‘Nati Light

4 Jun
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ArtWorks, a summer painting program for Cincinnati high school students, created this mural from the Kroger headquarters. They’ve also painted all over the town.

The Amish Mob versus El Patron

On my way to Cincinnati, I wanted to stop for lunch in Charleston, West Virigina. It’s a halfway point between my house in Fort Mill and my friend Laura’s house in Cinci. Plus, I wanted to look for similarities to Chucktown in South Carolina. As I found out, they have nothing in common.

My father recommended checking out an Amish store (see what I mean, nothing in common to South Carolina) my family tried on previous trips. While they didn’t have a website (they are Amish after all), I found two addresses and one review from a year ago.

Legit? The review is from somebody calling himself Advanced Commercial Roofing.

Legit? The review is from somebody calling himself Advanced Commercial Roofing.

My father has never steered me wrong with food. The Werner Eating History has some glorious entries from him, especially grilled salmon and his native Wisconsin cheese. I decided to risk the sketchy premise and take “Advance Commercial Roofing”‘s word for it.

I followed my GPS to one of the addresses the web listed. I circled into a strip mall with a Bob Evans and a burrito place called “El Patron.” Oh, and there’s also a green storefront labeled Amish Country Farms. Found it. Unfortunately, it looks like it was last open when Britney Spears was still bald.

I had another address, which led me to a coal quarry. Either Amish Country Farms doesn’t exist anymore or is the most secret dining place in all of West Virginia. Conclusion: if it’s not on Yelp, it must not exist.

Cincinnati

After meeting up with Laura at her house on the northeastern side of Cinci, we headed downtown to see the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) before it closed. We had 30 minutes. Coral Sea, a Patti Smith exhibit, was on display. She’s incredibly intense as she wails, growls, and grimaces through her poetry, but is so captivating. Here’s a link to the audio we heard. She’s accompanied by Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine.

Some of the excerpts from Coral Sea were on the walls, along with some photographs she took of a Japanese writer’s grave and model hospital beds. Needless to say, we didn’t really talk much there.

The fourth floor of the CAC is for the UNmuseum, an interactive exhibit. You know how you’re not allowed to touch museum pieces? Not the case here. I loved the musical toys and tactile drawers on display, plus I felt mischievous for fiddling with the exhibits, even though we’re allowed to. It seemed like we were going to press somebody’s button by pressing the exhibit’s buttons.

My new friend also loves Cincinnati.

My new friend also loves Cincinnati.

Bakersfield, and Over-the-Rhine

We grabbed dinner at Bakersfield, a taco place in a neighborhood called Over-the-Rhine. The neighborhood’s named for the historic flooding of the streets. It reminded German immigrants of the Rhine River back home. Now, there’s no flooding; instead, it’s cool restaurants and gift shops with $7 greeting cards. Charleston, take note of flood evasion.

Bakersfield had some fantastic tacos with guacamole as chunky and lovable as Balloo the Bear. The queso there comes served in an iron skillet with a crisp, browned top that tastes like grilled cheese. The super-quick service turned out our taco tray as we were only a few bites into the chips, which made us have to prioritize and strategerize. This pretty much took care of the pre-dinner condition of being uncomfortably full of chips, bread, or hummus before actual food arrives. This condition prevents pigging out on entrees, but also curbs any enthusiasm for the rest of the meal. It’s a problem. I’m eventually getting it to become a health topic for the conversation.

Cartoon of tacos and blackboard...on a white background

Cartoon of tacos and blackboard…on a white background

Our tacos came on 6-inch tortillas and were topped with fish, chicken molé (pictured), corn truffles, and chipotle peppers. While I wasn’t crazy about the pepper taco (maybe “vegetarian” should have been a clue), the molé one was fantastic. It had the traditionally spicy and chocolatey sauce on top with pickled red onion, cheese, cilantro, and radish slices. While it’s not classic enough to get a jelly bean flavor (thank God), this taco was fantastic.

Second best thing? The price. Just about all of Cincinnati is very reasonably priced, with $14 baseball games and $10 dinners. It’s a city that the locals pick on when they’re there and miss when they’re gone. The city was a great first stop, and I’d love to check it out again, with or without a stop for Amish Country Farms.

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