May. Time for some outdoors-ing. (Even if the weather isn't exactly cooperating.)
Now, your fitness-addled brain might've jumped straight into healthy stuff -- hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, golfing, tennis-ing, and all manner of outdoor sports-ing.
(Really makes you wonder what I'd do for a gerund. )
After all, why go on that healthy (but ultimately, dispiriting) jog when you could check out one of our area's many outdoor drinking & eating destinations?!
Ok, fine... There are probably some good reasons why you really should go on that jog. But we're realists here. We know you probably won't.
And when you don't, here are all the places (in no particular order) you can hit up instead.
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1. ELI'S BBQ
3313 Riverside Dr. (45226) -- Riverside/ Columbia Tusculum
Did I say "no particular order?" Ok, well... sort of. The caveat being that it would've been foolish not to put Cincinnati's premier outdoor dining location first.
I say that with only a little bit of tongue-in-cheek-ness. Because, while Eli's cramped building (ordering hut?) and collection of picnic tables might seem unimpressive, it's not really about that. The real magic happens on those sunny summer afternoons when hundreds of people convene -- equipped with coolers of beer and empty stomachs -- ready to down affordable helpings of Cincinnati's best food.
(... Unless, of course, you're a vegetarian. Le sigh.)
2. 21C COCKTAIL TERRACE
609 Walnut St. (45202) -- Downtown
When 21c Cocktail Terrace opened a few years ago as an extension of the hotel's highly regarded Metropole restaurant, the primary attractions were the pop-tails (popsicle cocktails) and the cute yellow penguins. It's grown into way more than that. Nowadays, it's a regular stop for groups and couples looking to enjoy a nice drink in the rarefied air above Cincy's streets. And, of course, they still have the pop-tails. And the penguins.
3. KEYSTONE BAR & GRILL - CLIFTON
249 Calhoun St. (45219) -- Clifton
I had to do a double take when I saw what'd happened to Uptown Clifton since I'd been there last (almost two years ago). Whoa...
Sparkling new-urban digs. Coffee shops. Clothing stores. Restaurants -- the most central of which is Keystone Bar & Grill. If you've experienced Keystone, you know what they do well: mac and cheese, burgers, wraps, quesadillas, etc. But the most impressive thing is Keystone's patio, which spreads into an open space that provides high foot traffic and a persistent energy.
Whether you love Keystone or merely like it is entirely up to you. But sitting out on that patio is objectively awesome.
1910 Elm St. (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
OMG this place is so hot right now. Warm, I mean. As in, when the sun is shining and the air is humid, you'd better believe you're gonna sweat.
That's a small price to pay for being at the hottest place in the city. Popular, I mean. As in, it's what's everyone's talking about. ("Have you been to Rhinegeist's new rooftop yet?") And for good reason, too. With that many delicious Cincy-brewed beers on tap, there are few other places in the city I'd rather be.
5. THE FAMOUS NEONS UNPLUGGED
208 E 12th St. (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
It's a testament to The Famous Neons Unplugged that a place with such a (cool adverb alert) cumbersomely long title is so well known. But it is (thanks to its open, dog-friendly outdoor patio and its top-notch drinks). Really, you should expect nothing less from a Wellmann's Brand bar. This place was cool before OTR was a thing, and you can bet it'll be cool long after the city's attention refocuses elsewhere.
6. CORK AND CAP OF HYDE PARK
2637 Erie Ave (45208) -- Hyde Park
Sure, we could have chosen the Cock and Bull or Unwind Wine Bar (both of which have their charms; both of which offer outdoor seating). But Cork and Cap of Hyde Park deserves some love for a) being new and b) having an alluring, grove-like quality to its outdoor seating. The setting is intimate, romantic, and relaxed -- qualities that pair well with a dry Malbec and a fig-jam & fennel pizza.
7. DREWS ON THE RIVER
4333 River Rd. (45204) -- Rt. 50, at Anderson Ferry
It's a warm summer evening and the sun is setting gloriously on the Ohio River. Where do you go to take it all in? For many people, the answer is Drews on the River. It's the best of casual dining paired with a tropical atmosphere. There's live music on the weekends, corn hole, a tiki bar, and that gorgeous view of the river. It'll definitely tide you over between summertime trips to the beach.
8. VIA VITE ITALIAN BISTRO
520 Vine St. (45202) -- Downtown
I made the initial mistake of avoiding Via Vite because I assumed the food wouldn't live up to the location. (I'd willingly pen a three-part apology to the restaurant, but space is limited.) So, I'll just say that the food is extraordinarily good. Also, it has a wonderful outdoor section from which you can overlook Cincinnati's bright & shining center, Fountain Square.
