After nearly two years the Cincinnati Bearcat football team finally returned home to Nippert Stadium this past Saturday night. The stadium was closed while major renovations were complete to increase the number of seats at the stadium, add new concession and restroom options, and majorly change the flow through the stadium.
It seemed that all around campus and even offsite things were being done for the big reveal. I know I hadn’t been on campus for months and it was awesome to be back and everyone was so excited to see the big changes.
Short Vine Mural
My family and I had been tailgating down on campus at The Grid for at least two years before the temporary move of the games downtown, and we returned back to The Grid again this year. The crowd on Saturday afternoon was larger than any I had ever seen. It was hot and humid, but the drinks were flowing and everyone was having a great time.
I went in to the game early with my parents to see the renovations up close. We didn’t make it too far around the new massive press box and club suite structure before the skies opened and it started to pour. Unfortunately the game ended up being delayed almost two hours, but the majority of the crowd stuck around to see the Cats triumphant return including the big win over Alabama A&M.
Nippert 2015 Panorama
The stadium seemed louder than ever! The new concessions are nice and I was really happy to see all the craft beer options. The restroom closest to our section near the students hasn’t changed much at all, but I didn’t encounter any lines so that was very nice. Overall the game experience seems better than before and that is about all you can ask for. I look forward to better weather this coming Saturday to see more of the changes first hand. Go Cats!
My family and I all met up with my brother, his girlfriend, and my parents for a birthday celebration in West Chester. My brother and his girlfriend are regulars at Troy’s Cafe and recommended that we all give it a try.
I had never heard of Troy’s before and it would be easy to drive right past their West Chester location at the corner of a plain strip mall. There is a small patio out front, but none of the tables were large enough for our group of eight. Fortunately it wasn’t too crowded inside and one of the employees gladly pulled two tables together for us.
We started with a couple of small plates to share around the table. My favorite were the spring rolls ($6.45 for 2) filled with grilled chicken, Queen City chorizo sausage, and aged Wisconsin cheddar. Sweet chili sauce was served on the side, but the rolls didn’t really need to be dipped. The flavor from the cheddar and chorizo was outstanding!
For dinner I had the chicken pretzel sandwich ($9.95) topped with sweet smokey BBQ sauce, apricot chutney, goat cheese, and field greens. The chicken was drenched in sauce, making it pretty messy to eat, but the mess was worth. The flavor combination was like nothing I’ve had before with the creamy goat cheese, smokey BBQ, and sweet apricot all mixing together in each bite.
Chicken Pretzel Sandwich
My wife had the veggie panini ($8.95), which was filled with so many fresh vegetables including Portobello mushroom, zucchini, squash, tomato, and spinach. It was topped with basil mayonnaise and Muenster cheese between sour dough bread. I didn’t get to try a bite, but I’m told it was also very good. Both sandwiches were served with cafe chips on the side.
My brother has tasted a majority of the menu and says that it is all excellent. And from what we tried during our first visit to Troy’s Cafe I would have to agree with him. I would definitely return for me, especially the Cuban panini that looked amazing.
My parents live in Loveland and are regular patron’s of the various restaurants in their cute little downtown area. We joined them on a summer afternoon for lunch on the patio at Julian’s Deli. The spacious patio overlooks the bike trail and is a great place to relax over a drink and some food after a bike ride.
We were all very hungry upon our arrival so we quickly decided to split an order of sauerkraut balls ($6 for 4). Unfortunately our server forgot to put the order in until our lunch was being delivered, but she quickly brought out an order and didn’t charge us for it. These meatball sized rolls of sauerkraut, pork sausage, and cream cheese are delicious and didn’t really need any of the dressing that was provided on the side.
Cobb Club and Broccoli Salad
For lunch I thoroughly enjoyed the cobb club ($9.59) with turkey, bacon, cheddar, bleu cheese dressing on a grilled baguette with lettuce and tomato. The sandwich was large and more than enough for me for lunch. I opted to substitute broccoli for the included chips for an extra $2. In hindsight, though this was a tasty addition, I ordered more than I needed for lunch and should have just stuck with the chips.
Kid’s Grilled Cheese
With such a large menu there is something for everyone at Julian’s, including the little ones. My son enjoyed the panini press grilled cheese ($4.99), which also included chips. Overall the food at Julian’s Deli is very good, however the prices are a little high for a deli style restaurant. Alcohol is available as well, including a couple of draft options. Inside seating is also available, though trust me the patio is where it’s at.
