What should I be doing instead of this?
Home · Articles · Food · Diner · Diner: Swizzle 2008: The Bars

Diner: Swizzle 2008: The Bars

The lowdown on 214 great bars and clubs

By Staff · February 27th, 2008 · Diner
Saddle up at the Cadillac Ranch.
Saddle up at the Cadillac Ranch.

Quick Jump Links to Neighborhoods: Central Core | Northern Kentucky | East | West | North


Andy's Mediterranean Grille
906 Nassau St., Walnut Hills, 513-281-9791
Though it would be hard to "come to Andy's" without indulging in the mouth-watering Lebanese cuisine, some do. Featuring a full-bar and a live DJ on Saturday nights, special drink prices during the week, including half-price drinks after 9 p.m. on Mondays, Andy's is hopping with a small and young crowd on weekend nights. And going to Andy's would not be complete without the "show" - stop by and talk to the place's owner, Andy Hajjar, whose image smoking a hookah is on the bar's logo. Look for the bald head. (Joe Wessels)
Amenities: Hookahs; outdoor enclosed patio; live DJ on Saturdays

941 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, 513-721-6977
Finding a parking space is tough in Mount Adams when the nightlife is in full swing, but AliveOne is worth the effort. The stout of heart are rewarded with a rich selection of ales, wines and liquor. It's also a kickin' place for singles to hang thanks to an eclectic jukebox peppered with alternative rock. Arrive before the sun sets and you'll be rewarded with a more intimate experience. (Stephen Carter-Novotni)
Amenities: Pool tables; jukebox; TVs

307 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-751-6566
The first thing I noticed about Arlin's was the hometown pub feel it gave me; the second thing I noticed was the way the people brought that feeling to the table with everything from the drinks to the excellent but simple pub food. It's a perfect hang out when you want to have a break from the typical college atmosphere and want to mix it up. There's homemade jewelry being sold from behind the bar, and when I inquired about who makes it, I found that one of their very own bartenders crafts the unique jewelry. In the heart of Clifton's art district, an appreciation of the local artists is always a way to make someone feel at home. (Kelly Grant)
Amenities: Pool table; jukebox; electronic dart board; WiFi

Arnold's Bar and Grill
210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-421-6234
A fixture for nearly 150 years, Arnold's is the heart and soul of a downtown establishment scene that's seen ups and downs. The old-world wood furnishings, eclectic ephemera and ornate bar bring to mind many a London pub, as does the well-stocked selection of spirits, beers and elixirs fitting of a joint that used to house gin in the upstairs bathtub. (The tub still sits in its original spot.) Arnold's also serves a nice selection of reasonably priced food (the Eggplant Marinara is stellar) and hosts live music (typically of an Irish and/or singer-songwriter bent) on the outdoor patio multiple nights a week. Looking for a unique spot to take an out-of-town friend? Arnold's is the place. (Jason Gargano)
Amenities: Live music; outdoor patio; full menu

Baba Budan's
239 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-221-1911
Baba Budan's continues to give some of the more prominent Clifton coffeeshops a run for their money. Not because of quality (although that always plays a part) but because of diversity in what they offer. They hand their customers a wide range of healthy foods, carefully constructed for a discriminating palette, as well as a full bar for coffee and adult beverages. It's in a perfect location - within walking distance of UC and a few surrounding areas. It's perfect for studying or hanging out and then manages to transform itself seamlessly into an excellent place to hear live music and have a few brews. I enjoyed watching people smile at some of the goofy pictures of regulars on the Polaroid wall. (KG)
Amenities: Live music; art from local artists; WiFi

314 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-651-2264
A serious class act, Bang is ostensibly for the Cincinnati young professional elite that likes to throw back a cocktail (or four) after hours. Lined with plush booths reserved exclusively for the big-spender, complimented with your own personal bottle of liquor and mixers, Bang exudes a highly cosmopolitan aura: The bartenders are all svelte and clad in black, the bar maids delicately traipse about in tight-fitted red dresses and the décor is probably more expensive than my consolidated student loans. Bang can even boast a celebrity clientele, hosting a night with MTV Jackass' Steve-O on a recent Friday evening. (Ryan McLendon)
Amenities: Dancing; red carpet appeal

Below Zero Lounge
1122 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-9376
You're missing out if you have yet to visit Below Zero Lounge. This chic spot serves up the best cocktails and always seems to be hosting the best parties. Bar-height dining tables off to one side are a good place to catch up with friends, or try their plush seating in the back of the bar. Go at different times to experience a different bar - stop in for happy hour and have a friendly chat with the bartender. Or head here late night to meet an eclectic group of people who bring a unique vibe to the downtown hot spot. I've often stopped in just for one drink and ended up staying much later. If that's the case for you, order from their limited menu, including chips and salsa, cheese plate and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. (Christine Mersch)
Amenities: Live music; jukebox; light-fare menu

Blind Lemon
936 Hatch St., Mount Adams, 513-241-3885
Nestled nicely between Mount Adams Bar and Grill and Daveed's at 934, this cozy 40-year-old mainstay is the perfect post-dining pit stop. The narrow stone walkway that leads to the entry brings to mind something out of The Hobbit. And that's before you're even inside. The two compact dining areas share a fireplace and feature low ceilings, small wooden tables and enough unique charm to power a hundred less classy nightspots. The place is a Bilbo Baggins dream come true. It also features an impressive presidential campaign paraphernalia collection that dates back to before even John McCain was born and a spacious patio area that plays host to a variety of local singer/songwriter types. (JG)
Amenities: Live music, large patio area

Blue Wisp Jazz Club
318 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-241-9477
This widely renowned Cincinnati institution has survived various incarnations to remain a unique destination for nearly 30 years now. New ownership took over last fall, but The Wisp's commitment remains the same: live Jazz seven nights a week. The vibe is appropriately low-key: small candles on each of the club's many tables complement deep-blue walls and muted lighting. (On a surreal note, a smoke-free Jazz club is a bit of an oxymoron, but the times they are a changin'.) A recent Wednesday-night stop revealed a diverse crowd - from younger couples to old-school Jazz heads - all nodding to the sumptuous sounds of the Blue Wisp Big Band. (JG)
Amenities: Live music seven days a week

