This past weekend we headed out of the WV hills for a short weekend in Cincinnati, OH to visit one of our favorite hotels, 21c http://www.21cmuseumhotels.com/cincinnati/ (we’ve been to the one in Louisville, KY), and see what one of my (Missy) favorite chefs, Michael Paley, is cooking up at Metropole http://www.metropoleonwalnut.com/. It was also an excellent excuse to visit Jungle Jim’s http://www.junglejims.com/ which I recently read about in Long Weekends magazine http://www.long-weekends.com/Main/Home.aspx.
We kicked off the trip with a dinner stop at Griffith & Feil Soda Fountain in Kenova which we discuss in a separate post.
Upon arrival at 21c – a museum hotel chain (typically in a restored building), currently with establishments in Louisville KY, Cincinnati OH, and Bentonville AR – we were greeted by very friendly valet parkers. The folks at 21c, both in Louisville and Cincinnati, practice excellent guest services. They’re always opening doors, asking how you’re doing and offering other niceties that are often overlooked in most service (retail, restaurant, hotel) experiences. And though I could carry my own luggage, based on tip #8 here http://mentalfloss.com/article/50569/10-hotel-secrets-behind-front-desk I will not deny someone else that opportunity.
The rooms in 21c include fun, artsy touches like these pillows:
and lights (first on wall, second on ceiling):
and these tiles in the bathroom (adult content, must be 18 to continue):
The room was very comfortable, with a sectional sofa that was almost a second bed. Each floor of the hotel, and even the elevator, includes a variety of art in the halls. Our floor had a piece depicting the bunker at The Greenbrier in some kinda yarn:
After a peaceful night’s sleep, we enjoyed breakfast in Metropole, the restaurant at 21c. In Louisville, I discovered the Weisenberger Grits at that 21c restaurant, Proof On Main, to be one of my (Missy) favorite dishes for breakfast or dinner, and I was happy to see them on the menu in Cincy. Service was stellar, as is the case in any 21c related establishment.
We then headed off to a tour of the American Sign Museum http://www.signmuseum.org/. I wasn’t sure what to expect here. How much can be said about signs? Based on our experience at the Corning Museum of Glass – how much glass can a person look at? all the ads say, “allow at least 4 hours to tour” phhfft! surprise, CMOG is amazing! – I should have known I’d be in for a treat.
Todd, the tour guide, director of the museum and light bulb changer, provided an informative tour for nearly 20 museum guests. We learned about the history of signs – wood letters, placecards, posters, light bulbs, neon, enamel, plastics, and more – as we toured examples.
Photos were encouraged so I took some shots of my favs. I was sure the following was created by teh LOL catz, but it was an example of neon letters that could be changed out and Todd later correctly reversed the “H” and “E.”
Posters for shows like Charo’s “Can Can Goes Cuchi Cuchi” (this sounds fabulous!) and Dolly Parton in Vegas were included in movie and event signs:
There were lots of giant lighted and neon signs,
as well as a simulated Main Street with signs shown in their somewhat proper context.
I’d like to thank the person who thought placing colored water in glass and plugging it into electric was a good idea – bubble lights on holiday trees are mesmerizing, like this bubble lighted Pittsburgh Paints sign:
After our tour was complete (allow at least one hour if you plan to visit), we headed over to the Cincinnati Art Museum because it’s FREE (parking is $4). Obviously, we didn’t take pix there. The size and scope of CAM’s collection is impressive. I (Missy) especially enjoyed their galleries dedicated to Cincinnati artists and was impressed with the works of Elizabeth Nourse and Caroline Lord. I got to see old friends (impressionists, modernists) and appreciated two new acquaintances: another Cincinnati artist, Courttney Cooper http://visionariesandvoices.com/courttney-cooper/, http://visualingual.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/downtown-cincinnati-drawings-by-courttney-cooper/, and Ryan McGuinness http://www.ryanmcginness.com/.
If you’re looking for ways to occupy your time in Cincy, whether just visiting or a local, I highly recommend both the American Sign Museum and the Cincinnati Art Museum.
