Mesa Loca is a brand new restaurant in Hyde Park, occupying the former home of Cock & Bull, on the corner of Erie & Edwards. The inside space has been nearly completely gutted and the result is a much more open concept with plenty of tables in two different rooms. The horseshoe-shaped bar remains, and the kitchen is in the same place as before, but otherwise, the space feels completely different!

Inside

Inside

The small back patio also has some improvements, especially in the lighting department. And there a couple of fire pits for those cooler fall evenings. It doesn’t look like the space is completely finished yet, so I look forward to seeing what that looks like come springtime. Not to mention the best patio space on Hyde Park Square, which has already seen improvements with new speakers and lighting.

Back Patio

Back Patio

A group of parents left the kids behind to enjoy a free sneak peek of the space last night. All six of us started with a premium margarita ($13), that was prepared fresh upon ordering, including juicing the fruits, so there are no prepared mixes to be found in this drink. You can also mix in a flavor option including blood orange, mango, and pomegranate, all of which are also made in house. These were so good that we all ended up having three each as the evening went on.

Premium Margarita

Premium Margarita

The manager stopped by to let us know about the new concept that they opening with. Rather than hand menus to the table, the staff would like to get to know the personalities and tastes of their guests and bring out dishes that they would recommend for the group. They were very accommodating of food allergies and preferences and always made sure there was something vegetarian in each course for one of the parents in our group. Of course, there are still menus available if the guests would prefer to go that route, but we all enjoyed relaxing and letting the staff do the work for us.

Crispy Pollo Frito & Skirt Steak

Crispy Pollo Frito & Skirt Steak

We started with a trio of salsa ($11), guacamole ($10), shrimp ceviche ($13), pickled veggies ($6), and a caesar salad ($8). Each of these was shared with the table and I really enjoyed the salsas, especially their Verde and the mango habanero. From there two sizzling skillets of queso were dropped at our table, along with tortillas to make miniature quesadillas. The chorizo queso fondito was full of flavor ($10), though a little tough to get out of the pan due to the crispy edges.

Green Beans

Green Beans

From there the main course was served including crispy pollo frito ($14), Allen Brothers skirt steak ($18), and green beans on the side ($7). The fried chicken dish was surprisingly delicious due to the tangy and spicy sauce that was served on top. The steak was flown in from Allen Brothers in Chicago and was a huge hit of the table. The green beans were an added bonus, cooked perfectly, and well spiced.

Red Molcajete

Red Molcajete

As if that weren’t enough, the staff asked if we had saved any room and then presented the red molcajete ($36), which is essentially a giant bowl of fajitas. We had shrimp, chicken, and steak served with peppers and onions all on top of a pond of Rojo salsa. Fresh tortillas were served on the side, though it was just as easy to scoop out a serving onto your plate and eat it with a fork. Our vegetarian friend was served tacos on this bonus course ($9), which later we found on the menu along with a wide variety of other taco selections.

It seems like Mesa Loca understands the neighborhood and is trying to go a little higher end to serve as a great spot for date night, but there are also plenty of affordable items on the menu that can be shared among friends for a nice dining experience. They also seemed to cater well to children, as there were a number of kids dining with their parents while we were there. I am sure that we will absolutely be back very soon.

Mesa Loca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Near the eastern edge of downtown, at the base of the somewhat new Holiday Inn, sits the Spoon & Cellar restaurant. My wife and I stopped in for a date night dinner on a chilly November evening before a concert at the nearby Taft Theatre. We had an OpenTable reservation and upon our arrival, we were immediately seated and quickly drinks and a complimentary dish of bruschetta arrived. It was a nice touch and we are off to a great start to our meal.

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

We also decided to split the spinach and artichoke dip starter with a nice pale ale based cheese dip and lavash crisps ($10). We were quite happy with this started and it was more than enough for our table of two.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

I also spied the french onion soup on the menu ($5), and I had to give it a try. The tasty soup was covered in a large melted mount of gruyere cheese and plenty of soggy croutons.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

With so much food already, I decided to order a handheld sandwich for dinner. The cellar club sandwich comes topped with roasted turkey, crispy pancetta, lingonberry chutney, lettuce, tomato, and garlic aioli on sourdough with fries on the side ($11). This was a pretty standard club sandwich, though the lingonberry chutney added a nice sweetness.

