Taft’s Brewing Company Opens in Spring Grove Village


Located at 4831 Spring Grove Avenue in Spring Grove Village, Taft’s Brewing Company had absolutely perfect weather for its grand opening last weekend. The event drew a large crowd that including children eager to show their strength at the high striker. The 50,000-square foot space includes a brewery as well as a tap room (“brewporium”) with a wide assortment of beer. Taft’s Brewing Company also serves a New Haven coal-fired, crispy Neopolitan-style pizza and sandwiches. The building benefits from some glass garage doors, which look great and gives the brewporium an indoor/outdoor feel. While there I ran into friends from Spring Grove, Clifton, and Northside, which makes sense as Taft’s is within a stone’s throw of two of those neighborhoods and is part of Spring Grove Village, where new stores keep popping up lately, including Sally’s Treats & Treasures and Flamingo Haven—and I should mention that Flamingo Haven is hosting a community yard sale this Saturday. Taft’s Brewing Company is located near the intersection of Spring Grove Avenue and Mitchell Avenue. Regular hours for Taft’s will be 3pm to 10pm Wednesday; noon to midnight Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; and noon to 9pm Sunday.

So Where Do You Buy A Book Around Here?

You may recall certain pundits proclaiming that books were dead – and by “books” we mean the actual three-dimensional objects with a spine and a cover and actual pages as opposed to words that appear on a computer screen. Turns out lots of people – way more than predicted, and not just the old-timey traditionalists – like the experience of reading an actual book, and now the online juggernauts are opening (whodathunkit) good old-fashioned bookstores around the country.

That’s all good and well, but that doesn’t wipe away that fact that the small independent (but infinitely resourceful) bookstore that used to be on Ludlow Avenue (New World Bookshop) is now gone. So if someone who lived ’round here wanted to purchase a book in an actual store nearby opposed to ordering it online (what fun is that?), aren’t they up a crick?

Well, no – but books aren’t always in the obvious places. One store that has expanded its book section considerably is Shake-It Records in Northside. And while you might expect music books (and Shake-It has ’em), the record store sells more books in other categories, including lots and lots of classic literature (including poetry and drama), plus philosophy and other liberal arts staples. Although Shake-It sells new books, it has greatly increased the number of used books it sells. It sells them cheap, and they have actually been surprised at how quickly they fly off the shelves, which is why their book selection and will only get larger. Here’s some photos I snapped at Shake-It a couple weeks ago, but I know for a fact that their selection has increased a lot (and sold) since then – but this’ll give you a taste:

Many people miss New World Bookshop, which only sold new books, but there is one place nearby that has lots of new books and is well curated. I’m talking here of the bookstore at UC’s university center, which along with a substantial local section had a lot of fiction, including lots of new novels, such as Sarah Domet’s The Guineveres – a humorous and intriguing debut novel by an author who grew up in Cincinnati and studied at UC.

And don’t forget Duttenhoffer’s, a used bookstore which has been around Clifton forever and is doing “extremely well,” according to the employee I talked to this morning. In fact, he said, other than December, which benefits from the Christmas rush, June of this year was the best month they’ve had since he started there five years ago. That’s good to hear. It seems like people are falling in love with books again. They’ve been referred to as “the new vinyl,” and like vinyl records books seemed passé for a minute but turned out to be timeless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herzog Music Opens Downtown

Herzog Music opened last weekend in downtown Cincinnati, 811 Race Street to be exact. Walking around the three stories devoted to celebrating Cincinnati’s musical heritage…and providing a bridge to the future, I thought that downtown Cinci just got a little more colorful and music-friendly. Herzog Music is a lot of different things at once, and I won’t pretend that this blog entry captures everything going on at the location, which feels like a combination of a retail store, museum, and performance space – but even an incomplete report should be enough to be of interest to any music lover.

On the first floor the main attraction is a huge selection of musical instruments, with many dating back so far that they predate some of the historic recording sessions that took place in that same building. In a room where guitars, basses, mandolins, dobros, and other instruments hung on the wall, a left-handed girl strummed skillfully on  a right-handed ukulele (“You just do it in reverse,” she explained).

I asked her father if this was family where everyone played, and he said no, that was all her. And it’s funny: after the family disappeared for a few minutes, she slipped back in and grabbed a left-handed guitar off the wall and strummed some more. I believe she’s found her calling!

