This is what guided Myra Griffin of Myra’s Dionysus as she ventured to open her own restaurant near the University of Cincinnati campus in 1977. She wanted create a unique eating experience in the Cincinnati area. Kicking off the next big thing isn’t easy, though, and to keep it fresh, Myra saw to it the menu has an array of ethnic food.
“…I realized how little meat other cultures used and how much better it was for you,” she says. “Thus I became a much more vegetarian restaurant.”
When most people think of food in a college town, greasy quick meals and sandwiches from McDonald's come to mind. Myra didn’t want that. In fact, one of her main criteria for a location was a college town, for open-minded individuals who would enjoy her healthy, vegetarian alternative to standard college cuisine. “Healthy does not mean it can't taste good,” she says. That’s what she strives to deliver for every meal.
Myra’s other point in opening Dionysus was to craft an atmosphere where people could bring their families and enjoy themselves, again a notion not widely thought of in a college town. One would think more of fun drinking locations or places to get a quick bite but not somewhere you’d bring a child.
Myra’s Dionysus is a place where one family in particular has created a tradition — four generations have enjoyed Myra's cooking. That is service that’s hard to compete with. Dionysus is a kinetic place as well. It’s always moving forward, adapting new dishes to the proverbial arsenal. Myra enjoys the challenge of coming up with new dishes. She draws on cultures around the world, relishing in diversity.
“It has been a case of trying things, if they work, keep them; if not, change,” she says. At Myra’s Dionysus, the goal for the restaurant is to entertain people through atmosphere, customer service and good conversation. Myra has her degree in education, so teaching her employees was simply second nature. Seeing workers solve issues together and have a great time doing it is what helps drive the business ahead of the rest.
Myra’s Dionysus is an interesting establishment. It’s healthy, odd, has history but plays on contemporary trends. Myra makes sure all of these aspects and more show off to the outside world to bring in anyone willing to give one of her dishes a try. All Myra wants at the end of the day is a good experience for people involved.
“The fun is in seeing others enjoy what we have to offer,” she says.
Myra's Dionysus is located at 121 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights. Go here for menu, hours and more information.
The areas of performance rated this year include food quality, hospitality of restaurant staff, variety of restaurant menu choices, breakfast food quality, timeliness of room service and other food and beverage related presentation. Managing Director Michael Sheer and Executive Chef and Director of Food and Beverage Todd Kelly have received numerous honors for their staff’s superior performance and dedication to customer service.
In December, Hilton Cincinnati’s
fine dining restaurant, Orchids at the Palm Court, was named one of the top 100
restaurants overall in the USA by OpenTable Diners. On March 1, Cincinnati
Magazine rated Orchids the No. 1 Restaurant in Cincinnati for the fifth
Orchids has received many awards for its extraordinary products, atmosphere, and staff, including the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) four-diamond award for excellence for eight consecutive years. Zagat Survey, the original provider of user-generated restaurant ratings, named Orchids Cincinnati’s “Top Restaurant” of 2011, 2012 and 2013. Chef Kelly, once of only six Hilton Signature Chefs in the United States, was named the American Culinary Federation’s 2011-2012 No. 1 Chef in the USA, the highest honor conferred upon one of more than 20,000 chefs in the national organization.
With featured menu items such as roasted monkfish, Elysian Fields lamb loin and Maine lobster salad, Orchids remains a popular fine-dining establishment for Hilton guests and non-guests alike. “We’re very proud of our food and beverage team,” Chef Kelly said in a press release. “This award recognizes the hard work that we do each day to meet and exceed our guest's expectations. At Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza we are dedicated to providing an exceptionally high quality of food and outstanding level of customer service."
Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, opened in 1931, is known both for its outstanding accommodations and its architectural prowess. Complete with rare Brazilian rosewood walls, German lighting fixtures, expansive Romanesque murals, and an original Rockwood Pottery foundation, this Hilton is a prime example of French art deco architectural style. The hotels boasts 561 newly updated guestrooms as well as more than 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Orchids at the Palm restaurant is open from 5:30-10 p.m. nightly. For more information or reservations, visit orchidsatpalmcourt.com.
Dan Katz left his culinary ventures in New York City to start something new. He wanted a restaurant in a fun, welcoming environment and Cincinnati was just the place. But before he opens his restaurant, Meatball Kitchen, Katz is hosting pop-up dinners to see what people think of the food offered at his forthcoming establishment. As Katz continues his search for the perfect spot to open Meatball Kitchen, area foodies can keep up with the latest news on Facebook.
CityBeat: Why did you move from New York?
