Currito embarks on urban expansion effort throughout Cincinnati

Currito has announced that they will open two new locations this year in Evanston and Downtown, and an third independent restaurant in Over-the-Rhine called Bakersfield Taco Grill. The Cincinnati-based company already has locations in Clifton Heights and Florence, but their recent announcements mark a bold move into the urban frontier that they wish to call home.

“Downtown is experiencing some very positive changes, and we really want to be a part of the forward motion that is happening there,” Currito co-founder Joe Lanni told UrbanCincy last week. “We are committed to continued growth in this market, and downtown is the best place to gain exposure to people from all over the city.”

In the end, Lanni believes that the exposure these urban locations offer is invaluable to promoting the company’s overall brand and image identity.

The downtown restaurant will be Currito’s flagship location when it opens within the 3,074-square-foot space located inside the Mercantile Building (map). Lanni says that they have signed a 10-year lease on the space, with two five-year options.

Joe, and his brother John, will open up a new Currito location on Xavier University’s campus in Evanston this August before opening the two new restaurants in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine (map) this October.

“We are excited to have found a location that is central to the exciting events that happen on Fountain Square,” Lanni said about their future flagship location downtown. “We were very conscious about looking for a high-profile place to roll out our most current design in our home market.”

Once the Lanni’s complete their next wave of growth in Cincinnati, Currito will boast 15 locations in eight different states. The non-Cincinnati locations are managed through franchisees which the Lanni’s have overseen since they founded Currito in 2005. Stay up-to-date by following Currito on Twitter @CurritoBurrito, or by becoming a fan on Facebook.

Photograph of Currito’s Clifton Heights location by Randy A. Simes for UrbanCincy.

Over-the-Rhine rec center to offer Final Friday skate

Over-the-Rhine has a skating rink.

No, seriously. The Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center, located just steps away from Findlay Market, houses a 365-person capacity roller skating rink in its lower level that is in pristine condition. Caitlin Behle of Far-I-Rome Productions has stepped forward to bring new attention and patronage to a little-known space, in a way that is both fun and supports the neighborhood.

The Final Friday OTR Skate roller disco party hopes to become another staple in the myriad of events that bring people into Over-the-Rhine on the last Friday night of every month. From 8pm to 11 pm, two dollars buys skate rental for the evening. Two local DJs, Positronic and Dirty C will be providing music, and Cincinnati’s newest food truck, Taco Azul, will be stationed outside with taco treats. Artist collaborative SuchandSuch will have an art installation in the space.

All proceeds from the event will go directly to the Rec Center – everyone involved is offering their services for free. According to Behle, the OTR Skate, at its heart, is about helping the community.

“The OTR Rec Center is an invaluable resource to the community,” said Behle, who is an Over-the-Rhine resident and supporter. “They do so much with the little they have. I wanted to do something unconventional that benefits Over-the-Rhine and the people that live here.”

Another huge part of Behle’s motivation to host the event was to inspire and excite the creative community that is currently in the city. “Look, Cincinnati has all the potential of any other city,” explained Behle. “Tons of people that have so much creative power are leaving. We need to do more things to keep people here.”

Future skates could expand to include the Cincinnati Roller Girls, as well as expand into a side room to sell and display artwork from local artists. Yelp! Cincinnati is an event sponsor, and Southpaw Prints worked to create the initial poster.

The Final Friday OTR Skate is Friday, April 29 at the OTR Rec Center (map), and will take place from 8pm to 11 pm.

Stories of Cincinnati’s strong history, promising future highlight 2011 State of the City

Last night, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory delivered his sixth State of the City address. In the speech Mayor Mallory gave those in attendance a bit of history lesson about Cincinnati in tough economic times, and stood boldly in the face of opposition to his administration’s projects and programs.

The history lesson began with a story of two men, Jim and Bill, who started a company during tough economic times in 1837. Those men, Mayor Mallory says, did not listen to the naysayers and eventually created the world’s largest consumer products company – Procter & Gamble. The history lessons continued with examples of bold investment projects like the construction of Union Terminal in 1928 and Carew Tower in 1930.

“The naysayers keep saying we need to slow down; we need to pull back; it is not the right time,” stated Mayor Mallory. “In these economic times, we need to be bold when others are scared. That is how you prosper.”