2621 Vine St., Corryville, 513-872-8801
Not so much a bar as a concert venue that also serves drinks, this large and dark hall is a veritable institution on Short Vine - once Cincinnati's funkiest street - and basically serves as our version of New York's classic CBGB's. Almost everyone who loves seeing rock bands perform live probably has a story or two to tell about their experiences at Bogart's. Mine involves the time in the early 1990s when I was backstage looking for the opening act for an interview when I bumped into Divinyls lead singer Christina Amphlett, who was walking around in a black teddy. She looked at me and said, "Ello, luv." Have your own adventures as you search for the bathrooms in the basement. (Kevin Osborne)
Amenities: Live music

4501 Vine St., St. Bernard, 513-242-414
A quaint little corner pub, Boomerang's must have gotten its name from its unique ability to keep bringing people back. To that end, though, it's painfully obvious when newcomers stroll in. I think even the cover band stopped playing to check me and my friends out. "Who are these guys," I literally heard. Oh well. Chances are, if you know Boomerang's, you're already on the inside and can fit right in among the college banners and hockey jerseys hanging around. I just felt more comfortable next to the Barney Fife poster when I was there. (Rodger Pille)
Amenities: Live music, pool table, TVs, grab game

Boswell Alley
1686 Blue Rock Road, Northside, 513-681-8100
When I walked into Boswell Alley, the house was packed. It was a noticeable change from the normal Clifton/Northside crowd. There was a solo musician playing loud, and playing passionately, and I thought to myself, "Here is a place you can slow down and grab some down home food and music." It was a change from the college-age group I found in every other local bar I surveyed in the area, but Boswell Alley holds its own with a great sound and feel that you don't find often enough in Cincinnati. (KG)
Amenities: Live music; TVs; jukebox

Brew House
1047 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, 513-961-9058
This is the kind of bar where you might find a Punk Rock kid watching a Big Band act. When I went there I overheard a couple kicking around music theory and how different songs affect their moods. It's a casual, multicultural intersection tucked away in Walnut Hills. The theme here is simplicity and comfort. It's a formula that serves its diverse patronage well. (SCN)
Amenities: Live music; free WiFi; full dining menu (grill closes at 9 p.m.)

713 Vine St., Downtown 513-421-8424
This might be downtown's best-kept secret, but it's kind of their own doing. There really isn't any kind of strong marking to let you know they're there or open. Buddakhan has a comfortable bar, strong mixed drinks, American and imported beers and friendly bartenders who serve you with a smile quickly, but I have to wonder: When can you find them open? A few months ago they'd open up for happy hour from 4-8 p.m. with reasonable prices. Now they open at 5 - maybe. On occasion I've found their door locked. When you can find them open, you'll enjoy your surroundings and experience. (Larry Gross)
Amenities: Pool table; full dinner menu

C&D Cafe
1714 Hanfield St., Northside, 513-541-9881
With more than 30 microbrews, a hip crowd of regulars and live music, C&D can contend with the better-known Northside destinations any day of the week. The modest exterior doesn't do it justice. (SCN)
Amenities: Pool tables; live music

Cadillac Ranch
41 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-621-6200
From the thirsty college student with a penchant for real Rock & Roll to the Southern traveler venturing out of the Westin Hotel, Cadillac Ranch offers a little something for everyone. One of the largest bars in downtown, the Ranch's well-concepted design combines the convenience of group dining with the fun of raucous partying - it's like eating at T.G.I. Friday's with Bret Michaels. The hubcaps and acoustic guitars that adorn the walls provide an air of authenticity that can't be ignored. A mechanical bull is ready and willing to break anyone's back who feels like showing off for their friends. (Danny Cross)
Amenities: Numerous bar areas; full menu; heated patio; giant Cadillac decoration; mechanical bull

The Celestial
1071 Celestial St., Mount Adams 513-241-4455
I'm a middle-class old dude. I remember going to The Celestial when I first moved to Cincinnati in the early 1970s. The place had class then and it has class now. If you're a rich young dude and want to impress a date, this is where you go. The Celestial has the best view of the city, an outstanding wine selection, a very romantic bar and excellent food. If you're a poor young dude, drive around with your date until you find a Frisch's. At The Celestial, all that class doesn't come cheap.(LG)
Amenities: Live jazz most nights

Champs Sports Bar
151 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-579-1234Located in the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, this place surprised me in all the right ways. Coming from Northside, an area known for the eccentricity of the local bars, I always get worried about hotel restaurants and bars, because generally the feel is contrived. But once I got to Champ's, I saw that it was much different. Champ's gives the sports bar atmosphere a bit more class with their gourmet food and layout of the restaurant. I tried the grilled chicken with spinach gnocchi and roasted garlic cream sauce. Super tasty. The key is that anyone can feel a little ritzy while watching their favorite sports game. They even have a few personal TVs so you can watch the game of your choice, instead of relying on whatever is playing on the big screens. (KG)
Amenities: Pool tables; TVs

Christy's Rathskeller
151 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-281-3600
Located in an historic house built by Christian Moerlein for his daughter's wedding, this spot has all the trimmings of a perfect (and literal) hole in the wall bar. With a tasty selection of eastern European cuisine and a decent variety of beer and spirits, local and imported, it made its way to the top of my list for local bars. Try the homemade sausage with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes for a German delight. Alongside a nice brew, it snuggles its way into your heart like the slight hint of an endearing accent. They offer a no pressure environment, perfect for a getaway evening out of the usual routine of local Clifton bars. Not to mention they have trivia Tuesday nights where you can flex your brain power with your friends and compete against locals. (KG)
Amenities: Darts; karaoke (certain nights); Trivia Tuesdays; pool table

City View Tavern
403 Oregon St., Mount Adams, 513-241-VIEW
I try keeping this bar in my back pocket when other Mount Adams roosts are too packed and the lines to the bar too long. While not as shiny as the rest of the hill, City View makes an excellent Plan B to escape the rush and relax while enjoying a scenic vista that can't be beat. Soaking in the urban cityscape from the deck is a terrific way to unwind on a hot summer night. If it's cold, like it was when I visited, nab a tasty, low-cost sandwich from the bar. (SCN)
Amenities: Pool table; great patio; annual golf scramble

