Arts & Entertainment News

It Takes An Army

If you follow any of the UrbanCincy crew on Twitter you probably are aware of a hot debate going on over the last few weeks as it relates to the opening of a new establishment downtown. While the debate itself is interesting, I am going to avoid the details of it, it has also served as the inspiration for this post.

There has been a lot of discussion over the types of people that some of the newer places in the urban core attract and there was some backlash against these places on Twitter from folks that clearly support the urban core of Cincinnati in many ways. I for one always try to visit new places and draw my own conclusions about whether or not I like it, and if I don’t then the new place does not become one that I frequent on a regular basis.

The main realization I have come to during these discussions is that we need everyone involved with the urban core in some form or fashion so that there is long term success. There has to be a places for scenesters, places for hipsters, places for frat guys, and places for suburbanites so that we get the most people we can involved with the success of our city. Does this mean that I need to approve of or like every single new place that opens? Of course not, but when a new place opens and is successful, that is good news for the city that I love.

So, downtown Cincinnati needs institutions like Arnold’s and Grammer’s just as much as it needs new places like Mynt Martini and (the soon to be open) Passage Lounge. We need national chains like Palomino and McCormick & Schmick’s just as much as we need local favorites like Mayberry and Via Vite. By having a diverse offering, downtown Cincinnati is quickly becoming a place that appeals to all kinds of people.

Why is that important? Think back to the heydays of the Main Street scene. It was one stretch of one area of the city and most of the establishments catered to one type of crowd. When that crowd moved on to somewhere else, the Main Street Entertainment District quickly became a part of Cincinnati history.

Mynt Martini photos taken and provided by Thadd Fiala

These days though, there is wonderful diversity in the offerings downtown and it is only bound to get more varied. Throngs of people with varying taste should be able to help make the revitalization that is occurring a long term solution, and not a fly by night sensation. It is already helping to reestablish pride for our city and with the additions of The Banks, the casino, and hopefully the Cincinnati Streetcar. The future is very bright for our fair city that is nestled up against the banks of the Ohio.

Back to the social media power that is Twitter. As folks have followers that number into the hundreds and sometimes thousands, any opinion shared is one that can be viewed and interpreted in different ways by many folks as they form their own opinions about what is happening in the world. If we are going to all work towards a better, more prosperous, and more fun Cincinnati, then we should all be thoughtful about the power our opinions hold.

Follow the UrbanCincy staff on Twitter:
UrbanCincy team — @UrbanCincy
Randy A. Simes – @RandySimes
Dave Rolfes – @CinNewTon
Jenny Kessler – @JenLKessler
David Ben – @DavidCBen
Travis Estell – @taestell
Business News

Taco Azul to bring third taco truck to Cincinnati’s streets

Cincinnati will soon have yet another food truck operation when Taco Azul hits the streets of downtown Cincinnati, Northside, Uptown and more. Azul will be open wherever the nightlife is happening and will stay open until 3am serving Mexican food in a similar fashion to Los Angeles’ famous taco truck scene.

The news comes shortly after Polly Campbell wrote about Habanero Burrito Wagon (mobile catering truck) and Senor Roy’s Taco Patrol from the owners of Hyde Park Tavern. This announcement also comes just after UrbanCincy looked into the untapped nightlife street food market. During that same time Cafe de Wheels has taken to the streets and introduced some of the best burgers around town.

This now brings Cincinnati’s tally to three taco trucks, one taco cart, and a burger/cafe truck. Stay tuned to UrbanCincy for full details about Taco Azul in the coming days.


New Year’s Celebration on Fountain Square

Come downtown to ring in 2010! Fountain Square will feature a 15,000 pound Ice Bar, which includes a Red Bull ice luge. Faucets are frozen inside the bar so beer can be tapped from inside the ice. The bar is about 20 feet long, 12 feet deep and 10 feet high. Soda, snacks, draft beer, champagne and mixed drinks will be available for purchase. Additionally, Strauss & Troy are sponsoring FREE ice skating and skate rentals, which are typically $2.50 each.

DJ Pillo will spin tunes all night to keep the non-skaters moving as well. At 11pm, watch Red Bull’s “New Year No Limits” TV special live on ESPN. Red Bull athlete Travis Pastrana will drive a car off a pier in Long Beach and land it on a barge floating in the harbor, in an attempt to set a world record for longest distance jump in a rally car. Then at 11:59 pm be part of a live television crowd on Fox 19 that counts down to the New Year and welcomes 2010 with fireworks by Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks.

