One of the great things about living in a city that is constantly changing and developing is the opportunity to be a tourist in your own city. Having been born and raised in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, I find myself sometimes getting stuck in my routine, going to the same places I went to growing up. However, after living away for ten years, I have returned to find that there are so many things happening in an area that when I was young I considered boring. There are so many new restaurants, bars and attractions that have come to this area over the past few years and my boyfriend and I have had a ball trying out all of these places. Some are the places of old that we have just now discovered and some are completely new. So, just in case you’re looking for something fun to do with your significant other, Mike and I have compiled our list of our favorite date night spots!
Dinner, Bowling and a Movie
Redondo Taqueria, located in Newport, has been around a while, but our first visit was just a few weeks ago. If you’re a margarita lover, like myself, I highly recommend this place–y’all they have $4 happy hour margaritas. Yes, you heard me right $4. The food was also great and really reasonably priced and they have a ton of great specials throughout the week. After dinner we headed to Axis Alley, right next door. Being the competitive type, bowling is right down my alley (ok I know that pun was terrible but I couldn’t resist!) and as an added bonus, we were able to watch all of our favorite sporting events above the lanes. They are full lane side service so you can relax and enjoy your game while they deliver food and beverages right to your lane. If you’re not really in the bowling mood the AMC movie theater is right around the corner, and dinner and a movie is always a good idea.
Oldest Bar in Cincy
One of the best kept secrets in Cincinnati is The Blind Lemon. Located in Mt. Adams the character and charm of this bar keeps us coming back. It’s your traditional hole-in-the-wall bar that has been around since 1963. It’s not the club-thumping, loud music type of place. It’s the place where you can hear the classics–Billie Holiday, Louie Armstrong, Frank Sinatra. It’s the place where you can sit on the patio and listen to the live music or stay inside next to the roaring fire. Our absolute favorite part about this bar are the specialty drinks. They’ve got you covered in the winter months to stay cozy by the fire while sipping on hot chocolate mixed with every type of winterish liquor, including Baileys, Kahula and Butternut Schnaps. They stay free and easy in the summertime with martinis, teas and coladas. There is a subtle air of romance mixed with delicious drinks and a bluesy ambiance. What more could you want for a date night?
Candle and Abigail
The Candle Lab has become one of my most favorite spots in OTR. This is a perfect date night idea even if your man isn’t wild about candle making, because it only takes about 30 minutes (unless you’re with your girlfriends and then the chatting will probably make it much longer). The Candle Lab is a Columbus-based fragrance brand specializing in natural gourmet soy candles and custom fragrance. When you make a candle, you are able to choose the glass container, a customized scent made from almost any scent you can imagine and your own label making is creatively yours. They have scents like, bourbon ands straight razor to make sure your man feels included as well as sunflower and peony for all the girls like me who love the flowery scents. Another big plus is that they burn cleanly and evenly for up to 60 hours due to our trusted formula of natural soy wax, cotton paper wicks, and pure fragrance oils.
While you are waiting on your candle head over to Abigail Street for wine and dinner. I was raised on mac&cheese and chicken, so when it comes to trying new and different foods, I’m a bit of a wimp. Luckily for me, Mike has a extensive palate and pushes me to try things that I would otherwise avoid. So when we walked into Abigail Street I was hesitant but open to what the menu held. Abigail Street is a Mediterranean Wine Bar (if I’m being honest the only way Mike got me to agree to trying it is because there was wine in the title) in OTR. If you’re not looking you may miss it, with it being nestled in between Off the Vine and The Senate. But let’s start with the wine, it’s incredible. They have a wide selection varying in price from the college kid to the high roller. The servers are incredibly knowledgeable in the specific tastes (our server picked out a perfect bottle for us just based on me telling her what I liked and didn’t like). And the best part, you can order by the glass, quartino or take a bottle home, they even bottle it for you. (in a recycled bottle of course). Our meal was a far cry from mac&cheese, but we really enjoyed it. The Ricotta and Local Honey was incredible and my Tuna was delicious. If you are in the mood to try something completely out of your comfort zone, this is definitely your place. With menu items like Grilled Octopus and Pan Roasted Quail you will not be disappointed with the variety. Definitely a must try!
Sports of all Sorts
With a guy who loves any and all sports, the Bengals and Reds games are always a favorite for seeing the home team, especially for a night game. Our go to after game bar, especially during the warmer months, we flock to anything that involves a rooftop. Top of the Park-Phelps Bar and 21C Cocktail Terrace are our two favorites. If you’ve got a big group coming from the game, your best bet is Top of the Park, whereas, if you and your sweetie are trying to get away from the crowd, the intimate nature of the 21C bar is perfect. Regardless, both bars provide sweeping views of the city, apps to munch on and a great list of drinks!
