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Cumin undergoing changes with new chef

Cumin Eclectic Cuisine has seen a number of changes in the past few weeks, including a new chef and menu. Matthew Cranert, who has been the chef for four months at M Wood Fired Oven next door, plans to rely on simple ingredients and good cooking at Cumin.
 
Cranert was born and raised in northern California and spent his summers working in his grandfather’s restaurant in Hawaii. After graduating high school, he attended the Culinary Institute of America and worked in several restaurants in San Francisco. He then returned to Hawaii, and worked under chefs like Sam Choy and Roy Yamaguchi, who taught him to balance French and Asian flavors.
 
Cranert, his wife Stacey and their 7-year-old recently moved to Cincinnati for the opportunity to work in the food scene. Before M, Cranert worked in different restaurants around the city, including Senate. Now Cranert spends his nights running back and forth between the kitchen at M and the kitchen at Cumin.
 
“I want to bring more of what’s going on in other cities to Cincinnati,” he says. “I’ve lived all over and traveled a lot, and want to go head-to-head with New York City and Chicago.”
 
Growing up, Cranert was exposed to Latino and Asian flavors, but was influenced by his mother’s Southern cooking and Hawaiian food as well.
 
“I like to call upon all different flavors,” he says. “There’s a good meld between Asian, Southern and French cooking. People specialize in certain cuisines, but I think you need to learn to throw down with everything, and we’re going to be doing a bit of everything at Cumin.”
 
Cranert wants to make Cumin the best it can be. He has already flipped Cumin’s menu, and plans to change it weekly.

By Caitlin Koenig
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Huit to bring huge flavor to the Cincinnati restaurant scene

Although Huit doesn’t have a physical restaurant location yet, its ribs are already making a big splash with Cincinnati foodies. Owners Jennifer Eng, Tobias Harris and Trang Vo have taken their ribs to food festivals around town—most recently, they were at the Asian Food Festival.
 
“We sold out by about 75 percent the first day,” says Harris. “People really liked our food and kept asking where they could get it.”
 
Eng, Harris and Vo hope to bring a taste of international flavor to Cincinnati, but they don’t want to be thought of as an Asian restaurant or a rib place. They hope to carve their own niche in the restaurant scene.
 
Harris, who has lived in the Cincinnati area for 10 years, wants to expose diners to new experiences at Huit.
 
The menu at Huit—which means “eight” in French—will be small, but will pack a flavorful punch.
 
The three owners of Huit have grown up in families that love to eat, but they all went to college for design. Harris attended architectural school in Asia and began designing hotels. He came to the United States for graduate school—since then, Harris has designed restaurants and even worked for one of the biggest restaurant designers in Chicago.
 
“I’ve traveled all over the world and am always eating,” he says. “In restaurants, I’m all about the taste of it, the soul. If the restaurant doesn’t feel yummy, there’s no point.”
 
At Huit, Trang will be responsible for everything from the design to the build-out; Eng is in charge of creating unique food and drinks; and Harris as the chef is going back to his childhood when he helped his mother and seven aunts cook.
 
By January 2014, look for Huit either downtown or in Covington or Northside—they’re still in negotiations for a space but have several options. Harris hopes to have the restaurant’s grand opening next spring.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Hinge upcycles, recycles vintage pieces

Walnut Hills is now home to Hinge, a vintage home goods and upcycled furniture store, which opened at the end of June.
 
Hinge owners Amanda Wilson and David Piper also do custom projects—they’ll take clients'  furniture and make them fresh again. Piper also creates large-scale murals and custom wallpaper.
 
After high school, Wilson, a Monroe native, moved to Chicago for college. She started working in pharmaceutical research and then became a professional triathlete. She eventually returned to the research industry, working during the day and crafting at night.
 
While in Chicago, Wilson met Piper, a Dallas native and full-time artist. The two realized they could make amazing pieces and decided to start a business together.
 
“Our eye is what sets us apart,” Wilson says. “When we see an old piece of furniture or rusty item, we come up with amazing ideas of what it ‘can’ be.”
 
Hinge has some unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for sale, and Wilson and Piper have gone into people’s homes and offered their design services.
 