Club Bronz
4029 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-591-2100
Squeezed into the heart of Northside's entertainment district, Club Bronz offers a more unique experience than the other neighborhood bars. A gold male torso welcomes guests inside, and bright lights dance around the floor as do the customers. Formerly Jacob's Bar, Bronz keeps the strong neighborhood vibe intact with friendly service and a climate-controlled courtyard that smokers will appreciate. While closed on Monday, this club offers plenty of weekly entertainment - euchre games on Tuesday, karaoke on Wednesday and Sunday, DJs on Thursday and Friday nights and, of course, SaturGAY - the club's infamous drag show. (CM)
Amenities: Drag shows; free WiFi; pool tables; courtyard

Coach and Four
2200 Victory Pkwy., Walnut Hills, 513-559-9900
A bar for all seasons. On a chilly night, slide up next to the fireplace and order a heated glass of brandy. The cozy bar and smooth Jazz will take you out of the Midwest for a spell. On a warm sunny day, enjoy a Sunday brunch with mimosas on the outdoor terrace. The view of the Mighty Ohio is second to none. Good drinks, complimentary house-made potato chips and an extensive and affordable wine list. (Sara Mahle)
Amenities: Amazing view; outdoor dining area; full dining menu; fireplace

The Comet
4579 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-8900
Man, who doesn't love this place? The juke has everything that ought to be on one - all the Indie Rock you'd want, plus the free live music offers up top-notch acts like the Rumpke Mountain Boys in an up-close-and-personal kind of manner. The more than 200 microbrews and weighty burritos are so good that you'll forget all about your Chipotle addiction. You can even snap a photo in the picture booth to show your mom what a great time you had. (SCN)
Amenities: Live music; jukebox; photo booth; big-ass burritos; pool tables

Courtyard Caf�
1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-723-1119
This beloved caf� is among the last venues standing in the Main Street Entertainment District, and let's hope its legs remains sturdy. A recent weekday lunch visit finds the bartender's iPod shifting from Fiery Furnaces to bebop-era Jazz as a muted episode of Sportscenter flickers on multiple TVs. One of the televisions is actually labeled "Tom Waits T.V.," a nod to the legendary croak-voiced singer/songwriter that features a taped-up photocopy of Waits over a static-filled screen. Hmm, why doesn't my cable package offer that? Other unique offerings include a full menu of tasty homemade food (check the potato soup) and occasional live music from a variety of local bigwigs (think Pearlene and Bad Veins) on weekends. And the titular courtyard patio is perfect spot for an intimate late-night rendezvous with your significant other(s). (JG)
Amenities: Outdoor patio; jukebox; TVs; free WiFi

Crosley's Sports Bar & Eatery
4901 Vine St., St. Bernard, 513-242-3311
With a name evoking the old Reds stadium, it's a safe bet that this bar is going to be all about the Queen City's Major League Baseball heritage. From the locker room fixtures lining the room to the collection of team memorabilia that spans several decades, this is nirvana for any fan of the Big Red Machine. The lunch and dinner specials offer surprisingly good, homemade grub at cheap prices and, if you come alone, the giant stuffed pike hanging above the bar will keep you company. Come with your friends to watch the team play on the bar's TV and, for just a moment, you might forget where you are and think you're in the slightly worn but inviting den of a buddy's house. (KO)
Amenities: Full menu; darts (real and electronic); video golf

Crowley's Irish Pub
958 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, 513-721-7709
This is probably the only bar where you have a good chance of walking in and seeing Cincinnati's vice mayor tossing back a beer - because he and his family own the joint. Known for its large number of draft beers, Crowley's has been attracting many neighborhood residents for years, and has a more local feel than some of the other nearby taverns. The friendly bartenders are always good for a story or a joke, and you'll feel at home right away. (KO)
Amenities: Jukebox; pool table; games; video golf, trivia

1142 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-379-4283
If the holy clubbing trinity of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan hit the 'Nati, Cue would likely be on their itinerary.

Think New York club scene minus the Wall Streeters, models, athletes and assholes. Booming '90s-era Hip Hop shakes you to the core as accompanying videos are beamed onto the large wall opposite the bar. Women dance expressively atop chic designer furniture as the young, racially diverse crowd bumps to the music on the dance floor. Pool tables (Cue, get it?) that likely cost more than my car sit near the front entrance. Drinks will cost you plenty, but that's a given at a place that seems inspired by a Bret Easton Ellis novel. (JG)
Amenities: VIP area; DJ; projected video; pool tables

Dana Gardens

1832 Dana Ave., Norwood, 513-631-2337
If you're a Bearcat, you're gonna hate this one, but Xavier's true blues love it. The Gardens doesn't look like much from the outside and it's pretty standard inside, too. Ganging around the TV to catch the fever of the game is the whole reason you go. The fervor of the patrons makes it a fun, fanatical time. (SCN)
Amenities: Patio; video golf; darts

Daniel's Restaurant and Pub
2735 Vine St., Corryville 513-281-1026
With this bar being so close to the University of Cincinnati, you can expect a lot of college kids to be hanging out at Daniel's - but you also see some older people, too. The place has two floors, the service is fast and friendly and the jukebox is outstanding. (LG)
Amenities: Pool table downstairs; jukebox; full dining menu

The Dock
603 W. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, 513-241-5623
A longtime staple of Cincinnati's gay scene, The Dock also attracts a large straight crowd these days, particularly on Hip-Hop nights. Although the club has scaled back its programming in recent years, it still features drag shows on Friday nights and stays open until 4 a.m. on many weekends if you feel the dancing groove and just don't want to call it a night yet. (KO)
Amenities: Jukebox; pool table; video games; theme nights; outdoor patio; sand volleyball courts

Fries Caf�
3247 Jefferson Ave., Clifton, 513-281-9002
There's almost something inherently wholesome about your neighborhood dive, and Fries is no exception other than it seems to embrace its dive-iness. It has the feeling of the childhood excursion to Grandma's, but only if she had a habit of chain-smoking two packs of unfiltered Pall Malls everyday for 40 years and hoarding Depression-era spearmint leaves in her bureau. But just like Grandma, Fries is sturdy and reliable. The furniture appears like it might have seen hard times, but it that more durable for having done so. The urinals are indeed unique. (RM)
Amenities: Shuffleboard; pool tables; darts; video games; outdoor patio