And there were some other strummers.

The second floor had lots of used LPs, and many more will be put out in upcoming weeks.

And here’s a nice touch: you can play the records that you’re curious about. I threw on Maxayn, an old funk album on Capricorn.

After pawing through some records, I noted to Little Billy Catfish, seen here with Bonnie Speeg, that this particular Three Sounds LP was recorded at a club in downtown Cincinnati. Remember the Living Room?

Herzog Music is also a good place to shop for stereo equipment, including speakers, amps, receivers, equalizers, cassette decks, and turntables.

And don’t forget PA speakers, mixing boards, mics, and all that other stuff you need to perform live:

Speaking of live, when I walked up to the third floor I witnessed a live performance from the same gentleman I saw strumming an acoustic guitar on the first floor. His name is Andrew Hibbert, and he recently recorded an album (some or all of it at Herzog) that will be coming out pretty soon – we’ll have to keep track of that, as he’s a very talented musician whose skills include some first-rate yodeling a la Jimmie Rodgers.

There will be other musical performances at Herzog Music, and there will also be music lessons. So far I’ve only scratched the surface, but that’s okay – you can get a fuller picture by visiting yourself. As I left the building, it struck me that, as much as I enjoyed looking at records and vintage guitars and historical photos, what I liked best about Herzog Music was the way it brought people together. There’s a lot of history in that building, but there’s more to come.

 

Have You Been to It’s Yoga?

This summer It’s Yoga, located at 346 Ludlow Avenue in the Gaslight District, is offering a deal for brand new students to the yoga studio. Their five-class pass for $25 is good for two weeks after purchase.

The yoga studio, which is located above Ace Hardware, has been an active yoga studio and yoga teacher training school since 2000. All instructors have a minimum of 200 hours of certified teacher training and several have 500 hours.


Whatever your interest and experience level, It’s Yoga has a class that will match your needs. The types of yoga It’s Yoga offers include:

  • Beginner’s Yoga for those curious about yoga and brand new to it. Beginner’s Yoga explores the different styles of yoga, proper alignment, and will build one’s confidence to move on to some of the other classes offered at It’s Yoga.
  • Yoga for 50+ classes are offered several times a week, morning, and evening, and have become increasingly popular with older and wiser adults looking to maintain or add flexibility and strength for aging gracefully.
  • More athletic forms such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow and Core Power Yoga that incorporates some Pilates and Yoga moves to create a stronger abdomen and back muscles.
  • Yin Yoga is a very popular Thursday evening class that uses long deep seated postures and stretches to release deep fascia and promote physical flexibility and emotional stillness and relaxation.

So get in some comfortable clothing, grab your water bottle, and join It’s Yoga on the mat. Good stuff for the body, mind, and soul.

To learn more about classes and purchase passes, check out It’s Yoga’s website, like their Facebook page, stop in the studio, or call at 513-961-9642. Namastè.

Guess Who Makes Great Pizza?

Since the beginning, one of the consistent themes of this blog has been this: The Gaslight District is a great place to live because there’s lots to do AND it’s super convenient. Well, it just got a little more convenient. Clifton Market continues to add more and more new features, and now the deli makes pizza that’s modestly priced and immodestly yummy. Let’s take a look at the menu:

You’ll note that there’s a gluten-free option, and you’ll also notice some veggie options. Note also that you can customize your pizza to your heart’s content – and again, you can’t beat the prices. A couple days ago, based on a rave review from a friend of mine, I visited the deli and ordered a pizza. I got the lowdown on all things pizza-related from Ray and Anthony:

Our conversation ended up drawing a crowd that included Jeremy (“Tell everybody he’s the reason this deli is so good,” one of his co-workers said), Sharon, and Brandy, and they were up for a picture as well:

Our banter as we discussed the pizza (“You better make this good! This guy’s writing a blog!”) and the sense the employees really cared about their customers points to one of the best things about Clifton Market: its friendly and personable employees. Okay, so I ordered a Groovy Pizza, and while I was waiting for it I visited the beer selection, as one needs to wash down the pizza with something.

