Just before election day, my family and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. On our first day we explored the monuments via bikes rented from Bike and Roll DC. We followed that up with a trip through a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Our second day was mostly dedicated to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. And we spent our last day at several museums that we had missed the day prior: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

I loved that nearly everything we visited was free to explore, which made it great for the family. If we had quickly grown tired of a particular attraction we left without feeling bad that we had wasted too much money. Our family loved this action packed quick trip to our Nation’s Capitol.

Last week I was treated to a tour of the Servatii Commissary thanks to Yelp’s Baked & Brewed series.

Welcome

Welcome

Nearly everything sold in their thirteen pastry shops is made in this central commissary, including cakes, cookies, donuts, breads, and more. It is then sorted onto carts destined for each location and delivered in the early morning hours.

Delivery Ready

Delivery Ready

Pretzel Donuts

Pretzel Donuts

3lb Sesame Pretzel

3lb Sesame Pretzel

Bread Loaves

Bread Loaves

Wilhelm Gottenbusch opened the first Servatii store in 1963 just down the street from where I currently live. He quickly made a name for himself by focusing on quality ingredients and products. With the help of his two sons, Servatii has been growing ever since. Fortunately both Wilhelm and his son Greg were there to lead us on a tour through their entire building.

Cake Decorating Room

Cake Decorating Room

Melted Chocolate

Melted Chocolate

Dipping Donuts

Dipping Donuts

Pumpkin Donuts

Pumpkin Donuts

Along the way we got to see many of their employees actively working to prepare some of the finest baked goods around. Though the highlight of the trip might have been seeing the donuts be fried, glazed, dipped, and decorated. We were also treated to some donuts fresh off of the line!

Glazing Donuts

Glazing Donuts

Pretzel Donut

Pretzel Donut

Drizzling Icing

Drizzling Icing

Seeing all of this work being done, so much of it in very traditional ways, makes you really appreciate the end products even more than before. And to top it all off our hosts gave us a very generous sampling of their goods to take home. Thanks Servatii and Yelp!

Gift Bag

Gift Bag

The University of Cincinnati Department of Athletics continues to expand their Gridiron Tailgate offerings before each home football game this year. Brand new this year is the Bearcats Music Festival with live music starting two hours before kickoff for the first five home games. In addition to the music, additional food truck offerings are now located adjacent to the stage.

Truck

Truck

Just before a recent game I stopped by the Quite Frankly food truck for something quick to eat before heading into the stadium for the game. This food truck has been around for at least a couple of years, but this was my first time trying it. I’m not big on hot dogs, so I was glad to see that they have added some sandwich offerings to their menu this year.

Menu

Menu

I easily settled on the melted pig sandwich, a three cheese grilled cheese with the addition of BBQ pulled pork and had it served on dark rye ($7). The sandwich was prepared fresh in just a few minutes and was served hot. These aren’t large sandwiches like you would find from C’est Cheese, so I was a little surprised by the cost. However the sandwich tasted very good and was actually more filling that I would have initially thought.

Melted Pig

Melted Pig

Overall I would definitely order from Quite Frankly again.

Quite Frankly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Quite Frankly

My family has made it to the point where more than eight or nine hours in the car while driving to or from a vacation is long enough. So we have started stopping for the night at various places along the way. On the way back from Gulf Shores this summer we stopped near Mammoth Cave to visit Kentucky Down Under. It was recommended to me from some family members and I was surprised to have never heard of it before.

Red Kangaroo

Red Kangaroo

The grounds of Kentucky Down Under not only contain the Mammoth Onyx Cave, but they over the years have expanded to include animals from around the world, with an emphasis being placed on Australian species. One of the owners is from Australia and since 1990 kangaroo, dingo, kookaburra, and emu. There are also plenty of more native farm animals, along with wolves, a large bird garden, and several reptiles.

Sulcata Tortoise

Sulcata Tortoise

The coolest part is easily walking through the kangaroo habitat where you are allowed to pet and feed them. My three-year-old could have followed them for hours. While my five-year-old was much more interested in the giant Sulcata Tortoise that was in the same enclosure.

Mammoth Onyx Cave

Mammoth Onyx Cave

Mammoth Onyx Cave is included with admission to Kentucky Down Under and all guests are assigned to a 30-minute tour time. I found this to be about the perfect length of time for our family, and I think most other families on our tour would agree. While the temperature is cool (especially on a hot day) the cave can be a little tight and dark in places. Our three-year-old found it the perfect spot to take a nap in the middle of the tour, while our five-year-old enjoyed keeping climbing on his own with a flashlight and looking for salamanders.

Kentucky is well worth a couple hour visit and be sure to check Groupon before you go as we found discount tickets were available, which made our visit even better!