Gameday Sports Caf�
537 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, 513-744-9096
Why even attempt to have sports party at home when every day is game day at Gameday Caf�? You can kill yourself slowly with the 16 flatscreen, hi-def monitors that frame the spacious, yet unceremoniously sterile indoor bar. You can also traipse to the outside patio to enjoy a game in perfect weather.
Apparently beer tubs are set out on special occasions, which if sports-related, can only truly be appreciated if your blood alcohol level is twice the legal limit. If sports isn't where your heart is, Gameday often hosts a variety of live musical acts to distract you from the point spread. (RM)
Amenities: Foosball; pool tables; video bowling; jukebox

Gaslight Caf�
6104 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-631-6977
You can drive past the Caf�'s unobtrusive green awning a hundred times and never pay it much thought. I did and was missing one of the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood's shining stars. Warm, homestyle food, comfy booths and cold drinks make for a well trafficked place to meet your pals. You can also hobnob with more than a few music snobs since it's right next to Everybody's Records. (SCN)
Amenities: Pool table; jukebox; darts; video golf; pinball; full menu

Golden Lion Lounge

340 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-281-4179
A reprieve for the older, wizened gay gentleman, it's a good time for the younger crowd as well. Golden Lion is quite possibly Ludlow Avenue's best-kept, non-pretentious secret. Lined with arcade games and a pool table, this bar is more fun than funky. Karaoke is popular mainstay at Golden Lion and usually draws a packed house. Patrons can be heard from across the street crooning to "I'm Every Woman" (or if it's me, I'm screaming to Alanis' "You Oughtta Know"). Make sure to bring cash for a good time; Golden Lion does not currently accept credit cards. (RM)
Amenities: Darts; drag shows; pool table; karaoke; jukebox

Good Fellows
2634 Vine St., Corryville, 513-961-4200
This Corryville eatery boasts beer, food and sports in classic fashion. Less than a block from UC campus, Good Fellows is perfect for a quick lunch or for a quick drink, depending on your inclination. The prodigious selection of draft beers and the well-stocked bar is perfect for a sport enthusiast, a drunk or both. For those who claim both during football season, Good Fellows offer the "Who Dey" screwdriver. But Good Fellows is clearly all about sports as well, with a wealth of Cincinnati memorabilia embellishing the walls along with several flatscreen televisions and a lone poll table. (RM)
Amenities: Video golf and bowling; TVs; full dining menu

Guido's Lounge
1111 St. Gregory St., Mount Adams, 513-421-3309
This Italian-American tour-de-force is the place to take an out-of-town friend when you want to convince them you're both cool and hungry. The several varieties of pizzas and entrees available are authentically delicious and also affordable. Bring that same out-of-town friend out on a game day and watch this quiet bistro morph into a veritable non-sexual orgy of testosterone and beer, mostly because Guido's isn't the largest of venues. But show up for the bartenders if nothing else, for they are possibly the city's nicest and knowledgeable. (RM)
Amenities: Three TVs; good Italian food

The Greenwich
2442 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills, 513-221-1151
Remember the private den of your high-school best friend's culturally inquisitive step-dad? Welcome to The Greenwich! With sensually dim lighting, faux-wood paneling and a host of African-American artifacts, this is quite possibly the coziest night spot in Cincinnati and most certainly the least pretentious. It's definitely a place where everyone knows your name, or at least they will soon after you're seated, because the bartenders introduce themselves to you and to the other patrons of the bar. Several times throughout the week, the Greenwich hosts national and local Jazz acts in addition to amateur spoken-word poetry night every Wednesday. (RM)
Amenities: Art gallery; live music/spoken word

The Gypsy Hut
4231 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, 513-541-0999
Cincinnati nightlife often adheres to the "nature abhors a vacuum" principle. After the demise of Alchemize, Main Street and the slow, painful transition of Jacob's to Bronz, the young and fabulous in Cincinnati relocated to the newly-minted Gypsy Hut and dubbed it their weekend wasteland. One of the few remaining taverns with a dance floor and a stage, Gypsy Hut often hosts a variety of local and national bands and DJs. And a rock venue would be noting without an on-site, fire-pit laden smoker's pavilion nestled nest to a glorious second bar. Winter hath no fury like a scene-kid's desire for a hang out. (RM)
Amenities: Rooftop deck; pool tables; dartboards; ping pong

The Hamilton Bar
4169 Hamilton Ave., Northisde, 513-541-1287
One year, after the world-famous Northside 4th of July parade, I was drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon at the Hamilton Bar and, for the price of a beer, heard an eyewitness account of the aquaduct that carried the canal into Cincinnati. This, I thought, was pretty fucking cool and a testament to A) the preservative qualities of Pabst Blue Ribbon and B) evidence that drinking canned beer is not bad for your memory. If you're drinking to escape, let your head loll back, look at the gorgeous tin ceiling and pretend you're in New Orleans. Obviously this is a Northside locals bar, but it's also a great place to meet your bandmates if one of them can't afford to pay their tab at Northside Tavern or The Comet. (Cedric Rose)
Amenities: Big screen TVs; pool table; dart board

Havana Martini Club
441 Vine St, Downtown, 513-651-2800
So many martinis, so little time! I can't say I'm much of a martini drinker, but if you're going to the Havana Martini Club, what you gonna do, drink Bud Light? It was hard for me to make up my mind which kind to have. The Cary Grant, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe and Fred Astaire martinis all sounded good, but I settled on the Frank Sinatra Martini: Bombay Sapphire gin, dry vermouth and bleu cheese olives. I knew Frank wouldn't let me down - very tasty. This spot is upscale and swanky, and I don't consider myself that kind of guy - but I have to admit, after drinking Frank, I couldn't leave without drinking Mae West. (LG)
Amenities: Live music; handcrafted cigars; dance floor

