My Food Experience in Cincinnati, OH

pastries at coffee emporium

I have to say, trying to find a true vegan restaurant in Cincinnati was very, very tough. As in, there aren’t any, well downtown that is. And does someone who eats a vegan diet have to only eat at vegan restaurants? No, of course not. In fact, I know vegans who regular steak houses because they have amazing baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and salads. So regular in fact, that the owners and wait staff are on a first name basis with them. But, I write a vegan blog, and my whole purpose in traveling to other cities is to find those hidden gems in the cities I travel to, not the typical places that exist around the country; the Chipotle’s and Tokyo Joe’s if you will. We all know those establishments are great places to eat and have good options for those who eat vegetarian and vegan. But I want to find the places that are either hidden in the city or aren’t obvious choices for plant based food. 


So what did I find in Cincinnati? I learned that Graeter’s Ice Cream and LaRosa’s Pizza are pretty much city staples. And well, honestly, people here in Cincinnati love their meat! They are very serious about. So many award winning steak houses around the city, not to mention Cincinnati Chili (for those unfamiliar with what Cincinnati Chili is, as I was until a couple of months ago, it’s basically chili poured over spaghetti noodles. Make it a 3 way by adding diced onions and grated cheddar cheese). And there are quite a number of pig statues around in the restaurants as well, which I learned is to recall Cincinnati’s annual Flying Pig Marathon and the city’s’ nickname of “Porkopolis”. The city’s nickname dates back from the mid 19th century, when the Cincinnati meat packing industry led the country. There is an actual historical importance of the pig industry in this city. 


I know vegetable eaters probably don’t care much about that fact, but it is a big part of this city’s history and I felt like I needed to share it. We can’t ignore a part of history just because we don’t like or approve of it. However, healthier, plant based options and restaurants are creeping their way into the city of Cincinnati. 

Restaurants like Melt, which is dubbed a humble yet hip spot delivering health-oriented sandwiches, salads & entrees with a global bent, are making a statement with their food. Every local I asked about where to find vegan food pointed me to Melt. This is the place to go if you want that vegan Cincinnati Chili. They offer a fabulous black bean chili that they make in house-with chocolate and all! They also have an incredible vegan mac n’ cheese and offer alternative proteins like tempeh and seitan. Even though they serve meat and dairy cheeses as well, they are building a name for themselves as the “vegan’s place the eat” in downtown Cincinnati. With now 2 locations, find them on the north side of town or at their new location in the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). 

I ate at a restaurant called Kaze (pronounced Ka-zay), that was a Japanese Sushi Bar/gastro pub/beer garden, located in OTR. That type of restaurant is new to Cincinnati. But they had a fabulous roasted vegetable bowl with rice and miso butter. It was loaded with fresh veggies like red potato, mushrooms, broccoli , brussel sprouts, carrots, seaweed, radish, green beans and celery. It was to die for. And enormous, I couldn’t eat all of it. But I gave it my all that’s for sure. 😂They also had a few selections for vegetarian sushi. I had the kito roll, which was sweet potato, asparagus and avocado. And instead of using soy sauce and wasabi to eat it with, the chef provides a chimichuri sauce with this particular roll. So yummy!! I wish I would have ordered more….

If you’re looking for a light lunch with a more urban feel to it, check out the Coffee Emporium, a neat coffee shop located at the south side of OTR. Phenomenal coffee, ☕️ as they roast their own beans in house and have dozens of varieties. My brother in law would love this coffee shop! 


I had an iced coffee and the rich flavor it had was out of this world. It was very refreshing. They also have hummus pita sliders, pitas topped with hummus, sliced tomato and sliced green apple. I never would have thought to combine hummus and apple but it worked really well. Hats off to whoever has thought of that! 

My last night in Cincinnati, I ate at a place called Maplewood Kitchen and Bar. Located right by my hotel in the Central Business District, it was kind of an accident that I stumbled upon it. But happy that I did. Known for their extensive brunch menu, Maplewood Kitchen has a sit down restaurant feel to it, but you actually walk in, order your food then sit down. The bartender said that it just helps the whole place run smoother, especially mid week when all the business folk have to eat and get back to work after lunch in a timely manner. I sat at the bar however, where it can be full service if that’s what you desire. I am really enjoying sitting at the bar, because being a party of one it’s a less awkward place to sit and you can socialize with others around you if you want to, or not! There are no set rules. Plus, they keep the wine at the bar…..

The Maplewood Kitchen has a fabulous power bowl with quinoa and farro, avocado, tomatoes, beets, crunchy green beans, grilled corn on the cob, and arugula. For you vegetarians out there, they can add two poached eggs to it if you like. This bowl was crunchy, filling and satisfying. It had amazing flavor too, with a slight hint of pepper in every bite to give it some kick. 