While there I remembered a conversation I’d overheard recently where someone standing in front of these doors was surprised to learn that the Brewery District also sells beers behind them. I can understand his confusion, as the wording is a little ambiguous, right?

After I took the pizza home I allowed the pizza to cool down a little…or long enough, at least, to snap a photo of it. Like my friend Suzanne, who recommended I try the pizza in the first place, I loved the crust, I thought the proportions were just right, everything tasted fresh, and it was one hot pizza. And somehow the personal touch added that extra something to it. Grab one the next time you visit Clifton Market!

Mediterranean King Has New Owner + Offers Expanded Menu

Mediterranean King has been in Clifton for almost five years now, serving its tasty blend of Authentic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Cuisine at 3307 Clifton Ave. for both dine-in and carry-out. Recently the restaurant came under new ownership. It’s very much a family operation, as the new owners and most of the staff are a Syrian family. Also, the Manager and familiar face, Kerry Ann McGrath, has been with Mediterranean King since the beginning, behind the scenes and in front. The restaurant also does a lot of catering, and interested parties should call (513) 221-7222 to arrange the perfect, custom spread for their event. The classic, original menu items customers expect and love remain, but there are some new items as well. One new item is the Cheese Boat (Fatayir bi Jebneh), “a Syrian savory pastry filled with a mix of herbs and cheese inside our handmade dough, baked to golden perfection.” I happened to stroll into the kitchen right after these Cheese Boats were baked, and I think you can tell just by looking at this picture, just how succulent they were.

Another new goodie is the Samboosa, “a savory Cheese or Meat filled dumpling in a handmade flaky, golden shell.”

And what about Qatayaf, which are “light, fluffy pancakes filled with “Ishta”(Cream cooked with half and half & cheese) topped with simple syrup.”

And there’s Fatayar Asafiri, “little fluffy pancakes filled with cream and cheese, topped with crushed pistachio and simple syrup!”

And don’t forget Baklava!

Here’s another dessert dish, Kunafa, “a pastry made of shredded Filo dough, filled with Ricotta Cheese & cream, topped with simple syrup.”

Other new dishes and exciting renovations are on their way, along with, as I said before, the original menu. To find out what else Mediterranean King is cooking up, like and follow their Facebook page. And if you have any questions or want to order carryout, call (513) 221-7222. We’re glad to have Mediterranean King in the neighborhood, cooking delicious, authentic food and offering a calm, peaceful atmosphere. I always found the previous owner and his staff to be warm and welcoming and personable, and I got the exact same vibe when I walked in today and met Hanan, the mother in the family (she’s the woman on the right).

This restaurant has long been a dream of Hanan’s, and one the owners, her family, have made a reality. Mediterranean King encourages everyone to stop in and meet the new family, as they love to welcome and personally chat with patrons. That was also the case with the previous owner, and he searched a long time for the right family to take over the business. Fortunately, he found them.

 

Bruegger’s Is Back In Business

Bruegger’s reopened today, and it’s better than ever, with streamlined service and an even cozier atmosphere (I like the dark walls and soft lighting). A place to grab a quick bite to go or a place to linger for whatever length of time with a laptop or book – or friends. Seems like the Gaslight District just keeps getting better, with our new grocery store, Clifton Market, now up and running, a new barbershopthe Whole Bowl an instant hit – and the Clifton Plaza music series back in action (it’s every Friday and Saturday night), along with the long-established businesses and the real sense of neighborhood. Welcome back, Bruegger’s – we missed ya!

QCA Records

Spring Grove Avenue is one of those great old Cincinnati streets with so much history that even if you don’t know the story behind the buildings, as you’re driving along you know that every warehouse and factory stores countless tales tracing back to the days when they were packed with workers and the wide, four-lane street where you now have plenty of elbow room was a lot more crowded. Some places have closed up shop—but not all of them, and you still see semis doing what they did decades ago.

It makes perfect sense that in the middle of all that sits the building belonging to QCA, a company that started making vinyl records in 1950. After all, making records is a mechanical process where you get your hands dirty in the same way that you do in a huge factory. The process involves nickel and silver and cutters and PVC pellets and electro-plating and machines that do everything from making the stamper to ensuring the spindle hole is dead center. The technology of music reproduction has changed a lot since 1950. Some of it has gone away—and some of it has returned. The fact that it in this case the inevitable race to obsolescence wasn’t so inevitable surprised everyone, but that’s what happened after a resurgence of popularity for vinyl. Along with equipment that was used for scrap metal or converted for use in other industries, entire pressing plants have disappeared since vinyl records seemed to have gone the route of dinosaurs.

