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Feb 6, 2013 08:48 PM

Cincinnati - Historic Restaurants

I'm finishing up my final semester at UC and I'm currently working on a project about the history of Cincinnati restaurants and our local specialities.

I am planning on including the history of Cincinnati Chili, French pot ice cream, schnecken, etc. I also want to include the history of several restaurants, whether closed or still operating today. I'm planning to include The Golden Lamb, Arnold's, Mecklenburg Gardens, The Palace, The Palm Court, etc.

I would love it if some Cincinnati Chowhounders could throw out suggestions of other restaurants to include or let me know if you have any interesting information about the ones listed above. Also, I would love it if you could let me know of any great resources to do further research (especially with photos!) or perhaps share a story or two.

Thanks so much!!

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    1. Unfortunately some classics are no longer: Maisonette and Lenharts come to mind. If you're thinking of restaurants that have stood the test of time I can think of the following: Hathaway's (downtown), Maury's Tiny Cove (Western Hills), Barrissi's (Deer Park), Echo (Hyde Park), Graeter's (Hyde Park Square), Zip's (Mt. Lookout).

      4 Replies
      1. re: JohnE O

        Great ideas! Thank you so much, I would not have thought of some of those.

        I'm looking to include restaurants that have a special place in Cincinnati history, whether they are still operational or not. So if you can think of any that are out of business but still important to the history, please do let me know!

        1. re: jordanhamons

          A year+ has gone by, so your project may have been, I hope, successfully concluded. I happened across this site because I wanted to have my memory jolted on the original
          1940s name for Carlo and Johnny's in Montgomery. I hope someone told you about the Oyster House on East 5th. St. In the old days, when I went there with my Dad during WWII, the Oyster House was open only during the "R" months, September through March or April. The owner prepared oyster stews at a little stove in the front sidewalk level window. I could not get enough of their fried oyster sandwiches and only found an equal years later at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. Another favorite for my family during, and for a few years after the war, was the Hop Off Inn on Montgomery Rd. in Silverton. Someone mentioned Mill's Cafeteria on 4th St., between Vine and Race. It seemed enormous to me when I went there with my Grandparents . . there were at least two open food selection lines. The walls were decorated with Dutch theme tiles produced at the Rookwood Pottery on Mt. Adams There were Mill's cafeterias in Columbus and Cleveland. as well. There was a Times Square-style custom sandwich and "sides" eatery called The Wheel. I believe it was on 6th St. near the RKO Palace theater; I think it moved at one point eastward to around 6th. and Main. Another favorite of mine, and one special date, was Valerio's Italian restaurant, in the building that was later occupied by the Maissonette, after the later closed at its Walnut St. location next to the RKO Keiths theater. We would dine there before going to the big Summer Theater tent in Montgomery for a play.

          1. re: ChiSig

            I am all but certain that the building currently occupied by Carlo and Johnny's previously housed Charley's Crab and prior to that Fox and Crow


            1. re: TJ Jackson

              To TJ Jackson. Great! That's the answer I was looking for, Fox and Crow. Thanks for your help.

      2. Mr. Pine and I fondly recall Pigall's (downtown)--once we graduated from Starving Student Status, our first splurge (mid 70s) was Pigall's.

        In Hyde Park, there was the Saucy Crepe, which sadly didn't last for long, but was excellent, too.

        I still have a Cininnati newspaper clipping of some recipes from Mecklenburg Gardens. Great memories. Grew up not far from there.

        For dives/coffee shops: recall The Wheel cafeteria downtown--was a landmark. Then Izzy Kadetz's (spelling is wrong, I'm sure) and for deli sandwiches, the old Red Fox grill. OH--in the old Pogue's plaza, a coffee shop--name escapes for now--always packed and great food. Will see if the name can be found in my aging brain cells, or can a clever CHer refresh for me?

        If you're willing to consider the KY side of the river, Newport had the (once great) Pompillio's (which was in the movie Rain Man)--was last there maybe 10 years ago, and it hadn't kept up the old quality, but was quite the institution for years.

        6 Replies
        1. re: pine time

          Thanks to family for some recollections. Had a long addendum, but it got lost, so here goes again:
          that coffee shop in the Pogue's arcade was indeed Hathaway's, mentioned above. Also downtown: restaurant in the Cincinnatian hotel; the Collanade; 3 Brothers coffee shop; in McAlpin's department store--the Copper Kettle; downtown--Busy Bee deli. La Rosa's Italian Inn; in Mt Adam's--the Celestial; the Precinct; on Chester road--Windjammer. Downtown--Cricket and the California Orange Bar for hot metts and bratts. There was also a fabulous Planter's Peanut roasting place just across from the post office--the smell (and warmth, on a winter day) was intoxicating. Findlay Market. Aglemesis' candies. West side places: the Window Garden and Haybig's. Can't do Cincinnati without chili, and the old icons: Empress, Price Hill and Dixie chili. Cincinnati also had great breweries: Hudapohl and Shangling come to mind. If you want to consider another KY offering: the (burned down) Beverly Hills Supper Club.