Dan Katz: I co-owned a French Bistro and American wine bar in NYC. My wife, Laura, grew up in Cincinnati and after visiting, I realized what a great place it is to raise a family. I am looking forward to adding my New York experience and energy to all the exciting stuff that is going on in the Cincy culinary community. I think Meatball Kitchen will be a perfect addition to the scene here.
CB: What inspired you to do these pop-up dinners?
DK: I've been thinking about this idea for a long time. My goal was to create a cravable, delicious take on the classic meatball. I want to raise the standard of typical fast food and bring delicious, affordable food to everyone. The pop-ups are a great way to introduce and test my concept. I want to be the great $5 sandwich place and feed the neighborhood.
CB: When is your restaurant opening?
DK: Soon! We are looking at locations around town. I have a great team ready to go and we are hoping to open by the end of the summer.
CB: Are you doing any more pop up dinners?
DK: Yes. The next one is June 12 at The Kitchen Factory in Northside. At the last pop-up, we introduced the diners to our core menu. At the next pop-up, we will serve one of the exciting rotating specials as well. We believe that we can turn any recipe into a meatball! Diners can follow us on Facebook to keep updated about this and other events.
CB: What are you most looking forward to when opening your restaurant?
DK: I am looking forward to feeding happy people. What's not to love about a fast, delicious, exciting, cheap and filling meal?
This week, more than 15 local restaurants are participating in Eat Local Cincy’s Restaurant Week, showcasing special menus with local ingredients through Sunday, May 19. From Northern Kentucky to Lebanon, local restaurants are offering the Restaurant Week special of three courses for $33.13. Customers create their own combination of an appetizer, salad and one entrée from the provided lists of options. Dishes vary by restaurant based on the regular menu, but individual specials feature locally-sourced items from area farmers and producers.
Participating restaurants include Behle Street Café in Covington, Mac’s Pizza Pub in Clifton Heights, The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Italian hotspot Primavista overlooking the city and many more. Individual menus boast the very best dishes from their establishments, ranging from seafood to steak to simple and intricate pasta dishes. The large number of participating restaurants provides customers with an opportunity to experience a range of flavors, portions and atmospheres, from casual and family-friendly to fine dining.
Eat Local Cincy works to promote local, independent restaurants both in the Cincinnati community and on the national scale. The group strives to raise awareness about the unique local flavor Cincinnati restaurants can provide, championing the talents of individual chefs, the passion of local owners, and the benefits of purchasing goods from local producers.
Comparing independent restaurants to bookstores, hardware stores and coffee shops, the Eat Local Cincy group considers local dining integral to maintaining a vibrant community, successful charities and increased culinary and cultural strength. Unlike large franchises, Eat Local Cincy and its independent restaurants celebrate passionate individuals and employees who take pride not only in their own establishment but in the Cincinnati community as a whole.
Along with its annual Restaurant Week, Eat Local Cincy also features a year-round rewards program that provides customers with points every time they dine at an Eat Local Cincy establishment. These points can then be redeemed during another visit at any of the participating restaurants. Visit Eat Local Cincy at www.eatlocalcincy.com for a list of businesses participating in Restaurant Week, upcoming events and individual menus.
Local pastry chef/chocolatier/confectioner Shalini Latour of Chocolats Latour has seriously taken chocolate bunnies to the next level of cute by Willy Wonka-ing them into a rainbow assortment of colors.
Chocolate naturally comes in brown (boring), dark brown (more boring) and white (really boring), so Latour applied some cocoa butter colors and turned her little Easter hoppers into periwinkle, lavender, flamingo, cantaloupe, sunflower and chartreuse rabbits. A chartreuse bunny! Brilliant.
Each candy is made of solid, fair-trade chocolate in dark, milk or white, which is then wrapped in a compostable cellophane bag. Bunnies are available in two sizes: 7 oz. ($9.50) and 20 oz. ($24). And, sure, the painted eyes are a tad freaky, but that's easy to get over — just eat the head first.
They have been talking about it since they were 15 years old. Now, about 15 years later, all it took was an evening stroll through some back alleys on the way to The Famous Neons Unplugged in Over-the-Rhine to stumble across the perfect spot for their new start-up, Collective Espresso.
Owners Dave Hart and Dustin Miller had always dreamed of opening a coffee shop together. Lifelong friends and Ohio natives, the two spent a few years on separate journeys living in and being inspired by different states along the West Coast and working in multiple restaurants and cafes along the way.
"We kind of just moved to Cincinnati with the plan that we would figure it out," Hart explained nonchalantly as he reached for a cup and saucer behind the bar. Cold November rain fell outside during our interview, but the coffee and conversation warmed the already cozy shop as I sat comfortably on a stool that Hart and Miller hand-made, at the rustic bar that they crafted out of an old barn door. Just like the simplicity of the shop's design, Miller explained that it's their goal to very simply, "make great coffee taste great."
