If you were lucky enough in the summer of 1970, for just $3 you could see some pretty incredible music acts around Ludlow Avenue. The best—Santana, Alice Cooper, The Allman Brothers, NRBQ, Iggy Pop, and more—were at Ludlow Garage.
David Taylor was not so lucky. His siblings may have been old enough to see the shows, but he was not. Instead, he spent that summer on his family’s porch listening to the acts from across a humming neighborhood, growing in his appreciation of music and his love for the Gaslight District.
Today, as luck would have it, David Taylor and Claudia, his wife, own the space. They bought it in early 2018, and since then they’ve been busy creating a gastropub concept that seeks to bring great music back to Ludlow Avenue. Once more it’s called Ludlow Garage, and this time it’s here to stay.
Jim Tarbell (a.k.a Cincinnati’s favorite son) opened Ludlow Garage in 1969 after converting it from an auto shop. He envisioned a venue that was equal parts community gathering space, “peace and love" enclave, and top-notch music venue.
The music won out. Soon Ludlow Garage was a veritable Mecca for rock outfits, a Fillmore Auditorium of the heartland. It also elevated Cincinnati in the musical consciousness, this once-famed blues and bluegrass town suddenly earning its prog rock bona fides.
It wouldn’t last. At least, Tarbell’s creation wouldn’t. Like a supernova the venue burned brightly for just 16 months before shuttering in 1971. After that it became a slew of different restaurants, including an Uno’s Pizza. For a time it sat vacant.
Thankfully, the space returned to its roots as a concert venue in 2015. David and Claudia were presented with the opportunity to purchase it soon afterwards. As Cincinnati natives, Clifton residents, and life-long music nuts, they couldn’t pass it up. The transaction was completed in April of this year. They immediately began knocking out walls and installing new booths and fixtures. Just three weeks later, they re-opened to rave reviews from friends, neighbors, and folks across the city.
Perhaps the most illustrative sign of Ludlow Garage’s present resides in Kevin Worthington, formerly of The Anchor OTR and Ruth’s Parkside Cafe, now Ludlow Garage’s head chef. David and Claudia brought Worthington in to craft a menu fitting for the spot, a menu of things they would want to eat.
He succeeded. The menu—that is, the food—is approachable and delicious. With wings and crabs cakes, burgers and flat breads, risotto and steak frites, it's filled a need in the Gaslight District for New American fare.
The location on Ludlow Avenue is as perfect as it’s ever been, and the dining area takes advantage of that. The wall opposite the impressive 14-seat bar features two large garage doors. When the weather is nice, the doors open and the ambiance is outstanding. When they’re closed, the boundary still feels permeable, and the doors remain an aesthetic showpiece.
Still, as delicious as the food is, as gorgeous as the renovated confines are, music will always be king at Ludlow Garage. David and Claudia know that. It’s why they’ve put so much time and energy into booking good acts from every genre, including smooth jazz, funk, and rock and roll. Certainly you don’t have to go to a show if you dine there, but if you do you’re in for a great time. The 300-seat theatre has pristine acoustics, and there’s not a bad seat in the house.
Of course, there’s still work to do, whether it’s tweaks to the menu, renovations to the theater space, or simply continuing to grow the venue’s reputation. At the same time, David and Claudia are thrilled about what exists now. Just having “Ludlow Garage” back on the marquee is its own reward. Getting to see bands perform there is the experience of a lifetime.
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Ludlow Garage is located at 342 Ludlow Avenue (45220). For more information visit their website or call 513.861.ROCK.