On our way up to Salida for the weekend, a few friends and I stopped at the Sit N Bull Saloon in Indian Hills, Colorado for lunch. This dive bar is located just off of U.S. Route 285 just past the Morrison area. Entry to the building is through the covered outdoor area, which is not a smoke free spot. The inside area is really just the bar, so it’s probably not the best restaurant to take the kids.
Our group decided to sit outside. Fortunately the Thursday afternoon lunch crowd was not large and there weren’t too many smokers around. The back of the outside area overlooks a man-made waterfall area, which provides soothing sounds throughout the space. There is a dart board and what looks like an area for bands to setup.
Our group started with a couple of orders of mozzarella sticks, which appeared to be cooked from a frozen bag as is often done. They arrived hot and were served with large bowls of marinara, which actually looked to be homemade. The waitress actually said that a lot of the food is made from scratch, which surprised me as I was expecting standard ready to cook bar food.
BLT & Onion Rings
For lunch I had the BLT sandwich with onion rings. Again the onion rings did not appear to be of the frozen variety, which was a nice touch. The BLT was served on your choice of bread, of which there were many. I went with sourdough and thoroughly enjoyed the sandwich. The bacon was cooked perfectly and the toppings were fresh and tasty. Sit N Bull provides a great lunch or dinner stop when in the foothills of Denver.
I spent this past weekend in Salida, Colorado for Mumford and Son’s last Gentlemen of the Road stopover for this year. Salida is a beautiful little mountain town about three hours from Denver and it served as a great backdrop for a weekend full of music.
View From Our Hike
A group of my friends and I rented a house near the downtown area, adjacent to the Arkansas River. We were only a couple of blocks from the center of town and we spent a lot of time exploring the area’s bars, restaurants, and shops. For the most part the town seemed very receptive to the large number of visitors and welcomed us with open arms.
There was also plenty of music downtown, with a stage going from Thursday evening through late Saturday night. This area was blocked off to traffic and beer was being sold from a wide variety of Colorado breweries.
Downtown’s River Stage
The downtown area was about a mile from the main festival site, where thousands of people were camping. This was a lot farther than the last stopover I went to in Troy, Ohio, but it was still a manageable walk. Plus shuttles were available between the two areas.
The main festival site was set next to a little mountain ridge on the left and had sweeping views in all directions. The sunsets each night were really awesome! It was definitely an ideal spot for a festival and the weather couldn’t have been better.
The first night highlight was easily the band Dawes. This was the same band that opened up for Mumford and Sons the first time I saw them play. This time they opened up the first night of the festival for The Flaming Lips, which I skipped out on after a few songs as I’ve never been a big fan of theirs.
Jenny Lewis was another highlight of the weekend. She played just before Mumford. If you don’t recognize her name, you may know her as the front-woman for the now defunct band Rilo Kiley. She played songs from both her solo efforts and from Rilo Kiley and I was surprised by how many of the songs I knew.
Mumford And Sons
Mumford and Sons easily delivered another great performance. I will admit that I wasn’t too sure how the tracks from their latest release, Wilder Mind, would sound live but after hearing roughly 3/4 of them played I am a fan. The rest of the 20+ song set was an excellent mix of their other two releases plus an awesome encore ending “With a Little Help from My Friends” with many of the artists from the festival. That was an awesome way to end an incredible weekend of music.
The Cuban Pete food truck has been around Cincinnati since April 2014. Their brick and mortar shop opened in April of this year in the spot formerly occupied by the first Tom+Chee restaurant. I haven’t had a chance to see the restaurant transformation yet, but I finally got a chance to give their Cuban sandwich a try at a local event.
The El Cubano sandwich features ham, slow roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mayo, and mustard ($8 for the full). All of their sandwiches are served on dense authentic Cuban bread. Let me tell you that this was easily one of the best sandwiches I’ve had out of a food truck, and likely one of the best Cuban sandwiches in the area.
The Cuban Pete menu also features the Cincy Cuban, with goetta instead of pork, and the Bar B Q Ban with the traditional Cuban meets along with cheddar, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce. Both of those sound equally amazing to me. There are also a variety of salads and standard sandwiches along with Cuban inspired sides like plantains and corn. I can’t wait to try out more of their menu in the future.