Head First Sports Cafe
218 W. Third St., Downtown, 513-744-9096
This downtown spot offers another homecoming opportunity for me, since I first checked it out a few Swizzle guides back - but it's safe to say that it still fits like a glove. Hanging out watching games at bars has never been an activity I've been all that partial to strictly for its own sake, but if you're a Cincinnati local, Head First would be the first place I would recommend. Of course, that's not to say there's a locals-only code because it really doesn't matter what the sport or who's playing - whatever's playing is the only thing that matters and nobody here needs ESPN to tell them anything. (tt stern-enzi)
Amenities: Bar games

Holy Grail Tavern & Grille
13 W. Charlton St., Corryville, 513-961-2200
Ah, the college bar. I remember Smokey Joe's, the famous dive on the University of Pennsylvania's campus when I arrived almost 20 years ago (I'm feeling so old). We were the party school of the Ivies, and Joe's looked like the kind of place made for producing prodigious hangovers. UC's Holy Grail hosts a college night on Thursdays that likely packs them in, even though the space is huge with multiple levels. But for what was once a local brew house, this tavern, with its quite tasty Blueberry Ale complete with fresh berries in the bottom, likely leaves its collegiate patrons with too many warm memories when the glory comes from making up the details you've forgotten. (ttse)
Amenities: DJ; video games; pool table

In Between Tavern
307 Sycamore St., Downtown, 513-621-7009
Open Tuesday-Friday, this downtown watering hole flourishes during baseball season thanks to its relative proximity to the stadium and easy access for the after work crowd. Football season doesn't guarantee the same level of business, but that and the Christmas Party scene tides the Tavern over until Opening Day. The wife and I shared drinks one Friday night with a bartender studying conducting at one of the local colleges and discovered a real affinity for those in between the In Between. (ttse)
Amenities: TVs; local sports memorabilia

Indian Mound Cafe
5226 Montgomery Road, Norwood, 513- 631-3010
They really know how to have fun here. I found more people laughing and excited to be at this bar than any other I visited. I was only there a few minutes when I was invited to join in a conversation at the bar. That's a good sign. The patrons are also serious about sports, and there are typically a few Muskies in the house. (SCN)
Amenities: Shuffleboard; TV; video games; darts; full menu

JD's Honky Tonk Emporium
2406 Spring Grove Ave., Camp Washington, 513-721-6867
This blue-collar bar, back before it changed owners and names in the early 1980s, was known by its regulars as "Harold's Gun & Knife Club." Not on purpose, mind you, but because fights with such weapons were relatively common. Now a little tamer, the regulars still like to tell stories as they fill bar stools before and after factory shifts at the few remaining manufacturing plants in the vicinity. They open early for the third-shifters (5:30 a.m.) and close late in the evening for the second-shifters. For those who work when the sun's up, lunch specials, along with a brew, is served daily. Weekend sporting events often include free buffet meals to draw in the drinkers. (JW)
Amenities: Chicago Coin Preview Bowler game; pool tables; full-menu

Jeff Ruby's
700 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-784-1200
Known for their scrumptious New York steaks, Jeff Ruby's also boasts an art deco-style bar with a modern twist and some of Cincinnati's biggest movers and shakers. The bar features nightly entertainment, which varies from softer Jazz music earlier in the week to full-out rockin' cover bands on the weekends, staying open until 1 a.m. Among the wine lockers for some of Cincinnati's best-known business people, are classic pictures of Frank Sinatra and other notables. Coming this spring is an outside patio along Walnut Street thanks to a newly-installed doors. Management said that is to cater to those who still want to smoke after a half-priced martini's post-Aronoff Center show or after scarfing down some cow flesh. (JW)
Amenities: Full menu available in bar; cigar-friendly patio; free WiFi; nightly entertainment

Junker's Tavern
4156 Langland St., Northside, 513-541-5470
The inside of Junker's looks exactly like you'd expect a bar called Junker's to look. Except that apparently the name comes from a previous owner, the wife of whom still drinks there from time to time, so no disrespect intended. This bar has been there since the first Northsider emerged from the Mill Creek. As Max Bender, local bon vivant puts it, "Junker's is a very cool hole-in-the-wall where people go when they want to stay under the radar." And no, you're not going to get murdered there. Just buzzed. (CR) Amenities: Weird shit to look at; jukebox

Kaldi's Coffeehouse
1204 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-241-3070
After management and owner shifts, Kaldi's remains a steadfast beacon of enlightenment amidst the upheaval and outright flight of bars and restaurants from Main Street. From my earliest days with CityBeat to more than a few MidPoint sets, Kaldi's has pointed to what Cincinnati could be. My most recent visit, one night before an advance film screening, confirms that and more, as I scanned the menu's locally roasted coffee selections, enjoyed a delicious Belgian Winter Ale and listened to the regulars shoot the shit like we were in some barbershop in Bond Hill. (ttse)
Amenities: Books; live music; enlightened vibe

Lodge Bar
35 E. Seventh St., Downtown, 513-721-9400
Throw on your tightest top, your slickest jeans and get ready to party like a rock star at the Lodge Bar. Customers here were dressed to impress, and the beer was flowing all night long. Loud DJ music piped through the bar all night, so this bar was perfect for a wild and crazy night. The outside d�cor is constructed to look like an actual skiing lodge, and this design trend goes inside with a few nature-inspired accents (including a stuffed deer head and horns on a plaque) and wood paneling. I've heard this bar is quite popular with the downtown crowd for an after-work happy hour, but the night and weekends skew toward a younger crowd. Especially on Thursday nights, since the bar hosts an entertaining ladies night. (CM)
Amenities: TVs; DJ; live music; pool table; video games

Longworth's Tavern
1108 St. Gregory St., Mount Adams, 513-651-2253
If you're ever trying to make your way up to Mount Adams on a weekend night, you might have to blame the traffic jam on the crowds of people trying to get into one of the hill's most popular bars. Complete with a jukebox and pool table, this spacious college-kid hang-out caters to all sorts of clientele, especially with their outdoor patio which usually has a warm fire going on cool evenings. (JW)
Amenities: pool table; jukebox

