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Another food truck on the horizon in Cincinnati

John Humphrey’s parents opened the first Zino’s restaurant in 1965 in Norwood, and more were soon to follow in Clifton, Hyde Park, Short Vine, Kenwood Mall, Milford and Walnut Hills. The restaurants closed in the mid-1990s, and now Humphrey plans to bring some of Zino’s menu back to the city with his food truck, Zinomobile.
 
“I grew up working at my parents’ restaurants,” Humphrey says. “My sister and foster brothers worked there too, as well as our friends. It was hard to find someone who didn’t eat at, work at or know someone who worked at Zino’s.”
 
Humphrey, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, recently purchased the former Taco Azul truck, and will have a Kickstarter campaign to raise a portion of the remaining funds for Zinomobile.
 
The food truck’s menu will feature the Zinover, which is a deep-fried pizza turnover (think deep-fried calzone), filled with cheese, marinara sauce and your choice of ingredients. The rest of the menu will be rounded out with Zino’s originals, but Humphrey says he might eventually tweak a few things.
 
“I want to blend the older generation with the newer generation and bring in different food concepts,” Humphrey says.
 
Humphrey is a member of the Cincinnati Food Truck Association, and says that someday, he might want to expand his food truck and open a restaurant.
 
“I don’t have any idea where I would want to put a restaurant, but it seems to be the natural progression for many food truck owners,” he says. “Compared to 15 years ago, it’s amazing what’s available now.”
 
Zinomobile will be available for private parties, and be looking for the truck at business parks around town, as well as in entertainment hotspots with nightlife in the coming weeks. Humphrey also hopes to be at farmers markets and large events like Bunbury Music Festival; Red, White & Blue Ash; and Taste of Cincinnati.


Read more about Cincinnati's growing food truck scene in 30 Must-Try Cincinnati Food Trucks.

Cross-stitch and embroidery shop new to OTR

The Hoop & Needle, a cross-stitch and embroidery shop, had its grand opening during Over-the-Rhine’s Second Sunday in June.
 
The 750-square-foot shop boasts cross-stitch and embroidery supplies, including modern and edgy patterns, kits and accessories. There’s also an online shop, which will carry many of the same offerings as the brick-and-mortar store.
 
The Hoop & Needle’s owner and sole employee, Sarah Fisher, hopes to eventually offer classes. She’ll be hosting the first “Stitch Night” from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 7, where people can bring in their projects and work on them.
 
“I want to provide a place where people can explore something new, and try out something different,” Fisher says. “I’ve found that lots of people who live in OTR used to do cross-stitch or embroidery, and this is a way to make the hobby more approachable and help people get back into it.”
 
Fisher, an Akron native who now lives in Northside, started creating her own cross-stitch patterns a few years ago, and sold them as Purple Hippo Stitches at craft shows, including the Crafty Supermarket. The Hoop & Needle is an extension of that, and it happened a lot faster than she was expecting.
 
“I started looking at spaces, and this seemed like the perfect space,” she says. “There are other art stores in OTR like Rock Paper Scissors, and it seemed like a friendly community to start a business in.”
 
The Hoop & Needle, located at 1415 Main St., is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
 

Explore OTR cards offer arts patrons perks for visiting nearby restaurants and retail

Over-the-Rhine arts organization Elementz recently produced Explore OTR cards, which will drive business from the arts to restaurants and retail in the neighborhood. The cards are based on a concept seen in Kentucky where groups of businesses get together and create a process to get customers to go to the businesses.
 
“The cards are for people who might come to OTR for arts events, but who don’t think of the neighborhood as a place to stay and shop,” says Tom Kent, executive director of Elementz.
 
Explore OTR cards are free, and will be handed out by smaller arts organizations after performances—the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Art Beyond Boundaries, the Cincinnati Boychoir, Elementz and Know Theatre.
 
Patrons can then visit up to five of the 21 businesses listed on the card and get them initialed. Park + Vine, Rhinehaus, the YMCA, The Anchor Restaurant in Washington Park, Taste of Belgium and Sweet Sistah Splash are just a few of the diverse restaurants and retail options that are participating in the Explore OTR cards.
 
Once they’ve visited five businesses, patrons can redeem the cards at larger arts organizations such as American Legacy Tours, the Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Theatre and Know Theatre for deals like 20 percent off tickets for the Queen City Underground Tour and buy one, get one free tickets at Know Theatre.
 
Each offer has an expiration date, with some expiring in November, others in May, Kent says.
 
