When Adam Mayerson asked his grandmother what her earliest memory of the Sugar n’ Spice diner was, she said it was a double date in the 1940s with Mayerson’s grandfather and in-laws. Almost 80 years later, Mayerson is not only the fourth generation of his family to frequent Sugar n’ Spice, but he also owns the place after purchasing it from the previous owner last year.
Sugar n’ Spice started as a drive-in restaurant in the 1940s and, with the exception of two other locations in the ’50s and ’60s, it has remained in the same Paddock Hills building. The Cincinnati classic now has a second home with the opening July 11 of the diner’s new location in Over-the-Rhine, within the renovated former Joe’s Diner on Sycamore Street.
“It will have the same fun, family-friendly vibe that you get at the Reading Road location,” operating partner CT Todd says. “The old diner car is what makes it bright and fun.”
For Mayerson, preserving what people love about Sugar n’ Spice was of paramount importance at the OTR location. “You’re going to experience what people have loved for 80 years. What you’re experiencing downtown is what you’re experiencing at [the original location],” Mayerson says.
Part of preserving that experience is continuing beloved traditions from the Reading Road restaurant, including each diner picking out their own rubber duck. “It brings a level of joyous peace to kids,” says Todd. “And now, everyone likes to pick a little rubber ducky. We have close to 900 rubber ducks here at Reading Road. We will be bringing that tradition downtown.”
The new Sugar n’ Spice location has a nearly identical classic menu to that of the first location. The only change will be the addition of salads for the downtown lunch menu.
“We listened to what people were saying. A common thread was Don’t change anything,” Todd says. “We kept that as our true north.” The new location provides the opportunity to make memories and bring new families to Sugar n’ Spice, he says.
“Sugar n’ Spice is a happy place,” says Todd. “It’s a melting pot of people. All walks of life come here to dine. I really look at it as a beacon in what we offer in food and the atmosphere. Being able to open up a second location and reach more of Cincinnati is really great.”
While Sugar n’ Spice’s OTR diner opened quietly in the past week, it will officially host its grand opening on July 11. Its operating hours will be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Mayerson says that while it’s not ideal to open a restaurant during a pandemic, Sugar n’ Spice has taken precautions to keep its patrons safe. “The downtown location is a lot larger than Reading Road,” says Mayerson. “It provides us with a good capability of being able to space things out and achieve social distancing. We have Plexiglas between the booths and hand sanitizer at every table. We have two patios with outdoor dining that we’ll be using as well.”
Sugar n’ Spice, 1203 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 762-0390