Cellar Club Sandwich

Cellar Club Sandwich

My wife ordered the crab cakes from the starter menu as her meal ($8). The plate would be ideal for 2 to share but wouldn’t provide a lot for larger groups. For her, it was the perfect sized meal after already filling start to our meal. Overall I think she would have tried something else on a future visit as she was not overly impressed by these crab cakes.

Crab Cake

Crab Cakes

Overall we had a good first visit to Spoon & Cellar. I don’t think this will be a regular location for our family meals, but it would be nice for future date nights. Especially when going to a show and play nearby.

Spoon & Cellar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My wife and I don’t make it downtown or to OTR very often with a busy life full of kids’ activities, and more importantly finding kid-friendly restaurants. While Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey seems to be kid-friendly and even offers a limited kids menu, we decided to finally check out this spot and made it a Sunday brunch date instead. Boomtown occupies a now busy corner of the Pendleton neighborhood, just to the east of OTR.

Outside

Outside

We arrived around 11am to find that there was a wait for a table for two. We put our name on the list and took a quick walk around Pendleton to see all of the other places that we need to add to our list of places to visit. Our table was ready within 15 minutes, so we headed back to be seated at a communal table somewhat near the busy bar.

Yukon Sandwich

Yukon Sandwich

I had the Yukon Sandwich, fried chicken, sawmill gravy, smoked cheddar, and bacon on a biscuit ($11). This was very good! The chicken was perfectly seasoned and the gravy was wonderful. It would be much too messy to eat as a traditional sandwich, so I was glad to see a knife was provided to aid in cutting the “sandwich” up into bite-size pieces.

Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail

My wife had the Oregon Trail, which is a vegan dish, that combines sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, scallions, poblano, and bulgogi glaze with a biscuit on the side ($10). The glaze made this dish, with its savory flavor that mixed well all of the sauteed vegetables. It was a lot of food for the price, which I found a tad high initially. But after eating the entire Yukon Sandwich and being sufficiently full on that dish alone, I then considered the price tags on their food to be on par with other restaurants in the area, to which this is a great addition!

Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CoreLife Eatery has solidly cemented itself into my lunch rotation. They are located in the Hyde Park Shopping Plaza where Mellow Mushroom used to be. Started in mid-2015, this chain has quickly grown to over 50 restaurants in 11 states. They are fast-casual style with counter ordering. All ingredients are free of GMOs, trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners, and other artificial additives.

Outside

Outside

The inside is clean and bright. Your order is prepared in front of you and can be customized as desired. There is ample seating throughout the dining space, though I normally take my order to go. You can also order online for rapid pickup.

Inside

Inside

On my first visit, I had the spicy chicken rice bowl with purple rice, roasted beets, roasted sweet potatoes, falafel, spinach, pickled red onion, spicy Sriracha sprouts, and chicken bone broth ($10.95). I enjoyed this, but I wasn’t completely sold. On my second visit, I had the spicy Thai chicken and rice noodles with Nappa cabbage, peppers, scallions, sesame sriracha sprouts, and Thai chili sauce ($8.95). This was spicy and delicious, and I have yet to try anything else on the menu.

Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl

Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl

Now every time I go back (once every couple weeks) I get the same spicy Thai chicken and rice noodles. It is highly recommended. And also from time to time, I treat myself to a honey ginger lemonade.

Corelife Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pleasant Ridge has become one of our go-to neighborhoods. In addition to Nine Giant and Revolution Rotisserie, we recently discovered the Latin inspired cuisine of Casa Figueroa. Located in an old house on Montgomery Road, you might drive right past it if coming from the south. It sits back off the road and hides behind the Everybody’s Records building. But that allows for a large patio out front, which is where my wife and I sat to enjoy a dinner out.

Outside

Outside

We both started with the House Margarita ($7 on happy hour), and while these were delicious, I really enjoyed the spicy margarita I ordered for my second drink.