“We’re trying to build an alliance between arts organizations and the customers who come to see the shows,” he says. “Local businesses make the neighborhood thrive, and the cards will also help bring in a more diverse audience as membership builds.”
 
Elementz will be collecting the cards after they’re redeemed for the discounts, and keeping track of where people redeemed them and which businesses were visited.
 
The cards are currently being printed, and will be handed out at LumenoCity next weekend.

Columbus-based pretzel shop opening in OTR

An authentic German pretzel shop will soon open its doors in Over-the-Rhine. Columbus-based Brezel will be located in the 565-square-foot space next to Graeter’s at 6 W. 14th Street. 
 
Owner Brittany Baum and her husband, Tim, became pretzel enthusiasts after visiting Germany in 2008.
 
“I’m a vegetarian, and it’s hard to be one in Germany,” Baum says. “I lived off of Bavarian pretzels during our travels.”
 
When she returned to her native Columbus, Baum couldn’t find pretzels that compared to those in Germany. She and a friend spent hours in the kitchen, perfecting their recipe, and sold them at farmers’ markets from 2008-2011. In March 2011, they opened the first Brezel location at Columbus’ North Market.
 
After visiting Cincinnati last August, Baum fell in love with OTR.
 
“It reminded me a lot of the Short North neighborhood in Columbus,” she says. “It has a raw feeling to it. It felt unrefined, artistic and on the verge of self-discovery. I knew I wanted to play a role in creating OTR.”
 
Brezel is best known for its original salt pretzel, but there are 30 different flavors to choose from, including French Onion and Asiago, Peppercorn and Mozzarella, Jalapeno and Cheddar, Roasted Garlic and Cheddar, and Coconut and Almond. The menu includes pretzel twists, pretzel bites and scratch-made dips, as well as buns, soup bowls and pizza crust, which are all made from pretzel dough.
 
“I believe in working with other small businesses to collaborate and create interesting products, and I hope to share that vision with other businesses in OTR,” Baum says.
 
She hopes to open Brezel in time for Oktoberfest, but there is no set date yet. Hours of operation will include mid-morning through the evening, as well as late-night hours on the weekend.
 
“Brezel will be a place for people to grab a quick bite before or after work, as well as late night,” Baum says.

Vintage-inspired clothing store coming to OTR

In 2007, Ryan Vesler founded HOMAGE as a wholesale company that specialized in graphic T-shirts. It has since grown into an online business, then a brick-and-mortar store in Columbus in 2010, and a larger store in 2012. This fall, HOMAGE will open a location in Over-the-Rhine.
 
The 1,500-square foot store, located at 1232 Vine St., will offer the company’s vintage-inspired, U.S.-made graphic tees, sweatshirts, sweatpants and accessories.
 
“We’ve been excited about the Cincinnati market for a long time,” says Jason Block, HOMAGE’s president. “There’s an energetic, enthusiastic fan base here, and our product has resonated with them.”
 
HOMAGE’s Columbus location sports an NBA Jam arcade machine, a Coca-Cola machine, championship banners and memorabilia unique to the city. Block says the OTR location is undergoing some renovations to bring personality to the space, and will probably include some of the details of the Columbus store.
 
The OTR HOMAGE will also offer licensed University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, University of Dayton and University of Miami-Ohio gear.
 
“We want to be part of the community,” Block says. “We want our personality and authenticity to add to what OTR already has to offer.”

Brewery and restaurant concept coming to West Side

The owners of Tom & Jerry’s Sports Bar are adding a microbrewery onto the neighborhood restaurant. Tap and Screw Brewery will take over the restaurant’s dance floor and stage area, and will be open by September.
 
The name Tap and Screw pays homage to three Cincinnati industries: Cincinnati Screw and Tap Company is the original name of Cincinnati Milacron; “Tap” refers to Cincinnati’s brewing industry before Prohibition; and “Screw,” which is short for corkscrew, pays tribute to Ohio’s place as the country’s largest wine producer before the California wine industry started.
 
“There aren’t a lot of options for breweries on the West Side, and we hope to bring that,” says Tom Lorenz, owner of Tom & Jerry’s.
 
Tom and his son, Adam, along with Chuck Frisch, are the masterminds behind Tap and Screw. Adam has been brewing beer at home for about eight years, and will be the head brewer, with Tom as his assistant and Frisch as the general manager.
 
Tap and Screw will start with four of its own beers on tap, including a Belgian, an Oktoberfest and a coffee stout. Eventually, its 12-tap system will have six Tap and Screw beers and six from other local breweries. Tom & Jerry’s currently has a full liquor license, and the Lorenz’s are working on adding a microbrewing license. They will also also offer 8-12 local wines.
 
