Uptown Cincinnati is a district of several communities — Avondale, Clifton, Clifton Heights, Corryville, Fairview, Mount Auburn and University Heights — bound together by the Uptown Consortium (www.uptownconsortium.org
). The area includes both the University of Cincinnati and the renowned Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Retail and restaurant action is centered in the urban campus of the University of Cincinnati (2600 Clifton Ave., 513/556-6000). UC, which belongs to the Big East Conference, boasts both a football stadium and basketball arena on campus, along with an extensive music and performing arts season at the much-respected College-Conservatory of Music.
Along the campus’ southern border, on the parallel Calhoun and McMillan streets, the college scene brings together international, eclectic and funky vibe. New apartment buildings with trendy street-level franchises (Panera Bread, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks) face rowhouses and storefronts that have served generations of students. Singular establishments include Pomodori’s (121 W. McMillan St., 513/861-0080), known for wood-fired pizzas; Floyd’s of Cincinnati (127 Calhoun St., 513/221-2434), featuring Mediterranean fare and spit-roasted chicken; and Lenhardt’s German and Hungarian Restaurant/Christy’s Rathskeller (151 W. McMillan St., 513/281-3600), boasting European favorites and a bier garten.
The shops are mostly student-oriented. Urban Outfitters (2510 Ohio Ave., 513-872-0245), housed in a former church, offers such fun finds as the book101 Things to do Before You’re Old (and Boring) and trendy T-shirts, clothing, jewelry and accessories. Duttenhofer’s Books (214 W. McMillan St., 513-381-1340) is a browsing warren of rare and used volumes.
Just east of campus, the University Village area of Corryville includes the rock emporium Bogart’s (2621 Vine St., 513/872-8801), a live-music venue that showcases local and national acts.
In Avondale, just north on Vine Street, the venerable Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (3400 Vine St., 513/281-4701), a fixture since 1875, is internationally known for its animal and plant conservation efforts. Ranked among the nation’s top zoos, the 75-acre sanctuary features a Children’s Zoo, Jungle Trails and Manatee Springs among its exhibits, along with a 4-D Theater that combines visual and environmental effects.Ludlow Avenue/Clifton Gaslight District
As Clifton Avenue winds north of UC, it’s bounded on the east by the oasis of Burnet Woods park before intersecting Ludlow Avenue, the heart of the Gaslight District. The gaslights are the real deal, not retro copies — they glow day and night.
The intersection features one outlet of Cincinnati’s own quirky claim to fame, Skyline Chili (290 Ludlow Ave., 513/221-2142). It’s chili of a different persuasion — a thin, complex sauce draped over spaghetti, with beans and onions as options under a blanket of finely shredded cheese. Served at the counter or in a booth, the chili is a Queen City rite of passage.
Ludlow Avenue’s shopping district spans just a few blocks. The Hansa Guild, (369 Ludlow Ave., 513/221-4002), established in 1980, bills itself as “the natural fiber fashion store,” its goods having been produced by small co-ops since before the term “fair trade” became popular. The store stocks summer merchandise, including sandals, rugs and jewelry, from April to October. Spiral Light (329 Ludlow Ave., 513/751-5523), and Toko Baru (325 Ludlow Ave., 513/751-3338) are funky gift shops with raw-silk shawls and African masks, and New Age-y accoutrements. The adjacent Toko Kids (513/751-1500) stocks unusual toys and clothes.
The Esquire Theatre (320 Ludlow Ave., 513/281-8750) is an independent neighborhood cinema that screens films often not found at the multiplex, including foreign releases. A post-movie stroll to nearby Graeter’s ice cream parlor (332 Ludlow Ave., 513/281-4749) is a common custom. Its French Pot-method ice creams are densely rich, often studded with generous chunks of chocolate — modestly called “chips,” as in black raspberry chip and mocha chocolate chip.
Clifton menu options are broad, from the casual, college-grunge chic of Sitwell’s Coffee House (324 Ludlow Ave., 513/281-7487), to Indian cuisine at Ambar India (350 Ludlow Ave., 513/281-7000).
