry, adult-sized kilts, mustache wax, scarves). A one-stop shop for the eclectic, green-leaning, Punkish modern home. Tantrum, 4183 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-4183, tantrumnorthside.com.
BEST PLACE TO LOOK GOOD WHILE SEEING BETTER
A multi-generational family business, York Vision in Kenwood has been in the optical business since 1905. With a knowledgeable staff and small-but-curated creative inventory of artsy frames — including ones that look like wood — York will adapt to the needs of every person who walks in. Looking for a new look? They can help. Need a better-fitting frame? They have them. Need some lenses in a pair of frames you found elsewhere? Sure. They’re happy to serve. York Vision, 7599 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, 513-891-2020, yorkvisionkenwood.com.
BEST PLACE TO BUY YOUR BOOZE ON THE EAST SIDE
Baskets Gourmet/Wine World is a cute
family-owned liquor store in Anderson that has been in business for more
than 20 years. They offer a unique wine selection, specialty beers, a
wine of the month club and low prices on liquor when trekking out to
Northern Kentucky isn’t in the cards. You can also pop in for weekly
wine tastings or pre-made or made-to-order gourmet gift baskets. Baskets
Gourmet/Wine World, 7737 Five Mile Road, Anderson, 513-232-6611,