“We want Tap and Screw to be a unique place where people can get food that they know who made it, and pair it with good beer,” Tom says.
 
The Lorenzs overhauled the menu when they took ownership, and all of the restaurant’s food is now fresh and homemade.
 
The restaurant side of Tap and Screw will continue to serve Tom & Jerry’s goetta balls, which are stuffed with feta cheese, bell peppers, jalapenos and onions, then fried and served with ranch dip. Tom & Jerry’s burgers, salads and wings are also menu staples.
 
Keep tabs on Tap and Screw’s website for updates, and the exact opening date.
 

Northside restaurant to bring sports and international food together

This fall, Northside will welcome another new restaurant, World Cup, located at 4023 Hamilton Ave. The sports bar will cater to all kinds of sports, and will feature international cuisine.
 
Owner Alex Kuhns, who has worked in about 15 restaurants, is a huge soccer fan, and says that when watches games at English and Irish pubs, something is missing.
 
“Our menu will represent soccer itself, in that every item is inspired by a different nation,” he says.
 
Menu highlights include an Ivory Coast Pizza, topped with curry spices, bananas, spiced peanuts and ground beef; a French pizza, topped with mushrooms, pesto and roasted garlic; Spanish fries with Romesco sour cream and red onions; and chicken wings, a Puerto Rican style with a jerk rub and a Mexican style with chipotle, lime and cilantro.
 
Kuhns says the menu will rotate to reflect the winners of different sporting events. For example, since Germany beat Brazil in the World Cup, the restaurant would feature a special German dish.
 
World Cup will have 10-12 TVs airing different sporting events, including Bengals games. They’ll also have at least 20 beers on tap, with local, international, craft and mainstream brews.
 
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant will have seating for 115 people. Two garage doors will open onto the street, but without seating on the sidewalk.
 
“It’s going to be a big open space, nothing stuffy,” Kuhns says. “One of my friends’ dads described it as ‘gemuchlikeit,’ which means carefree.”
 
He wants World Cup to be a community gathering space for neighborhood groups and parties. The restaurant will feature a large stage for music and game tables, including foosball, pool and darts.

THRIVE development grant to bring businesses to Peebles' Corner

Funded by Fifth Third Bank, Walnut Hills’ THRIVE business development grant was created to attract at least three businesses to Peebles’ Corner. The grant can be for a minimum of $3,000, and up to $15,000; ideally, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation wants to fund as many businesses as possible.
 
“Historically, Peeble’s Corner has been difficult to repopulate, and we’re doing everything we can to reinvigorate the district,” says Kevin Wright, executive director of WHRF.
 
A committee of stakeholders, including members from the African American Community Council, the Walnut Hills Business Group, Fifth Third and WHRF, oversee the application process and match businesses with storefronts. 
 
The grant can be used for things like equipment, signage and marketing, among other things, but not for payroll or rent. The idea is to get sustainable businesses with solid business plans into Peebles’ Corner, Wright says.
 
“THRIVE is just an additional incentive to bring businesses to Walnut Hills and to give them that last push to open,” he says.
 
WHRF conducted a social capital survey last year and asked the community what types of retail options they wanted to see in the area. When THRIVE applications come through, they’re comparing the survey results to see what they community wants. One of the top requests was for a coffee shop.
 
Angst Coffee, which is located at 2437 Gilbert Ave., is the first THRIVE recipient. It also took advantage of the neighborhood’s Façade Improvement Program and Community Entertainment District program, which helps with liquor licensing.
 
“Our vision for Peebles’ Corner is to bring it back to what it once was—a vibrant, walkable business district,” Wright says.
 

Brewery tour company connects beer drinkers with beer brewers

Bryan and Emily Moritz, along with Emily’s brother, Ben Beachler, have always shared a passion for craft beer and small business. After taking a tour of a Denver brewery last year, they decided to start Craft Connection Brewery Tours in Cincinnati.
 
“We wanted to connect the people of Cincinnati to great breweries and give the breweries a chance to share their beer and their stories,” Bryan says. “We’re connecting the beer makers to the beer drinkers.”
 
A 14-passenger shuttle takes guests to four different breweries in four hours. For $55, guests get a behind-the-scenes look at Rhinegeist, Listermann Brewing, MadTree Brewing and Fifty West, as well as beer samples.  
 
Craft Connection’s maiden voyage was May 2, and since then, they have hosted corporate groups, bachelor parties, and groups of friends and family. They’ve also done a few tours to raise money for charities.
 