9. ARNOLDS BAR AND GRILL
210 E 8th St. (45202) -- Downtown
Arnold's is in an old brick building on Eighth Street, the kind that initiates patrons into the old-school vibe before they even step inside. The often packed bar is fitted with dark wood and copious wall decorations accumulated during its 150-year history. For our purposes here today, the best feature is the courtyard-ish outdoor patio. There's nothing so immensely satisfying as eating an old-school burger and fries, listening to music played on that old-school stage, and soaking up the goodness in that old-school patio setting.
It's an experience Cincinnatians have been enjoying since the 19th century. Drop that thought in your mind skillet and let it simmer.
10. BLIND LEMON
936 Hatch St. (45202) -- Mt. Adams
Cincinnati Refined contributor Dan Sullivan wrote of the Blind Lemon: "It's an appropriate name, considering how hard it is to actually find on first visit. The blaring neon sign that reads, 'Bling Lemon, Garden Is Open' is your best chance of spotting the slender entrance to the bar, which waits down (an) alley."
Yes, this place might be hard to find. But let's focus on the "Garden Is Open" part of the sign. Because that's what sets the Blind Lemon apart -- the garden. It's such a dreamily beautiful place, lush and green, and intensely inviting. If you haven't been there yet, you're missing something truly beautiful. (& As always, a drink or two will help make it seem even more so).
11. KAZE OTR
1400 Vine St. (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
Ah, you were wondering when we were going to get back to Over-the-Rhine. (Man, when will that community finally get the attention it deserves?) Well, here you go. Kaze OTR is a great place to go when the sun is shining, the weather is warm, and you're in the mood for good sashimi. They have a wonderful happy hour and the drinks are high quality. It can get crowded. But, hey, this is OTR we're talking about here. If you're looking for elbow room, you should probably move... anywhere else.
12. THE ROOKWOOD
1077 Celestial St. (45202) -- Mt. Adams
What floors me about The Rookwood is how they can deliver such consistently delicious food. I'd kinda assume that the view and the building and the number of table tops would somehow be a distraction. Not so. The food is the star here. And that's saying something, considering the outdoor patio also gives you plenty to write home about.
13. PIRATE'S COVE / THE SANDBAR
4609 Kellogg Ave -- Riverside
'Cause sometimes, you're just in the mood for a tiki bar. Amiright? Whether you want to bask in the summer sun, cool it in the shade of a grass-lined ceiling, or just feel the sand between your toes -- all while holding a nice, cool beverage (preferably with a teensy umbrella in it) -- the Four Seasons Marina's got your bases covered. There are several different bars/ restaurants/ venues to choose from, each with their own menu and aesthetic. So wade on in and see where the experience takes ya.
14. FRIES CAFE
3247 Jefferson Ave. (45220) -- Clifton
When I asked friends who went to UC where to go for some good times outdoors, they said Fries. Though, to be fair, they graduated before any of the new Uptown stuff swooped in. Still, Fries succeeds because it's got that classic college bar feel. By which, of course, I mean it's got that classic college bar smell -- a source of intoxicating, perplexing nostalgia to many, including myself. The back deck has seen its fair share of shenanigans, I'm sure. But it persists as a place of said "good times" because it's fun, and it serves beer. #yes
15. LUDLOW BROMLEY YACHT CLUB
860 Elm St. (Ludlow, KY 41016) -- Ludlow
There's a shark on the sign. What more could ya want? (No, but seriously. This place is an experience. Put it on your radar.)
16. HANG OVER EASY
13 W Charlton St. (45219) -- Corryville/ Clifton
I'll refer you to this piece, written by our esteemed Managing Editor, titled Hang Over Easy: Breakfast Cures All. Indeed.
Hang Over Easy is the place you go after an evening spent overindulging at Fries Cafe. (Or, for that matter... any of the other places on this list.) It's got the greasy, fried, cheesy, "good for what ails ya" base totally covered. It also has beer. ... You know, just in case you find yourself in one of those rare, hellish hangovers that can only be cured by digging down deeper into the crevasse whence your hangover came. Sometimes, you just gotta fight fire with fire.
17. MOUNT LOOKOUT TAVERN
3209 Linwood Ave. (45226) -- Mt. Lookout
I have memories of people raving about MLT's back deck since, well... since the "before times." But, to be honest, I never really paid those accolades any attention. Until recently. And yes, I was wrong to wait so long. 'Cause yes, it's a dang hoot back there. But, y'know what, follow my footsteps and check it out for yourself -- whenever you feel like the moment is right. It's much more convincing that way.
18. CHEAPSIDE CAFE
326 E. 8TH St. (45202) -- Downtown
There isn't a whole lot you can say about Cheapside that it doesn't already say about itself, what with its stunningly minimalist design and ultra-hip menu items. (Do yourself a favor and spend ten minutes going through their Instagram.)
In truth, I love Cheapside because sometimes I just don't want to deal with Downtown Cincinnati. I want to get in, get out, and get something fantastic in between. That's Cheapside. Sure, one day that quarter of the city will be buzzing. But for now, it has the quality of being hidden away. And sometimes -- when you're looking for a serene outside-eating experience, for instance -- that's perfect.
