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Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Taste of Cincinnati

During our marathon weekend (we ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati May 4th), we stayed with a college friend Kristiana which worked out perfect - she was able to give us a tour of the city. I'm not sure why, but we didn't know Cincinnati was that nice - it is a really cool city!

There are some really cute neighborhoods, like Mt. Adams, and the downtown was clean and the riverfront was really nice. The Ohio River cuts through and the other shore is Covington and Newport, Kentucky, also cute cities. There are hills galore (As we saw up close and personal during the race), but it makes for a very picturesque background for a big city.

My friend Kris wanted to show us some of what the city had to offer, in the short amount of time we had. Here is our review of the places we were able to make it to!

After touring all around, we ended up at a really cute place called First Watch which was in a strip mall shopping area, but it was excellent! Super fresh ingredients, unique menu, and inexpensive way to have a high-end breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Stopping here, we also were able to drive around much of the Marathon route. Sorry for the lack of pics, but trust me that the food was fresh and tasty.

After our tour, we made plans for our big carb-loading dinner which would focus on pasta. Meeting my in-laws (who awesomely drove down from Detroit just to see us run the race!)
Our carby restaurant of choice? The Old Spaghetti Factory The Old Spaghetti Factory . This was the new location (out by the mall) - apparently there used to be a historical building downtown. Still, it was a nice setting with a trolley-car with booths in it, and an interesting decor. I tried the signature pasta dish "Mizithra Cheese and Browned Butter" - what's not to like? See their website for pictures and more menu items (I didn't take any photos!). They also offer a "complete meal" which includes bread, soup/salad, beverage, and some ice cream. I tried to contain myself because of the impending stress on my body (including digestive system) the next morning at the marathon, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves! I thought my dish was a little salty but good, and when I tasted my husband's dish, it was also fine! It looked like a fun family restaurant with your basic spaghetti fare.

After dinner, pretty much had to head right back to Kris' house and prep for the big race. If you're curious, during the marathon, I fueled myself every 30-45 minutes with a GU. Oh - and lots of Gatorade!

My favorite GU flavors are chocolate outrage and espresso love. I borrowed a Gu belt from a friend and was able to carry what I needed for the whole time I was out there (SEVERAL hours). But, I was never hungry - unlike The Husband who didn't take enough Gu and was digging into the animal crackers that spectators were handing out in big boxes.

After the race and taking pictures, we immediately went to our favorite bar in the area - the Hofbrauhaus in Newport, KY. This is right over the bridge from Cincinnati to Kentucky (the first bridge we ran in the race, too!) and it was the first sanctioned brewery to brew beer in the US from the famous Munich, Germany brewery which was founded in 1589. Yes, it's that old.

The Newport location has an indoor area with big wooden tables often associated with German beer halls, and there is an outdoor biergarten which is fabulous during warm weather months. This time, we frequented the biergarten and both ordered the classic Liter of hefeweizen.

Of course, there was some hunger after a marathon, so The Husband ordered the sausage plate (with sauerkraut of course!) and I ordered some potato pancakes, being the potato-lover that I am.

It's not every day you run 26.2 miles (plus an extra quarter mile because there was a fire), so it was a day (or two, or three, or...) of pure guilt-free eating. So what was on the agenda after a much-needed rest on the couch and toast of champagne (thanks Tom and Chris!)? Dinner at the famous Montgomery Inn for - what else - RIBS.

This is a really nice restaurant that specializes in BBQ ribs - among many other things. The downtown location is right on the river and it has a beautiful row of windows which we were seated next to. I was thrilled to see river boats cruise by as the sun set, it was awesome!

Even though we were stuffed, Kris had talked up the local ice cream parlors - Graeters - and we were hoping to stop in for a taste to one of their shops. We tried waiting in line to get some samples but they were really slow and our legs were REALLY sore, so we took a pint for home, after we had a chance to digest a bit. That didn't actually happen - we put on a movie and totally fell asleep. However we did try to take the ice cream home with us. In its melty state, I tried it and it was quite good. We refroze it but it wasn't quite the same after that, but I still highly recommend this ice cream joint if you're in the area. They also had cute little piggy confections in the name of the Flying Pig Marathon.

(It is named Flying Pig - not because we are all fat runners - quite the contrary - most of them are skinny - but because Cincinnati is known as Porkopolis, because it had a ton of pig slaughterhouses back in the day. They have big pig statues downtown to honor those pigs who lost their lives in the city, and it is part of their heritage!)

So... after tossing and turning due to nerves and then actually running a marathon .. it made for an early night come race day. However, we were (painfully) up and at 'em Monday morning for the achy ride back home. We totally couldn't fit in a visit to our favorite chili stop - Skyline Chili (but no worries - I'm sure I'll blog my recipe for that some time, as its a popular one in our house for the fall!). Chili would just be a bad idea prior to the race, and we already had a full day planned race day. So - we had to move on to our next "must-stop" --- for breakfast.

No road trip or visit to the South (anything in northern Ohio or lower) is not complete without a stop to your local Waffle House (chances are you'll be near one!). It might be that we simply don't have Waffle House in Michigan, but we sure do love it and it's a cheap and delicious breakfast - who can complain?

Waffle House is the kind of place that yells out "Good Morning Ya'll" as soon as you walk in the door, and they also yell out their orders to the cooks manning the grill (which you have full view of in these tiny establishments). They have not updated to any computerized ordering/billing system, and it's a nice touch to keep the "home town diner" feel that Waffle House has (even though there are hundreds of them!)

While Waffle House does have a full menu, I'm pretty sure everyone orders breakfast here. They feature two things that are awesome: Make-Your-Own-Silly-Named Hashbrowns and of course, Waffles. I have had their cheese omelets before, which were fine.

These hashbrowns are "World Famous" and they give you a list of adjectives to choose from regarding your hashbrown order - smothered = with cheese, covered = with onions, chunked = with ham, capped = with mushrooms.... and it goes on and on. Congrats to those cooks who have to keep all these "capped, topped, scattered, smothered" orders straight - they have to listen to the called out orders carefully! Thank god I have a career in computers...

Anyway, try a Waffle House - it's cheap, fast, and their waffles are pretty tasty! I ordered a Pecan Waffle for the first time and I thought it was great!

Cincinnati is a great city to visit - and we had an excellent marathon weekend. Thanks for hosting us, Kris!!!

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