“Our guests love interacting with the faces of the breweries, whether that’s the owners, brewers or taproom managers,” Bryan says. “They also enjoy the simplicity of being guided through four breweries and having beer poured for them throughout the tour.”
 
Tours are held from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. All tours depart from HalfCut in Over-the-Rhine.

To learn more about the inner workings of these breweries, check out our recent article about Cincinnati's craft beer market.

Molly Wellmann adds event space to repertoire

Molly Wellmann, of Japp’s, Neon’s, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and Myrtle’s Punch House, is adding an event space to her brand. The Hearth Room, which is in the old Twist Lounge space downtown, is expected to open this fall.

The Hearth Room is the solution for Wellmann, whose bars are a hot commodity for people who want to rent out space for events. It doesn't make sense to shut down a bar for the night for a private party, she says, but an event space is an entirely different story.
 
The Hearth Room will be used exclusively for private events, including reunions, rehearsal dinners, corporate events and pop-up dinners. It can hold about 140 people, and will have a preferred list of caterers. Wellmann-trained bartenders will also be available for events.

Wellmann is working with Jeff McClorey of Bromwell’s, a luxury fireplace and home décor retailer, on the venue. McClorey owns the building, and there will be a Bromwell fireplace in the Hearth Room.

If you’re interested in reserving The Hearth Room for an event, contact Lisa Colina, event coordinator, at 513-479-6554 or lcolina@wellmannsbrands.com.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

 

Foodie Cincy supports local restaurant scene

In December, Brian and Gina Barrera launched Foodie Cincy, a deck of 52 cards that feature local and independent restaurants from Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Each card contains a coupon for $10 off a minimum of $30 purchase for a different restaurant.
 
Rome Ali started Foodie US in 2009 in St. Louis; since then, the franchise has spread to 11 cities, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Indianapolis. Each Foodie city has a local charity that receives a portion of the proceeds from the deck sales. Foodie Cincy dedicates a portion of its sales to the Freestore Foodbank.
 
Featured restaurants were chosen based on Yelp reviews and broader Google searches, Gina says.
 
“When we started searching, we had a list of hundreds of restaurants. We narrowed that list down to those with the highest ratings in customer service and food quality, and chose restaurants from a variety of Cincinnati neighborhoods.”
 
The Barreras pitched Foodie Cincy to more than 150 restaurants, and those restaurants chose whether they wanted to be included in the deck, which consists of offers from 52 restaurants, for a total savings of $520.
 
Foodie Cincy decks cost $20, and are available until they’re sold out online and at a number of restaurants, including BrewRiver GastroPub, Mokka and The Sunset, Nicola’s and Café De Paris. Coupons are valid through November, and next year’s deck will be valid starting December 1.
 
Next year’s deck will feature many of the same restaurants seen in this year’s deck, but there will be quite a few new ones, Gina says.
 
“The deck doesn’t make people rush to restaurants, but keeps a steady stream of customers coming in with Foodie cards, and customers love it,” she says.
 
For a complete list of Foodie Cincy restaurants, visit its website or Facebook page.

Happy Belly health food cafe coming to OTR

Happy Belly on Vine, a new health food café, will soon open in Over-the-Rhine. It’s owned by Abby Reckman, a University of Cincinnati graduate in food and nutrition sciences, and her sister-in-law, Molly Reckman.
 
“I’ve always been passionate about nutrition and how it affects the body,” Abby says. “If you eat healthy, you feel healthy, both mentally and physically.”
 
Clean eating means eating foods in their most natural state—limiting highly processed foods, preservatives and added refined sugars. It’s not always easy, and Abby and Molly want to offer this type of food to the residents of OTR.
 
“We hope to bring a healthy lifestyle to the community,” Abby says. “We know that a lot of people in OTR are already health conscious and pay attention to what they put in their bodies, and we want to make it more convenient for people to eat healthy.”
 
The menu will feature smoothies like The Foundation and Hawaiian Berry, as well as a sweet potato burger, a free-range chicken wrap, the Peanut Butter and Berry Sandwich, and Spirulina Energy Bites. Sides include popcorn and mixed fruit. All of the oats used at Happy Belly are gluten-free, and there will be a gluten-free bread option too.  
 
Happy Belly will have a take-away cooler with cold sandwiches, wraps and salads, all made fresh daily. Abby says they expect about 80 percent of their business to be carry-out.
 
Molly recently moved back to Cincinnati from Chicago, but Abby has lived in OTR since 2010, and has seen a lot of the development that’s been going on during the past four years. Abby’s father-in-law, husband and brother-in-law have all been part of the growth and development in OTR through Model Group and Urban Expansion.
 
