Best of the City Winners 2022: City Life


This year we welcomed Fritz to the zoo’s hippo bloat, celebrated a Big Boy’s 75th anniversary, hoisted more than a few cold ones at a reborn pregame spot, and cheered on local chefs as they took over Food Network shows.

Business Birthday: Frisch’s 75th Anniversary

The Frisch family opened its first Cincinnati café in 1905 and its “Mainliner” drive-in restaurant on Wooster Pike in the 1930s. But it wasn’t until importing the “Big Boy” hamburger concept from California in 1947 and adding a secret recipe tartar sauce that the Frisch name spread across Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The company celebrated its 75th anniversary in August with competitive eater Joey Chestnut, who downed Frisch’s Hot Fudge Cakes and signed autographs. • Multiple locations,

Crazy Idea That Stuck: Danger Wheel

Illustration by Jessica Dunham

Remember being a kid and crashing your Big Wheel through an obstacle course or jumping your bike over handmade ramps and landing in the mud? Some friends in Pendleton recreated that fun a few years ago on two blocks of asphalt lined by hay bales, then added food trucks and craft beer booths and called it a festival. Danger Wheel returned from the pandemic shutdown in July as 64 teams paid $125 each to enter the competitive races down 12th Street, with all money going to Pendleton neighborhood beautification projects. •

Food Network Takeover: Christian Gill, Heather Johnson, and Kayla Robinson

Cincinnati chefs continued to keep the city’s culinary scene on the national radar this year, thanks to high-profile victories on Food Network show competitions. Christian Gill (Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey) won $25,000 in a summer tournament on Guy’s Grocery Games, besting seven other chefs over a five-week period, and also emerged victorious on Beat Bobby Flay. Heather Johnson (The Food Hussy) won an episode of Guy’s Grocery Games featuring four “super fans” of the show, taking home a $20,000 prize. And Kayla Robison (Arnold’s Bar and Grill) bested three fine-dining chefs to win $10,000 on an episode of Chopped. Gill and Robison won episodes of Guy’s Grocery Games in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Keep on cooking!

Holiday Addition: Mini Music Hall at Krohn Conservatory

The annual train show has delighted Krohn visitors for 31 years, and thanks to Alexandria-based Applied Imagination, it’s featured engines whizzing by botanical models of landmarks like Fountain Square, Kings Island, Findlay Market, and the Krohn itself. New this year: an illuminated Music Hall with working lanterns, a fairy light chandelier in the hall’s rose window, and intricate finials and iron work on the roof that has yet to be restored on the real-life building. AI president Laura Busse Dolan says she’s wanted to bring this model to life for many years, and with the help of research by the Friends of Music Hall, it’s finally possible. Each model takes 300–500 hours to complete, but Music Hall—the most elaborate AI has created for the Krohn—took around 1,000 hours. • 1501 Eden Park Dr., Mt. Adams, (513) 421-4086,

Hotel Expansion: Hotel Covington

The Salyers Group, which transformed the building that once housed Coppin’s department store and Covington City Hall into one of the hottest Cincinnati-area hotels, has big plans brewing across the street. Enter North by Hotel Covington, the upcoming addition at the corner of Madison Avenue and East Seventh Street in the historic YMCA building. The $26 million development plan will feature 53 luxury suites, a new bar, Donna Salyers Fabulous-Furs and Revival Vintage Bottle Shop, office space, and a 500-seat ballroom. Suites and VIP penthouses, which feature sleek finishes and skyline views, should be ready to visit by the time you read this. We’d like a late checkout, please. • 19 E. Pike St., Covington,

Music History Lesson: Black Music Walk of Fame

Photograph by The Storie Teller Photography

Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece spearheaded the latest public attraction at The Banks, a strolling walkway tucked below the Andrew J Brady Music Center across from Smale Riverfront Park. Celebrating the city’s rich musical heritage, the space will eventually incorporate interactive kiosks to go with star installations honoring well-known hometown stars like Bootsy Collins, the Isley Brothers, Midnight Star, and Hi-Tek. Other inductees so far highlight Cincinnati’s contributions to gospel (Charles Fold), pop and funk (Penny Ford), jazz (Wilbert Longmire), and R&B (Otis Williams) music. • Race Street and Mehring Way, downtown,

New Baby: Fritz the Hippo

Bibi and Tucker got pushed down to the third and fourth most famous hippos in Cincinnati when Fritz was born on August 3 at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, a feeling of irrelevance well-known to parents of every species everywhere. The fact that “famous hippos in Cincinnati” continues to be a popular Google search term owes directly to big sister Fiona, who no doubt will teach baby bro the ropes of being ultra-cute and camera-ready while rocking thousands of pounds of hippo blubber. Welcome to the world, Fritz! • 3400 Vine St., Avondale, (513) 281-4700,

Podcast Continuation: Nature Guys

When Bill Creasy retired in 2016 after serving 40-plus years as chief naturalist at the Cincinnati Nature Center, he and longtime CNC volunteer Bob Staggenborg launched Nature Guys, a popular podcast connecting listeners to the natural world right in our own neighborhoods. Since Creasy’s death in 2020, Staggenborg has enlisted a group of collaborators from Cincinnati Parks, Imago, Northside Greenspace, and other likeminded organizations to keep the podcast going and producing biweekly conversations. •

Return of a Pregame Spot: In Between Tavern

The original In Between wasn’t a swanky sports bar back in the day, just a place to stop in between whatever you were doing earlier and the game you were headed to at Riverfront Stadium or the concert at Riverfront Coliseum. As venue names and game-day experiences got more extravagant, the In Between fell out of fashion, closing in 2016. But it reopened in July, thanks to Ignite Entertainment, which also owns Che, O’Malley’s, Pampas, The View at Shires’ Garden, and other spots. The tavern is still a few ferns short of swanky, but the indoor and outdoor spaces are definitely upgraded and welcoming. You can even book private parties there now. • 307 Sycamore St., downtown, (513) 621-7009,

Social Media Follow: Joey Votto

Illustration by Carlie Burton

Greats are born on the field, but legends are born online. The Reds GOAT candidate might seem like an unlikely pick for Best Social Media Follow, but he certainly shouldn’t be. The first baseman has always had a flair for the comedic (the Toronto-born playmaker wore a freakin’ Mountie uniform for a TV interview), and he lets it all hang out online. Whether he’s busting it wide with Doja Cat (why’d you delete the vid, JV?), duetting Goo Goo Dolls on TikTok, clowning Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson after a hit to the dome, or tweeting ironic bean puns, we’re always delighted to see the mighty @JoeyVotto log on and let loose.

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