          1. re: pine time

            Habig's (pronounced the way you spelled it) - my dad lived around the corner, we enjoyed a lot of meals there; straightforward, simple, good old-fashioned comfort food.

            Hudepohl & Schoenling - Hudepohl is back, I think a local man bought the names and has re-introduced a number of the Hudy beers in the last 2-3 years... Hudy Delight... and so on.

            1. re: MHGarrison

              You made me LOL--growing up, whenever the Reds scored, the neighbor guy came out onto his porch and yelled "have a Hudy!" I think he'd already had a few.

              Thanks, too, for the spelling corrections.

              From the original lists I gave, can't believe I forgot Graeter's ice cream.

              1. re: pine time

                Oooo Graeter's! Still great, but just nnnnot quite as great-er's as they used to be. I believe I've observed some cost-cutting measures as the inevitable impact of the "new normal" has made maintenance of the OLD normal cost prohibitive. A shame too, but, I suspect their marketing gurus awhile ago figured out selling ice cream cones that cost as much or more than a pint might be bad for business. The OLD Graeter's ice cream I grew up on had waaaaaay more natural ground vanilla bean flecks in it than what's been proffered for years, now. They've also changed the chocolate used, and how they use it - now it really is small bits of chocolate chips, not the huge chunks of semi-sweet chocolate that was obviously dripped, dropped, glopped, and drabbed into the ice cream pots that made for those decadently huge chips that were both unique, and delicious. The chocolate is different too - what's being used now has some kind of waxy texture, which makes it chunk in the ice cream differently than what they used before; I prefer the raw semi-sweet chocolate candy texture of the old, huge chips, to this waxy stuff. But, they ARE still there, in business, and successful - and, now, all over the country. Which ain't a bad thing, relatively speaking. Aglamesis though, is plugging along quite well, and I can't say I've noticed any change or cost cutting measures at the expense of the quality of the ice cream. If it has to cost more, so be it - I tend to think quality is appreciated, and that people will be willing to pay for it, if it's great. At least, I hope so!

                1. re: MHGarrison

                  Sorry to hear of the Graeter's changes--it's been years since I've had it. Aglamesis used to be my 2nd choice--guess it's staying true to good quality, huh?

            2. re: pine time

              My great grandfather Joseph Gocker owned the Busy Bee Deli - I would love to hear anyone's recollections of this establishment :). We still make his guy-guy (spelling) sandwich spread!

          2. I lived in Cinti from 1977 to around 1981. I remember that Pigalle's and La Maisonette were the two finest of the fine dining restaurants, with The Gourmet Room at the Terrace Hilton and The Celestial in Mt Adams not far behind. But there was a trend at the time [if any of these still exist or if the trend is still in play, I dont know] of restaurants taking over spots that formerly housed other businesses but keeping the same name [sort of]. The ones that come to mind right off the bat are Zino's Firehouse, The Last National Bank, Edwards Manufacturing Company, Rookwood Pottery, and Tom Powell's Funeral Parlor. There may have been others too.

            There was a lunch counter in the Carew Tower that I remember having great milkshakes. And there was a place called The Barn, a ribs joint near Fountain Square that you had to enter through an alley. For my money it was greatly superior to the better known Montgomery Road Ribs King and Kalt's.

            Despite Cinti's German-Catholic history, I dont recall much of any German food tradition there other than a place called Lenhardt's (I think; I only ate there once) on McMillan. And there seemed to be no Friday Fish Fry tradition at all. But mettwurst were quite popular.

            I am most nostalgic for Izzy Kadetz and Skyline Chili. My local Fresh Market carries Graeter's ice cream now, so I dont jones for that like I used to.

            17 Replies
            1. re: Fydeaux

              Camp horne chile is considered the original cincinnati chile which is served over spaghetti

              1. re: don515

                This is a place I dont recall ever hearing of, even when I was living there. But I imagine that true origin of chili over spaghetti is a topic worthy of a doctoral thesis in its own right.

              2. re: Fydeaux

                La Maisonette, which closed in 2005, had a national reputation and put Cincinnati on the culinary map. It set a record for most consecutive years (41 years) being awarded five stars by the Mobil Travel Guide (now Forbes Travel Guide). There's more info in the Wikipedia entry at

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  All true. At the time I lived there, Pigalle's also had 5 stars, and if not the only city in the country, it was certainly the only city of its size to have two 5-star restaurants.

