Best of the City: Nightlife


Snowy Day Bar
If you happen to find yourself downtown when the White Death begins to fall, drop what you’re doing and get to Mita’s. You can watch the flakes through the wall of windows while shoppers scurry at the corner of Fifth and Race. Fill your belly with small plates (we especially love the empanadas), warm up with a Dos Caminos (spiced rum, lemon, honey, and red wine), and enjoy mother nature’s handiwork. Should those flurries turn into a blizzard, you’re catty-corner from the Hilton Netherland Plaza, where you can bunk for the night. Downtown,


Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

New Winemaker
Skeleton Root
When former engineer Kate MacDonald threw open the doors of industrial-chic Skeleton Root (she did the build-out as well—hello, skills!) in late September, she hit the ground running. The OTR winery utilizes locally grown grapes such as zinthiana and chambourcin in its crisp rosé, and a cabernet and norton cross as the basis of its Northern Liberties Red, just two of the six wines currently in production. Stop in and sample a glass, but good luck leaving without a bottle or two.  Over-the-Rhine,

Fancy Movie Theater
Envision Cinemas
Movie theaters have evolved beyond sticky-floor popcorn depositories, and Envision Cinemas knows how to upgrade the experience. Order food from a full menu, including more than 40 beers on tap, or stick with Milk Duds and Red Vines with just the push of a button from your leather recliner. It’s a small theater, however, so reserve tickets well in advance to make sure you beat out the other nerds for primo seats at the Rogue One premiere. Blue Ash,

Live Music for People Who Like to Go to Bed Early
The Burning Caravan at Japp’s
This gypsy jazz quartet kicks off at 5:30 and swings until 8:30 on Japp’s tiny front-of-house bandstand every Friday. The early-evening crowd may be rocking silver hair, but don’t get in their way. Once they’ve downed a couple of Molly Wellmann’s cocktails, the dancing starts. Over-the-Rhine,

Rain Delay Hideout
Proximity is key in a rain delay. The Banks is the obvious choice, and it shows—it will be packed—so make your way across Ft. Washington Way to Kitty’s on West Third Street. Named after owner Billy Watson’s mother, who ran the space as a saloon for years, it has nine beers on tap and a menu fit for game day, and Billy is prone to sidewalk-smoking wings or prime rib in his Big Green Eggs. A dozen TVs and a 120-inch projection screen make it easy to hang around. Downtown,

Tailgate Party
Longworth Hall Parking Lot
Because the Longworth lot is long. Because its population on game day surpasses many local neighborhoods. Because what better street for celebrating Bengals passion than Pete Rose Way? Entering costs upwards of $30, but that’s just preparing you for stadium prices. If the game is at 1 p.m., you’re taking a chance if you’re not there before 9:30 a.m. Bring a cornhole set. Bring your football fashion. And bring hope, especially if it’s a playoff game. 700 W. Pete Rose Way, downtown


Illustration by Chris Danger

Movie Shot here
The Fits
There is difference between a film using Cincinnati’s architecture as a stand-in for New York City (lookin’ at you, Carol) and Cincinnati being an actual character in the movie. The Fits, the indie debut for director Anna Rose Holmer, embraces the grittiness of the West End and lets the city exist as more than just a backdrop. And it features a bevy of local young actors, including star and Winton Woods Intermediate School product Royalty Hightower. It’s well worth a $5 iTunes rental.

Royalty Hightower, who was a 9-year-old Q-Kidz dancer when she was cast in the film’s lead role.
Royalty Hightower, who was a 9-year-old Q-Kidz dancer when she was cast in the film’s lead role.

Photograph courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

Royalty Hightower, who was a 9-year-old Q-Kidz dancer when she was cast in the film’s lead role.
Royalty Hightower, who was a 9-year-old Q-Kidz dancer when she was cast in the film’s lead role.

Photograph courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

The Fits
The Fits

Photograph courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

New Radio Station
102.3 The Beat
Cincinnati has long deserved another hip-hop and R&B station, and iHeartMedia has made it a reality with 102.3 The Beat. The station hit the airwaves in 2014 as a fully throwback channel, but shed that persona in March to swing contemporary (we can’t resist Bey and Kendrick, either), pitting itself as a legit challenger to The Wiz (and in our admittedly anecdotal opinion, got them to step up their game in the process).