I also ordered their wild mushroom toast with whipped goat cheese, but they were out of it. So I settled for their tomato toast. It was extremely creamy and tasty, especially with that tang of goat cheese mixed with the juice from the tomatoes. Num! Tomatoes are a good second to mushrooms.😝

There is a pizza place that I was trying to get to, but because of the holiday weekend it was closed multiple days. The Kitchen Factory, formally known as Northslice Pizza, serves traditional New York style pizza by the slice or whole pies. But they also have a vegan menu, offering vegan pizza, vegan meatballs and their own vegan mac n’ cheese. So if your ever in the mood for pizza and in the north side of town, give The Kitchen Factoy a try. They have late night hours with a late night menu as well. 

Check out my post for 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab for a mellow place to hang out for lunch or drinks at night! 

Walking around the city all weekend, shopping and eating food, total dream. I cannot believe this is my life! 

Until next time… 

Bon Appetit! 

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1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab-OTR


Walking up Vine Street in the very up and coming  OTR-Over the Rhine Neighborhood- I stumbled across this wine and coffee bar called 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab. It had began to rain outside and I hadn’t had lunch yet (my initial plan was to eat at Findlay Market but hadn’t reached it yet), so I went in for a peek and immediately I was in love. A very cozy, place with maybe 7 or 8 tables, and a bar was all that fllled the open space. Old brick walls accented one wall, and the ceiling had a vintage loft look to it. There was plenty of shelf room for the many bottles of wine, and a slightly elevated coffee bar sat behind the wine bar. That was it! This place took pride in serving the best cups of coffee and lattes, as well as wine.




I wanted to have a glass of wine (no judging!) and decided on one of their flight options. I was served 3 different glasses of red wine, Syrah to be more specific, each glass had a little bit more of a sample size in it. The neat thing that this place does is that they number the glasses one thru three, and you get to guess which of three glasses of wine is based on how they taste. The answers were on a card that the bartender puts behind the glasses. You are allowed to use the wine menu’s description of the wine, but nothing else. I got one out of three wines correct. Yep I need to drink more wine so I can get better at those blind tastings! 😜


The owners of this place just opened up a restaurant a few blocks away in the OTR called Pleasantry. It’s a farm to table type place and it’s actually located on Pleasant Street! Any way, 1215 actually offers small plates and brunch plates made by the chefs at Pleasantry. They offer fresh made bread and oils, desserts and quiches. No real vegan options, except the bread and oils (olive and truffle oils). I chose to try their ricotta, pesto and pecan bread. Made from fresh made from scratch ricotta, home made pesto and pecans, spread across a toasted baguette made the perfect snack! The earthy flavors in the pesto really brought out the flavors in the wine, which is how I was able to figure out the one glass of wine in the mystery flight! 


If you’re ever in the OTR and need a lite and tasty snack, a gooooddd glass of wine and excellent service, hit up 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab! 

Until next time….

Bon Appetit! 

Our Last Hoorah in Congress Park

12 years ago, almost to the day, my husband and I made our first ever home purchase. We bought a one bedroom condo off Colorado Blvd and 11th Ave in Congress Park, a neighborhood just 10 minutes east of downtown Denver, CO. We couldn’t have been more excited about owning our own place, and Levi, at the time, was walking distance from work. A few milestones happened during our 6 years of living there: 2 college degrees, the birth of our first child, Levi making his way up the Plant Ops ladder. And handfuls of memories that we will keep with us always. Memories like biking to work and school downtown, walking to restaurants on date night, renting movies on Friday nights at the Corner Spotlight, which is now home to Trader Joe’s. Or riding the #10 bus home from whatever we were doing downtown. 

Or walking our dog through the neighborhood, dreaming of someday owning a Denver bungalow. Walking to Annie’s Cafe on 8th and Colorado Blvd., to have breakfast for dinner, before it moved to its location on Colfax Ave.

 Sitting at Marco’s Pizza, still in awe that we lived down there! And of course, eating the best margarita pizza we’ve ever had in our lives. 😋 And who can forget the irresistible Pad Thai from Swing Thai? I still can’t find Pad Thai that is as good as theirs. 😩😩 Well, we still own that condo…for about 6 more days. We have been renting it out for the past 6 years, losing money on it every month. But I haven’t been able to let go of it, because I feared those memories would disappear and that that part of my life would officially be over. The “before kids” life, the time when life seemed a little simpler, even though we definitely had our struggles. I’m a very emotional and sentimental person, and I hang on tight to feelings. 


