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Best of the City 2012
Brewery Tasting Room
Rivertown Brewing Company
With a recent change in the law that makes it easier for breweries to open them, tap rooms have been popping up all over town. Rivertown Brewing Company’s stands out for its convenient evening hours, the exhaustive hops-to-bottle brewery tours given by co-owner Randy Schiltz, and most important, the variety of beer available to sample. Trying a few—we recommend the light Helles Lager, the biting Hop Bomber, and the robust Roebling Imperial Porter—is like taking a crash course in craft beer. We’ll raise our glasses to that.
607 Shepherd Dr., Unit 6, Lockland, (513) 827-9280, rivertownbrewery.com
Cincinnati Observatory’s Free Dark Sky Gazes
It doesn’t get much cheaper than free. Twice a month, Stonelick State Park hosts The Cincinnati Observatory’s free dark sky stargazes. You don’t need a telescope or a degree from MIT—the regulars are usually more than happy to share their knowledge. The park is about a 45-minute drive up State Route 50, far away from city light pollution.
Stonelick State Park, 2895 Lake Dr., Pleasant Plain, (513) 321-5186, cincinnatiobservatory.org
BAR at the Precinct
Jeff Ruby doesn’t do small. This revamped bar is no exception. The sizeable addition has enough kitsch (moose head!) to make it feel like it’s always been there, highlighted by an antique oak Brunswick bar imported from Boston. As with all of Ruby’s spots, BAR at the Precinct is equal parts classy and brassy—just the way we like it.
311 Delta Ave., Mt. Lookout, (513) 321-5454, jeffruby.com/precinct
Hotspot Nod to History
Moerlein Lager House
We love this place for many reasons: its river views, its proximity to ballpark and stadium, its beer. But the real kicker is the way it incorporates our history. Being Reds fans, we adore the plaque in the lobby floor that marks the location of Riverfront Stadium’s first base and its nod to Charlie Hustle: “This marks the exact location where Pete Rose and the baseball world enjoyed a nine minute standing ovation.” Here, here.
115 Joe Nuxhall Way, downtown, (513) 421-2337, moerleinlagerhouse.com
The Blue Wisp
Improvisation is a good thing at a jazz club—unless it’s the address that’s bopping around. Fortunately, after a history of roaming, the Blue Wisp has landed at Seventh and Race. It’s handy for locals and visitors alike (obscurity is overrated, man) and there’s grub as well as booze. Bonus: With two adjoining spaces, the music in the Rosemary Clooney Room doesn’t have to compete with imbibers at the bar.
700 Race St., downtown, (513) 241-9477, thebluewisp.com
Square Dance Lessons
Swing your partner ’round and ’round! The newest best place in Greater Cincinnati to take square dance lessons is the Cincinnati Mall on Wednesday nights. There, smack-dab in center court, a group called The Nest will teach you the difference between allemande left and do-si-do—for free! (Donations are, of course, welcome.) You might discover a new hobby, but if not, you’ll leave with a handy new party skill. Yee-haw!
Dale and Cindy Bennett, (513) 847-1300; Cincinnati Mall, 600 Cincinnati Mills Dr., Forest Park. Wednesdays 6:30–9:30 pm
Nonsmoking Hangout in NKY
The Crazy Fox Saloon
You are a person who does not stay out late, but you like bars. You don’t like to smell like smoke, but you prefer the cheap beer and general friendliness of Northern Kentucky watering holes. So you try the Crazy Fox, in Newport. You play the jukebox, a little Michael Jackson, The Beatles, The Talking Heads. You ask the bartender for the darts at the bar and play a few games. You meet Carl, the owner. All of a sudden it’s 2 a.m. You haven’t been out this late in years. But you better believe that you’ll be back next weekend.
901 Washington Ave., Newport, (859) 261-2143, thecrazyfoxsaloon.com
New Year's Eve Bash
CSO’s end-of-year concert
Midnight in Paris? It’s as close as Music Hall when the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra hosts its end-of-year concert, A Night at the Moulin Rouge. John Morris Russell conducts music from La Boheme, there’ll be dancers can-canning to Offenbach, and some “La Vie en Rose”–style chanteuse-ing to inspire your inner Edith Piaf. There will be dinner, and Champagne, all very classy and elegant and French. Until the clock strikes 12; then you’re back to being a Midwesterner.
1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-3300, cincinnatisymphony.org
Cabana on the River
Hankering to watch the sun set over the Ohio River with a cold beer and a fresh fish sandwich? Look no further. Located on the banks of the mighty Ohio in Sayler Park, Cabana on the River draws huge crowds on warm nights with its no-frills menu of seafood and sandwiches, lively open-air bar, and live music. Open seasonally.
7445 Forbes Rd., Sayler Park, (513) 941-7442, cabanaontheriver.com
Front Street Café
When the musicians started taking out their instruments—a violin, a clarinet, a guitar, an accordion—it was a little disappointing. We’d come to Front Street Café in New Richmond for a quiet meal with friends, not a concert. But soon the sound of Zydeco filled the room. They sang in French. They stomped their feet. Are they the best musicians in the world? No. But they’re the best in New Richmond. And that’s just fine.
120 Front St., New Richmond, (513) 553-4800, frontstcafe.com
MidPoint Music Festival
Our little festival is all grown up. Ten years ago MidPoint Music Festival had groups like The Citizen’s Band, Slitheryn, and The Ass Ponys playing, and you could show up halfway through the set and still get a good spot to stand. Those days are gone. Grizzly Bear and Andrew Bird were in town this year, and the shows are packed well in advance. To which we say: Welcome, outsiders. We’ve been expecting you.
There are a lot of good places to see a show in Cincinnati. MOTR Pub is not the prettiest, it doesn’t have a ton of space, and the acoustics are just OK. So why are they the best? Richard Buckner. Last year, Buckner released a heartbreakingly great album (_Our Blood), and made only a few stops on a small tour. One of the stops was MOTR. The show was _free. Great shows. Great songwriters. That’s what a rock bar is all about.
1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-6687, motrpub.com
High/Low: Fireside Drinking Spot
High: Blaze of Glory
Pass through a narrow stone alley that looks like something out of an old German village, and you’ll emerge into the warmth of the Blind Lemon Café’s courtyard, crammed with wrought-iron chairs and benches encircling a cozy fire pit. There’s even live acoustic music nightly.
936 Hatch St., Mt. Adams, (513) 241-3885, theblindlemon.com
Low: Bright Spark
C&D Northside, a classic neighborhood bar, welcomes visitors to its outdoor fire pit with plastic lawn chairs, a view of the street—and good company.
1714 Hanfield St., Northside, (513) 541-9881, facebook.com/CDNorthside/info
Please note that the information listed in this section was accurate at the time the issue went to print in 2012 and that addresses, menu items, company status, etc., may have changed. Please contact the companies to confirm details.