House Margarita

House Margarita

We also started with guacamole and chips ($6). The guac was made fresh and was delicious!

Guacamole & Chips

Guacamole & Chips

For dinner, I had the Armadillo Crunch with chicken ($15). This is similar to the turtle at Gomez, or the crunchwrap from Taco Bell, with a corn tostada surrounded by a flour tortilla and grilled. There was plenty of chicken inside, with the addition of pico, lettuce, and a nice aioli sauce. It was served with a side of rice and beans, which were really good.

Armadillo Crunch

Armadillo Crunch

My wife went with a couple of taco choices. The Florida shrimp were fried and served with pineapple salsa and avocado crema ($7). The chicken fajita was served with green mole, roasted poblano, onions, red bell peppers, pepitas, and cotija ($7). I stole a bite of the fajita and it was delicious and not like anything I’ve had before.

Tacos

Tacos

We had a great meal at Casa Figueroa and look forward to returning in the future. The prices are a little higher than other more traditional Mexican restaurants, but the quality of the food and the variety was worth the extra cost.

Casa Figueroa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Condado Tacos started in Columbus in 2014, and now has a dozen locations spread across Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, with more scheduled to come soon. They specialize in a build your own taco concept where the tacos are customizable in toppings, proteins, and shells.

Outside

Outside

The Cincinnati location occupies the southwest corner of Freedom & Joe Nuxhall Ways, directly across from Great American Ballpark. On nice days the entire walls of windows can be pushed back to really open up the restaurant space.

Bar

Bar

The inside is completed covered in street art style murals, all designed and painted by local artists. My wife and I sat at the bar and were lucky enough to discover it was happy hour, Monday through Friday 4-7, with half-price margaritas and $1 off tacos.

El Tres Amigos

El Tres Amigos

On recommendation from the bartender, we started with the El Tres Amigos, a selection of 3 salsa, quesos, and guacamoles ($15). He also let us know that he would give us the salsa verde and salsa roja at no charge with our taco orders. So we went with the traditional guacamole, the diablo queso, and the chorizo queso. The chorizo queso was really good and comes highly recommended.

Tacos

Tacos

While the make your own taco concept was intriguing, I decided to play it safe and ordered off of their taco suggestion menu. The El Santo ($4) was my favorite I think. It’s a sweet Lucy shell, which is a soft flour tortilla wrapped around a hard corn shell with queso and guac, topped with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco, salsa roja, and Condado Secret Sauce. I do think I will try creating my own on my next visit, which I hope is sometime soon!

Condado Tacos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’ve been a fan of Revolution Rotisserie & Bar dating back to my 2015 visit to their Over-the-Rhine location. Since then they have grown up quite a bit. They added a location in Pleasant Ridge, they have more on the menus other than pita sandwiches, they offer a kids menu, and the list goes on.

Inside

Inside

I really like the openness and the feel of the newer Pleasant Ridge location. My wife and I stopped in one Saturday afternoon for lunch. Actually, we were there for brunch as they serve brunch on Saturdays and Sunday until 3 pm. I’m not really much of a brunch fan, mainly due to the dependence on egg-heavy dishes, but there were a couple of items I found to try.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

First, my wife went with the tried and true Joan of Arc salad with goat cheese, strawberries, toasted almonds, and raspberry basil vinaigrette ($8). She has had this salad before and consistently goes back to it, so it must be good! I slightly allergic to almonds, so I cannot comment on the flavor of the salad, but it looked pretty good, though I thought it appeared on the small side.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

For my brunch offering, I went with the Jackie Robinson Chita (chicken pita) with bacon, pepperjack cheese, tater tot hash, and hot honey ($9). This was really good, as have been the other chita sandwiches I have tried on previous visits. I would still recommend getting a chita when you visit.

Side Salad

Side Salad

I also had a simple side salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing ($3) on the side. The ingredients were fresh and the salad was tasty. Overall, I am still a fan of Revolution and their rotisserie chicken, and you should definitely give it a try if you haven’t already done so.