We headed back downtown to hand over our car to our friends at 21c and to grab some food. After reviewing Yelp (we usually find success with this app), we decided to hit Nicholson’s Tavern & Pub http://nicholsonspub.com/, next door to our hotel, for some appetizers and beer. We sat at the bar and were served by a friendly bartender in a kilt. Eric enjoyed a Belgian beer that was finished in a brandy cask (Heavy Seas Holy Sheet, not a beer for the weak):
We ordered Scotch Eggs, Fries in duck fat (served w/mayo!) and Spinach Artichoke dip which were all delicious.
With full bellies, we hit the streets to take in the sites of downtown Cincy before naptime. After napping, we headed to Metropole for dinner. It was dark in the restaurant and I didn’t want to be “that person” taking photos of all my food so I’ll have to describe it to you: DELICIOUS! And, again superb service. Truly, these folks know how to make diners feel special.
Metropole contains a huge custom built wood burning fireplace; most of the meals focus on roasted meats and vegetables. Almost every meal will have an element that is charred, ashed, or roasted in a way that works. Additionally, Metropole (and Proof On Main) practices a farm to table philosophy, so there’s lots of flavor.
We began our meal with cocktails (the Lieutenant that I – Magellan – had was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted. It had bourbon, ginger, chartreuse, and rhubarb bitters served neat in an old fashioned glass), and gazpacho with buretta and fried artichokes (I had to look that up, it’s homemade mozzerella with a cream center; this was not a meal for the calorie-counter). For the entree, Magellan went with the Duck with charred spring apricots, white turnips, local lettuces and cashew puree. Though not a huge fan of duck, he was curious if the ducks he had in the past were not so good because the chefs cooking them were not so good. Such was the case. (Magellan here: I now see why my friends talk about how delicious duck is; I can’t recommend this selection too highly). I (Missy) went with the Bison Burger which had incredible flavor that paired well with the condiments: green garlic & onion marmalade, tomato, aged cheddar and truffle fried shallots. The dish was served with fries which were shoestring/Midwest-like excellent, and I ordered the Chaat – chick pea, cauliflower, potato, cilantro & pickled onion in a yogurt w/spices. Though everything was delicious, the Chaat was my favorite part of this meal. The flavors and textures blended beautifully. I would like to recreate this dish but I have discovered Chaat is defined as “snack food” in the realm of Indian food and there are a billion different recipes online, none of which sound like what we ate. Guess we’ll just have to plan another trip to Metropole. I (Missy) also really enjoyed the lemon cotton candy brought out at the end of the meal.
After dinner, we headed up to the rooftop bar and were lucky enough to find a spot to sit. The skyline was lovely as were the speciality poptails (or at least 50% of the ones Missy tried):
The poptails consisted of popsicles in shots. The first I had, recommended by our server, was lavender and blueberry in a limoncello/vodka shot and the flavors played nicely off one another.
My second poptail was an avocado popsicle in a shot of triple sec/tequila. I was excited about this, but I think there was too much something (lime, perhaps?) in the popsicle that overpowered the flavors of the other components.
After another delicious breakfast at 21c (more grits for me!) (and goetta for me, which was pretty good), we stopped at Jungle Jim’s International Market in Eastgate. Wow! This place is impressive, from the variety of international items to their beer, wine and cheese selections to everyday groceries. We never even made it to the liquor, meat or produce sections.
We entered and went immediately into the international area and were greeted by a wall of hookahs (like you find in your everyday grocery store):
I found giant (like triple the size of your average shaker) containers of Garam Masala and Cumin. I go through a lot of the latter so this was an exciting purchase, particularly because the price was less than what I pay for the smaller size at my local grocery store.
Behind the international foods section is an expanse of hot sauces. I had no idea so many different sauces existed.
I found a greater variety of oatmeal for my weekly breakfasts. (A little over a year ago, all variety of flavor was removed from our market. I’ve even checked out at the sprawlplex though I hate to shop there. We used to get cinnamon & spice, cinnamon roll, banana bread … then someone determined the CRW would only get maple & brown sugar, and we’d like it.) I stocked up on a variety of different flavors and may plan a trip to JJ’s in the fall now that I know it’s just a few hours away. Magellan bought Quisp, which he hadn’t seen in years.
The candy section had a Wall o’ Pez which was a thing of beauty to behold:
Our Cincinnati weekend was lots of fun and at only around 3.5 hours is a trip I hope we’ll make again soon. Especially since we didn’t encounter zombies. But if we had, we could use the tips provided here by 21c:
(so they spelled apocalypse incorrectly, it’s still fun)