|View of Cincinnati from the streetcar|
I took a play day last week with my 17-year-old as a chance to capture summer before she’s off to college and a new, young-adult life.
We awoke at 7, were on the road by 8 and parted ways by 8:45. I headed to a meeting in Clifton as she toted her laptop to our favorite near-campus coffee shop, Rohs Street Café. As a chai lover, I adore their freshly brewed, spicy Rishi blend, lightly sweetened with honey and topped with frothy, steamed soy milk. She prefers coffee, but we both like the eclectic vibe in this church-run, old-school coffee house.
After my work wrapped up, we traversed an almost daily transforming Clifton Heights that’s given way to tall, cookie-cutter facades and food franchises at the expense of individual architecture and mom-and-pop eateries and shops. My family has not forgiven Myra for closing her brownstone, boho-meets Moosewood café with dozens of homemade soups, healthy salads, eclectic entrees and sandwiches.
We cut down Calhoun with a quick jog on Clifton, east on McMillian, down West Clifton to Vine, and, in short order, arrived at Findlay Market. The first hour of parking is free, 50 cents an hour for hours one to four, so we aimed for two.
We began with the outskirt markets: Dean’s Mediterranean Imports with its freshly baked zatar flatbread, baklava, varieties of feta (feta is betta, a window sign reads) and hit neighboring Heist Fish and Poultry since 1934 to discover we were thirsty. We whisked through the indoor market perusing early lunch choices such as three hearty salads (think beet, feta and walnut) for $9.99 at Fresh Table, gyros, Belgian waffles, tacos, loads of sweets, spices, cheeses and meats. The siren call of Maverick Chocolate beckoned us inside and the deal was sealed with a frozen hot chocolate imbued with 65-percent cocoa. It is, absolutely, the best drink/food/anything I’ve had in a very long time and I am not easily impressed. We split a $5 frozen treat topped with whipped cream. It would have been difficult, but not impossible, to consume an entire drink. It is bittersweet, creamy with some tooth and exactly like drinking a very good chocolate bar. We learned that giant pods contain the cocao seeds – and could be shaken as musical instruments if not so precious a food – that Maverick roasts, then breaks into nibs for all of its chocolate.
|Lily Barney photo|
We conveniently boarded the north end of the connector line at Findlay paying $2 for two, two-hour tickets by app. We rode to Washington Park, disembarking on Elm Street, then proceeded down 13th, around the corner to Vine and Suder’s Art Store. Almost unrecognizable, this former oasis amid abandoned and graffitied buildings, is buttressed by redevelopment. However, inside nothing has changed. The Great American Art Works, Northside-made sumptuous chalk pastels that I covet are still stashed in a high rise of thin drawers in one unlit corner. When my girls were young and I’d accumulated a stash of change, we'd visit Suder’s so I could stock up on these silky gems. I repeated that story walking in, not realizing it made no sense to my daughter until she saw the price tag of $5.99 per each single stick. “Wow, mom, that’s a lot, no wonder you saved up,” she remarked. They are so worth every penny as they glide onto the surface, transforming paper into art. The colors are lush; some are made with actual metal shavings.
I inquired about a summer, community-arts program Indigo was hosting and, when the clerk mentioned there would be a trauma-informed art-making component, I jumped in, volunteering I’d taken a similar workshop and really used the material. “Whose workshop?” she asked. I couldn’t remember the organization, but recalled it was held at the Baker-Hunt Cultural Arts Center in Newport. “Ha, no wonder you looked familiar,” she said. “I’m Amy and I led that.” No kidding. Small world, small delight.
After shopping and chatting, we walked back to the Washington Park streetcar stop, attempting to retrieve our car before our time lapsed. We got on the wrong loop, winding up with a jam-packed tour of the city via the connector. Amazingly the track down Race, Central Parkway and Vine whizzes past some of the city’s most-beloved landmarks: Findlay Market, OTR, Washington Park, The Main Branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Library, The Contemporary Arts Center, Fountain Square, Great American Ballpark, The Banks and the Underground Railroad Freedom Center. At the riverfront, we turned east on Second Street and north up Main by the Aronoff Arts Center, west on 12th Street, north on Elm by the park, Music Hall, back to Findlay and ending in the Brewery District in front of Rhinegeist. For $1, you can’t beat this tour.
From frozen hot chocolate to frozen falafel, we celebrated the best of the Queen City's delights. It's good to occasionally be a tourist in your own city