Cities like Denver are notorious for having many restaurant gems tucked away in the neighborhoods. Washington Park (Wash Park) is a great example, as well as Capital Hill, The Highlands, and of course, Congress Park, to name a few. So, for date night, the hubby and I decided to have one last night out in our old neighborhood, and try to hold onto those feelings just a little bit longer. I wanted to try the places that we always walked or drove by, and talked about, but never actually went to. There are 2 neighborhood area shops that are located along the street of 12th Ave in Congress Park. The first cluster is located just a few blocks west of Colorado Blvd., where shops occupy all four corners of the intersection at 12th and Madison. There used to be an ice cream shop called The Daily Scoopthat was famous for the “12th Avenue Twister”, their version of a Dairy Queen blizzard, but is now occupied by another ice cream shop called Sweet Cooie’s Ice Cream Shop

There is also a great local coffee shop called Under the Umbrella Cafe and Bakery, and they have a really good chai latte; a Dominoes Pizza and a gardening shop, called Wildflowers.

And lastly, a children’s music school sits right in between Pudge Brother’s pizza and Sienna Wine Bar. A lot sure has changed since we have lived down there. 

The second cluster of shops in the neighborhood, where we chose to go, is a little east of Josephine on 12th. This cluster hasn’t changed much. It is still home to Peter’s Chinese food  (really, really good Chinese food😊), a laundry mat, 12th Avenue Market and an Ace Hardware. I always thought that location was odd to have an Ace Harware, but it’s been in business for a long time!


And of course, Chef Zorba’s, rated number one for Greek food in Denver. Their baklava is amazing! We always chuckled about how run down it looked from the outside, but it was always packed with people for lunch and dinner. 

At the end of the row of shops and restaurants, is a restaurant space that changed a couple of times during our time in Congress Park. The restaurant that is currently in that space, seems to be doing pretty well. Shells and Sauce has become a very popular Italian spot in the neighborhood. With a spectacular roof top view, I couldn’t wait to share a meal with my man at this cozy, romantic neighborhood venue. 


As you walk in to the restaurant you notice their semi-open kitchen right away, tucked behind their comfy first floor dining room and the bar to the right. The hostess greets you within seconds and everyone is super friendly. I was in heaven immediately. How could I not be? Eating in a place serving my favorite food (spaghetti and salad) with my favorite person in the world, in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the world. It felt like the perfect night already, and we hadn’t even sat down yet! 

The hostess sat us upstairs, in their enclosed roof top seating. The view over looking the neighborhood was amazing, and added a perfect back drop to our night.


Now…on to the food. This is a food blog after all 😝🤗

We started with salads. Aside from their traditional Italian Caesar salad (which my hubby got) and a tossed mixed green salad, there were a few hidden gems on the menu, one of which was their porteblla mushroom salad. It was so tasty! Peppery arugula lay a top grilled portobello mushrooms, with baby tomatoes, onions and crispy capers all combined for a perfect, crunchy, zesty bite! And I can’t forget to mention the tangy, lemon vinaigrette that gently coated the salad. Yum yum 👅 


The hubby’s Caesar salad

Accompanied by their herb bread dipped in a balsamic herb reduction, and my glass of Malbec, it was a perfect start to our meal.


Can I just say that I looooovvvvveeee balsamic vinegar?? Especially with herbs and bread!! Teehee 😋😋

Italian restaurants can be a little tough to find a good plant based meal. Yes, spaghetti can be vegan but it’s also not very nutritious on its own. Throw veggies into the sauce, make it with a plant based noodle like edamame or brown rice, you have just enhanced the nutrition of your spaghetti. But, more traditional Italian restaurants don’t carry edamame or brown rice noodles. So what is a plant based friendly alternative? Well, this gal went for the butternut squash, sweet potato and goat cheese stuffed shells, with a pesto sauce. Goat cheese? Goat cheese is vegan? Ummmm well, no. But if you want to know why I eat goat cheese once in a while, read this. No, goat cheese is not vegan, but it has more vitamins in it than cow milk and is considered a clean food to eat. Also, most goat farms are humane and treat the goats kindly. Lastly, some cultures would use goat milk as infant formula, because of it’s vitamins and easiness to digest. So yes, I will indulge in goat cheese every now and then. Plus, it’s yum and gives me my cheese fix! 

The stuffed shells were very creamy, and sweet because of the sweet potato. The sweet flavor paired really well with the pesto sauce. And the whole bite was finished with the after taste of tangy goat cheese. Bam! 

The conversation between my husband and I that night was the best it’s been in a long time. Me sipping my wine, him his whiskey, we talked about where we’ve been, where we are now in our busy life. And of course, where we hope to be going. Actually having the time to sit and talk, uninterrupted, was a gift to us that night, as I am sure it is to most parents. Most days, we talk while taking care of 3 crazy kids, barely finishing a sentence before our attention is averted. We talked for a while that night, and shared an amazing dessert. Flourless chocolate cake is one of my faves. They are typically made with dark chocolate, and are so rich you can only have a few bites before going into a chocolate coma. 😍but the creaminess of a cake made without flour, cannot be beat. 

There was an article written in the Westword back in 2009, that takes the readers down memory lane on Colorado Blvd. I related so much to it! The last line was “I will always return to Colorado Blvd”. I really hope I do too. 

Until next time….

Bon Appetit!