Revolution Rotisserie & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

While going to and from the airport recently, the Fort Mitchell Public House has often been on our agenda for a meal. Their convenient location is just off of the interstate and on an exit without a whole lot else going on, so it is easy to get in and out. We have enjoyed their quick and friendly service, kid friendly atmosphere, decent beer selection, and never a wait for a table (at least in our experience).

Outside

Outside

There is ample seating throughout the old home turned dining establishment. We prefer a table on the outside wall with half of a booth, also in view of some televisions and the bar.

Inside

Inside

On our first visit I tried the blackened chicken flatbread with blue cheese cream sauce, andouille sausage, banana peppers, red onion, cheddar jack, green onion, and bacon ($13). This was a healthy serving of food and the blackened chicken was great! I would have liked the peppers and onions to be a little more cooked, but overall this was a solid start to our meal.

Blackened Chicken Flatbread

Blackened Chicken Flatbread

My wife went with the fish tacos on the advice of our server. The blackened whitefish served on flour tortillas with a corn salsa, lettuce, cheddar, and sour cream ($10). The serving of fish was very large and quite delicious. She remarked that these were among the best chicken tacos in the city.

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

The kids burger and fries ($6) was good enough for my often picky son. It was served plain just as he liked it and had plenty of ketchup on the side.

Kids Burger

Kids Burger

On another visit I went with the public house mac and cheese, filled with andoiulle sausage, bacon, sauteed onions, and peppers ($15). The cheese sauce was slightly on the lighter side, but it clung well to the penne pasta and other ingredients. The addition of panko bread crumbs also helped to thicken the sauce. Overall this was a very good meal and I would definitely get this again. It is filling, so if you aren’t too hungry I would go with the tacos or flatbread from before. Or maybe just take the leftovers home.

Public House Mac and Cheese

Public House Mac and Cheese

Overall we have been really happy with the Fort Mitchell Public House and I look forward to another visit when our travels take us nearby.

Fort Mitchell Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Casa Sanchez in Copper Mountain has closed and El Zacatecano has opened in it’s place. If you liked Casa Sanchez you’ll like El Zacatecano, but if you didn’t like it the same will also be true. Reason being that I didn’t find any differences between the two.

Outside

Outside

Aside from a new sign out front, the space looks identical on the outside. And absolutely very little has changed on the inside. The same booths that are badly in need of repair are still there. There does appear to be a fresh coat of paint on the inside, which does help brighten up the space.

Inside

Inside

I couldn’t tell that much had changed with the food either. The place my food was served on was the same blue plate I had a year prior. The rice was the same, and the beans too. I had a medium combination plate with a chimichanga and an enchilada ($12.99). Pretty average tex-mex food here.

Combo Plate

Combo Plate

There aren’t a ton of places to eat in Copper, and this is the only Mexican around, so there isn’t a lot of competition. I just had hoped for more when I heard that the Mexican place had changed, but then I soon realized that not much had truly changed.

With the increasing number of breweries around the city I’m finding it harder to visit them all. Fretboard Brewing has been open for a little over two years now, and I’ve only visited them twice. If they were located closer to my house I’m sure my visits would be more often.

Outside

Outside

Fretboard is located in Blue Ash not too far off of I-71 at Pfeiffer in a sort of warehouse district. While the space looks pretty typical of the surrounding buildings on the outside, the renovation on the inside is great!

Inside

Inside

Of their six or seven year round beer offerings, I probably drink Improv (IPA) or Trey (Amber) the most, though their Vlad (Pilsner) has won some national and international awards. But when I’m in the taproom I love trying out the creative seasonals that they have on tap.

Tasters

Tasters

One thing that make Fretboard stand out from other breweries is that they have live music essentially every weekend. I have not had the chance to check that out, but it seems to be very popular. They are also kid friendly during day with cornhole and giant jenga sets.

Glassware

Glassware

Smoked Out Cincy is located at the back of the room and features in-house barbecue. I’ve enjoyed the flying pig sandwich with pulled pork, coleslaw, BBQ sauce, spicy bacon bits, and horseradish aioli ($11). They even offer a limited kids menu when the entire family is in need of some lunch. Fretboard is another great addition to the Cincinnati craft beer scene.