The residential section north of Ludlow unfolds as a panorama of fine 19th-century homes and mansions, from Georgian and Tudor to Gothic, along with stately apartment buildings. Clifton boasts one of three Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Cincinnati — the Boulter House, (1 Rawson Woods Circle), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Hyde Park
Hyde Park’s epicenter is Hyde Park Square along Erie Avenue, framed by Edwards Road and Michigan Avenue. The square features a charming mini-park with a fountain. Tree-lined and ringed by benches, it’s a perfect midsummer night’s oasis from which to enjoy treats bought at another Graeter’s location (2704 Erie Ave., 513/321-6221). The square hosts a juried art show each October.
Tony shops and restaurants ring the square. Indigo Casual Gourmet Café (2637 Erie Ave., 513/321-9952) and the Vineyard Café and Wine Room (2653 Erie Ave., 513/871-6167) offer outdoor dining terraces overlooking the Edwards/Erie intersection, and a view of the brightly colored “Goldie Hocks” porcine sculpture by renowned local artist John Ruthven, from the city’s Big Pig Gig event in 2000.
Hyde Park features several jewelry stores and art galleries — the Raymond Gallery at the Framery (3508 Edwards Rd., 513/871-9393) displays prints and originals of Jim Borgman, theCincinnati Enquirer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist.
Hyde Bark Fashions (2727 Erie Ave., 513/533-0800), offers trendy togs for dogs; World of Beads (2725 Erie Ave., 513/871-5600), is a jewelry-making shop featuring Swarovski crystals and pearls; and Hyde Park Gourmet Food & Wine Shop (2707 Erie Ave., 513/533-4329), has take-out fare for an impromptu square picnic.
Busken Bakery, just west of the square at 2675 Madison Rd. (513/871-2114) fills cravings for doughnuts and pastries 24 hours a day. The bakery also sells schnecken cinnamon roll loaves, a delectably buttery reminder of the city’s German heritage.
Hyde Park’s residential district features elegant, classic homes. Observatory Avenue runs into Ault Park in Mount Lookout (3600 Observatory Ave., 513/357-2619), with rolling terrain and a pavilion overlooking the Little Miami River valley.Oakley
Neighboring Hyde Park is Oakley, whose shopping/dining district offers a mix of charmingly old and trendy new (www.oakleynow.com
). One visitor to Oakley, Phoebe Ann Moses, took such a fancy to the place that she adopted it in her professional name: Annie Oakley.
The Aglamesis Bros. ice cream parlor (3046 Madison Rd., 513/531-5196) has been a fixture since 1908. It’s an authentic step into the past, with an antique tin ceiling and marble-countered soda fountain. Aglamesis makes French Method ice creams, frozen ices and gourmet chocolates, with scrumptious flavors ranging from champagne and pineapple ices to butter pecan and banana chocolate chip ice cream. The Art Deco-style 20th Century Theatre (3021 Madison Road, 513/731-8000), a former cinema, was saved from the wrecking ball and is now a live concert venue.
King Arthur’s Court (3040 Madison Road, 513/531-4600) and Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore (3054 Madison Road, 513-731-2665) are delightful realms for children and the grownups who buy gifts for them. King Arthur’s offers classic toy lines (LEGO, Brio trains) and items you’re not likely to find at the big-box stores. Blue Manatee’s whimsical decor offers imaginative, child-friendly reading spots, a variety of books and story times, along with an adjoining DeCafe for smoothies, coffee and snacks.
New shops include the Essencha Tea House (3212 Madison Rd., 513/533-4832), which brews dozens of teas and offers such signatures as bubble tea, along with breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Le Studio des Parfums Galimard (3218-A Madison Rd., 513/321-7273), is a create-it-yourself perfume emporium with an extensive bouquet of scents to mix.