QCA (Queen City Album) is still here, however. Since 1950, the company has been making records, first as vinyl albums, then cassettes and CDs. Once, like King Records, a soup-to-nuts facility that offered everything from a recording studio to album covers, QCA switched its focus when demand for vinyl plummeted. As vinyl returned, QCA jumped back in, and it’s now involved in several steps in the process of putting together a record. It creates labels for both LPs and 45s, make record sleeves for 45s and is involved in the design of album covers, and I should add that because UltraSuede Studios is in the building, you can once again record on the same premises where your vinyl record might be pressed. And QCA once again masters and creates stampers for vinyl records. Those stampers get sent to Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, which means that when it comes to creating a vinyl disc, you can get it all done in the same state.

During vinyl’s initial golden age, Cincinnati was blessed to have QCA, King, Shaw, and Rite cranking out LPs and 45s, a situation that’s extremely rare for a medium-sized city. As a decades-long record collector, I’ve treasured many of the albums and 45s that were recorded and/or pressed at these facilities. Of those businesses, QCA is the only one still going. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time, but I never had an excuse to go there—not until yesterday, when a friend who’s releasing an album on vinyl invited me to tag along as he talked business with Jim Bosken, the president of QCA. Even with the vinyl revival, newly-recorded classical music seldom comes out on wax. As the music editor of The Absolute Sound, I will write about the making of this record partly because of the unique New Classical + Vinyl combination, but also because Mark Lehman has long been involved with the magazine and I want to spread the word about my friend’s album. I snapped some photos during my visit yesterday, and while I’ll swing back around and say more later about this experience, this is already a lot of words – and besides, the pictures have their own story to tell.

Community Yard Sale at Flamingo Haven April 29


On April 29 Flamingo Haven Antique Mall will host a community yard sale on its lawn. Sellers will include some mall dealers bringing new and different things as well as lots and lots of non-dealers who just have stuff they want to sell—so if you’re interested, sign up! It costs ten dollars to do so, and payment is due by April 25. Set up begins at 8 and the sale will run from 10 to 4. Expect the front lawn to be full of cool stuff; there will also be a food truck, and as long as you’re there, take a look around the antique mall, which has been open for almost a year now. Recently it expanded, adding a new building that’s connected to the original space. For many neighborhoods (including Clifton, Avondale, Northside, St. Bernard, Spring Grove, and Hartwell), it’s easily the closest antique mall, and the fact that it’s located near an intersection (Spring Grove + Mitchell) that thousands of cars pass every day makes it that much more convenient (plus it’s right off I-75). Flamingo Haven is open seven days a week, and its phone number is (513) 541-1812. Its address is 4530 W Mitchell Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45232. If you’re coming from Northside on Spring Grove Avenue, take a left at W. Mitchell, and after a third of a mile you’ll see the building on the right. Pay attention, though, because the building is set back from the street; there are parking lots on both sides of the building. See you on April 29!

Clifton Barbers

Clifton Barbers is officially up and running. As these pictures testify, there’s definitely a neat, old-school, stylish look to the establishment, right down to the classic barber pole that welcomes you as you walk down the street. The address is 337 Ludlow Avenue, the phone number 513-281-3163, and service is walk-in only. Hours are Tuesday thru Friday 10am to 7pm and Saturday 10am to 3pm. Here’s their Facebook link and a link to their website.

It took no time for this latest incarnation of Clifton Barbers to integrate with the neighborhood. Even if you don’t need a cut, Brandon, Blake, and Cody encourage everyone to just stop in and say hi. Along with being another valuable small business in the Gaslight District, Clifton Barbers is a place to gather and chat.

While I was there, a barber was finishing a haircut of a young boy, while next in line was his father. What better way to show that this old/new business symbolizes something handed down from one generation to another, in a neighborhood where there’s a lot of that. Clifton Barbers goes back decades, and Dan the barber was one of those small business owner that make the Gaslight District such a special neighborhood. It’s good to know we have some worthy successors.