“Coming from Chicago, we hope to bring a bit of big city design to Walnut Hills,” Wilson says. “There, we were flooded with ideas and inspiration from our surroundings, museums and the overall city space, and we hope to serve up a bit of contemporary design with rustic edges here.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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VFA fellow launches crowdfunding for new downtown sandwich shop, The Port OTR

If one relatively new Cincinnatian has his way, a new taste could be rolling in to Cincinnati by next summer—on a fleet of bicycles.

Plans for The Port OTR, a sandwich restaurant, are currently in the works, with Venture for America fellow Dan Bloom, and his friend, Seth Maney, at the helm.

The idea came to Bloom and Maney while walking around and realizing that, aside from sit-down restaurants, quick lunch options downtown are limited. That was enough to get their entrepreneurial ideas percolating.

Their next thought? “Can we make this happen?” 

Bloom knew that Venture for America was hosting a crowdfunding competition that would culminate with funding for a project, so he decided to enter his idea for his newly adopted home, OTR, a reality. 

The duo plans to host a competition this summer at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State to find a third partner for their team—a chef and manager.

“We want to find someone that has big aspirations but wants to start small-scale,” Bloom says. “We want to prove that this is something that can be successful, and then from there see how big we can make it.”

Bloom, who grew up in Boston, also plans to infuse a bit of New England culture into The Port.

“The sandwich that I’m starting with—Thanksgiving Day Sandwich— turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, on a baked sandwich,” Bloom says. “That’s not something you can get down here.”

While The Port’s location is yet to be determined, Bloom estimates the restaurant will be about 500-600 square feet and include a counter with a few stools and a few tables for those who prefer non-delivery, sit-down experiences.

If you want a first taste—or perhaps even have a sandwich named in your honor—The Port OTR’s crowdfunding site is already online. 

By Kyle Stone

Dance, movement, art shape The Shakti Factory

Looking for a place to let loose and dance? Then The Shakti Factory is for you.
 
The Shakti Factory is a movement studio, gathering place and dynamic learning community that is focused on creativity, freedom, embodied spirituality and evolutionary human potential. Owners Meredith Hogan and Lisa Stegman wanted a place for themselves to dance and gather, but they couldn’t find anywhere that fit their needs in Cincinnati. They opened their business in December near Xavier University.
 
“We want to continue to build a tribe of dancers and help set our bodies into a healing, natural rhythm,” says Hogan.
 
“Shakti” is defined as the divine, feminine power that animates and brings life to everything that is.
 
But The Shakti Factory isn’t just a place for performance artists. The studio is currently displaying a print show by Hans Waller; he also painted a mural on one of the walls. In the future, Hogan and Stegman want to host art shows regularly.
 
“It’s about pushing boundaries, and offering things that aren’t found elsewhere in town,” says Stegman. There are plans for salons that will create conversation about subjects like sexual health.
 
The Shakti Factory currently offers three dance classes each week. In July, Hogan will be adding a yoga class to the studio’s offerings. There will also be one-time workshops, such as the Warrior 101 yoga class in August that will be taught by a friend.
 
“Our vision of the space is a flexible concept that is always evolving,” says Stegman. “It might not be the same next year because it will always be changing.”
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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NKY design and fabricating studio lends a hand to artisans

Rash, LLC, a design and fabricating studio in Bellevue in Northern Kentucky, offers a 360-degree cycle of design-related services to local artisans. Rash helps with everything from consultation to concept to construction.
 
Rash was founded in 2012 by Timothy Rives Rash II. He received a BA in architecture form the Architecture School of Design at the University of Virginia and a masters in architecture from Southern California Institute of Architecture. For the past 10 years, Rives has worked on similar projects with other companies and partners. He’s also currently teaching at the University of Kentucky’s College of Design.
 
Mostly, Rash completes the projects for clients, including drawings and any necessary extra design, says Myra Rash, Rash’s media manager. “But there have been a few times where the client is crafty and will help out to learn, or to just get dirty.”
 