One of Cincinnati’s newest craft breweries, Nine Giant, has been open for a couple of months now. My family and I finally got a chance to give it a try a couple of Sunday’s ago. We had actually tried to go a couple of Friday’s earlier for dinner and found it too crowded and loud for a our preschool aged children. On our second attempt we chose early on a Sunday evening and found the crowd to be much more manageable and it not quite as loud. It was still a little on the louder side, but there were signs posted that around the room stating that sound insulation was soon coming.

Beer Glass

Beer Glass

I sampled both their Gold Soundz, a fruity IPA, and SRV, a hoppy brown ($6 per full pour). I enjoyed both beers and would rate them above average with no real preference toward either one. I would recommend ordering the one that traditionally falls in line with your flavor preferences. My wife also thoroughly enjoyed the Django Belgian Single, so don’t be afraid to give that a try if you are more into Belgians.

Inside

Inside

The food menu is quite small but we found plenty on the menu that suited our tastes. We started with an order of house made deep-fried pickle chips with a side of horseradish aioli ($4). I almost didn’t order these but threw them in at the last second and I am so glad that I did. The pickles were thick sliced and fried to perfection. The aioli wasn’t necessary in our eyes, but just a slight dip in the sauce added a nice kick to each bite.

Fried Pickles

Fried Pickles

Each week they have a new special item on the menu. During our visit it was the local heirloom tomato BLT topped with arugula pesto on Sixteen Bricks Artisan Bakehouse Challah bread. I’m a sucker for a good BLT, so I knew right away that I would be ordering this. I’m not normally a huge fan or arugula, although my exposure has mostly been in salads, but the pesto was awesome. The tomatoes were ripe and perfect and their bacon was outstanding. Overall an excellent BLT.

BLT

BLT

The kids menu is simple but effective, a cheese burger and a grilled cheese. The burger features local, grass-fed beef in a smashed-style patty with sharp cheddar cheese on Sixteen Bricks Challah bread with the crust cut off ($5). My five-year-old loved this and ate nearly the entire thing.

Kid's Cheeseburger

Kid’s Cheeseburger

My wife went with the falafel wrap served in a naan wrap with lettuce, tomato, house-made pickles and tzatziki sauce ($7). She didn’t seem as impressed as I was with the BLT, but I took a bite of the wrap and really enjoyed it. The pickles added a nice touch and the falafel was above average. I would have maybe liked a bit more tzatziki sauce. Overall I felt it was a great vegetarian option.

Falafel Wrap

Falafel Wrap

Free wi-fi is offered as well as a handful of low top tables for those with families. Though most of the space is reserved for the bar and larger sized high tops. The space is not nearly as large as some of the dominant craft breweries that opened years ago in the area, but falls more inline with what is opening up more and more these days, smaller tap rooms with an emphasis on their immediate neighborhoods. With that said I think the popularity of their beers and food will allow them to cater towards those from around the entire city.

Nine Giant Brewing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Nine Giant

Gordo’s Pub & Grill is an often overlooked spot in the heart of Norwood, at least it has been by yours truly. Located less than 10 minutes from our house, my family finally stopped in for dinner after living in the area for the last five years.

Inside

Inside

Don’t let the small street-front building deter you from stopping in, there is plenty of room in the long and shotgun style building. A large bar is the first thing you seen when entering the front door, but Gordo’s is truly family friendly and has a handful of items on a kids menu.

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

I started with a generous and tasty pear and blue cheese salad with spring mix, walnuts, and a tangy raspberry vinaigrette ($2 upgrade substitution for fries with sandwich or $8 alone). This salad was well worth the up-charge to replace the standard fries and is a must when visiting Gordo’s.

Kid's Mac & Cheese with Broccoli

Kid’s Mac & Cheese with Broccoli

One of our kids enjoyed the macaroni and cheese with broccoli ($5). Truthfully an older kid might like more than the four florets of broccoli provided, but this was plenty for our three-year-old. I stole a bite or two and this is above average macaroni and cheese.

Kid's Cheeseburger

Kid’s Cheeseburger

Our five-year-old went with the cheeseburger and fries ($5). The burger was plenty big enough and the side of fries was more than an adult could tackle. Word of warning, the burger comes topped with lettuce and tomato, so be sure to request without if you have a picky eater.

Black Bean Gordo Burger

Black Bean Gordo Burger

Burgers are what has made Gordo’s somewhat famous. My wife was happy to see that any of their signature burgers can be made vegetarian by substituting a black bean patty. She chose the Gordo with roasted poblanos, mushrooms, onions, bacon, Boursin cheese, and mayonnaise. Wow, was this a great burger! It put my chicken salad sandwich to shame, though that was still a good sandwich. Take it from me (and every other table) you must get a burger when dining at Gordo’s. Prices are good and servings are plentiful. We will be back!