Margs and a Speakeasy
If my man and I could choose a date night that is a weekly event, it would definitely be the Frida/Wise Guys combo. Located in Mainstrasse at the heart of Covington, Frida 602 has become our all time favorite mexican hang (sorry Nada, we still love you!) With the whimsy decor all dedicated to the famed Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, known for her self portraits (she made selfies cool way before we had the IPhone!), it has the feel of a traditional Mexican restaurant with a trendy twist. It’s a bit more on the pricey side, but the tacos can be mixed and matched, so for the indecisive people like myself, it’s the best of both worlds. But my favorite part about this place is the queso. It’s not your traditional cheese dip, it’s better. It incorporates all sorts of goodness into it, including corn (so that makes it healthy, right?). It is honestly the best queso I have ever tasted and, as proven by this post, I love a good Mexican restaurant. After dinner and a margarita or two, we go across the street to Goodfellas Pizza, however, rather than staying downstairs for the pizza, we go upstairs to the “speakeasy.” Wise Guys is located on the second floor of Goodfellas but you won’t see any signs directing you. It’s 1920 again with prohibition in full effect and where the only way you know about the bar is through word of mouth. It’s is truly a place where the bartenders know you by name, the atmosphere is small but full of life and there is always a stranger to have a good conversation with. The best part is, the bartenders are constantly using customers (with their permission of course) as testers for new cocktails that they come up with on the fly. I get so much enjoyment by telling the bartenders to “surprise me” when it comes to my drink choice and when I love it and ask the name, they simply say, doesn’t have one, just made it up! Definitely keeps date night interesting!
A Gaggle of Games
We are definitely a game family, whether it be sports or board games or video games, we love them all (definitely stems from our competitive nature). 16-Bit and The Rook are our two favorite bars to feed that competitive spirit and put away our phones to spend a night playing games. 16-Bit lets you step back into the good old days with a plethora of old school video games. I’m talking Ms. Pack-Man, Space Invaders, Mario Bros. and Pinball machines. Pair that with craft beers and you have a night that will be anything but boring. If you’ve ever seen the show, My Boys, The Rook reminds me of Croweys from the show. It has every board game imaginable. You can play Monopoly, Scrabble, Cards Against Humanity, Life…literally almost any game you can think of! And the drinks are all things that you would have had as a child (but with alcohol in them now!). They have a “Pretty Pretty Princess” drink, a Capri Sun alcoholic bev, and a slew of other fun childhood drinks. It’s the best way to not only remember a simpler time, but a great way to really engage with the people around you!
Dinner and a Show
When the moment comes where he says, “you choose what we do tonight,” my answer is always, dinner and a show. The combination of Sotto and the Aronoff Center for the Arts is my idea of a perfectly classy and “adult” evening. Sotto, a fine Italian dining experience, is an underground, dimly lit wine filled romantic restaurant. I will admit, I had to ask our waiter what most of the food on the menu was, but luckily he was awesome and gave wonderful suggestions. The food was incredible (even though I’m still not entirely sure what I was eating) and the desserts were even better (the Ricotta donuts are just incredible). The Aronoff Center for the Arts (right around the corner from Sotto) is my favorite place to find new (or the classic) shows, musicals and ballets. A romantic dinner and a night at the theater is definitely the ticket to my heart!
One of our favorite things to do on a unseasonably warm Sunday in February is to take the dog for a long walk. It gives us a chance to unplug and get out and enjoy the sunshine that winter tends to steal away. A place that doesn’t get a lot of attention when it comes to great walking paths with an even better view is Bellevue Beach Park. Throughout the year, concerts, art in the park and a variety of other events that promote and support the small riverfront community. The walking paths along the river with beautiful views of the city set the perfect scene for a walk at sunset with the ones you love. After your walk, head over to Twisted Sisters. This small family owned cafe located near the park is famous for it’s hot pretzels. Pretzel bun sandwiches, and pretzel bites for dessert make this charming spot feel like you’re right at home.
Love the Cov
Finally, to top off our favorite places, we go to our backyard once again in Covington. Braxton Brewery, Hotel Covington and The Hannaford are three of our favorite places to visit outside of Mainstrasse. My favorite part about these new venues opening in Covington, is that they are celebrating and recognizing the history of the city. I had a long conversation with my Grandpa recently about what Covington was like when he lived there more than 50 years ago. He described it as “the hub of the new and innovative”. He lived near the corner of Pike and Madison (which is now where the Hannaford is located), he and my Grandma shopped at Coppins (which is now where Hotel Covington is located). So to see all of these places being built that are bringing back the innovation to Covington and really celebrating the history of this city, encourages me even more to want and visit and support as much as I can!
The Hannaford, on the corner of Pike and Madison is the perfect combination of history and a good stiff drink. Housed in the old Mutual Building and named for Samuel Hannaford and Sons who was the architectural firm behind the building of Music Hall, it has become our go to happy hour spot to watch a game or just sit and talk. They have restored the building in a way that seems new and trendy but keeps many of the old historic features that the building once was famous for.
Hotel Covington, housed in the old Coppins building, is a classic boutique hotel. It has a cozy feel to it, yet the fancy and extravagant decor makes you feel like you are considered equally fancy. Though we have yet to visit as an actual guest, the Sunday brunch is a basic girl’s dream. With picturesque and delicious food, mimosas and coffee galore and an open and airy dining room, it’s the prefect date afternoon or evening cocktail.
And last but certainly not least is Braxton Brewery. They have an incredible selection of craft beers that they make in the brewery, and though they don’t serve food, there are constantly food trucks parked outside or pizza places that readily deliver. And my absolute favorite part, they allow dogs inside! So for all of my fellow pup-obsessed friends, our four legged friends can come and share in the festivities and have a nice big bowl of water while you sip on your Storm.
So, my friends, should you ever be visting the Nati/NKY area or choose to be a tourist in your own city, I hope these date night ideas encourage you to get out and enjoy the wonderful options that our cities have to offer!
Love, American Beautiful