“OTR is growing every day, and it’s an amazing neighborhood with so much life and energy,” Abby says. “This area seemed like a natural fit for us, and we want to continue to see OTR grow and be part of it.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

 

Fern Studio provides plants, home decor for growing College Hill

A former College Hill gas station is now home to Fern Studio, a plant design studio that also sells a variety of home décor. Fern opened on May 1.
 
“Fern Studio began as a daydream,” says owner Megan Strasser. “I wanted to create a space that would combine my love for unique plants while celebrating independent designers and artisans.”
 
The gas station had always interested Strasser, but her father was the first to see and pursue the building’s potential. Her parents have experience in turning old buildings into something new—years ago, they purchased an old bank building, gutted it, renovated it and then lived in it.
 
Strasser says she is inspired by the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, which is defined as appreciating the imperfections of nature and the transience of natural beauty.
 
Aside from plants, Fern Studio also sells a curated collection of items for the home, including blankets hand-loomed in Mexico, small-batch candles with a 10 percent donation to animal rescue, baskets hand-woven in Africa and handmade textile wall hangings. Outside of the shop, Fern has created plant installations for restaurants and a few small businesses around Cincinnati, as well as custom arrangements for special events.
 
In the future, Strasser hopes to hold artist-run workshops in the space and eventually add a greenhouse.
 
“College Hill is an incredibly diverse neighborhood with enormous potential,” Strasser says. “I’m lucky to be among a wonderful group of business owners who are invested in the community. And I hope that I can be part of bringing more people up the hill while introducing them to the important and quality small-batch, handmade work currently being produced.”
 
Fern Studio is open Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

 

La Soupe donates soup to local organizations

Cincinnati native Suzy DeYoung dreamed of opening a soup kitchen to feed the hungry, but since she still needed to make a living, she decided to open a restaurant instead. La Soupe, a for-profit soup kitchen with a heart for nonprofits, opened in Anderson Township on April 29.
 
“Soup allows you to take what is given to you, and with homemade broths, becomes a meal,” DeYoung says. “It’s a slow cooking process that at 55 years old, it fits my lifestyle better than the stress of line cooking and off-site catering.”
 
DeYoung’s “aha moment” for her restaurant came after reading two books about entrepreneurship and nonprofits—The Art of Giving and Starting Something That Matters.
 
“I realized that if Blake Mycowskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, could create a business model around giving away shoes, I could create one around giving away soup,” she says.
 
For every quart of soup sold, La Soupe pays it forward and donates soup to local nonprofits in the Cincinnati area. Organizations like the Drop Inn Center and Our Daily Bread have partnered with La Soupe, and the restaurant is looking for more agencies that need help.
 
Every year, DeYoung reads the book Stone Soup to a group of fourth graders at St. Gertrude’s, and the students bring items they like in soup—beans, vegetables, noodles. She then makes soup with the ingredients, they sell it and donate the money to charity.
 
La Soupe’s rotating menu features croque du jour, therapeutic broths and seasonal specialties. There’s also a soup that was created by a 10-year-old and Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel through the Make-A-Wish Foundation on the menu.
 
“I want this to be the first La Soupe, and I would love for other cities to see this as the first business model where food is made using surplus that would otherwise go to waste,” DeYoung says. “If we creatively use these products to make interesting soups and stews, and give back to our less fortunate neighbors, it will become a wonderful full circle program.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Bourbon bar opening this summer in Northside

In June, Northside will welcome a bourbon bar to the neighborhood. The Littlefield, which will be located at 3930 Spring Grove Ave., is an idea that has been in the works for about five years.
 
“All four of us owners live in Northside,” says co-owner Matt Distel. “It’s where we choose to spend our time and money.”
 
Two of the owners are developers, and have started to get control of a number of buildings in the neighborhood. The Littlefield will actually be housed in one of those buildings.
 
The physical space is only about 400 square feet, but Distel says that the outdoor deck and patio are about triple that size.
 
Distel says they’re also looking to partner with Northside nonprofits and art organizations to focus on what makes the neighborhood fun and interesting.
 
“We want to highlight those organizations, and maybe have drinks specials or nights where we can help promote their events,” he says.
 
The Littlefield won’t just focus on bourbon, but will serve regional and craft-based beer and other alcohol, as well. Cocktails will be bourbon-based, with housemade bitters, and some will be cask-aged. Distel and the other owners are partnering with Shoshana Hafner, the former chef at Honey, on the menu, which will feature her take on typical bar food.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter


 
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