Dining options include gourmet pies at Dewey’s Pizza (3014 Madison Rd., 513/731-7755); pasta, sandwiches and creative entrees at Kona Bistro (3012 Madison Rd., 513/842-KONA); and upscale fare at Boca (3200 Madison Rd., 513/542-2022).
O’Bryonville is a shopping oasis along Madison Road (www.obryonville.com
) within walking distance of the East Walnut Hills enclave of old-money mansions. “The Eclectic Mile” lives up to its nickname, with several interior design firms, art galleries and antiques stores nestled among such funky shops as Hemptations (2034 Madison Rd., 513-871/4367), purveyor of hemp clothing and ’60s paraphernalia.
Bob Roncker’s Running Spot (1993 Madison Rd., 513/321-3006) is the starting line for many Cincinnati marathoners. Upstairs is a Shoe Museum, showcasing the evolution of running shoes and the 1984 Olympics memorabilia of Cincinnatian Julie Isphording. Indigenous (2010 Madison Rd., 513/321-3750), showcases local arts and crafts, as does MiCA Contemporary Craft (2039 Madison Rd., 513/533-1974).
The BonBonerie (2030 Madison Rd., 513/321-3399), is definitely the place to go for dessert. The cakes — such as the signature Opera Cream Torte — are spectacular, both in appearance and taste, and the shop also offers pastries, cookies, cheesecakes and specialty desserts. The bakery is attached to a Tea Room, which serves both lunch and tea menus.Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine
Findlay Market (513/665-4839), located in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, is Ohio’s oldest public market and a delectable step back in time. The block-long market house, between Race and Elm streets along West Elder Street, dates to 1852 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Updated with brightly striped awnings, it retains 19th-century charm amid such modern details as wireless Internet access.
Elder Street is closed to cars during market hours, and offers al fresco entertainment, craft vendors and food booths filling the space spring through fall. The adjacent outdoor Farmers’ Market holds court weekends from April to November. It’s a different world from the hypermarket, with vendors specializing in meats, fish, poultry, produce and other comestibles, for a mix-and-match shopping adventure. The market house’s gleaming food cases are filled with delicacies such as handmade sausages, handmade ravioli, German potato salad, goetta (a German specialty of pork, oats, onions and spices), cheeses, homemade peanut butter and a virtual United Nations of seasonings. Ready-to-eat food vendors include Aunt Flora’s Healthy Down Home Diner (513/921-7437).
The Market, renowned for its Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade, also hosts weekend events.MainStrasse Village (Covington, Kentucky)
MainStrasse Village (859/491-0458) is a mix of 19th-century homes, shops and restaurants across the Ohio River and just east of I-75. It’s a world away from the highway, though, with a tree-lined boulevard, Sixth Street, featuring Goebel Park at its western end. The park’s Carroll Chimes Bell Tower recounts the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin on the hour (April through December) with 21 mechanical figures. It’s the focal point for the village’s festival season, beginning with Maifest and including an Oktoberfest in September. Village establishments also participate in monthly First Friday Gallery Hop events.
Wertheim’s Restaurant (514 W. Sixth St., 859/261-1233) and Linden Noll Gift Haus (506 W. Sixth St., 859/581-7633) reflect the village’s German roots. Linden Noll is stocked floor to ceiling with nutcrackers, steins, German porcelain dolls, Black Forest clocks and other gift items. Christian’s Kinder Laden Toy Shoppe (625 Main St., 859/261-3655) features toys, books and infants’ clothing; Leapin’ Lizard (726 Main St., 859/581-2728), showcases art, jewelry and gifts in a former church.
MainStrasse is home to restaurants such as the Dee Felice Café (529 Main St., 859/261-2365), known for Cajun food, live music and a Sunday jazz brunch; and Chez Nora (530 Main St., 859/491-8027), which boasts a rooftop bar/jazz club with views of downtown Cincinnati.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption (1140 Madison Ave., 859/431-2060) is a beautiful Gothic cathedral featuring 82 breathtaking stained-glass windows, including one of the world’s largest (67 by 24 feet).