Parking is available all evening in the Fountain Square Garage for just $5. Or leave the car at home by taking a bus to the event (plan your trip now). You could always take a cab home if needed.

Fountain Square Ice Bar photograph by 5chw4r7z.
Business News

Coming Soon – Cafe de Wheels

The trend of mobile food is nothing new, but it is still emerging in Cincinnati. Cafe de Wheels, the region’s first independent food truck, is expected to hit the road soon to start serving up delectable treats to Cincinnati’s hungry street people.

Cafe de Wheels is the brainchild of Tom Acito, and with a little help from Chef Michael Katz, it will be making its way around Cincinnati streets starting in the very near future. Focusing on burgers, fries, and Cuban sandwiches these two are looking forward to changing the way Cincinnatians enjoy their food. In speaking with owner Tom Acito about his choice to do a mobile restaurant versus a more traditional standalone storefront, he said there really was no choice at all.

From a cost perspective, he estimates that the start-up costs to open a traditional spot would run about $300,000 whereas the Cafe de Wheels truck was purchased and equipped for about $50,000. Another big benefit is that of course, he is mobile which will allow the restaurant to move with the crowd and also pick and choose when and how they invest their time. As things get started it will be just Tom and Mike so they don’t foresee staying out too late, at least initially.

“We’re pretty much just held to the same rules and regulations as a standard place without the associated costs of such an establishment,” said Acito.

Cafe de Wheels benefits from minimal logistics involved with operation the food truck. Outside of the required food vendor’s license, a peddler’s license, and tags for the truck, Acito and Katz say that not much was needed.

Acito said that Cincinnatians can expect to see them popping up around town wherever the local police force will allow, like valid on-street parking spaces. According to Acito, in the heart of Downtown they must stay off the street and use private lots where they have reached agreements with the owner of said lot.

When asked how these two men came together, Tom mentioned he had put a help wanted ad on Craigslist and Michael was one of many people to respond. Tom said that Mike just understood more than most, what Tom wanted to accomplish, and was really excited about the concept.

[LEFT] Cafe de Wheels exterior minus paint job. [RIGHT] Interior work space of Cafe de Wheels. Photos provided.

While Tom has not lived in Cincinnati his entire life, Mike has. He went through culinary school at Cincinnati State (then Cincinnati Technical College) and has worked in many kitchens around the city at various restaurants. His enthusiasm for the project shined through in our meeting. Cafe de Wheels is “back to the basics” as their focus is hamburgers and fries, but Mike plans on making it a bit more fancy with special sauces and other unique sandwiches like Cubans and his own veggie burger creations.

While there are other mobile food trucks in the process of starting up around Cincinnati, Café de Wheels is the first of its kind in that there is no restaurant backing it. The plans are to use as many local suppliers as possible to outfit the pantry and fill the fridge including Avril-Bleh Meats, Shadeau Breads, and even Dojo Gelato to accompany the warm fruit crisp dessert.

When asked if success could lead to a restaurant later on, Tom said, “That’s always been a dream of mine and this may be the first step, but for now we are really excited to get Cafe de Wheels out on the road.”

Follow Cafe de Wheels on Twitter @burgerBgood to stay up-to-date on their whereabouts, what they’re serving and all the latest news surrounding the mobile food craze in Cincinnati.

Business Development News

Maximizing Cincinnati’s after-hours street vending community

In an earlier writing I generally discussed street vendors in Cincinnati – the role they play in the social life of urban spaces, how Cincinnati’s street vendor scene compares with other cities around the country, and how the city might work to increase the number and diversity of street vendors.

Since that time the very exciting announcement has been made that two new taco trucks will be joining Cincinnati’s street vendor scene, and Taste of Belgium owner Jean-Francois Flechet has indicated an interest in creating a waffle cart to be used around town.

Kogi Korean BBQ Truck (by Kineda) & a Koreatown Taco Truck (by Gourmet Magazine) – both in Los Angeles

At the same time I noticed the revolving door of late-night food establishments has continued on its 360 degree angle as Balboa’s near 7th & Vine streets has closed down. It would seem that these late night establishments would thrive with the lower overhead costs of street vending operations whether they be trucks, carts or stands along side the road.

No longer would these businesses have to shoulder the burden of a 24 hour lease for a three to four hour operation. The new business model would also allow the vendors to travel about following the fickle nightlife crowd across the city. Heck, the reduced overhead may even enable the entrepreneurs to open up secondary operations in other popular night life destinations across the city.

From the city’s end it would seem to ease the tension of businesses opening and closing as frequently as they struggle to make ends meet in a low-margin operation, while at the same time providing the same services and social life that comes along with these businesses.