The newest nightspot to join Main Street's entertainment district, Jump Café is catering to a more sophisticated crowd than its previous incarnation. The former brew pub, once decorated with reproduction Cincinnati Brewery memorabilia, cozy booths and bar tables, has been transformed into a more contemporary, upscale tapas and wine bar. What was once the second floor Swing club now hosts intimate seating and white linen tablecloths where guests dine on squab and swordfish.
We were surprised by the transformation when we visited the first floor bar one recent Friday evening. Except for the Main Street Brewery's microbrews, still available on tap, we hardly recognized this as the same space. Visitors won't find the crowded pub atmosphere anymore. Instead, expect to see Jetsons-style, halogen pendant light fixtures and hip '60s deco-style bar seating. A few "loft" areas feature overstuffed chairs and cocktail tables for more intimate groupings. The bar, once the focus of the brewery, has moved across the room and is now backed by a large cooler displaying several featured wines.
We also were surprised to find ample seating for the six of us when we arrived close to 8 p.m. on this particular Friday. Unlike the brewery, which seemed to fill up for dinner quickly, Jump Café appears to draw a crowd of late nibblers and wine sippers to its first floor tapas lounge, not necessarily diners. (We later explored the new, open staircase that leads to the second floor "fine" dining room, which was full of patrons.)
After seating ourselves, we were greeted by our server who rattled off the available microbrewed beers on tap: wheat, amber, porter and a pale ale.
I tried asking her about the transformation, but she seemed disinterested in chitchat. She did tell me Jump Café is owned by the same folks who opened the brewery. However, she didn't mention the fact that the focus is now on wine. In fact, other than the bottles displayed behind the bar, nothing announced this to be a "wine bar." No wine lists were presented, nor were any wine specials featured on the table or at the bar.
As our group sipped our drinks, we perused the tapas menu, looking to put together enough nibblers for a meal. Although priced like entrees ($4-$13), these tapas selections are just sample-sized portions, more appropriately shared as one of several selections among friends.
With more than 20 items to choose from, the menu offers enough diversity to please even the pickiest of eaters. My husband chose the Soy Glazed Beef Satay ($8), an artfully presented grouping of grilled beef, skewered and served with a peanut and curry glaze. The glaze smelled and tasted terrific, but a few members of our group found the beef difficult to pull from the skewers. On the other hand, the Wood Oven Baked Artichoke Dip with Herb Flatbread ($7) was easy to eat: quickly and with fingers. I thought the dip was creamy, garlicky and flavorful. When the flatbread disappeared, we substituted the bread brought to us by our server, accompanied by olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Oven Roasted Polenta Triangles ($9) were served piping hot, sprinkled with fresh shredded asiago cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Beautifully presented on geometric plates, these, too, were tasty, but at $3 a pop (only three to an order), we found them a little pricey for nibblers. Although very rich, the Sautéed French Brie ($7), covered in a raspberry sauce and served with toasted flatbread, was a nice accompaniment to our wine.
All of the selections were presented with style and flair, echoing the upscale tone of the new establishment. One of our guests commented that the food was almost as beautiful as the patrons. We noticed that the guests filling up the bar weren't the same younger folks who once pounded pints at the brew pub. Instead, the new Jump Café seems to attract older, more sophisticated professionals -- like the kind of place where the cast of Ally McBeal would hang out after work or on the weekend.
With the BarrelHouse Brewery just around the corner, Main Street visitors can easily get their fill of superb hand-crafted microbrews. But for folks looking for a little more sophistication -- and a place to see and be seen -- Jump Café offers the setting. ©
Go: 1203 Main St., Downtown
Hours: Wed.-Sat. 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m.; menu until midnight
Prices: Tapas selections from $4 to $13
Upstairs Restaurant Menu (not reviewed): Expensive
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Vegetarian Friendliness: Tapas menu offers several choices