Mac's Pizza Pub
205 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-241-6227
Featuring an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet Monday through Friday (pizza, salad, soda and cookies), Mac's is a clutch college hang out with the cozy, laid back feel of a dorm. More pizzeria than pub, the beer list is still impressive, with Mt. Carmel along with Great Lakes varieties on tap. With Tuesday night karaoke and occasional local bands on the weekends, Mac's also features daily specials, such as $3 Blue Moon drafts on Wednesdays, $1 domestics on Thursdays and $2 well drinks on Saturdays. When you see the red and white striped awning out front, step inside for good draft beer and some of the best pizza in Clifton. (Daniel Todd)
Amenities: TVs; shuffleboard; jukebox; video golf

The Mad Frog
1 E. McMillan St., Corryville/Mount Auburn, 513-784-9119
Seven nights a week of local, eclectic music has kept The Mad Frog among the best hang outs in town for tunes and cheap drafts. Salsa dancing figures large, with free lessons offered from 9-10 p.m. on Mondays. Tuesday night features Guitar Hero tournaments with prizes for first through third place. The infamous frog mural welcomes newcomers, while the basement offers goth-types their own getaway dungeon atmosphere. (DT)
Amenities: Pool table; jukebox; hardwood floors for dancing; patio

11 E. Seventh St., Downtown, 513-621-8838
Billed as the "neighborhood bar downtown," Madonna's patrons are about as loyal as their staff. The newest bartender has been there for three years, and the manager has been running the place for eight. Small, but not too tiny (and mirrored walls will help if claustrophobia sets in), a pool table, big screen HDTV and a cigarette machine (with $6 packs, though no smoking allowed indoors) will make any downtowner feel like they're out in the 'burbs. Couple that with a full menu, daily lunch specials and the manager's boasting that she knows 90 percent of the customers by name and you won't be a stranger for long. (JW)
Amenities: pool table; ATM; big screen HDTV; cigarette machine; jukebox; free WiFi

2618 Vine St., Corryville, 513-221-8487
Near the University of Cincinnati, Martino's blends the neighborhood bar with the college hang out and does not undercut on either. A large, raised and round bar is the centerpiece among the strands of white holiday lights set against a dark interior. There are also plenty of booths for sitting face-to-face with a smaller, more private group of friends. Weekend nights bring in the college students and the place gets hopping. (JW)
Amenities: pool table; arcade games; full food menu; free WiFi

Mecklenburg Gardens
302 E. University Ave., Corryville, 513-221-5353
Germans love their bars, especially when the beer flows freely - and Mecklenburg does not disappoint. Opened in 1865, it's Cincinnati's oldest German restaurant and bar (even though it closed in the 1980s, became a pizza parlor and was bought at auction and re-opened in 1996). As you drink one of 16 beers (biers) on tap in a liter mug, munch on authentic German food or visit the back room, a full-fledged bier hall, home to bier and mustard tastings. Or, come on Thursday evenings to attend meetings of Schlaraffia Cincinnati, a German society. (JW)
Amenities: Free WiFi; live music on weekends; ethnic cuisine

4537 Vine St., St. Bernard, 513-641-1200
If it's one thing I've been looking for in all my years of barhopping, it's a conveniently located men's restroom. None of this walking 20 feet crap. I need something closer. Alas, I found my lavatory Shangri-La at Meiner's. The men's john was literally three steps away for our table in the main room the other night I was there, and ironically, the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Three Steps" was also playing on the juke. One wonders if they keep that in the rotation on purpose. Other than that key amenity, Meiner's is just a solid place to grab a draft and watch a game. (RP)
Amenities: Pool tables; TVs (one with horseracing on)

Milton's Prospect Hill Tavern

301 Milton St., Liberty Hill 513-784-9938
I don't get to Milton's as often as I would like. Is it a good place to meet women? Of course! That's not the only reason why I should go more. Whenever I'm there, I always feel it's a place of permanence. Maybe the exposed brick walls and weathered boards have something to do with that. While you get a strong feeling of history there, Milton's isn't a stuffy place at all. I would call it hip on a low burner. The service is friendly and fast and, again, it's a great place to meet new people. (LG)
Amenities: Pool table; jukebox; video games

Molly Malone's
6111 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-531-0700
Although they've gotten rid of their whiskey sampler, I'm still a fan of Molly Malone's. The true Irish bar stays faithful to its heritage by hosting Irish bands throughout the week, which gives the bar/restaurant a more vibrant feel than others. Pop in to drink a Guinness and listen to a traditional Irish band. I always sit in the front half of the restaurant to hear the music and possibly start dancing a jig, but Malone's also has quite a large dining room. Good thing they serve the tasty Irish dishes in both places. I've enjoyed their ale-battered fish and chips, potato skins and different kinds of boxty - a thin Irish potato pancake. And yes, they still have whiskey, just not the sampler. (CM)
Outdoor patio; full menu

Monty's On Montgomery
4108 Montgomery Road, Norwood, 513-351-4600
The cartoon bartender on the sign makes Monty's look a little schlocky, but it's a really a friendly atmosphere once you're in the door. It can be hard to find a good microbrew selection along the Montgomery Road strip, but there's a good selection here. It was a little bright when I got there, but it's more of a sports pub than a place to lurk. (SCN)
Pool tables; video/trivia games; TVs

Mr. Pitiful's
1323 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-369-0202
Along Main Street, Mr. Pitiful's is the stalwart, standing proud through major transition as the once bar-happy street tries to find its land legs again. Don't be fooled by the name: Pitiful's is far from pathetic, boasting a plush bar, friendly service, a great crowd of locals along with new neighborhood inhabitants, plus live music and two bars for busier nights. On many evenings you can catch an array of the city's young Who's Who catching up on work, visiting with friends and colleagues or just having a good time, lounging on the comfy couches or face-to-face in one of the more private, corner tables. (JW)
Amenities: Pool table

Mt. Adams Bar & Grill
966 Hatch St., Mount Adams 513-621-3666
If you want to get a feel for Mount Adams, have a few drinks, get some good food and not spend a fortune, this is a good place to do it. There's a bunch of local memorabilia hanging on the walls, which gives the place a friendly feel. Young professionals mix with long-time regulars for lively conversations, and the service is fast. I don't eat a lot of burgers, but I must say the ones served at Mt. Adams Bar & Grill are so outstanding I might consider becoming a regular beef eater again. The drinks were good and strong, too. (LG)
Amenities: TVs; dining menu