Late summer of last year I first wrote about Braxton Brewing Company, which opened March 27 of this year. I finally made the trek down to Covington on a recent work day after my internet connection at home cut out for the afternoon.
Though they are closed Mondays, the brewery opens up at 8 A.M. the rest of the work week and has plenty of space for individuals or small groups to work. They have even launched a coffee program with Carabello to serve hot and cold brewed coffee, as well as beans to go.
I brought my lunch with me on this visit, but they have also partnered with Four Seasons Catering to offer food delivered to the brewery. There are whiteboards, projectors, and gigabit internet, making it easy to spend your entire work day there. Plus they have space to host meetings for groups of 10-60.
Flight of Beer
Before leaving for the day, I treated myself to a flight of four of Braxton’s signature brews, Crank Shaft IPA, Dead Blow Tropical Stout, Trophy Pale Ale, and their small batch Blown Gasket Robust Porter. Of these four I liked the Dead Blow the most, which was like nothing I’ve had before. There is a lot of fruit flavor in the beer from the addition of dates, which mixes well with the roasty base.
I was a very skeptical when I first heard that the owners of the Holy Grail were going to open an Italian restaurant next door to their riverfront location. I’ve never been a fan of the food from the always crowded sports bar, but recently decided to meet my wife for lunch at Santo Graal recently.
Inside From Outside
Just like their neighboring spot, Santo Graal has large garage doors that open up to let the fresh air in during nice weather days. There is also a small patio out front, which is where we sat for lunch. The interior finishes are much nicer than their sports bar, though it is still a casual spot for a meal.
Pizza Salad Combo
The menu is decent sized with a handful of signature pizzas, plenty of pasta options, along with some sandwiches and salads. My wife and I both ordered the same thing, a slice of pizza along with a side salad and drink ($8). Pizza by the slice is served either as cheese, pepperoni, or the pizza of the day, which happened to be the vegetarian during our visit.
The side salad is a nice combination of lettuce, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan Reggiano, and Balsamic Vinaigrette. Their veggie pizza features Portobello, capers, roasted red peppers, tomato, arugula, and roasted garlic. I was pleasantly surprised by the pizza, and while the crust was fairly bland, the fresh toppings and house cheese blend made up for it.
My wife and I have been searching for our go to Mediterranean spot since moving back to Cincinnati a few years ago. After our first visit to Ali Baby Mediterranean Grill I think we have found our place. This small restaurant is somewhat hidden in a strip of stores along Red Bank Expressway.
Orders are placed at the counter and toppings can be requested as plates are put together. The menu is straightforward and features gyro, chicken, steak, or falafel served as either sandwiches in a pita or on a platter. A handful of Mediterranean appetizers are also available. We choose the hummus and pita ($5), which is plenty for four people. The hummus itself was some of the best around.
I ordered the chicken gyro platter and topped it with cucumber salad, baba ghanouj, and tzatziki sauce ($10.50). The serving size is enough for two to share or likely enough to take home for lunch the next day. The chicken was a little dry, which is to be expected as it is not cooked to order, but well seasoned.
Chicken Gyro Platter
The real star of our meal was the falafel platter that my wife ordered ($10). This is the best falafel I’ve had in the city, no doubt. Make sure to try some, even if you just do an appetizer order (6 for $5) but I prefer to make a sandwich with the provided pita and mix the chicken in as well.
Ali Baba may not look like much from the outside and the inside could use a little work, but the food is overall very delicious. I imagine we will probably do carry-out next time as our kids don’t typically eat Mediterranean. Though I should note chicken tenders and fries are available for the kids.
Last month I attended my first Dayton Dragons baseball game. The Dragons are the Class A affiliate of the Reds. They play their home games at Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton, Ohio. The 8,200 seat stadium has great amenities including a craft beer bar and plenty of activities for the kids too.
As with every game in their sixteen year existence, this game was a sellout. On July 9, 2011, the Dragons officially set a new record of 815 consecutive sellout games. The sellout streak is the longest across all professional sports in the U.S. and is still going strong. They are well over 1,000 games at this point. Needless to say, the games are the place to be!
With just a month left in their regular season (15 games), time is quickly running out to attend a game this year. Tickets cost roughly $15-20, making it a great place to take the entire family for a fun night out in Dayton.