Repurposed Church
Taft’s Ale House
What happens to a church when the worship stops? Around here, they’re recycled—into event venues, homes, even an Urban Outfitters. The best example? Taft’s Ale House. St. Paul’s German Evangelical Protestant Church sat empty for nearly 50 years before 3CDC stabilized it and Kevin Moreland and his partners turned it into Taft’s. The $9 million project pays attention to the details: Rookwood tiles are used throughout, but the pattern in the fermenting area and brewhouse would look familiar to the namesake president—it matches a pattern at Mt. Auburn’s William Howard Taft National Historic Site. Over-the-Rhine,

Cocktail Menu
Sundry and Vice
Most bars have a cocktail list of five or six options, one of which is usually some dressed-up version of a gin and tonic. Sundry and Vice consistently has about two dozen on their menu at any given time, including every spritz and spirit imaginable. The place isn’t lacking in pomp or pretense, and the latest trends are all over the menu (bitters and egg whites galore), but you can sip easy knowing you’ll never have to settle for a crappy rum and Coke. Over-the-Rhine,

Trivia Night
Overlook Lodge
Bar trivia has become too cookie-cutter: It’s much easier—hence more common—for a place to hire a service, which streamlines the process but back-burners originality. At Overlook Lodge’s Tuesday night movie trivia, longtime buddies Christian Glass and Rob Weidle run their own show. They pick a theme and craft all of their own questions. There are a few tendencies (expect the occasional Air Bud question), but otherwise it’s limited only by the universe’s cinematic canon. Pleasant Ridge,

Marina Bar
Riverside Marina
Just up the river off Route 8, Riverside Marina floats on. Bask under neon palm trees and watch the life of the river as the whole bar rocks with the wake of a barge. Feed the marina’s resident flock of ducks (keep your fries on your plate; duck feed is available for a quarter). Few local watering holes are quite as mellow, unless, of course there’s a Bengals game on. Happy hour runs 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and the grill offers a full menu of starters, sliders, salads, and sandwiches. Dayton, Kentucky,

Cosmic event
Serpent Mound Winter Solstice
An hour’s drive east of Cincinnati, there is a 1,427-foot-long earth-sculptured serpent sprawled atop an ancient meteor impact crater and gravitational anomaly. Prehistoric cultures used it as a calendar and observatory. Every Winter Solstice it is ringed with 1,000 candles as the Friends of Serpent Mound “light the serpent.” This year’s ceremony begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, December 21. Bring long taper candles. Feeling one with space and time is free, but parking is $8. Adams County,

Screen-Free Entertainment
Old: Michael’s Billiards
The place is grown-up—and this Michael fellow keeps up on the maintenance. They use quality Diamond equipment, are open round-the-clock Friday through Sunday, and feature the only billiards table within two hours of here. There’s a bar, but the lighting is for pool, not for drinking. Neither hipsters nor thugs hold sway, just people who like to play—and who know what they are doing. Fairfield,

New: The Rook OTR
Come for a beer, stay for the Exploding Kittens, and What Would Jesus Do, and Monopoly, at this OTR board game parlor. The Rook has more than 4,000 square feet of space over two floors, and it sports everything from trivia games to cards to strategy-based Euro games. Food and drink are available and there’s a margarita served with pop rocks just because. Don’t hate the game. Over-the-Rhine,

Music Festivals
Who goes: EDM freaks and hip-hop-heads
Who plays: People who live for DJs
Optional accessory: Can of Krylon paint in a DayGlo backpack
When: Fall,

Northside Rock ’N Roll Carnival
Who goes: Underground rock fanatics who like things FREE
Who plays: Some of the best local rock bands; out-of-towners you’ll be hearing more from
Optional accessory: Face painted like non-scary yet punk rock clown
When: July,

MidPoint Music Festival
Who goes: Everybody who thought MidPoint was better last year
Who plays: Indie bands as likely to hit a groove as a power chord
Optional accessory: T-shirts expounding the virtues of vinyl
When: September,

Over The Rhine’s Nowhere Else Festival
Who goes: Those still grieving Garrison Keillor’s retirement
Who plays: Cincy’s own Over The Rhine, their friends and fam
Optional accessory: Dad jeans and crocheted beer coozie
When: Memorial Day weekend,

Back-Again Venue for Still-Kicking Performers
Live at the Ludlow Garage
Yes, as a matter of fact, you have told the grandkids about hanging with the Allman Brothers (!). In Clifton (!). You’ve got to make some new memories, man. Fortunately, the short-lived but much-beloved club of your youth is back. The schedule has names you know (John Mayall! Judy Collins! Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre!) as well as an eclectic line-up of 21st-century talent. The setting is intimate, the seating is comfortable, and with any luck the nice young person who brings your drink won’t roll her eyes when you go on about back in the day when you saw Santana! Right here! In Clifton! Clifton,

Escape Room
Houdini’s Room Escape
Search the Oval Office for clues to save the President’s reputation! Deactivate a lab’s safety protocols and stop a zombifying virus! Undergo trials devised by the great Houdini himself! Solve them all with a group of friends (or, as a team-building exercise, colleagues), to find out if you have the wits to make a break from these and other fantasy escape rooms in 60 minutes or less. Houdini’s Room Escape challenges range in difficulty, but they’re all wall-to-wall fun. Montgomery,

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