Dog About Town

This week’s task was more of an adventure for Gus than it was for me, but I enjoyed it just the same. My mom playfully filled out a challenge card from my beloved little rescue pup so that he could be a part of the project, too!

Challenge #17:

Take me for a walk in a different neighborhood every day so I can explore all of Cincinnati!” – From Gus Hayden

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The day I met Gus!

The day I met Gus!

He's always been a happy dog!

He’s always been a happy dog!

Gus is my three year old yellow lab mix. I got him in August of 2010 and he has completely changed my life. He has lots of personality, loves everyone and follows me around like he’s my shadow. He puts up with me mildly tormenting him and gets into things every now and then, but he’s the best dog in the whole wide world.

Happy Birthday, Gus!! Don't mind the hat!

Happy Birthday, Gus!! Don’t mind the hat!

Me and Gus at Walloon Lake last Labor Day

Me and Gus at Walloon Lake last Labor Day

He did a little light reading while I went to the gym...

He did a little light reading while I went to the gym…

Sleeps like a person...

Sleeps like a person…

He smiles whenever I take his picture!

He smiles whenever I take his picture!

It is important to note that Gus HATES riding in the car.  He does all that he can to hide his eyes from windows and shakes uncontrollably at the mere mention of getting into a vehicle. It’s actually kind of funny because we go to my parents’ house fairly frequently and when it’s time to leave, I ask him “You wanna go home?” Every time I ask the question he runs and hides because he knows what that means.  I was somewhat surprised to see he “selected” this challenge as it requires extensive car travel and unfamiliar territories. Way to step outside of your comfort zone, buddy. 😉

Doing everything he can to avoid looking out the window.

Doing everything he can to avoid looking out the window.

HATES the car. Must say something about my driving...

HATES the car. Must say something about my driving…

Hiding in his cage so that he doesn't have to get in the car.

Hiding in his cage so that he doesn’t have to get in the car.

In effort to make this more pet-friendly I did some research on pet-friendly environments for Gus. Outside of Hyde Park and a few OTR spots, there aren’t too many establishments in Cincinnati that publicly state they accept dogs. I did however find that if you show up with your dog, they don’t always turn you away.

One of Cincinnati’s best features, in my opinion, is the fact that there are dozens of little villages scattered around the tri-state area. Each one, lined with sidewalks, offers a different atmosphere with a variety of restaurants and small businesses adding their own little charm and atmosphere. Gus and I strolled through Mariemont, Old Montgomery, Newport/The Banks, Ludlow/Clifton and Over the Rhine. This will likely read like a visitor’s bureau brochure, but I assure you, Gus had a great time!

I would be doing a disservice to my sweet little neighborhood if I didn’t brag about it first. I live in Hyde Park. We typically stay pretty local whenever Gus and I go on walks.  We are familiar with the Area and Gus loves to see all the sights. He is not, however, a fan of school buses and trucks. They send him running, tail between legs, clear to the other side of the sidewalk.  When I was a child I remember I always wanted to live in a place that had side walks. It seems silly, but growing up in Anderson, there aren’t many places that actually had them. Now, I am surrounded by them. And they are constantly packed with locals running, walking their dogs, riding their bikes or simply enjoying the weather.

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Farmers Market

Hyde Park Farmers Market

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Square

Tellers - killer everything - specially brunch!!

Tellers – killer everything – specially brunch!!

Indigo - lovely Italian!

Indigo – lovely Italian!

Dutch's! Bottle shop is walk-up and Thursday's are Burger Night, featuring a specialty burger every week! yummm!

Dutch’s! Bottle shop is walk-up and Thursday’s are Burger Night, featuring a specialty burger every week! yummm!

Some of our favorite pet-friendly hotspots are the patios of Dutch’s, Indigo and Cock and Bull.  The lovely firefighters of the Hyde Park Fire Department always have a large bowl of water and a plethora of dog treats ready for passers by. Like owner like dog, Gus likes to look at his reflection in the store windows. If you are out for a stroll, most shop owners will let you bring your pooch pal in while you shop. It would be silly for them to discourage it as there are so many dogs in tow.

Places like Arthur’s, The Echo and Teller’s are also restaurants and bars I frequent. They are all in walking distance from my house and serve up delicious bites!  I’d also like to point out that rumor had it Hyde Park Meats was closing. It did in fact close, but has since reopened under new ownership. Stop in!! If they don’t have something they used to carry, the new owner is taking suggestions to satisfy the clientele!

Onto the challenge…

We’ll start with Mariemont.  Gus and I parked off of the square to that we could walk around and do a little exploring. The architectural style is one of the things that I love most about the area. The square is surrounded by tudor styled buildings that house specialty shops, cafes and a quaint little movie theater. The National Exemplar is a little restaurant in the Mariemont Inn that has been around since the early ’80s. They have a delightful Sunday brunch and I have never had better French Onion Soup in my life. Seriously. It’s amazing.