The majority of Rash’s projects have been out-of-state, but they did complete the large red oak cross for Belleview Baptist Church’s façade. Rives also collaborated with students from UK’s College of Design and St. Elizabeth Hospice Center in designing and fabricating a concrete base for an I-beam from the World Trade Center to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
 
“We hope to bring eye candy to the area, plus some good designs of our own and, most importantly, great collaborations with local firms, contractors, artists and designers,” Myra says.
 
Rash is currently working on the Speechbuster for the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City. It’s a 54-foot long table that is put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle and upholstered with neoprene with a rainbow gradient for indexing the 36 parts that make up the table.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Montgomery knitting store moves to OTR

On April 3, former Montgomery knitting store Fibergé moved to 1407 Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine. It will be hosting its grand opening event May 17.
 
In September of 2010, the year Fibergé owner Norma Lawrence Knecht moved to Cincinnati, she left her corporate job and opened the Montgomery location. She decided to move her store to OTR because she wants to contribute to the revitalization efforts in the neighborhood, says Margaux Ayers of MCA Marketing.
 
“Norma wants to contribute to the arts community in OTR,” Ayers says. “She likes OTR because of the established arts community. People already have an appreciation for the arts here.”
 
Lawrence Knecht started to knit a few years ago and found she was good at it. The artsy craft also helped her better control her anxiety and quit smoking, Ayers says.
 
Ayers says Lawrence Knecht is excited to bring beginning knitters into Fibergé and help people understand the art of knitting. Beginning knitting kits start at $20.
 
Fibergé sells Spud & Chloe, Blue Sky Alpacas and Rowan yarns, and offers hundreds of patters for one-of-a-kind garments and accessories. Lawrence Knecht also offers knitting classes, private lessons and daily project assistance—no appointment needed.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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'Disruptors' descends on Covington with mixed media message

Art appraiser and entrepreneur Morgan Cobb has a vision to turn innovation into an art form. What does that look like?

Imagine a sort of startup pitch day held at an art gallery with photo portraits of entrepreneurs overlaid with QR (Quick Response) codes that link viewers virtually to company founders. Imagine the real-time exchange of art, business and support.

That’s the idea behind “Disruptors, QRtifacts by Peiter Griga,” curated by Cobb, which opens April 26 at Covington’s Artisan Enterprise Center.

“The whole event was designed to encourage collaboration, participation and appreciation,” says Cobb, 28, who founded Newport’s Bryson Appraisals four years ago.

The exhibit started with a conversation between Cobb and fellow curator Cate Yellig, who took over as the city of Covington’s art director earlier this year. Yellig, who works at the intersection of economic development and arts programming, was in search of a way to bring together local entrepreneurs and artists, groups she believes have much in common.

“It was really kind of serendipitous,” Yellig says of the exhibit, which features 10 local startups that have a total of 12 founders, including nugg-it, BlackbookHR, Earthineer and GirlDevelopIt.

Cobb, who has degrees in art history and economics, had become engaged in the local startup ecosystem. She welcomed a chance to connect her two passions.

“Entrepreneurs face the same challenge as contemporary artists,” Cobb says. They strive to remain creative, relevant and “hip.” 

The startups featured in 'Disruptors' are in various stages of development. Some, like We Have Become Vikings, have achieved a level of notoriety, while others, like GamiGen, are less known. 

“They haven’t arrived yet, but they have all this potential to be cutting edge,” Cobb says.

In order to fully experience the opening, Cobb urges potential visitors to bring their smartphones. It will also help to visit
'Disruptors' online in advance and to download QR and Twitter apps. The event also includes a projection of a live Twitter feed.

“The Twitter feed is to encourage feedback and to broadcast the event to an audience that can’t be there,” says Cobb, who has invited venture capitalists and angel investors, as well as a DJ and performance artists, to the opening. 

Even as she works to give entrepreneurs a new platform to communicate their ideas, Cobb also incorporates artistic innovations that have already drawn interest from venues in Austin, Texas. Photographer Peiter Griga, a personal friend, started by photographing each of the entrepreneurs the old-fashioned way—on film.

He then prints the images by mixing silver nitrate with organic honey, which is, at the microscopic level, a living thing. The print process then mirrors how technology and life intertwine. “The media was an important component to the concept,” Cobb says. “It’s an artifact, but it’s still a living thing.”