"There are a lot of great natural things happening in this coffee," Miller explained, joining Hart behind the bar. "It's our job as baristas to make it look and taste awesome. We want the coffee to speak for itself."
The shop, on the brink of opening, will mainly serve Deeper Roots Coffee — which is local — and Quills Coffee from Louisville, Ky. However, since they have a multiple roaster format, they are excited that they have the freedom to serve anything that piques their interest.
I watched in awe as the duo made the perfect cup of coffee through a process known as the drip method. This procedure takes about two and a half minutes and is performed through several steps in a homemade set-up resembling a science lab experiment.
"Each cup of coffee is made-to-order," Hart explained as he smelled the complex aroma from the coffee. "We don't want to be so slow that it's frustrating to get a cup of coffee here, but we like the idea of people being able to chill out for a few minutes and have a real coffee experience."
There are many ways to get your caffeine fix at Collective Espresso including espresso, macchiatos, cortado, cappuccino, lattes and mochas. The average price for a drink is $2.50-$3.50.
Although they recognized some great coffee shops that Cincinnati already has to offer, Hart explained that they thought the Cincinnati coffeehouse scene was missing something — Collective Espresso. With seating arranged in a bar-like fashion, the shop provides a welcoming atmosphere to stop in, have a cup of coffee over the daily news (CityBeat, of course) and meet or catch up with neighbors.
"If people are as dorky about coffee as we are, we also want to be a place where people can explore different brew methods and learn about different coffees," Miller added.
Just as the perfect cup of coffee takes time, the finishing touches are being put on Collective Espresso. The shop, located at 207 Woodward St., (off Main Street) is expected to open very soon.
21c Museum Hotel's flagship hotel was founded in 2006 in Louisville, Ky. by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors who had a vision for bringing art into people's lives and supporting the revitalization of American cities.
In keeping with the founders' mission, Cincinnati's urban developers 3CDC and 21c Museum Hotel are partnering to revitalize the historical 1912, 10-story Metropole hotel into a unique place to view cutting edge contemporary art.
Along with preserving the city's historic building, the restaurant will emphasize the city's old world roots in its menu. Under Chef Michael Paley's direction, Metropole will focus on dishes with local ingredients cooked in a custom-built hearth. Chef Paley has been the executive chef at Louisville's award-winning Proof on Main since it opened.
“After opening Garage Bar, our wood-fired pizzeria in Louisville last year, I was inspired to create a menu that is cooked almost entirely by wood-fired heat,” Chef Paley says. “Our menu at Metropole will reflect Cincinnati’s rich, European-based culinary heritage, and I am thrilled to introduce our custom-built hearth as the focal point of the restaurant and the menu.”
Working closely with local farmers and artisanal producers, Chef Paley is developing a menu focusing on string roasted meats, ash-cooked vegetables, house-made charcuterie and more. The beverage menu which can be enjoyed in the restaurant or while overlooking the city on the rooftop bar, which will favor craft beers and bourbon.
Cincinnati restaurants Adriatico’s and Eli’s BBQ got national recognition this week when they appeared on Urbanspoon’s top 100 “cheap eats” list. Urbanspoon chose these two eateries, as well as 98 more, from the million (yes, million) restaurants in their database.
Eli’s BBQ upgraded from a tent at Fountain Square and Findlay Market to a permanent home in the East End this year. They serve smoked meat and home-cooked sides. On Friday afternoons, you can bring your own drinks to accompany the pulled pork and macaroni and cheese on your plate. Eli’s offers hickory-smoked ribs, all-beef hotdogs, pulled pork sandwiches and more. For a longer rundown of Eli’s BBQ, check out CityBeat's review of the joint.
Adriatico’s brings New York style pizza to the Queen City. The pizzeria and sports bar is open after midnight each night, so you can get your late-night pizza fix after most places are closed. And since pizza isn't complete without beer, this place has plenty of it. With more than 40 beers on tap plus tons of craft bottled and canned beers, you’re able to mix and match pizzas and brews for the best combination for you. To keep up with Adriatico’s, check them out on Facebook.
Congratulations to Cincinnati’s cheap stops to fill up and leave full. Once you give these restaurants a try, check out more local spots because Cincinnati has a lot to offer when it comes to eating.
There are plenty of restaurants downtown, but for the World Choir Games, the city has set up a Market Garden at the corner of Fifth and Race streets to provide additional options that are fast and affordable. It’s a great “Taste of Cincinnati” opportunity — without the crowds and long lines.