November 8th, 2015

News from Northside

I like my neighborhood. Northside is a little smaller than I envisioned, not quite as self-contained as I'd hoped, but I'm enjoying it.

I haven't decided if I'm more of a Sidewinder Coffee or a Collective Espresso fan, so for now I split my visits between them both. Collective Espresso is the sleek & modern hipster coffee bar. Sidewinder matches better my 90s Gen-X cafe ideal, a third space, a neighborhood gathering place. OK, that makes it sound like I prefer Sidewinder, but I really enjoy them both!

Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition is the bar I've been to the most. They opened right after we moved here. Arcade games might not be the most social activity, but sometimes you're just looking for some light entertainment. Northside Tavern is a great neighborhood spot too, just don't be fooled by the locals ordering Hudepohl: it may be cheap, but it's among the worst beers I've ever swilled. Pay a couple dollars more for something decent. The Listing Loon I've been to only once, but the DJ was spinning a great set of punk and post-punk women for Ladyfest Cincinnati.

Tickle Pickle is a great place for a $10 hamburger. The Rob Zomwich is my favorite, although the rockstar-themed sandwich puns both entertain and pain me.

Today was my first visit to the army surplus store around the corner. The guy working there recognized my old $15 jacket, originally purchased from Harry's Army Surplus in Ann Arbor, as a Swedish military jacket. The pockets are distinctive, he said. That explains the 3 crowns on the buttons too!

With Shake It Records and Black Plastic just a couple blocks from each other, my eclectic vinyl collection is sure to grow, although I have a bad habit of passing up albums I know I like for intriguing dodgy selections that turn out to be duds. Why did I pass up Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," which I have heard hundreds of times, for Consolidated's "Business of Punishment"?!

I've been to Ruth's and Django and The Littlefield and Melt, but have yet to visit the Comet, Bistro Grace, the Kitchen Factory, the Golden Tajine, or Barrio. I still haven't hit up the N/S Yacht Club (no boating here, but built in a flood plain!), Urban Artifact (although I'm not a fan of Belgian-style sour ales), or C & D's Cafe (which from the description is Northside's version of Bob and Barbara's). When we were looking at a house on Barvac, I thought for certain we'd be regulars at the Comet.

There's plenty of retail space available, as well as light industrial/warehouse type spaces. It makes me wish I was more entrepreneurial--or maybe just loaded with spare cash--because this seems like a perfect place to try something a little outrageous. I'm still entertaining a few ideas.

There's a free monthly paper that covers just the neighborhood. It usually features at least one or two local businesses. I read a write-up of Spun Bicycles a day after I visited the shop and Dominic, the co-owner, introduced himself to me. On Monday nights a screen printing shop hosts live music. There's a bicycle co-op (I haven't visited yet) down the street from me. The neighborhood reminds me a little of West Philly (in a good way!).

My favorite place though, is Parker Woods and the Buttercup Valley Reserve. I'm an addict. Hilly serpentine trails through the forest. A short walk and you'd hardly know you're in the city, although you can still hear traffic. I've seen deer more visits than I haven't, as well as snakes, a multitude of squirrels, and birds of many varieties. It's been a great place to explore as the seasons change. You occasionally run into someone else out for a walk, maybe walking a dog, and you say a friendly, but quick, hello before moving on--you're both there for the solitude, not the company.

Next door to the woods is the Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, a magnificent place that is great for walks, jogs, or cycling. Back in the day, obelisks were very popular memorials! I sometimes wish it had a little of the flashiness of Milan's Cimitero Monumentale, but German Catholics are somewhat less ostentatious than Italian Catholics, apparently. Perhaps due to the proximity of the cemetery, one of our neighbors is Schott Memorials, which has a display of unused memorials in disarray in their back lot. Perhaps they are from customers who couldn't or have not yet payed. Eternal rest, on layaway.

There's no real grocer in the neighborhood, yet. There's an African specialty market close by that sells a few dry goods staples and spices, but really lacks the variety of even a corner grocer. There's a weekly farmer's market that is convenient, but for every other day of the week there's a Kroger in the next neighborhood over. I've biked there several times, but cycling here is for the bold. There's talk of a food co-op--the Apple Street Co-op--which would be fantastic, but I have no idea at this point if it is a going concern or a pipe dream.

I'll admit that for dining and entertainment we frequently head to Over the Rhine, a downtown-adjacent neighborhood that features charming urban architecture and, at least at some times of day, on certain days, a bustling street scene. I do miss our little section of Philadelphia's Gayborhood, Midtown Village--I've come to realize that people-watching was one of my main entertainments. But even though it is quieter, Northside, Cincinnati, has many charms.