The mayor then tied those history lessons to more recent endeavors that have attracted significant opposition. Mayor Mallory cited the development of The Banks, implementation of the City’s Enhanced Recycling Program and 2010’s CitiRama in Northside. Mallory’s assertion, in part, is that a city must continue to change, innovate and investment in order to stay competitive.

Cincinnati Skyline photography by Aaron Davidson.

“What brings people to a city is when there is clearly something going on, when the city is on the move. People want to be in cities where things are happening. And clearly things are happening in Cincinnati.”

One of those things, Mayor Mallory contended, is the Cincinnati Streetcar project for which he reserved some of his most pointed comments.

“The streetcar project will bring jobs and development to the city and that is why my administration will continue to pursue the streetcar,” Mallory exclaimed. “And yes, we will do it in the face of opposition. The reality is opposition never built anything…and just like we built The Banks, we will build the streetcar.”

Mayor Mallory also discussed the vibrancy of downtown, the new Cincinnati Horeshoe Casino, massive investments taking place in Over-the-Rhine, the redevelopment and expansion of Washington Park, renovation of Fay Apartments into the nation’s largest green housing development and a $100-200 million project that will transform a polluted creek into a clean park space.

In short, Mallory said, “Few cities are seeing the type of rebirth that we are seeing in our urban core.”

Other highlights include:

  • Launch of a new initiative called Bank On Greater Cincinnati that will transition 8,000 people from payday lenders to banks or credit unions.
  • Progress made on cleaning up lead paint from households with the help of $7.5 million in federal grants.
  • 72% of Cincinnati households now recycle, and 36% more has been recycled so far in 2011 following the introduction of the City’s Enhanced Recycling Program.
  • The Enhanced Recycling Program was expected to achieve $47,000 per month in savings. In March 2011, the program actually saved $83,000.
  • Since 2007 the City has decreased energy usage by more than 15%, which exceeded their 10% goal, saving the city more than $1 million in 2010.
  • Graduation rates at Cincinnati Public Schools have increased from 51% in 2000 to 80% in 2010, and college enrollment has increased 10% over the last four years.
  • The Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) has been responsible for getting several violent gangs indicted in federal court and has significantly reduced violent crime throughout the city.
  • Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% to 8.6% since last year.

Mallory concluded by reflecting on these accomplishments and looking forward.

“Let me make it clear. We do not lie down. We do not give up. This is Cincinnati. When times are hard, we work harder. It is a part of our history. It is part of our heritage. It is in the very fabric of who we are as a city. So, what are you willing to work on? What are you committed to? I challenge all of you to find something you are passionate about to make Cincinnati greater. Future generations of Cincinnati will thank you.”

Southgate House to host Jason White concert this Friday

The Southgate House will welcome Jason White this Friday, April 22 for a concert highlighting work off his new album entitled The Longing which is due out May 7.

The Cleveland-born musician is coming off two critically-acclaimed albums, Shades of Gray and Tonight’s Top Story. The show at the Southgate House will include David Mead in addition, and prior to, White’s headlining performance.

While excited for the Cincinnati show, Jason White and promoters have expressed concerns about the scale of the audience as they see an increasingly saturated music marketplace and entertainment industry throughout the United States.

“These days, everybody is so inundated with entertainment information, but most of it feels to me like it’s mass-produced,” said White. “So what I hope is that people can listen to this record and hear that it’s homespun, that the songs were written very carefully and come from a sincere place, and that the process was very organic and genuine.”

The concert at Southgate House (map) is scheduled to begin at 8:30pm. Tickets cost $10 in advance (buy online), and $13 the day of the show.

Southgate House photograph by Dan Hewins.

World Food Bar Restaurant Group to open new restaurant in East Walnut Hills

Six months have passed since the opening of Mayberry Foodstuffs in downtown Cincinnati, and for Chef Josh Campbell and his business partners, it is time to try something new. The team will open a new restaurant called The Skinny Pig in East Walnut Hills this May. The restaurant, Campbell says, will feature flatbreads, salads, and his specialty – pork.

When Herbert Hood, owner of the buildings on Woodburn Avenue , first visited Mayberry Foodstuffs, he asked Campbell to open another small grocery concept in place of the beloved, and recently closed, Lucky John’s Market in his neighborhood.

