GC Independent Week – Now thru Sept 20

This week marks the fall version of Greater Cincinnati Independents Restaurant Week. This semi-annual event held by GCI gives diners a chance to get out and try out locally owned restaurants for the very reasonable price of $26.09. What’s $26.09 get you? Most places have set up a prix fixe menu that features three courses, though some of the more casual places offer up dinner for two for $26.09.

Borrowing the idea from other cities such as New York & San Francisco, thirty-three locally owned Greater Cincinnati restaurants are giving you the opportunity to get out and try something new this week. At such a reasonable price, this affords all of us the chance to go support a locally owned spot that we may not have had a chance to yet. Many of the places on the list give you at least a few choices for all three courses, so even though it is prix fixe there is some flexibility in what you order. Additionally, the full menu is available as well, but you will have to pay full price.

Aside from the news & menus for this week, the GCI site does a wonderful job letting you know why it is important to support your local establishment and also offers a discounted gift certificate program in case you can’t find your way out this week (or more likely, can’t get to all the spots you want to). So, to all foodies & non-foodies alike, get out between now and September 20 to eat some good food and support your neighbors that help to give the Greater Cincinnati area “smart culinary options.”

Lavomatic Cafe photo by 5chw4r7z.


The Waterfront Wednesday Mystery

On the final Wednesday of August, I took a road trip down to Waterfront Wednesday in Louisville. Waterfront Wednesday is put on by 91.9FM WFPK and is a free show that occurs on the last Wednesday of each month from April to September on a little piece of Waterfront Park in downtown Louisville. Each month the show features three national touring bands playing from an hour to an hour and a half a piece. Oh, did I mention it’s free?

Canada’s Great Lake Swimmers, singer-songwriter Will Hoge, and alt-country legends, Cracker all graced Louisville’s stage last month with the Ohio River as its backdrop. While the tunes were great and ran for four hours (starting at 6pm) this post is not a concert review by any stretch. This my friends is more of an open letter to you, the UrbanCincy reader, to get a discussion going around why Louisville can pull something like this off while we here in Cincy get cover band after cover band on our waterfront on Wednesday nights.

Waterfront Wednesday crowd gathers along the Ohio River

This is my biggest beef these days with our town and something I’d love to change, but the task sometimes seems so great that it is not worth tackling. Then I look closer (like I know most of us do, and we challenge our friends to do so too) and I see that things are starting to really cook! Midpoint is quickly approaching with a lot of great bands with bands from our same zip code, as well as bands from as far away as Paris, France. That group also did a great job lining up bands through the summer on Fountain Square, but I have to say that all of that seems to be the polar opposite of “name that cover band.” I think there is a middle ground, and I think Louisville has found it.

Louisville is doing a lot of things right with their concert series and they are bringing a good amount of people into town for it. Their mix of artists on any given Waterfront Wednesday is very diverse and don’t necessarily cross over, but people come for one and stay for all three. Will Great Lake Swimmers open for an entire tour for Cracker? Heck no, but for a night it seems to work! Oh, and because it’s free, people bring other people along with them. I have noticed in my two trips there this summer that most of the people that show up fall more under the “curious observer” label than “diehard fan”. People bring their kids along and there are people around that would be eligible for the Golden Buckeye if only they lived in Ohio. It’s a wonderful and diverse combination of music lovers that come to enjoy their evening. Outside. For free. Along the river. Shocking, I know.

So, to you the reader of UrbanCincy, I ask this… why not us? And just as (if not more) important, how can we do something like this? I have asked this question of people around town in conversations over the last six weeks and have received many different answers. Louisville has about 1.2M people in the metro area and we have 2.1M people, so you can’t say they have a wider base from which to draw. We both have universities and we are both river towns. Provide your rationale and provide your solutions in your comments, and if you are willing to try to find a way to make it happen say that too.

For those curious, the September 30 show headliner is BellX1 with supporting acts to be announced. I have to say, the drive is pretty easy and for what you get, it’s well worth the trip.

Arts & Entertainment News Transportation

Super Bad Bike Show

The annual Newport Car Show & Sidewalk Sale took over Monmouth Street this past Sunday and there were a wide variety of cars on display from 5th Street to 10th Street. Walking up and down Monmouth one could see cars like a 1930s Model T, a wide variety of Corvettes, the General Lee, and even The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. But if you took a peek down West 7th, you saw something else even a little different. This year, alongside the car show was the first annual Super Bad Bike Show.

Put on by Bike Newport and Reser Bicycle Outfitters there were quite a few entries in categories such as “Your Momma’s Momma’s Bike” and “Uno Speedo” that folks could walk by and check out during the day. UrbanCincy stopped over and snapped a few pictures of some of the more unique entries for your viewing pleasure.


Places You Should Know – Venice on Vine

Ever get hungry while you are wandering through the shops in The Gateway Quarter? Well, there is a pizza place on the corner of Vine and 13th called Venice on Vine that is there to hook you up with a bite to eat. On the surface, it seems just like any other pizza parlor There is exposed brick, a large oven, art on the wall, and a friendly staff to take your order and make up your lunch. Look closer though and you’ll see this is not your average restaurant.

