Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why Cincinnati reminds me of Portland

Leaves. Living in Phoenix, I had forgotten how much I like leaves until I was in Cincinnati this last week.

Cincinnati is one of those cities that always surprises me. I think it’s because you don’t hear much about it. It’s not one of those cities that brag about how great they are. Instead, it sits quietly on the river and when you get there you are pleasantly surprised that it’s as cool as it is.

Portland people will deny this, but Cincinnati kind of reminds me of their city. It’s filled with charming older homes, tree-lined streets, and it is down to earth. There are also a bunch of bridges that make for a scenic run in the early morning or evening, which you know I have to do wherever I go.

Also like Portland, it’s got a bunch of micro-breweries and because of the German influence, a number of great places that celebrate the goodness of beer and sausage.  Unfortunately these aren't things I eat, but I do enjoy hanging out in places that serves them just because the vibe is so relaxing.

Yes, it's true that Portland has incredible vineyards and local wine - I'll give them that as I love Oregon wines. But Cincinnati is located next door to Kentucky, which means you’ve got the bourbon trail to take part in. If you do the bourbon trail, you'll pass by seven different distilleries including Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Town Branch and Woodford Reserve.

And then there’s the food. You can’t go wrong with Cincinnati food. You’ve got everything from fine dining, to Middle Eastern cuisine, to downhome cooking.

I’m not quite sure I would love their runny chili that they serve over spaghetti. The locals swear by it, but I have some Texas friends living in the city and they say it's not the chili their momma would make. But even if you don't like the Cincinnati chili (they recommend trying it at Skyline Chili), they do have interesting places that serve other stuff like Keystone Bar and Grill that has 12 different kinds of gourmet mac and cheese.

It seems having a bunch of the same things on the menu is a trend in Cincinnati.  Take for example, The Senate. Located on 1212 Vine Street, they only serve hot dogs, but they are special hot dogs. They have a Korean dog with homemade kimchi, braised short ribs and pickled cucumber. And for vegetarians, you have their Dan Korman dog made with has red-canalini beans, Turkish lentil sausage, sun dried tomatoes, fennel and goat cheese.

Finally, you have your sweet treats. You’re not going to find the iconic Voodoo Doughnuts like you would in Portland, but they do have Abby Girl Sweets that serve the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. But if you want to check them out, go early for the best selection. They close when they run out -- which could be as early as 2 p.m.

So if you’re going to Cincy and wishing you were going someplace else, take just might be surprised at what you’ll find. I was.