Rarely when you’re walking the streets of Cincinnati do you get a sense of the larger world around us. We’re not an international city like New York, Toronto, or Miami, where you hear multiple languages spoken on every block and can sample different cultures in a Chinatown, a Greektown, a Little Italy, or a Little Havana.
That’s not to say the world’s cultures aren’t represented here; a good many are—more than you might think. You just have to look a little harder to find them, since our neighborhoods don’t have signs like “Welcome to Koreatown” or “Entering Little Somalia.” The pockets of international flavor featured in our “Global Eats” cover story represent an amazing amount of diversity and are totally worth your effort to track down.
I always enjoy finding myself in a restaurant or market where workers and customers are conversing in a language other than English. It happened to me a number of times while popping into places to do research. I can’t say for sure which languages were being spoken at Marina’s International Deli, Lemon Grass, or Marrakech Moroccan Café & Grill, but I loved watching the owners greet customers and do business and feeling a million miles from Cincinnati for a few minutes.
Food, especially a favorite taste or smell, has the unique ability to transport you to another time and place. Turkey and cranberry relish will take you back to childhood Thanksgiving dinners at your grandparents’ house, or the smell of grilling hamburgers reminds you of college. Likewise, for these restaurant chefs and market owners, their menu specials, decor, music, and opportunities to speak their native language combine to transport them to a happy time and place.
Luckily for the rest of us, these food entrepreneurs are sharing their happy thoughts, family recipes, and old country products across Cincinnati. Every day, they build a happier home for themselves and a more interesting community for everyone.