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The Mariemont Movie Theater shows old classics and some new releases.

The Mariemont Movie Theater shows old classics and some new releases.

Dilly Cafe and The Quarter Bistro are two of the other fabulous restaurants in Mariemont. With fantastic menus, outdoor seating and great wine selections, they are the perfect place for delicious evening out!  Tucked in between are shops like Pomegranate and Lime,  a great little gift shop, or The Top Drawer, a needlepointer’s paradise.

The patio at Quarter Bistro

The patio at Quarter Bistro

Dilly Cafe and Wines

Dilly Cafe and Wines

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We just so happened to arrive on the day they host a little farmers’ market in the parking lot! An organic pet food store gave Gus a treat, but he didn’t seem to enjoy it.

Next we will visit Old Montgomery. It’s a smaller area and if you blink, you’ll miss it, but it boasts a sense of familiarity and longevity, welcoming all who come through. The streets and brick-paver sidewalks are lined with lamp posts and hanging floral baskets that make for a pleasant backdrop to a stroll through the neighborhood.  Restaurants like Montgomery Inn (the original location) and Germano’s have been delighting the tastebuds of locals and visitors alike for decades.  Just outside the village is Carlo and Johnny’s, part of the Jeff Ruby’s family of restaurants.  The European Cafe has a patio that is in fact pet friendly, but if you’d like to grab a coffee to-go, you must leave the pooch outside. Lesson Learned, haha.

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For baseball lovers, a members-only museum called The Green Diamond Gallery offers some incredibly rare and highly coveted memorabilia in a place where “baseball heroes never grow old. ”

The Green Diamond Gallery

The Green Diamond Gallery

Montgomery is also home to one of my favorite places in the city, The Woodhouse Day Spa. As a connoisseur of spas around the world, we are lucky to have one of this caliber in Cincinnati.  Woodhouse, a favorite amongst my friends, offers a variety of treatments that are sure to make your stresses drift away. If Gus wasn’t with me I’m sure I’d have dropped in for a visit. Sadly, it is not a doggy spa.

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Heaven.

On Sunday, my Aunt Debbie and her dogs, Bonnie and Clyde, joined Gus and I for a three-hour tour of Newport, Kentucky and The Banks of Cincinnati. Both she and my parents have recently taken up residence in the SouthShore condominiums and we thought it would be fun to do a little exploring. We strolled along the river bank, across the Purple People Bridge, through Sawyer Point, up to Smale Riverfront Park and onto The Banks.

Our route

Our route

Bonnie and Clyde, on a mission. Gus, distracted, per usual.

Bonnie and Clyde, on a mission. Gus, distracted, per usual.

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Gus in front of the Ohio River

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The Purple People Bridge was redesigned as a pedestrian path across the Ohio River.

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Gotta love that skyline! I’ll be in that river come September…ick.

Sawyer Point and Yaetman’s Cove, recently host to Bunbury Music Festival, semi-weekly Party in the Park, and a variety of other pubic events is a mile-long stretch with tennis courts, volley ball courts, playgrounds, stages and Serpentine Wall.  There is literally so much to do there you can’t accomplish it all in one visit.

The pups on Serpentine Wall

The pups on Serpentine Wall

Sawyer Point

Sawyer Point

Smale Riverfront Park is part of an ongoing project to spruce up the Cincinnati Riverbanks, one of our greatest assets. Due to the effort of many private donors and LOTS of hardworking people, especially the Women’s Committee, this place is really taking shape. Here’s a flyover of the Smale Riverfront Park vision:

They have recently added large swings for relaxing and taking in the view.

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Gus having a leisurely swing!

Gus having a leisurely swing!

After that we headed up to Wine Guy at the Banks. They do not regularly accept pets on patio, but since we were there and it wasn’t very busy, they let us come in for a beer and a flat bread! Jenna joined us briefly for our break before we headed back to the Southbank.

We spent a day alone strolling around my old stomping grounds in Clifton and Ludlow. I spent 5 years here while I attended University of Cincinnati and the growth the area has seen since 2007 is insane.  They recently constructed U Square at The Loop between Calhoun and McMillan. This is home to apartment buildings, restaurants, bars and shops. UC is really turning into a fantastic place and I’m quite jealous we didn’t have these amenities when I was a student there. Naturally, we walked past Uncle Woody’s (my very own Cheers during my undergrad years) and Gus tried to go in. Closed and not pet friendly.

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Gus wanted to go to Woody's. Sorry buddy, they're closed.

Gus wanted to go to Woody’s. Sorry buddy, they’re closed.

We strolled past Tri-Delt, my old sorority house. He tried to go in there, too. It’s like he knows the places I love 🙂

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Gus visiting T-Delta!

Gus visiting T-Delta!