Most of all, Cobb hopes the exhibit helps foster an understanding of the struggles and challenges faced by both artists and entrepreneurs, and an appreciation for their work.

“At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?” she asks.

By Elissa Yancey
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DAAP grad starts clothing line for kids

When it came to starting a career, Mary Helen Boeddeker, 24, knew exactly what she wanted to do. As soon as she graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program in June 2012, she started her own clothing line for kids.
 
“I knew I wanted to start a brand in Cincinnati to make kids feel great, make moms happy and to bring manufacturing and design back to the United States,” says Boeddeker.
 
Today, much of the clothing bought and sold in the U.S. is created overseas, but Boeddeker didn’t want that for her clothing line, Mary Helen Clothing. She does everything from designing the garments to sourcing fabric, to patterning and creating the clothing.
 
Boeddeker was inspired to start Mary Helen Clothing by her late grandmother, Mary Helen. “She was all about being positive and being yourself,” she says.
 
Mary Helen Clothing isn’t sold in stores. It’s available online and at trunk shows, where Boeddeker goes to customers’ houses and puts on fashion shows with their children.
 
“I love when the girls put on my clothes and their faces light up,” Boeddeker says.
 
Right now, Boeddeker’s main focus is clothing for young girls. But in March, she started a small collection for boys, and she has plans for a collection for moms as well. She also has a collection of unisex clothing in the works.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Emery lights back up April 12-14

Dance, art and music fill the Emery Theatre in Over the Rhine this weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Contemporary Dance Theatre as well as the return of MusicNOW.

The theatre, which was donated to the city in 1908 thanks to the charitable trust of Mary Emery, is currently owned by the University of Cincinnati and leased to the Emery Center Corporation, which manages the Emery Center Apartments. The theater, a replica of Carnegie Hall, is one of only three remaining halls in the nation designed with perfect acoustics. The Requiem Project: The Emery, a site-specific 501c3 founded in 2009, is working to re-establish the historic space as an event venue and interdisciplinary arts and education center. 

After going dark for the winter months as negotiations continue over the building's future, the theater hosts two major public events this weekend.

MusicNOW's first-ever art show runs in the Emery's gallery spaces through the weekend. It features pieces by Cincinnati natives Jessie Henson and Nathalie Provosty, both of whom currently work out of New York. Sunday, MusicNOW founder and The National member Bryce Dessner makes a special appearance at the Emery for a performance during a gallery party from 4-6 pm.

In addition to the MusicNOW events, the Emery also welcomes the April 13 anniversary gala for the Contemporary Dance Theatre, which was founded in 1972 by current artistic director and local dance icon Jefferson James. David Lyman plays host during the celebration, which features video, photography, costumes and more. 

While the future of the Emery and efforts to revive it remain unclear, at least for this weekend, there's a chance to enjoy an amazing local space being used for all the right reasons--to celebrate the local arts community and its connection to the broader artistic and cultural landscape of our time.

The MusicNOW exhibit and Bryce Dessner performance are free and open to the public.

Tickets for the CDC gala available here.

By Elissa Yancey
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Just three units left in award-winning Schickel Design Company's Bakery Lofts in OTR

Schickel Design Company recently won a Star Award from the Over-the-Rhine Chamber in recognition of its architecture projects in OTR. The firm’s most recent project is Bakery Lofts, which is located at 1421 Race Street.
 
“It’s wonderful to be recognized for our overall work in Cincinnati and OTR,” says Martha Dorff, Bakery Lofts’ project architect.
 
Bakery Lofts was built in the mid-1800s, and housed a bakery for about 100 years. It was originally a mixed-use building with first-floor commercial space and residential units above, but Schickel Design, 3CDC and Graybach Construction have redesigned the building and turned it into nine condos.
 
The one- to three-bedroom condos range in price from $155,000 to $350,000; and although most of the units are under contract, there are still three available.
 
William Schickel started the firm in Loveland in 1948; it moved to its current location in OTR in 2005. Schickel Design is known for renovations and new construction projects, architecture, space planning, development, interior design, stained glass, environmental graphics and art consultation.
 