19. URBAN ARTIFACT
1660 Blue Rock St. (45223) -- Northside
Okay, so the brewery's not slinging its own food... yet. (You just never know with the wily/ industrious folks behind this still-unfolding Northside destination). But what Urban Artifact is definitely slinging is good times, good times, good times. The organization's emphasis on folding "wild culture" into their various beers -- which often err of the funky side, for all you sour-beer fans out there -- also holds sway over their approach to interior/exterior design.
Which is to say... Order up a fresh mug of somethin' on tap, and then head outside to stake a spot at one of the picnic tables. Sip. Relax. Repeat.
20. MOERLEIN LAGER HOUSE
115 Joe Nuxhall Way (45202) -- The Banks
Moerlein will always be central to Cincinnati's identity -- in part, because it was one of the early anchors of The Banks (when everything that's now around it was just being planned). And man, what an anchor it is. Uniquely delicious food. Beer that stands up to the best brands in the city. And a location that offers breathtaking, outside views of the Ohio River.
21. TASTE OF BELGIUM
3825 Edwards Rd (45209) -- Rookwood Exchange, Norwood
2845 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45219 -- Clifton
1133 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 -- Over-the-Rhine
In a "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" span of time, Taste of Belgium has gone from one OTR location to a total of five around Cincinnati. I hear another location is planned for The Banks. Holy crap. That's a lot of waffles. Luckily, the quality hasn't diminished whatsoever. The Rookwood location (the closest to my domicile) is every bit as delicious as the original. And like the Clifton location, it has some easy-breezy outdoor seating.
22. ENVISION CINEMAS
4780 Cornell Road (45241) -- Blue Ash
The minds behind this Blue Ash newcomer have some deep California connections. & You can see those ties weave themselves into multiple facets of this "'dinner-&-a-movie' Shangri La." But nowhere are they more apparent than in the incorporation of its outside space. Next time you're in -- and you should definitely have this spot on your agenda -- spend some time in the indoor-outdoor area.
We're talkin' 'bout some serious four-season action here. Retractable walls (& ceilings). Heat lamps galore (for those chilly spring evenings we've been having). Access to the 1950s glitz (and broad menu) of the main dining room. Whether you're taking in a flick or just there for the drinks, this spot's worth an afternoon or three of your time.
23. KRUEGER'S TAVERN
1211 Vine St. (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
"They're going to stuff us upstairs...?" was my reaction when our server asked me & my friends if we minded a table on the second floor. Not so fast. Turns out, Kruegers' upstairs is an outdoor patio, gorgeously lit and looking out over Vine Street. It was a nice surprise. Nicer still when I found out how delicious Krueger's actually is, particularly the fondu.
24. TOP OF THE PARK
506 E 4th St. (45202) -- Downtown
Don't need to say anything about the view, that's for sure. This is the fanciest, most refined of all the Queen City rooftop bars. Two levels of pure swank. I have now been there several times, and I can tell you that I haven't felt properly dressed or adequately cool yet. You could do a good fashion shoot here without giving anyone advance notice. It's like a scene from some F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about the Cincinnati noblesse in the Gilded Age.
So, yeah... it's nice.
25. THE GRUFF
129 E 2nd St. (Covington, KY 41011) -- Covington
One of my top-10 favorite morning-spots in all of Greater Cincy. Hands down. (Even though it's actually in Kentucky.) Positioned right at the foot of the Roebling Bridge (literally) and bumping some of the tastiest breakfast items around (those sammies, y'all!), this Covington hideaway is my cuppa tea. Grab a seat at the picnic tables on the patio/porch, peruse the menu, and enjoy the view.
26. NEWBERRY BROS. CAFE / PROHIBITION BOURBON BAR
530 Washington Ave. (Newport, KY 41071) -- Newport
Cafe. Bourbon bar. Patio.
You can take a peek into our recent spotlight on this Newport beacon. They've got an awesome story and a whole lotta awesome goin' on. But me...? I'm already sold.
27. SLEEPY BEE
9514 Kenwood Road (45242) -- Blue Ash
3098 Madison Road (45209) -- Oakley
Plenty of ink -- much of it our own -- has been spilled on the breakfast-brunchy-(sometimes) boozy glory that is Sleepy Bee. So we'll let that chorus of voices handle most of the praise-singing here today.
But! We will slip one extra high five into the refrain... The umbrella-strewn patios (at both locations) are sheer weekend perfection. Whether you're treating mom to a casual-but-lovely mimosa morning or joining the homies to soak up the night before with a tall stack of Piggy Cakes, Sleepy Bee is -- ahem -- the bee's knees. (... Sorry. Had to.)
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And with that, I think I've just planned all of your summer weekends. You're welkie.