After that we headed down to Ludlow. I know there are so many eclectic shops so I thought I’d see who would let us in. To my surprise, none of them open until noon! What is that about!? But since we were in the area we walked around anyway. If you are looking for foreign cuisine, this 4 block stretch has more to offer than any other area in the city.

I mean like wow. We’ve got Indian, Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, French and the list goes on. They also have Skyline and Graeters, two Cincinnati staples.

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Sorry kids. They turned The Golden Lion into a hookah bar...

Sorry kids. They turned The Golden Lion into a hookah bar…

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My favorite aspect of the Ludlow area is the Esquire Theater. If you want to see an indie film, something completely obscure, a good viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show or a small handful of new releases, you should check it out. They offer a full bar and a wide variety of snacks. It’s owned by the same people that run the Mariemont Theater and the Kenwood Theater.  It’s old and doesn’t offer new high-tech reclining seats, but it’s awesome. Sometimes you can even bring in carry out from local restaurants.

The Esquire Theater

The Esquire Theater

On Tuesday, Aunt Debbie and the pups joined us again as we ventured to OTR.  If you’ll remember from one of my previous posts, I loooove Over the Rhine.  It is also one of the most pet-friendly areas of the city. Washington Park has created a dog park specifically for Gus to run around and play in. He absolutely loves going down there and exploring. Many of the shops will let you bring your (well-behaved) dogs in for a quick browse. Not likely to turn away business, most patios will let you enjoy a quick bite, as well.  My favorite hot spots are Lackman, Rhinehaus, A Tavola, Bakersfield, Anchor and Senate.

The Washington Park Dog Park

The Washington Park Dog Park

There is a shop called Pet Wants on Vine Street and it is awesome! They make all of their products, especially organic canine cuisine, in-house and have a shop at Findlay Market.  Also, their sidewalk is actually painted to look like wooden planks! Check ’em out!!

Gus wants Pet Wants: The Urban Feed Market

Gus wants Pet Wants: The Urban Feed Market

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OTR Storefronts

OTR Storefronts

They have all kinds of shops like Switch ( a high-end lighting store), Mica (a fun gift shop mostly consisting of locally handcrafted wares) and Joseph Williams Home (a furniture and decor wonderland) that draw in a variety of customers.

Mica 12/v on the corner of 12th and Vine.

Mica 12/v on the corner of 12th and Vine.

Joseph Williams Home

Joseph Williams Home

My favorite hot spot in the city, also notoriously known for their acceptance of the canine crowds, is Neon’s, or The Famous Neon’s Unplugged. They offer craft beers and very creative cocktail specials. In the winter, they have fire pits and hot apple cider = heaveeeen. Gus also loves going to Neon’s and he just so happens to be a dude-magnet. Thanks, pal 🙂

The Famous Neon's Unplugged outdoor beer garden

The Famous Neon’s Unplugged outdoor beer garden

Gus has gotten SO good at walking that I no longer need to hold his leash. I simply wrapped it around his collar and he walked himself.  I’m not sure if it’s because he’s terrified to leave my side or if he just knows that’s what he’s supposed to do.

Gus walking himself.

Gus walking himself.

He came home completely exhausted every day, but I think he really enjoyed his little tour of the town. Now go visit all of the places I talked about because they’re FABULOUS. Many of the masterminds behind these small businesses are friends or friends of friends that took big risks. Buy local! Support them!

When the moon hits your eye…

This was, by far, the most delicious challenge I’ve had yet!! I’ll gladly do it again if anyone wants a repeat performance!!

Challenge #13:

“Learn how to make pizza and throw a pizza party for friends and family!” – from my cousin Taylor and his wife, Sarah!

Taylor and Sarah's wedding on the beach in my favorite place on the planet, Boca Grande, Florida.

Taylor and Sarah’s wedding on the beach in my favorite place on the planet, Boca Grande, Florida.

My cousin Taylor married the greatest lil lady named Sarah. She is ALWAYS on the move, always having a blast and fully embraces the joy in life. On top of that, she is one of the most motivational people I’ve ever known. And (after we’d had quite a bit of wine at family dinner on the eve of her rehearsal dinner) she decided to let me do her makeup for her wedding, which was far more exciting for me than it was for her, I’m sure. That has actually inspired a couple of other challenges coming down the pipeline so keep an eye out for ’em! Taylor is the definition of entrepreneurial. He has incredible ideas and then makes them happen! succeeds. He is one of my toughest critics, but biggest supporters and I greatly admire that in him because it reminds me of his father. The two of them love cooking and creating and I’m pretty sure this was the perfect blended adventure for them to give me!  The entrepreneurial nature of the restaurant I’ve selected just brings it all full circle.