Other projects completed by Schickel Design include the City Home Cincinnati project, City Home Race, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Chapel of the Holy Child and Peace Place at the hospital’s Liberty Township campus, Good Samaritan Hospital’s Dixmyth Lobby and Main Street.
 
“As a company, we see a bright future for Cincinnati, and great growth for it and cities like it,” Dorff says. “It’s geographically beautiful and a great place to live and work. It’s a city that people want to move back to and raise a family.”
 
The city is hosting a ribbon cutting for Bakery Lofts on Thursday at 10 a.m.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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MOTR owners plan to turn Woodward Theater into music venue

About six years ago, the owners of Over-the-Rhine’s oft-frequented MOTR began looking for a larger space for concerts. And they found one right across the street: the Woodward Theater.
 
“When we brought MOTR to OTR, we wanted to insert the local music community into the arts and culture discussion in Cincinnati,” says MOTR co-owner Dan McCabe. “By expanding across the street, that discussion gets a little louder.”
 
MOTR has been the OTR hotspot for free music for the past few years, and the Woodward will help attract larger bands that are too big to play MOTR. The concerts at the Woodward will be ticketed, with advance tickets available.  
 
“We want to see people from outside Cincinnati to see what OTR is,” says McCabe. “Musicians that play the Woodward will be coming from cities like New York, where the cost of living is high. They might consider relocating to Cincinnati, which has a great support base for musicians and the platform to build a crowd base. It’s also centrally located for touring.”
 
The Woodward’s new owners also want it to be used as more than a music venue. “I’d love to show films and host private events too,” says McCabe. “OTR is an event-driven neighborhood, and we want the Woodward to be a resource to the community.”
 
The Woodward has been used in recent years as an antiques warehouse, and hasn’t been an active storefront for a long time, says McCabe. In the next few weeks, construction will begin on the theater’s façade, including getting the lights on the outside working.
 
McCabe and his business partners are still working on plans for the inside. “We basically have a white box on the inside with a balcony, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”
 
This year is the Woodward’s 100th birthday—it opened on June 18, 1913. The guys of MOTR have a big event planned for the building’s birthday, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Mason design firm sets up office in Over-the-Rhine

For 45 years, Bayer Becker’s civil and transportation engineers, landscape architects, planners and land surveyors have served the Tri-State area. And last month, the design firm opened an office in Over-the-Rhine.
 
“There’s a commitment to the urban core here in OTR, and we want to be part of it,” says Mike Dooley, an associate at Bayer Becker. “We want to be closer to the clients we work with and new talent.”
 
Founded in 1968 by Joseph Bayer and Keith “Sandy” Becker, the firm has served a variety of local and national clients and has consulted on projects in the public and private sectors. The OTR office is Bayer Becker’s fourth office in the Cincinnati area (its home office is in Mason, and there are smaller offices in Fort Mitchell, Ky., and Oxford, Ohio).
 
Bayer Becker’s new office is in the historic Saengerhalle building next to 3CDC and across the street from Washington Park. The firm looked at buildings in the Central Business District, but the opportunity arose in OTR to be near local architects and other design firms, says CFO and Vice President Tim Bayer, who is the son of founder Joseph Bayer.
 
“There are lots of businesses and entertainment here, which was very appealing to us,” Bayer says. “We want to be part of strengthening the community’s employment and aesthetic aspects.”
 
Currently, Bayer Becker is doing land surveying on several properties for 3CDC; they’re in the middle of the bidding process on a property in OTR near the casino. Yard House at The Banks was also a Bayer Becker project.
 
Bayer Becker wants to be a good business citizen and be active in the OTR Chamber of Commerce and be part of other business associations and endeavors in the business community, says Bayer. “Our goal is to continue to strengthen the community through employment, be part of celebrating client success and help improve downtown Cincinnati.”
 
The firm wants to help continue enriching the community, and later this month, they’ll be sponsoring the Urban Awakenings series, which focuses on four Cincinnati neighborhoods that are dedicated to revitalization and rejuvenation.
 
“We want to help OTR be a model for other communities,” Dooley says.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Neltner Small Batch launch fueled by art, passion, family

Good things come in small batches, whether its bourbon, beer or branding, says Keith Neltner, the native Kentuckian who has made a name for himself as a designer and filmmaker and darling of the latest Cincinnati ADDY Awards. (Soapbox profiled him last year.)