Gordo's Pub & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Gordo's Pub & Grill

Recently a soup, salad, and sandwich shop called Ladles opened near the new Kroger Marketplace at Oakley Station. Ladles started out of Charleston, SC and they operate nearly a dozen restaurants in that area. The Oakley location is first franchise located out of the Carolina’s.

Outside

Outside

Ladles has over 400 soup recipes that rotate daily but there are roughly nine that are always available. The also offer a dozen daily sandwiches along with a few salads, seasonal options available for each. The menu is pretty big and spans both a large chalkboard and TV monitors above the counter ordering space.

Inside

Inside

On this visit I was ordering carry out to feed my family back at home, so I ordered a variety of things to share. The seasonal pear and walnut salad was an easy choice, filled with pears, candied walnuts, red onions, blue cheese, and champagne vinaigrette ($9.95 full size). I also am a sucker for pretzel buns, so the Baron Von Ladles sandwich was an easy choice stuffed with ham, Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes, and whole grain mustard ($7.95 includes bag of chips). I also wanted to sample some soups so I ordered an 8oz cup of their turkey chili ($3.75) and the same size broccoli cheddar ($3.25). Both soups included a bread roll.

Our Choices

Our Choices

The salad and sandwich tasted just as good as expected, with the salad actually being my favorite of the two. As far as the soups go I though their turkey chili was really good and enjoyed the addition of corn and jalapeno to the mix. The broccoli cheddar was definitely a cream styled soup. I prefer to have larger chunks of broccoli, and therefore would likely skip this soup in the future. With that said the food was definitely above average in quality and the price was right. We will definitely be back.

Ladles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Ladles

There are not a lot of words that can be said about seeing Paul McCartney perform live. It was truly amazing and possibly a once in a lifetime experience for me. The setlist was 38 songs long and filled with 23 hits from The Beatles, a handful of Wings tunes, and rounded out with some of Paul’s solo work. My pictures may not do it justice, but here they are anyway.

A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night

Maybe I’m Amazed

Maybe I’m Amazed

Blackbird

Blackbird

Band On The Run

Band On The Run

Live And Let Die

Live And Let Die

Fireworks

Fireworks

Awesome Lights

Awesome Lights

Too Loud

Too Loud

The End

The End

Sidekix Saucy Asian Grill has been open for roughly a year now and I finally took the time to give them a try. The are located in the growing strip near the intersection of Columbia Parkway and Delta Avenue. I arrived late in the afternoon, just past 2 PM, to find a nearly empty restaurant, save one sole individual finishing his lunch.

Outside

Outside

Then menu layout is similar to Chipotle with first a choice between bowl and wrap. You then add a base (lettuce, Asian noodles, brown or white rice) followed by a protein (chicken, steak, or tofu). From there there are a variety of vegetable toppings that can be added (mostly raw) and a ton of sauces to choose from.

Chicken Bowl

Chicken Bowl

I went with a chicken and brown rice bowl ($7.45) topped with a handful of raw veggies and their signature general kix sauce. Over the taste was good and the serving size was plentiful. I really would have liked for the raw veggies to be cooked before serving. Perhaps allowing customers to build their bowl like I did and then giving the option to quickly stir fry together would make it even better. As is I don’t think I will be a regular customer, but with a couple of changes this concept could be successful.

Sidekix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Sidekix Saucy Asian Grill

Just Q’in has progressed from a BBQ competition team, to a food truck and catering business, to now operating two restaurants. The first opened in December of 2011 in Newtown, and now as of a week ago their second location is open in Walnut Hills. I was fortunate enough to get a preview of the Walnut Hills space and to sample the food thanks to Yelp.

Northside Distilling

Northside Distilling

Northside Distilling was on hand to provide samples of their moonshine and corn whiskey. They also had a lemonade raspberry spritzer that was delicious. I had no idea that there was a distillery in town, but Northside was the first to open in years.

Courtyard

Courtyard

During our preview event, both the indoor and outdoor areas were not yet quite complete, but there was enough done to get a sense of what the space will feel like. Clean lines and a modern feel dominated the inside, while the outside screamed history with older brick walls.

Kitchen

Kitchen

Our Buffet

Our Buffet

We were treated to samples of pulled pork, ribs, brisket, and chicken wings. There was plenty of food to go around and I was even able to sneak in for seconds! I really enjoyed both the pulled pork and the chicken wings, which are something somewhat unique to Just Q’in, at least in this part of town.

My Plate

My Plate

I am excited to get back to Just Q’in soon to see the completed restaurant and to sample more of their deliciously smoked food.

Just Q'in Barbeque, Walnut Hills Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Just Q'in Barbeque