                  [I was in my 20s when I lived there, so I could be mis-remembering this factoid. But I do remember that this was a bragging point when I was there.]

                2. re: Fydeaux

                  The Barn! That's the place. I was calling it The Red Barn or Old Barn. Did it close when they redid the block around the theatre? I loved it. Felt like it was my own discovery. Took my brother and sister there on one of our Reds weekends in the early 80s.

                  1. re: Leander Wapshot

                    The Barn did close quite a while ago, probably around the time you suggest; I was long gone from Cinti by then. It did seem that you had to know someone who knew someone to find out about the place. In my 20s, when I was still 10 feet tall and fireproof and new to the city, I went in on a lark and fell in love; it was the kind of place where you can imaging that 30 years before you might see Rocky Marciano and his entourage coming in for ribs after the fight. But none of my friends who had lived there a lot longer than me had ever gone near it before I took them here!

                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      I'd love it if someone on this board could fill us in on some of the history of The Barn.

                      1. re: Leander Wapshot

                        I seem to recall that Calvin Trillin wrote something about the place and other Cincinnati dining in one of his food, American Fried maybe.

                        1. re: Fydeaux

                          He alludes to it in the "Cincinnati chili" chapter, where he is led on a tour of the city by Harry Garrison, of the player piano shop. The owner says he loves to see Harry eat ribs. "He just inhales those ribs . . . he's just glowin'."

                          I remember seeing the place when I worked downtown in the mid-'80s. Never went.

                      2. re: Fydeaux

                        My father is Harry Garrison; yes, Calvin Trillin's first book, "American Fried", and one of the chapters was about my dad touring Calvin around town and introducing him to The Barn, Stenger's cafe'/eatery on Vine St., Cincinnati-style chili, and so on. &, yes, my dad certainly loved his food! Calvin wrote that as an article, I believe for the New Yorker, and used his articles as chapters for "American Fried".

                        If my memory serves, the Barn was closed awhile before anything was close to beginning for the Aronoff center. My father ate there countless times over many years, as did I - I believe he may have had me dining with him there before I was ten. It was a GREAT restaurant - what a place! Kind of a dive atmosphere, going back to the 50's at least, probably the 40's. My father was friends with the owner, whose first name was Al, I think it was Al Schavel, or similar to that (Shavel? Schaevel?). He & I both preferred their barbecue sauce to Montgomery Inn; not as sweet as M.I., but similar. It was yummy - they served their full menu until 2:00 AM, and he & I both, and I as a young adult, went in many times late. If you got your order in before 2:00, even 5 minutes, you'd get full service and your order with no complaints from anyone there, it was fabulous to be able to do that. Late night dining in this city suffered a loss with the closing of The Barn, for sure. i remember their sign hanging above their door in the alley... "The Barn", in neon, sloped at an angle, I think "The" was smaller, in a script style, maybe green, and the "Barn" was bigger, in red, if memory serves. Never occurred to me to take a picture, too bad! Al, the owner, was into horse racing, there were pictures of race horses all over, and I think horse statuettes as well, and other race-horse related stuff - newspaper headlines, articles.... there were also great pictures of pinup girls, movie star hotties of the 40's - there was a great picture of a very young and very hot-looking Angela Lansbury scantily clad in some sort of stylized middle-eastern harem garb, there may have been a Gina Lollobrigida... one picture, forget of whom, had them flashing, just slightly enough that you had to look closely, a nipple. I always recall ordering roquefort dressing, although they also had bleu cheese; you almost never see roquefort offered today, anyplace, and back then, it was possible, but rare. The salads were always served on chilled, ice-cold metal plates, very fresh, and were delicious. The ribs were delicious, and always fall-off-the-bone tender, at a time when I would at times find Montgomery Inn's less-than-perfect. I think there was a woman named Seal who ran the place with Al, and was Al's sister - she ran things after Al passed away, until the place closed. I believe she may have taken the sauce recipe to her grave, although I certainly hope she shared it with her own family. I think my father commented that Al would swim everyday at a long-established exercise club downtown, may have been called the Cincinnati Swim Club (?). I miss The Barn to this day, since they were the only place you could grab a superb-quality full-service meal even as late as 5 minutes before 2:00 AM in the city.

                        1. re: MHGarrison

                          It's very nice to hear from you; I met your father several times! I used to work for an audio/record store in Western Hills called Sight In Sound; he bought a lot of records from us. I also recall visiting the Player Piano shop a couple of times.

