Sweets and Meats BBQ plate and Derrick Braziel (inset)

3 Great Cincinnati Food Startups

Mortar founder Derrick Braziel shares a few spots the program has helped launch.

Derrick Braziel didn’t just found Mortar, he’s also a graduate of the entrepreneur-training program that helped him get his Pata Rojas Taqueria off the ground. “The name Mortar was created because if you’re in Cincinnati, you’ll recognize a lot of really beautiful buildings,” says Braziel. “You’ll see these buildings, and you’ll see the brick, but in our opinion, it’s the mortar that holds the community together.” He launched Mortar, a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs of color, in 2016 and around 300 people have gone through the program, including these fellow food-and-drink graduates. 

Esoteric Brewing: Located in the city’s historic Walnut Hills neighborhood, Esoteric Brewing is Cincinnati’s first Black-owned brewery. CEO Brian Jackson’s welcoming gathering spot serves IPAs, porters and seasonal offerings and has regularly scheduled trivia nights. “He had a ton of experience brewing beer at his home,” Braziel explains, “but he wanted to take it to the next level.” 918 E. McMillan St., Cincinnati 45206, 513/214-1987, esotericbrewing.com

Sweets & Meats BBQ: This catering company and food truck specializes in smoked meats, traditional sides and homemade desserts. The family-owned business founded by CEO Kristin Bailey has been serving up comfort food favorites to Cincinnatians since 2014. “She now has an award-winning barbecue restaurant,” Braziel says. “It’s a great example, in my humble opinion, of an entrepreneur who was willing to take the leap and try something different.” 2249 Beechmont Ave. Unit B, Cincinnati 45230, 513/888-4227, sweetsandmeatsbbq.com

BlaCk Coffee Lounge: A specialty coffee shop located downtown, this spot offers brewed coffee as well as espresso drinks, sandwiches and pastries. Owner Means Cameron opened the cafe in early 2020, inspired by hip-hop culture and born out of a desire for community. “He recognized that there weren’t many locations in Cincinnati for the African American community to have coffee, have a safe space,” Braziel says. 824 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202, 513/802-5228, facebook.com/blackcoffeecincy

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