Art Museum exterior.
is a city that often fails to get its proper due. Along
with fellow Midwestern stalwarts St. Louis, Cleveland,
Indianapolis and Kansas City, Mo., it’s often overlooked
in favor of other metropolises perceived as being more
classic case of substance over style, the Queen City
shrugs its shoulders and soldiers on — re-vamping,
re-inventing and re-energizing itself — which
ironically, adds style to its substance.
Cincinnati institution in need of no re-vamping,
re-inventing or re-energizing is its terrific art museum,
picturesquely situated in Eden Park and home to some
60,000 works spanning 6,000 years. Founded in 1881, it was
the first museum west of the Alleghenies built
specifically to showcase art.
collection includes the usual suspects — from Peter Paul
Rubens to Pablo Picasso, but if you pay a visit before
Aug. 12, you can take in one of the most eagerly
anticipated exhibitions in recent years. "The
Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of
China" illustrates the First Dynasty’s formation
and vast influence over the rest of China. The exhibition
features 120 objects, including 40 that have not
previously been seen in the U.S.
the Cincinnati Art Museum is a cultural beacon, it is far
from the only cultural jewel in the city’s crown.
Celebrated for its acclaimed ballet, opera and symphony,
Cincinnati is also a mecca for those interested in
had a chance to visit the newly renovated Ensemble
Theatre, located in a former bank building in the
Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, to catch a performance of
"His Eye is on the Sparrow." The one-woman
musical about the ground-breaking African-American
performer Ethel Waters, whose career took her from
vaudeville and Harlem’s Cotton Club to Hollywood and
Billy Graham’s Crusade, was as good as anything I’ve
Cincinnati’s cultural scene is famously robust and
firmly entrenched, a new wrinkle on the tourism horizon is
happening just across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky.
B-Line, in operation only since early this year, is an
extension of Kentucky’s famed Bourbon Trail, with the
emphasis on craft bourbon. I set out one day with Julie
Kirkpatrick, VP of sales and marketing at the Northern
Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau and
self-proclaimed "Chief Bourbon Sipper," to
sample the goods.
intro to the B-Line began with lunch at Tousey House, an
1822 Federal-style house in the historic district of
Burlington, Ky. It began as a tavern and after functioning
as a livery, hotel, boarding house and consignment store,
has come full circle and is once again a tavern/restaurant
serving Southern comfort food at its best (the salmon
croquette sliders with fried green tomatoes and house-made
remoulade were delicious.)
it was on to do a bit of tasting at two of the three craft
distilleries currently anchoring the B-Line. While Boone
County Distilling Company and New Riff Distillery have
different philosophies — the former is more traditional
in approach, while the latter has a decidedly
next-generation aesthetic — the one thing they have in
common is the seriousness with which they take their craft
you’ve filled up your Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport
and are itching for some more trails to travel, this is
the one for you. It has a definite tie-in with the
commonwealth’s version, with Kirkpatrick explaining that
"The Kentucky Distillers’ Association will
determine which of the craft distilleries will be admitted
to the trail."
ended our day with more sipping at Newberry’s
Prohibition Bourbon Bar in Newport, Ky., a speakeasy named
"one of the best bourbon bars in America" by the
Bourbon Review Magazine.
Kim and Peter Newberry fashioned the intimate bar from
what was once a garage on their property in Newport’s
East Row, where as Kim says, "there’s a bar tucked
on every corner."
a selection of 1,500 bourbons and rye whiskeys and its
welcoming atmosphere, this one is not to be missed.
Cincinnati area’s ever-evolving food scene is as
creative as its arts scene. Boomtown Biscuits and Whiskey
gets its name from the westward expansion where intrepid
pioneers struggled for every acre of ground, often
fortified by … biscuits and whiskey.
likely fortify you as well, but there is a caveat. This
place is a popular brunch spot, with a wait for a table
often being 90 minutes on weekends. Do wait … it’s
a bit of a stretch from hardy pioneers to French
existentialists, where at Sartre in Over-the-Rhine the
menu is light on biscuits and heavy (but not too) on
contemporary French cuisine. You might feel a
philosophical bent coming on as you tuck into dishes such
as country pate with fermented pickles, griddled bread and
mustard and steak frites with peppercorn sauce and
brasserie is adjacent to Rhinegeist Brewery, so if you
prefer this environment, know that Sartre’s has a
pneumatic tube known as "the Burger Launcher,"
which catapults orders over to the brewery’s tap room.
you need a Southern soul food fix, book a table at Purple
Poulet, a mix of culinary styles from Charleston, New
Orleans and points beyond. You can’t say this place
doesn’t have a sense of humor, with dishes named Redneck
Rockefellers (oysters) and Swamp Critters Provencale
(skillet frog legs, shrimp and crawfish with pernod,
garlic, tomatoes and capers).
you’re not feeling too experimental, you can always go
with their claim to fame — the fried chicken dinner
(four pieces with green beans, buttermilk-bacon whipped
potatoes and black pepper gravy).
touches abound as well at one of the area’s newest
places to spend the night. Hotel Covington is a funky
fixture in what was formerly that city’s Coppins
Department Store. Masterfully repurposed, it offers guests
local delicacies such as Maverick chocolates, New Riff
bourbon, Braxton Brewery beers and Newport’s Carabello
addition, each room features a fur throw from the faux fur
collection of local icon Donna Salyers. The lobby bar,
with its large bourbon barrel sculpture, is a buzzy
Covington serves as a microcosm of The Queen City itself
— with its mix of working-class unselfconsciousness and
trendy bravado — a place I never tire of visiting.
You go to Cincinnati and North Kentucky:
to stay: Hotel Covington, 638 Madison Ave., Covington,
Ky.; 859-905-6600; hotelcovington.com
to eat: Tousey House, 5963 N. Jefferson Street,
Burlington, Ky.; 859-586-9900; touseyhouse.com
Poulet, 603 6th Ave., Dayton, Ky.; 859-916-5602;
OTR, 1910 Elm St., Cincinnati; 513-579-1910; sartreotr.com