Run by the non-profit group Power Inspires Progress, Venice on Vine is not just there to satisfy hungry patrons but is there to train and develop employees by helping them build job skills that they can carry into the workforce and become viable members of society. Most everyone that comes through the Venice program does so because they are have a poor work history, lack transportation to another job or are in need of a second chance either due to criminal or drug history. The folks that run Venice are there to help ensure that the trainees, as they are called, get a fresh start, job training skills, and the resume builder that is needed to land full time gainful employment.

If a candidate makes it through the three step interview process ,they come to Venice to learn and develop a variety of skills that are needed in the restaurant business. The trainees earn stars for their name tag by showing proficiency in the different roles at Venice including dishes, utilities, server, cook, register, and catering. In doing so they are building job skills, and oh by the way, running their own place. UrbanCincy visited on a Tuesday night and while it wasn’t very crowded, the staff of five was busy cleaning up from the day and there was not one detail going unnoticed.

In addition to learning all the parts of the restaurant, trainees are encouraged to continue their development and education in other areas. Many are focused on furthering their education by working towards their GED, or will work on building additional job skills such as Microsoft Office or even resume writing. In fact, each person earns money for food by taking five 45 minutes sessions during each two week pay period to further develop themselves.

Photos by Dave Rolfes

The night we visited, the longest tenured employees had been there four months but that is part of the plan. Once brought on board, a trainee is expected to graduate within twelve months and go out to find a job in the workforce. The stated goal of the program is “to increase the power of people through skill development, relationship building and collaboration with other organizations.” Without a doubt, the trainees were so happy to talk about their experiences, why they joined Venice, and it shined through brightly just how proud they were of where they worked.

Coming up on it’s third anniversary at 1301 Vine, another thing that is noticeable about Venice on Vine is its ties to the community. The tables in the restaurant are adorned with flowers from neighboring City Roots. There is artwork displayed and for sale on the wall from local artists that work through the Visionaries & Voices program. There are even local bands played on the stereo and displayed on the Cincy In Your Ear rack near the register.

Again, without looking closer it is easy to think Venice is just another pizza joint when in reality it is so much more. It is an important piece to the Gateway Quarter that really helps to develop the people that live in and around the area and help them build the job skills they need to be successful. Help Venice on Vine help others by volunteering, donating, or just being a customer and stopping in for a pizza or hoagie the next time you are around town because quite frankly the food is almost as good as the cause they are going after.

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Newport Gangster Tours return for third round of fun this fall

Remember when Newport was Sin City? Some people around these parts do, but most of us don’t think of Newport as more than a destination for dining, movies, or a show at The Southgate House. Well, the fellas running the Newport Gangsters Gamblers and Girls Tour are getting the story out about the city’s colorful history and they do it with a passion and energy that only make it more interesting. Additionally, they are happy to talk up local establishments including Mammoth Cafe, Dixie Chili, Sin City Antiques, and York Street Cafe not only for their current contributions but also for their place in the history of Newport, KY.

In the spring of this year a few friends started the tour as a fund raiser for Global Service Learning Inc. and originally intended it to be just a limited engagement to raise money and help send local school kids to Jamacia. The trips are dedicated to serving a part of the population that could definitely use a some help, and it’s used as a teaching tool for our local kids to show how service and activism can benefit them in the long run.

After tickets sold faster than expected, they brought the tour back for Italianfest in June and they had over three hundred more people show up over the course of that weekend. Well, they have been on hiatus for the rest of the summer, but now the fellas are back for the fall offering tours through the end of November.

What should you expect when you head down to the tour? Well, it starts at The Syndicate and features a short presentation about the history of Newport and the characters that really made it like Las Vegas before there ever was a Las Vegas. The tour guides will talk you through how Newport ended up the way it did and give you some great stories about the personalities that give it such a wonderful history.

After about twenty minutes, you head outside for a seventy five minute walking tour through the city. Heading up Monmouth for three blocks there are plenty of stops to talk about all the history, including the seventeen gentelmen’s clubs that used to line the street, as well as a wonderful story of gangster activity outside what was the Mustang Club.

Back down York Street, the group shows you the building where all the chips (no, not the kind made with potatoes) were made, the lot that used to be the Weideman Brewery Complex, as well as and old haunt of Frank Sinatra. And while the history is very interesting, the tour guides could not do a better job bringing the stories alive and they have clearly done their homework. The tour is easily walkable as it totals not much more than a mile and it is very flat the entire way.

It’s no wonder that these guys were drawing 100+ people to their tours at Italianfest! They are great and definitely worth checking out. They hope to draw a few hundred people down each weekend through the fall. You’ll never look at Newport the same way again, especially all the parking lots around town. Tickets are a mere $15 for the regular tours, $20 for the Haunted tours on the last 3 weekends of October, and $40 for a behind the scenes tour which runs on the first three Saturdays of November.