PWIA & Cincinnati: Where to Eat; What to Do (Beyond Woodworking)
If your family is coming along with you to Woodworking in America, there’s plenty for them to do in Cincinnati while you’re at the conference. And there’s plenty of good food.
The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal (an impressive Art Deco building just west of downtown Cincinnati) houses three museums (plus an Omnimax Theater) – however, only the Duke Energy Children’s Museum is open right now while the facility undergoes extensive renovations. But it’s a gorgeous building worth seeing.
And of course, the world-renowned Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is always fun to visit (there’s a baby giraffe!).
There’s also the Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park, with more than 60,000 works of art spanning 6,000 years. Of note is the museum’s Cincinnati Wing, comprised of more than 400 objects from artists born in or trained in Cincinnati – including a lovely collection of art-carved furniture (much of which was created by women around the turn of the 20th century) and furniture from the Shop of the Crafters.
Also in Eden Park is Krohn Conservatory, an Art Deco glass structure built in 1933 that houses 3,500 species of plants from around the world. (I think the Conservatory is one of the most delightful places in the city. Disclaimer: my first professional job was in PR with the Cincinnati Park Board, during which I developed some of the signage for Krohn…eons ago. It’s likely been replaced by now.)
In the middle of downtown Cincinnati, you’ll find the Contemporary Arts Center – housed in an impressive structure designed by Zaha Hadid.
Also downtown, don’t miss the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which celebrates the heroes of the freedom movement from the time of the Underground Railroad to the present, and houses the FamilySearch center, for those interested in discovering their family history.
The Taft Museum of Art, on the east side of downtown Cincinnati, has masterpieces by Rembrandt and Whistler (among others), a delightful cafe and an impressive collection of furniture pieces. Plus it’s in a gorgeous early 1800s Palladian building.
Just up the road in Mt. Auburn is the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, which commemorates the only person to serve as both Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and President of the United States.
I’m not too fond of chain restaurants, so here are some of my favorite local places (and see this post from Christopher Schwarz for his favorite joints that are within walking distance of the Conference Center).
Eli’s Barbeque. We’re supposed to keep this place secret. But that’s a picture up top of the crave-worthy BBQ sandwich. ‘Nuff said.
A Tavola. This pizza restaurant is in the “Gateway Quarter” in the hot urban center (as are several of the others on my list), and one of the owners, Jared Wayne, is a woodworker (he built the bar and all the tables in the beautiful space). They make all the pizza components on site, and it’s all delicious.
Senate. Located just a door away from A Tavola, this place specializes in homemade hot dogs/sausages (my favorite dog is the Croque Madame, with bechamel, black forest ham and a poached egg, served on a brioche bun). Oh, and I could eat their poutine every day (but that would be a very bad idea indeed). I am also prodigiously fond of one of their house cocktails, the “Kitten Fizz.”
Dewey’s. OK – this excellent pizza joint is now a chain, with six locations in Cincinnati, and more in Northern Kentucky and other locations. But it started out as a local place, and I’m glad it’s grown (there’s one close to our office and one close to my house – dangerous). All the crust is fresh, and tossed in front of a plate glass window (fun to watch while you’re waiting for a table). My favorite? Pepperoni and goat cheese with red sauce.
Also in the Gateway Quarter is Abagail Street, a delightful wine bar with tasty Mediterranean food served tapas style. Try the chorizo-stuffed dates and lamb sliders.
And again, in the Gateway Quarter (are you sensing a theme here?) is Tucker’s, a venerable, down-home restaurant with no frills and great cooking. Try it for breakfast, and get the goetta.
In my neighborhood, Northside, you’ll find a funky cafe – Melt – that has delicious sandwiches (I’m partial to the “Joan of Arc”) – and I hear the vegetarian and vegan fare is great, too (though I’ve no personal experience with it).
Some of the best meals I’ve ever had have been at David Falk’s Sotto, in downtown Cincinnati. It’s a traditional Italian trattoria that’s out of this world. And upstairs is the same chef’s fancier restaurant, Boca, that serves food inspired by European tradition. Both are in the renovated spaces of two of the most storied restaurants in Cincinnati; the Maisonette boasted the longest-running five-star rating (41 years) of any restaurant on the continent, and downstairs was La Normandie. So, I’m glad to see David Falk continuing the tradition of excellent food in those spaces.
And of course, there’s Cincinnati-style chili (I prefer Skyline to Gold Star…but really, I prefer Texas-style chili – which is darn hard to come by in these-here parts) and Graeter’s Ice Cream (though I also like Aglamesis Bro’s.)
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of things to do and places to eat – but I hope this is a good starting point.
I hope to see you this weekend for Woodworking in America – I likely won’t have time to indulge in any of the above…until after the conference. At which point an adult beverage or two will certainly be in order.