After learning about Campbell’s cooking background, the pair decided that opening a restaurant would be a great use for the 750-square-foot space. After signing a 15-month lease the whirlwind renovation process, for which the World Food Bar group has become known, began.

Campbell, along with his business partner Jerry Murphy and sous chef Kevin O’Connell, say they are jumping in to the new concept and location head first.

“Everybody says when opportunity knocks, you should go for it,” Campbell says. “Why not? It’s a natural expansion of what we’re already doing, and we want to reach new people. I’ve surrounded myself with such great people, and it just makes sense.”

Collectively, the team works interchangeably between the Mayberry restaurant as well as Foodstuffs, and The Skinny Pig will be another hock of the hog. The pressure smoker for The Skinny Pig will be housed at the Vine Street kitchen, and the entire team, from Campbell to the dishwasher will work together to complete the trifecta.

The Skinny Pig will be located in the DeSales Corner business district of East Walnut Hills which already boasts other restaurants, luxury apartments and art galleries, and Campbell believes the neighborhood is the next up and coming area in Cincinnati.

“The downtown area is beginning to be saturated with restaurants,” says Campbell. “In this area you have Blue Cross Blue Shield, St. Ursula Academy with students who can go off campus for lunch, and several doctor’s offices filled with people looking for healthy, flavorful food options.”

Campbell says that the main menu concept is a variety of blue cornmeal flatbreads with assorted toppings, baked to order in a wood burning oven, along with unique salads. The goal is to operate an eatery that is accessible to every palate, with offerings running the gamut from wild mushroom pate to smoked pork shoulder, and everything in between.

After the first 30 days of operation, he intends to open an expansive courtyard, with an outdoor grill and live weekend music, that can accommodate an additional 20 to 25 people. With exposed brick, an open kitchen, and a relaxed atmosphere, visitors will experience a homey, accessible meal in a sit down, waited-table style, run by locals that genuinely care about the area and the dining experience.

“Lots of people in the city are investing in different areas of the city’s core,” says Campbell. “The suburbs – they come and go. We need to get back to that era of small mom and pop places that care about their customers and build relationships. I’m a businessman, but my goal is to grow and make sure that the people that are around me can survive, live well, and have fun at work. I’m trying to get that message out to people – to just do the right thing.”

Photograph of Chef Josh Campbell inside Mayberry by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

UrbanCincy partners with Cincinnati to organize two unique Bike Month events

In celebration of Bike Month, UrbanCincy has partnered with the City of Cincinnati to bring you two unique events. The first will take place on Saturday, May 14 and take bicyclists on a pedal-powered pub crawl through the city’s urban core. The second event will take place on Sunday, May 22 and give riders a glimpse into what bicycle commuting will be like along the Ohio River Trail.

Bikes+Brews is back by popular demand. Last year UrbanCincy organized this event and made five stops throughout Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. Roughly 50 people participated over various segments of the ride which began and terminated at Findlay Market. This year’s event will also begin and end at Findlay Market, but will include a total of nine stops throughout Over-the-Rhine, West End, Downtown, Newport and Covington. The ride will be led by Cincinnati brewer, and UrbanCincy contributor, Bryon Martin.

Bikes+Brews will begin at 1pm and will roughly last until 6:30pm. The event is free and open to the public, and interested participants are encouraged to join the ride for any duration and segment. The ride is approximately seven miles from start to finish (map), includes slight elevation change and two bridge crossings.

The Ohio River Trail Tour is new this year. The event will begin at Lunken Airport and take bicyclists for a ride along the partially completed Ohio River Trail. The ride will terminate in downtown Cincinnati at the Bike & Mobility Center currently under construction at the Cincinnati Riverfront Park.

Those participating in the Ohio River Trail Tour will be able to get information about future phases of the Ohio River Trail, which will link Cincinnati’s eastern suburbs with downtown, and how to successfully commute by bicycle by utilizing lockers, showers, repair facilities and bicycle parking at the new Bike & Mobility Center.

The Ohio River Trail Tour will begin at 10am in the parking lot across from Lunken Airport’s terminal building. The ride is approximately six miles (map) and contains very few changes in elevation.

2010 Bikes+Brews photograph by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy.