Centered around Cincinnati's oldest unsolved murder, Murder on the Menu is part walking tour, part dining experience. The monthly event examines the city's history, blending culinary exploration and our fascination with the true crime genre.
It begins with a trip to Washington Platform.
You sit down and look around the room. Wall sconces illuminate little pockets of the beige walls and tables beneath them. The clinking of glasses fills the air as the smell of seafood wafts from the kitchen in the back of the building. A man in a bold red tie holds a beer in one hand while dramatically gesticulating with the other. He meticulously strings together historical characters as the tale of Cincinnati's oldest unsolved murder begins to take the diabolical shape of a lurid spiderweb of deceit, lies, violence, romance, and mystery.
His name is Mike Morgan, a man familiar to the local history and beer scene for more than a decade. As he projects his voice into a crowded dining room of people, you realize you're in for something different than those other murder mystery dinners.
The characters were real.
The murder actually happened.
It happened nearby.
They never solved it.
Mike tells the tale; he doesn't perform it.
That's not to say he doesn't make it compelling. He deftly recounts the details of the crime (which, for the sake of spoilers, will remain a mystery here) without over-dramatizing it with unnecessary exuberance. His telling is calculated and understated, matter-of-fact and penetrating. Gone are the cheese and tropes of other historical tours that require exaggerated zhush to stir up otherwise mediocre stories.
Mike Morgan did his homework. He found a head-scratcher indefinitely bound to a gruesome, well-documented crime that lets the facts speak for themselves.
After an introduction, you leave the restaurant behind and follow him into the real world where the murder happened back in the 1800s. At different locations, Mike adds another thread to the narrative's growing web. Alleys, former brothels, street corners, and old buildings provide visual aids, and every location is within steps of where you started at Washington Platform.
Being in those places, with your shoes touching the bricks where a man was killed and a cover up occurred over a hundred years ago, becomes a terrifying reality. You feel uneasy as you attempt to piece together who did it in the very place it occurred. It's exciting despite its wicked nature. Fans of true crime know the feeling all too well.
Finally, you return to the restaurant where Mike finishes weaving his web as diners are served a four-course meal crafted by the restaurant's head chef and owner, Jon Diebold. Each course is period-appropriate, meaning everything served theoretically could've been eaten by the characters in the story. Cleveland's Platform Beer Co. (get it?) pairs four of their own beers with each plate to add extra flavor.
It's a complete experience built on the backs of storytellers, chefs, brewers, and 19th-century murderers. If you're a fan of local history, a foodie, a beer-lover, a true crime podcast/TV show enthusiast, and/or a mystery junkie, Murder on the Menu is for you.
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Purchase tickets and learn more about Murder on the Menu on its website.