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.
Mayday in Northside has long been known for their gourmet hot dogs and sausages, nestled in a delicious pretzel bun, but after four years of business, the owners — Vanessa Barber and Kim Maurer — are ready to kick their menu up a notch.
Starting on Monday, Oct. 7, Mayday will have a new, expanded menu developed with head chef Julz Lucas, a graduate of the Midwest Culinary Institute whose previous experience includes Honey, Mayberry and La Poste. With a goal of being a restaurant versus just a bar that serves food, they will add gourmet burgers, homemade oven fries, roasted chicken and seasonal sides, soups and sandwiches to their menu — all of which will still maintain their original focus of using local purveyors and making items in-house, including their bread. There will also still be the customer-favorite late-night dog and snack menu served after 10 p.m.
“Now that we have a new head chef, we want to take those traditions and expand them to a more diversified menu,” co-owner Kim Maurer says.
“We have always paid close attention to the details when it comes to our food, but we are finally able to move beyond our signature dogs and add more exciting menu options," adds co-owner Vanessa Barber. "We don’t want to be hemmed into the same identity we started with over four years ago. Mayday is dynamic — just like the neighborhood [Northside] we are so proud to call home."
The menu expansion will also include table service, a rarity in the bar-food world, again elevating Mayday's status from pub to gastropub. They've also added a new, outdoor biergarten to their two-tiered patio and will be adding more cozy indoor seating as the weather turns colder.
The new menu will be available daily starting at 11:30 a.m. (beginning Oct. 7) and remain in the $5-$15 price range.
And Mayday will also still host weekly trivia, dance nights and live music regularly in addition to the food, making them a food and entertainment destination.
Mayday is located at 4227-4231 Spring Grove Ave., in Northside. Starting next week, their hours will be 11:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. More info at maydaynorthside.com.
Taste of Belgium has announced that it's partnering with the Great American Ball Park to become the "Official Waffle of the Cincinnati Reds." (Do any other teams have an official waffle? Didn't think so.)
Starting on Opening Day, fans can now grab a Belgian waffle with toppings such as sweet cream, fruit or chocolate during a game, starting at just $5. If fans are looking for something more savory (with a bit more protein), Taste of Belgium is also offering their signature chicken and waffle combo. Add a side of twice-fried frites (Belgian french fries) for the complete experience.
“We at Taste of Belgium are honored to be counted among the Cincinnati brands supported by Great American Ballpark,” Taste of Belgium owner Jean-François Flechet said in a recent press release. “Our food has been embraced with open arms in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Friendly Market in Florence, Ky., and now we are delighted to show the best fans in baseball how to eat like a Belgian.”
Great American Ball Park also offers local food favorites including LaRosa's pizza and Skyline chili plus beer from local brewery Rhinegeist. The Official Waffle of the Cincinnati Reds goes on sale Opening Day at Great American Ball Park in Section 130 of the Ballpark, near The Kroger Fan Zone.
Waffle – $5
Chocolate & Cream Waffle – $7
Strawberry & Cream Waffle – $7
Waffle & Chicken – $10
Frites – $7
Taste of Belgium also has local locations in Over-the-Rhine, on Short Vine, in Findlay Market and in Florence, Ky.'s Friendly Market. Full-service bistro, 1133-1135 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine; Clifton, 2845 Vine St., Corryville; Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine; and Friendly Market, 10050 Norbotten Dr., Florence, Ky., authenticwaffle.com.
"What's going to make us different is our culinary staff," Stephens writes. "Constant ideas of recipes, ice creams and cookies are going to make some waves for sure in the area. We will also be listening to the public, so if you have a great meatball recipe, bring it down and we can give it a try."
Packhouse will be located on Monmouth Street in Newport. Their current projected open date is Jan. 28, so keep an eye on the restaurant and get more details here.
2. The volcano roll at Ichiban (half-price sushi, hell yeah!) on Friday night. The roll features a tower of crab meat on top of a deep-fried eel roll. That and a standard spicy tuna roll and I was set. No, it's nothing stellar, but when your bill comes back with $10.57 printed on the bottom, it's hard to resist doing your happy dance.
3. Homemade meatloaf, whipped potatoes and crisp green beans at my dad's house. His meatloaf is essentially a giant, baked meatball made with soaked french bread, fresh garlic, Parmesan and parsley. Dip it in those buttery potatoes and you can just feel your soul relax.
4. Late-night spoonbread at The Eagle OTR. Eagle is fantastic late night. We arrived at 10:41 p.m. and waited 30 seconds for a table for four. Their maple syrup-soaked spoonbread goes GREAT with a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, an on-tap staple at this place.
As far as changes, the restaurant will be extending its hours to include lunch (starting Nov. 5) and Saturday brunch (starting Dec. 7), which will feature a make-your-own bloody mary bar. Chef Johnson will also be updating the Local 127 menu to include more seafood and beef choices with seasonal preparations, plus adding a bar snack menu with pork belly bites, devils on horseback (a pub snack with a fruit like dates wrapped in bacon), fries inspired the by the In-N-Out Burger chain and more.
And for fans of the "local" in Local 127, fear not: Chef Johnson will remain true to the restaurant's pledge of serving responsibly sourced foods, according to the press release.
Local 127 is located at 413 Vine St., Downtown. For more information visit mylocal127.com.
"After a couple months, I started to realize that I liked being in the restaurant more than reading and writing scientific articles," Pesola says. "It was fast-paced, challenging and gave me an avenue to interact with people dynamically. In addition, I really enjoy how tangible the hospitality industry is."
This past summer, Pesola branched out and started selling rotisserie chicken on pita bread at Findlay Market. The resulting Revolution Rotisserie was so popular, he's opening a brick-and-mortar location on Race Street in Over-the-Rhine in early 2015. The rotisserie and bar will do dine-in, carry-out and catering, plus vegetarian options and specialty cocktails.
We caught up with Pesola to learn more about the restaurant and his chicken technique.
CityBeat: Why chicken and how did that relationship come to pass?
Nicholas Pesola: The concept originally had nothing to do with chicken. I wanted to introduce something unique to Cincinnati and I thought that it would be cool to reinvent gyros, one of my favorite foods from my youth. I wanted to stack marinated beef/lamb and do it like they do in Europe/Middle Eastern countries. I knew that I would have to offer other meats so I chose to stick with the rotisserie meat theme. When I put on tastings, everybody liked the rotisserie chicken sandwiches with my gourmet toppings and sauces the most. When no one offered to fund my unproven restaurant concept, I decided to start small at Findlay Market and pilot the idea. I knew I had to simplify my concept in order to be successful so I gave the people what they wanted: rotisserie chicken. I wanted to become known for rotisserie chicken sandwiches on pita bread because I thought that was the most unique. I also thought I would sell more sandwiches versus whole chickens to the Findlay Market crowd.
CB: What's been the best response you've seen from a customer?
NP: We have had many great responses. I love when people walk by my stand, stop abruptly after seeing the sample, and say, "That looks good. But what is it?" When they find out there is rotisserie chicken under the toppings and sauce, it is usually game over. I also enjoy the skeptical customer who reluctantly orders our food and then comes back with friends 10 minutes later because they really liked it.
CB: Can you tell me more about your chicken? Where do you source it? What separates it from other rotisserie? Is there a special technique, seasoning, butcher? A family recipe?
NP: We use Amish chicken from Miller Farms and will be switching to FreeBird chicken which has even more strict standards when it comes to how the chickens have been raised: no hormones, no preservatives, all vegetable diet, more room to roam, etc. Our chickens are never frozen, always fresh. We brine our birds, season them with a custom blend of the best spices, cook them on a gas-fired 40-bird rotisserie to perfection. And I assure you our whole chickens will not sit around for hours and dry out like they do at the grocery store. For our sandwiches, we hand-pull the meat, white and dark, and make sure it maintains its juiciness before serving. We have arrived at our current technique after talking with chefs and experimenting with other methods, but the reality is I'm always looking for ways to make the product even better.
CB: So you're opening a brick-and-mortar spot in OTR? What inspired you to take the jump?
NP: Even before I started at Findlay Market, I wanted to open up a brick-and-mortar shop. I just didn't have enough money and that was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to start small. I knew the time was right to circle back with potential investors when my customers kept asking where Revolution Rotisserie was located after eating our food.
CB: Why OTR? And why Race versus Main or Vine?
NP: I live in OTR and it's a very exciting place to hang out and start a business. The real question should be why not OTR? I believe my concept contributes something very unique to the scene. I chose the spot at 1106 Race Street because it was the size I wanted, featured an open kitchen, and fit my budget. In my opinion, Race Street is the next logical restaurant street in OTR because of Washington Park, Zula, Anchor, and Taft Ale House all down the street. Plus I live on Race Street, you can't beat that commute.
CB: What will be on the menu at Revolution?
NP: Chicken! We will showcase the versatility of chicken with eight rotisserie chicken sandwiches served on grilled pita bread — all of which can be made vegetarian by substituting hummus, black beans or extra veggies. This is a bold statement, considering we are primarily a chicken restaurant, but I think our pita sandwiches and salads set us up to offer one of the best vegetarian menus in the city. Of course, we will do whole/half chickens, side salads, mashed potatoes, cinnamon applesauce and a few other sides. At the bar, we will specialize in specialty cocktail infusions and of course, craft beer.
CB: People love chicken during the holidays. With restaurant prep ahead of you, will you still be at Findlay Market or taking any orders for whole or half chickens?
NP: Unfortunately, the cold weather prevents us from operating at Findlay Market under the tent. However, if people would like to place catering or large carryout orders, they can email email@example.com. The best way to do this is to visit our website revolutionrotisserie.com.
Follow along with Revolution's progress on Facebook and Twitter @RevolutionOTR.