On the heels of winning an unprecedented three out of four Judge’s Choice awards at this year’s ADDY Awards, he's launching Neltner Small Batch, a venture that allows him to base all of his operations out of his renovated farmhouse studio next door to his home and two doors down from his family’s farm in Camp Springs, Ky.

It also allows Neltner to become a work-at-home dad for his 7-year-old and 3-year-old.

"I've noticed 'family' being a theme in a lot of my work recently," Neltner says. "They're little for such a short time."

Neltner Farms has been his home for his entire life and plays a large role in his identity. The land has been in his family since before the Civil War. That history inspires Neltner Small Batch’s manifesto: “Farming is hard. Sweat is religion. Art is blood.”

Known for his rustic aesthetic and acclaimed work with a wide range of artists (Hank Williams III, Shooter Jennings) and brands (Procter & Gamble, Wrigley’s), Neltner remains true to his well-established roots. “My dad taught me to work hard and be honest,” he says.

One of Neltner Small Batch’s first projects illustrates the connections Neltner continues to make between art, life, hard work and passion. “Black Mule is a brand we're developing in Camp Springs that will release limited edition products,” Neltner says. “Farm tables, pottery, apparel...all made in Kentucky, sourced by local artisans.”

By Sean Peters

Feel-good, comfort food in O'Bryonville at Eat Well Cafe

The brightly lit restaurant welcomes customers when they walk in. Mismatched coffee mugs, cookbooks and a mural—which was done by chef Renee Schuler's sister, Michelle Heimann—above the lunch counter add a homey feel to Eat Well Café and Takeaway, which is exactly what Schuler was after.
 
“I wanted the restaurant to be like a living thing, which is why there’s so much green,” she says. The café seats about 35 people, and is described as fast casual—instead of table service, customers order at the counter and take a seat or, if they’re in a hurry, take their food with them.
 
Eat Well Café opened Jan. 9 in O’Bryonville in the old What’s for Dinner? space, between The BonBonerie and Enoteca Emilia.

“The neighborhood is full of positive energy,” says Schuler. “There are so many creative people doing what they love in this area, and I wanted to be part of that.”
 
When looking for restaurant space, Schuler searched all over Cincinnati. She decided on O’Bryonville because the community is interested in feeling good and living well, and that’s what food is about, she says.
 
Before opening her catering business, Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts seven and a half years ago, Schuler spent years working in restaurants and catering in New York City. When she came back to Cincinnati, she worked as the executive chef at Murphin Ridge Inn in Adams County for three years.
 
“It was a huge change,” she says. “I went from living in the city to picking out what types of cabbage our gardener would grow for the restaurant.”
 
She loves to help people plan events and create something dramatic (her second major is in theater), but she also wanted to create something accessible to people on a daily basis. Eat Well Café allows her to see some of her regular customers outside of planning events.
 
Eat Well Café’s menu was created with everyone in mind, Schuler says. There are vegetarian and vegan options alongside items like the Dr. Meat, which is a braised beef short rib sandwich. The menu will change seasonally, with spring items set to be added in two or three weeks.
 
“America is a melting pot, and American food is influenced from all over,” says Schuler. “Our menu is a mix of flavors to create something new.” Vietnamese summer rolls and pesto pasta are both menu staples, along with salads and soups.
 
The “takeaway” menu changes daily, and is based on Schuler’s mood, the weather and what she thinks would be good to eat that day. On dreary days, items like soups are takeaway staples.
 
Schuler tries to source most of Eat Well Café’s ingredients from local farmers. She uses a local, family-owned company who gets eggs for the café from an Amish farm in Northern Ohio; the bread is from Blue Oven Bakery; dairy products come from Snowville Creamery; Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market supplies chicken and other meats. 
 
“I try to keep it as local as that makes sense,” she says. “It’s a constant challenge, especially this time of year.” Schuler’s dream is to have an Eat Well greenhouse down the street to grow all of the restaurant’s salad greens and herbs, but that’s a ways down the road.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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