                          Your description of the Barn is spot on: horse racing art and cheesecake photos of 40s movie stars [I dont think a woman could ever be more beautiful than the picture of Veronica Lake that hung there]!

                          I seem to recall that the sight had 'Rib Pit' in small letters under 'The Barn'. I had my last meal in Cincinnati there before moving away in 1981.

                          1. re: Fydeaux

                            Thanks, interesting that you had a chance to meet my father, he loved music and bought records upon records of music he liked. The Sight-In-Sound name sounds very familiar, but I'm not picturing it so well - but, those were high-school days for me, and I was growing up on the east side of town - quite likely though I was in there with my dad at some time. I think he shopped in Record Theater in Norwood too, I remember they had a conveyor belt you'd drop cassette tapes in large plastic boxes onto from their display shelves/rack, and they were behind a large plastic wall with multiple hand sized holes that you could reach through to grab and drop the tape you wanted, but the holes were too small to pull the cassette-containing cases through, which was how they controlled shoplifting of tapes. I'd be surprised to see that someplace again - sorry for getting off topic from food!

                            'Rib Pit' on the sign, yes! I think so, now that you mention it!

                            Cincinnati is sooooooooo much different now from how it was through the 70's and 80's.... can't even begin to tell you...!

                          2. re: MHGarrison

                            A great post.

                            I recall being somewhere (memory fades) in the late '70s/'80s and he did his famous smoke-ring routine. Astounding.

                            Your father was a great asset to our city. And you have my sympathies on his passing. Heaven just got a lot more fun.

                            1. re: jmckee

                              Thanks, very much appreciated, and very nice of you to say. Also glad you got to see him performing in his prime, he loved entertaining folks with the smoke-rings! Busy week here, lots of planning, you're right, Heaven has just gotten a lot more fun - I haven't come close to having a chance to fully process his loss, but it's an understatement to say he was quite the character - he loved Cincinnati, and many of the restaurants mentioned in these comments!

                              Googling him for something brought up these comments yesterday, I couldn't let it go without sharing thoughts on The Barn Rib Pit, not with all the times I ate there, and with how much both my dad & I liked the place. The hidden-off-the-alley location, reminiscent of a 30's speak-easy, the food, the decor, the bar, the funky seeming-afterthought-of-a-side-room that you had to step down 2-3 steps into... I seem to think getting to the bathrooms meant going down the same hall that led to the kitchen, off to the left of the bar.. well, anyway - memories, memories! My dad ate all over town, and, quite often, I was taken along, so I got to as well - I remember so many of the places mentioned all through these comments!

                              The Gourmet Room was his favorite, and there's some long-gone Italian restaurant that was his favorite (can't recall the name right now, haven't seen it mentioned so far, someplace around in the 50's/60's - &, Lenhardt's - he ate there pretty much all his life; I miss that place too! The schnitzels! The potato pancakes! Those home-made desserts made by Erica! I know it wasn't economically feasible to keep it going, but..... *sigh*! Unfortunately I am blanking out on exactly what the menu said, but I think it said something about Hungarian cuisine, although there was certainly some crossover with items typically German - brat sausages, schnitzels, potato pancakes... with the loss of Lenhardt's and all that new urban-canyon-creating development plus the congestion and elimination of any convenient parking with Lenhardt's parking lot going away, I don't think there's anything left there to draw me back into that area of Calhoun/McMillan - too bad. Hopefully new places can make it on pedestrian traffic from the college kids, as the inconvenience of parking down there and negotiating the created congestion means it would have to be realllllllly good to make it worth it.

                              But - we'll always have the memories!

                              1. re: MHGarrison

                                In "American Fried," Trillin said this, which I think is an outstanding tribute:

                                "I . . . found [Garrison] to be one of those rare Americans who truly savors his city."

                            2. re: MHGarrison

                              I worked on Walnut Street and several of us from the office would go to the Barn regularly until it closed. (We count all the lunch places that have closed over the 30 years of working downtown. It is amazing). The one item that I absolutely miss and haven't found anything close to it is the Hot Slaw. Many places carry something they call Hot Slaw but no one can match that flavor I had at the Barn. My memory is that at the time, I the woman who managed was Al's wife, and at the end, they were not getting along. That is one recipe I would love to find.

                              1. re: dsrisch

                                I'm repeating myself from an earlier comment, but the last years The Barn was open, Al had passed away, and it was his sister, Seal (sp?) who was running and managing the restaurant. Can't remember when she passed away, but I think it was less than 10 yrs. after The Barn closed.

                      3. Grand Finale opened in 1975.

                        Maisonette shared its kitchen with another restaurant, next door ...
                        I cannot remember the name.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rainsux

                          La Normandie, and it was downstairs (basement).