Mt. Adams Pavilion
949 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, 513-744-9200
A playground of sensory-stimulating activity, Mt. Adams Pavilion caters to a wide variety of nightlife connoisseurs, many of whom like their hair short and spiky and their drinks replenished quickly. The various multi-leveled outdoor decks reveal a view of downtown that left me occupied for at least two beers. Truth be told, I was interrupted only by the magnetic pull of an unlikely crunked-out mash-up by a DJ manning one of the two dance floors. For those getting killed by massive student loan payments or the subprime housing crisis, The Pavilion has your back: Wednesdays serve up Miller High Life for $1.25 and Thursdays offer 24-oz. Miller Lite for $2. Hungry? They got you covered there, too, serving up a full menu of eats. But the killer view still is this place's ace in the hole. (JG)
Amenities: Dance floor; DJ; decks with scenic views

Murphy's Pub
2329 W. Clifton Ave., Clifton Heights, 513-721-6148
It can be tough to find a genuine, old-school bar rooted in Clifton's ever turning soil. With classic pub d�cor, plenty of homegrown contests, darts and billiards, Murphy's doesn't disappoint. You'll find old timers who remember how the neighborhood used to be mixing it up with college kids from up the hill. The brick and barstool scene is delightfully rough, from before the days when bar owners tried to find complimentary Pottery Barn colors to paint their pubs. (SCN)
Amenities: Pool tables; darts

Nicholson's Tavern & Pub
625 Walnut St., Downtown 513-564-9111
If you're a person who likes fine scotch, Nicholson's should be right up your alley. If you're into going to the Aronoff Center and catching an upscale, reasonably priced dinner after the show, Nicholson's is right across the street. I don't drink scotch and don't do plays often, so what's a guy like me suppose to do? Have a few drinks, enjoy the friendly service and relax in the comfortable surroundings. (LG)
Amenities: TVs; extensive beer and scotch collection; full kitchen

Northside Tavern
4163 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-3603
Northside's palace to all that's hip delivers a terrific, intimate way to see the city's best live bands. This is my default place to go and it should be yours, too. There's always good conversation and some high-energy music to be heard. Remember your earplugs and stop by to visit the shrine to Elvis. (SCN)
Amenities: Pool tables; jukebox; comfy couches; video games; Elvis shrine; outdoor patio with a fire pit; live music

O'Malleys in the Alley
25 W. Ogden Place, Downtown, 513-381-3114
Irish pubs often have much more personality than garden variety taverns and beer halls. This is due entirely to their adherence to "drunk culture," the way of life that extols food, beer and television as its basic tenets. For a cultural immersion project, go to O'Malley's, get a bowl of Therese's homemade chili, chug a Guinness and put a stranglehold on your troubles. O'Malley's doesn't just have beers on tap, but they go the distance with having whiskey on tap as well. What's Gaelic for "taxi?" (RM)
Amenities: Full dining menu; TVs; video games; cigarette machine; jukebox

Orchids at Palm Court
35 W. Fifth St., Downtown 513-421-9100
You'll find this fine restaurant and bar in the main lobby of the Hilton Hotel, which used to be called the Netherland Plaza. When I found it, I was wearing blue jeans and the hair on my head was a little too long. I felt a bit out of place with the Art Deco and Louis XV overtones, and I did get a few looks. My uneasiness didn't last long, as hostess Tamara let me know that Orchids is a friendly place. She was right. The bar was comfortable and the service very polite. They have American and imported beers and any other kind of drink you can think of - but maybe next time I'll at least wear Dockers. (LG)
Amenities: One of city's best restaurants; sofa-like chairs

505 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-1300
Snazzy and swank, this downtown eatery definitely draws young professional types from the water cooler to their favorite watering hole. With an extensive selection of wine, imports and all libations, the bar booms during weekly happy hour from 3-7 p.m. with drink specials and half-price appetizers (treat yourself to any of their fabulous and filling $5 pizzas). Besides its upscale marble and maple d�cor, the venue also features a panoramic view of Fountain Square for people watching. Best way to blend in with the crowd: Wear black and look chic. (Chris Charlson)
Amenities: Full dining menu; great view

Pigall's Twist Lounge and Bar
129 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-721-1345
In this city, Jean-Robert can do no wrong. His inspired restaurants give Cincinnati a much-needed touch of trendy pretension and the new bar Twist, attached to the Four Star Pigall's, is no exception. Decked out with all the amenities any actual cosmopolitan lounge would have including a friendly staff, a live Jazz band and mirrored tables in the bathroom stalls, it has some patrons saying: "That would have been fun if I had a chair." But you're going there to be seen, not to sit. As far as attire, ladies, channel your inner SJP. Guys, leave the hat at home, and button up. If you feel uncomfortable without a cranial accessory, load up on the hair gel. (Maija Zummo)
Amenities: Live Jazz

Plum Street Caf�
423 Plum St., Downtown, 513-651-4341
After 20-odd years, this local bar is still serving up drinks and smiles to all those who cross its threshold. Bartender Johnny, who proudly boasts to be the youngest of the full-timers, offers up drinks along with colorful anecdotes to regulars and newcomers alike. The lunch and happy hour crowd later give way to late night hotel guests and after hours restaurant workers. Being a stone throw from the conventions center brings in tons of out-of-towners during events. It might not be the most polished bar in the neighborhood, but it still serves up a $2.25 domestic draft. (CC)
Amenities: Lunch menu; TVs; jukebox

Poison Room
301 W. Fifth St. Downtown, 513-333-0010.
With its eclectic mix of music and people, this is a band bar pure and simple. Still a wildly cool venue to hear original music, the Poison Room continues to bring it on with a wide variety of bands. With the rule to only "book the most talented of all genres of music," the bar still brings great live sounds to its two floors of space. For the not quite legal crowd interested in more than Guitar Hero, the bar offers a number of all ages shows throughout the year. With songwriter nights and drink specials throughout the week, Poison offers up some great entertainment for a cover charge usually under $10. (CC)
Amenities: Live music

