The lovely folks at Ensemble Theatre invited me to provide guests with a few ideas about where to eat in Over-the-Rhine. Want more delicious food ideas? Check me out at wine me, dine me.
When I moved to Over-the-Rhine in 2007, the only restaurant around was Tucker’s. It’s still a great place, but in the past five years, dozens of restaurants have opened, and many of them are ideal for a pre-theater dinner or post-theater snack or drink. Here are a few of my favorites.
Japp’s (1134 Main): Don’t go here expecting a Miller Lite or a simple gin and tonic. Let the talented bartenders make you a delicious cocktail, or grab a beer from their extensive local & craft list. This is a great spot for a post-show libation.
The Lackman (1237 Vine): This bar specializes in beer– 14 on tap and 30 bottled. It’s a great place to get a quick drink before the show (or after).
1215 (1215 Vine) specializes in wine– they have fantastic happy hour specials, interesting wine flights (my favorite is usually the sparkling flight), and coffee specials as well. It’s laid back and relaxed– perfect to decompress after a long day at work and before the theater.
Taste of Belgium (1135 Vine) is the most convenient restaurant to Ensemble Theatre, being right next door. You can grab a bite, for sure, but check out the custom Alice in Wonderland drink menu they’ll be serving all month in honor of Ensemble’s production of Alice in Wonderland, including “Down the Rabbit Hole”: rosemary-fennel house-made syrup, bourbon-barrel aged gin and tonic.
The Anchor (1401 Race) makes a great spot to split some oysters or mussels before the theater. Plus, if you’re parking in Washington Park, it’s right near the entrance. Bonus: Saturday matinee? They’re open for lunch– and check out the lunch-only shrimp tacos if you check it out in the afternoon.
Quan Hapa (1335 Vine) hasn’t opened as of this posting, but I previewed the food at the Asian Food Fest last year, and fun dishes like Korean tacos will be a great bite before or after a show. They should be open before the end of the year.
Abigail Street (1214 Vine) is for the wine lover– lots of interesting, unique wines on tap that pair well with the tapas-style menu offerings. There’s something for vegetarians and meat eaters alike– my favorite dishes include the octopus (really, trust me on this one) and the beet salad. Finish off your meal with some of the best baklava I’ve ever had (really).
Senate (1212 Vine), Abigail Street’s older “brother”, is known for its gourmet hot dogs, but my favorite things on the menu are actually not the dogs (though they’re excellent): I love the Mussels Charmoula (order extra bread to sop up the buttery, herb-filled broth), My Wife’s Salad (whose sophistication is in the simplicity of its flavorful ingredients) and the Booty and Belly, one of the best barbecue sandwiches I’ve had around here. Yes, there’s a wait, but it’s worth it.
Lavomatic (1211 Vine) has recently remodeled and updated their menu. I like going there for drinks and an appetizer– I am addicted to their goat cheese creme brulee, paired with their Apple Crisp in a Glass, a spiced cider-based cocktail.
A Tavola (1220 Vine) is known for its Italian-style, wood fired pizzas but what I really love are their apps– cauliflower, roasted in that wood-fired oven with a tangy lemon vinaigrette; Kobe meatballs (ask for goat cheese on top– delightful) and bacon tapenade bruschetta. Check out their reverse happy hour, with drink & late night pizza specials, if you find yourself looking for a nibble after a show.
Bakersfield (1213 Vine) is always hopping, but my advice would be to cozy up to the bar, order some chips and guacamole (or queso… or both!) and sip a margarita. The people watching is spectacular, the bartenders friendly and interesting, and the food and drinks won’t sent you back a pretty penny.
Remember, you can park at Washington Park, at the lot next door to Senate, in the Gateway Garage, or on the street.