One of my longest friendships is with my friend Stacey Harrington. We met at college orientation and became fast friends. (She’s the one I planned the wedding shower for not too long ago). She has been dating an awesome man named Steve Mitchell for quite some time and they actually just got married a few weeks ago.  These two are always willing to bend over backwards to help me out with stuff and once again, they’ve come to my aid.

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Little known fact…Steve is also a retired freestyle rapper and Doc Optimo made an appearance at their wedding reception – easily the highlight of my evening! Don’t worry, Steve, while your rhymes were sick, I’ll keep the video off the blog. 🙂

Doc Optimo serenading his bride!

Doc Optimo serenading his bride!

When Steve is not dropping the beat, he is the front man/bar manager at A Tavola, a pizzeria and authentic Italian eatery in Over the Rhine. For those that aren’t from Cincinnati or are unfamiliar, Over the Rhine is one of Cincinnati’s shining stars. It is our oldest and most historic neighborhood. Rich with character and artistic flare, this area has become quite the hot spot for independent restauranteurs and small business owners. Similar to Market Street in Louiville, KY, Vine Street has created a magnetic draw bringing people from all walks of life to feast in the same place.

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A Tavola Storefront

A Tavola Storefront

The restaurants run the gamut from Bakersfield‘s fabulous tacos and Senate’s gourmet hot dogs to Anchor’s freshest seafood around and Mayberry’s deliciously upscale, yet affordable, cuisine. I am devastated to share that Mayberry has made the difficult decision to close its doors on July 7th, ending with a final brunch. If you haven’t been check it out ASAP. It truly is one of my favorite spots and I’m very sad to see it go.

Tucked in between eateries are a wide variety of bars and shops, as well.  Whether it’s your corner chill spot, an outdoor oasis filled with activities or the “hottest” dance floor in the city, you literally cannot go wrong. Shopping covers everything from clothes to furniture, mostly featuring local craftsmen’s wares.

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I spend quite a bit of time in the area as a good majority of my friends live around there now. Christy, who works for 3CDC, a non-profit organization devoted to creating a bigger, better Cincinnati, and lives in the heart of it all, is always telling me about different happenings and new events that either her company or other local establishments have going on.

The point is, if you haven’t been down to visit, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.

Back to pizza…

A Tavola has an advantage over the other places I may have considered because of my ties to Steve and his friends. After traveling the country exploring his love for pizza and a run of successful “Pop up pizza nights” at Take the Cake, a fabulous bakery and eatery in Northside, Jared Wayne decided to open up shop in the up and coming neighborhood of OTR. His background was in real estate development and he saw a good thing coming in the area.

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After getting a couple of his friends involved, the dream became a reality. They imported a giant handmade brick oven from Naples, Italy and hit the ground running.

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I watched the whole process unfold as we caught sneak peeks of the construction progress on breaks between rounds at The Lackman, my favorite bar and one of 4EG/Bob Deck’s masterpieces, located just across the street. Seeing the excitement of it all made me really want these guys to succeed. They took a huge risk with minimal experience in owning or running a restaurant. Somehow, they knocked it out of the park. The wait is generally quite long and the line is out the door. It’s great though. You put your name in, then bop around the area until they call your cell phone to tell you your table is ready. Forget having one of those pesky beeper things that only let’s you roam so far! You can go wherever you want while you wait!  They even signed a lease to open up a new location in Madeira! Get excited, suburbanites!

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Steve and the gents at A Tavola were gracious enough to let me come in and try my hand at tossing some dough. I’d like to thank Leroy for being so particularly patient with me! My parents, Aunt Tessie, cousin Terri and best friends Megan Stacey and Christy Samad came down to join me and taste the food I’d created, as well as my other faves on the menu. Christy filmed some of the footage and joined me in one of A Tavola’s finely crafted cocktails. I had a Corpse Reviver 2 and Chris had a Gin and something or other. It was served with an ice ball, which I thought was pretty cool.

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Here is a link to A Tavola’s menu/website. It’s not just pizza and they offer weekly specials on drinks, pizzas and antipasti items. They make the cheese fresh and cure all of the meats in-house.  All of their veggies and produce are locally grown, with the exclusion of their tomatoes. They only use Italian tomatoes. And my oh my, they are delicious!  They even have items on the menu that my mom can eat with her current dietary restrictions! (One chemo treatment left, by the way!!!! So pumped for you Care Bear!)

It is magnifico and perfect for all ages!  Without further ado, my pizza tossing abilities:

Having some trouble embedding this one. Watch the video here:

I’m gonna take a minute to promote small business while I have you listening to me on my little soapbox. The news of Mayberry closing makes me genuinely sad. There are lots of people out there testing their entrepreneurial strength in an economy that makes it tough to survive. These small businesses and restaurants are part of what are making Cincinnati thrive these days. There are so many great assets to our community that rely on our support. Visit them. Love them. Return to them. They need you.

That is all 🙂

Buon Appetito!!