1077 Celestial St., Mount Adams, 513-721-5456
Combining old world charm with contemporary comfort, this historic Cincinnati landmark transformed from the renowned manufacturer of Rookwood Pottery to an innovative eatery. Besides containing some incredibly cool architecture including original giant kilns, stain-glassed windows and exposed brick and steel construction, the bar offers up the full-dining menu along with some mouth-watering desserts and appetizers. Bartenders greet regulars by name and welcome newcomers with equal enthusiasm. Dress up prior to Playhouse for fine dining or dress down to watch the game on the big screen TV and snack on ribs. Either way it's all good. (CC)
Amenities: TVs; video games; full menu

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
10 Fountain Square Plaza, Downtown, 513-621-1588
After suffering through more than a year of construction and barricades, this local Fountain Square bar came out smelling like a, hmm, brewery (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Still standing and popular, the brew pub offers up a delicious happy hour fare where the after work crowd from 3-6 p.m. can fill up on specialty beer and delicious appetizers at a great price (you can't go wrong with the tostadas). The venue also stays busy throughout the week with convention folk and downtown event goers. For those looking to party after leaving the bar, they even sell bottled beer to go. Bonus! (CC)
Amenities: TVs, karaoke (Wednesdays); full menu

Rockin' Robin's Rock & Sports Bar
10 W. Seventh St., Downtown, 513-621-1000
It takes a truly dedicated clientele to brave a torrential downpour on a chilly Tuesday night just to get a burger and a beer. But it happened - and I can see why it continues to happen at this fun and unpretentious downtown pub. The burgers looked and smelled so delicious, it made me regret my earlier meal choice. Serving up an impressive selection of libations, the bar caters to the after work crowd, event goers and of course hard-core regulars. Special thanks to those who decorated the ladies room, adorning it with great visuals and humor. (CC)
Amenities: TVs; full menu; video games; darts; jukebox.

Serenity Ultra Lounge
2701 Vine St, Corryville 513-322-5535
When the hell did the old Zino's Firehouse close down? I guess I don't get out to Short Vine that much. In any case, if you're a business professional who likes sophistication and a relaxing atmosphere, the Serenity Ultra Lounge is probably for you. The cocktail I had was nice and strong and the service friendly. Did I feel serene there? Not really, but that's probably my fault. Serenity is known for their excellent French pastries, and with me being a diabetic I just couldn't get comfortable with all that sugar around. (LG) Amenities: Full dining menu

4181 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-8321
The local coffee enthusiast's best ally, this quaint Northside bistro is home to a towering of variety of fair-trade coffees and coffee influenced beverages. For ultimate satisfaction, try a most reasonably priced feta and spinach croissant or a Sidewinder tasty vegan muffin. Like many Northside establishments, is like a giant mullet: business in front, and a party in the back. You can enjoy your coffee in the quiet lounge area, or if the weather is hospitable, take it outside the verdant patio area. Local musicians and amateur poetry can often be heard in the evenings, just another reason to take a coffee break. (RM)
Amenities: Sandwiches; coffee; zines

Simon Says
428 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-381-7577
A friend of mine says that walking into Simon Says is like time traveling back to a gay bar in the late '70s. At some point they remodeled, but this might still be true. Even at 5:30 on a weekday, it's all about the mood - from erotic photographs to candles on the bar. Simon Says is the solid Midwestern gay bar, whatever it needs to be for whoever walks in: chill; familial; one of the few street-level, Downtown Cincinnati bars offering an oasis from the work-a-day. The patrons are mostly regulars, which might explain how this place has, in one incarnation or another, survived Downtown for what will be 50 years this September. The jukebox is bumping (soul, R&B, new wave), the pours generous. (CR)
Amenities: Jukebox; ATM

324 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-281-7487
Still the hipster outpost of Clifton, Sitwells features more than a writerly clientele and legitimate bohemian ambiance. An impressive menu with an international flavor includes a tasty Avocado and Smoked Gouda Salad, the Big Ass Pocket Pita Burrito (I tried it for the name alone) and hearty breakfast choices. Sitwells also boasts an ample beer list along with stunning liquor- and liqueur-infused coffee delights. The Peach Cremesicle (peach schnapps, triple sec and vanilla ice cream) will not disappoint! Come to converse, but stay to masticate. Props for the the Simon Leis urinal target! (DT)
Amenities: Full menu; local art; WiFi

Sonny's Caf� & Lounge
1227 California Ave., Bond Hill, 241-4579
Satisfying and sophisticated, this Bond Hill club brings all that jazz and more.With it's leather booths, glitzy stage and classic d�cor, this bar is a perfect venue to sit back and take in some sultry sounds in and intimate setting. Loquacious regulars make newcomers feel right at home.Wednesday Karaoke is almost a show in itself with top notch singers who hit all the right notes.Don't look for a fancy drink menu or long list of imports, do expect a fine music, a simple cocktail and good times. (CC)
Amenities: Live music; karaoke; TVs; party room; limited menu

Sully's Saloon

700 Race St., Downtown 513-381-4302
When I told the hostess with the blonde hair I was going to have some lunch with my drink, despite the fact that the place wasn't that busy, she almost insisted that I sit at the bar. Actually I preferred a table, but I wanted to be a team player. The waitress with the blonde hair whose name was Pineapple (at least that was the name on the back of her sweater) was a bit slow with the drink, but she did almost smile a couple times. Another young lady with blonde hair - every girl in the place was a blonde - served my Cobb salad. Sully's could be a little friendlier. (LG)
Amenities: Full dining menu; TVs; private party room

350 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-621-3567
When I walked in, I asked for Tina. Turns out she sold the bar to her sister Nancy more than 20 years ago. I remembered this establishment as being tiny. So much for my memory. The bar is just big enough with plenty of tables. They even have a game room to the right as you walk into the bar. Tina's is usually hopping with customers wanting cold beer and a good time. If Jell-O shots are your thing, you can get them for a buck a piece. If T-shirts are your thing, you can get one that says "Tina's" for $15 - sizes medium, large and extra-large. (LG)
Amenities: Pool table; video games; TVs, full dining

Uncle Woody's
339 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights, 513-751-2518
This is an old-school Bearcat p



comments powered by Disqus