Best Of 2017

Best All-Purpose Gift Shop

Fresh out of gift ideas? Pomegranate & Lime has you covered. The cozy Mariemont boutique is overflowing with unique finds for basically anyone in your life: men, women, babies, significant others, parents — the list goes on. Throw rugs, stuffed animals, dessert toppings, jewelry, silverware sets, picture frames… It might actually be impossible to leave this place empty-handed. 6804 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-1012,

Best Antiquing In Burlington

The antiques and vintage-only collectibles Burlington Antique Market features more than 200 dealers hawking everything from giant metal letters and vintage postcards to industrial lighting, old globes, 1960s Fiestaware and more. Held third Sundays from April to October, the first fair of the season signals the approach of spring. It’s generally pretty crowded, so if you’re a real hunter, aim for early-bird admission. Burlington Fairgrounds, 5819 Idlewild Road, Burlington, Ky., 513-922-6847, burlingtonantiqueshow.comBest Wrought Iron Railer According to the city code, exterior stairs with more than four risers require a handrail. And for a lot of homes in Cincinnati, that means a hideous pipe and flange railing with flaking paint. With a collection of historic homes in neighborhoods like Northside, Mount Lookout, Clifton and Columbia Tusculum, the choices for finding a replacement railing that matches the character of your home are limited to Google and praying that Home Depot’s online inventory has a pre-fab selection that doesn’t look like it came from Nana’s 1970s ranch. Enter Elsmere Ironworks, a family-run business in operation since 1958. These expert iron fabricators blend old-world techniques with modern materials to weld custom gates, fencing, balconies, security doors and, yes, exterior railings. The team has a lookbook and gallery of styles you can replicate for your home, or you can request a custom design. Up your curb appeal; Elsmere provides free estimates. Elsmere Ironworks, 600 Lytle Ave., Elsmere, Ky., 859-727-2505,

Best Baby Bump

A light bulb went off for entrepreneur and owner of OTR’s Sloane boutique, Duru Armagan, when she was navigating the waters of pregnancy, approaching motherhood and celebrating five years in business. Inspired by her infant daughter (and outfitting her in cute clothes) she undertook new venture sloanebaby. With borrowed square footage from the existing Sloane space, Armagan created a one-stop shop for fashionable mamas and their chic mini-mes. Her adorable new inventory includes onesies, T-shirts, moccasins and teethers, all in a surprisingly affordable price range. However, if you really feel like splurging on mommy-and-me matching outfits, Sloane does carry the cutest baby leather jacket from Veda for a hair over $500. (Unfortunately, mommy’s is a little more expensive.) Sloane Boutique, 1216 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 

Best Beautification Of Four-Letter Words

Looking for a way display your hatred of people or your foul vocabulary? Look no further than Northside’s The Hoop & Needle, where owner Sarah Fisher offers a modern line of cross-stitching patterns, kits and completed pieces. Although designs featuring four-letter words are the store’s best-sellers — popular phrases include “nature is bullshit” and “Thomas Kinkade can suck my dick” — you’ll also find an array of pop culture references like “treat yo self” and “riding dirty.” The Hoop & Needle also holds classes for crafters of all skill levels, including a Color Wheel Sampler that covers the basics of cross-stitching. The Hoop & Needle, 4019 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 330-715-6064,

Best Bird In A Frame Shop

Helmed by a rag-tag collection of good-looking dudes and craftsmen, frameshop specializes in modern framing applications for unique artwork and prints to display your favorite pieces to their best effects. With multiple locations full of wall-hanging oddities and a new Hyde Park storefront, the custom framery’s unofficial head of customer service is Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot Jamie. Re-homed after her previous owners became ill, the more than 30-year-old Jamie was adopted by the folks at frameshop through the Northern Kentucky Parrot Rescue. Generally manning her station at the OTR location, Jamie’s wings aren’t clipped — she has full flight capabilities, which means her customer service role sometimes expands into crime fighter, like during a comical incident where she flew after a police officer who was giving chase to a suspect down Main Street. “There I was chasing a bird, who was chasing a police officer, who was chasing a suspect,” says frameshop co-owner Jake Gerth. frameshop, 1317 Main St., Over-the-Rhine; 2707 Observatory Ave., Hyde Park; 1275 Budd St., Queensgate,

Best Blooms For A Cause

Gia and the Blooms owner Yuliya Bui’s love for animals goes beyond the name of her shop, which refers to her pitbull Gia: A portion of the store’s proceeds are donated to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, from which Gia was adopted. Burlap-wrapped bouquets begin at $35, and delivery is free within the Cincinnati metro area. Gia and the Blooms, 114 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-487-0915,

Best Bookstore Making Kids Want To Read

Between cellphones, computers and tablets, getting your kids to reach for a book is getting harder and harder. But Blue Manatee Bookstore changes up that equation, fostering a cozy and colorful space that promotes creativity and offers an expansive selection of titles alongside a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Frequently held activities — ranging from arts and crafts to meet-and-greets with popular authors — add extra dimensions to kids’ favorite titles. Later this spring, the store is moving to a new, more intimate space up the road at 3094 Madison Ave., promising “a truly unique, magical space for children and their grownups.” The Blue Manatee, 3054 Madison Ave., Oakley, 513-731-2665,

Best Brews/Books Tagteam

Roebling Point Books & Coffee doesn’t skimp on either of its namesakes. Its brews are some of the best Cincinnati has to offer, and its extensive collection of titles is enough to keep caffeinated customers browsing for hours. Owner Richard Hunt hand-picks titles ranging from best-sellers to pieces by local authors. With a bit of a bohemian spirit, its exterior chalkboard wall on Greenup Street boasts constantly rotating quotes from authors and philosophers. Bonus: It’s dog-friendly. Roebling Point Books & Coffee, 306 Greenup St., Covington, Ky., 859-815-7204,

Best Classic Cincy Shirt Creations

Cincy Shirts is a “vintage” T-shirt brand helmed by local stand-up comic Josh Sneed that mines both the past and present to create apparel showcasing Cincinnati’s unique institutions and idiosyncratic culture. Some screenprinted creations feature staples like three-way chili and Pete Rose, but dig deeper and you’ll find distinctive and so-Cincy tees advertising everything from The Uncle Al Show and Caddy’s nightclub to Little Kings, FC Cincinnati and Shillito’s department store. They also have headwear, jackets, pins, patches and stickers to outfit yourself from head to toe. Our personal favorite designs include a T-shirt commemorating the historic Limp Bizkit concert that never was at a Sunoco gas station in Dayton and a logo tee for the now-defunct Phantom Theater at Kings Island. Cincy Shirts, 1435 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-510-5774,

Best Clothes For Tiny Humans With An Instagram Account

Offering dozens of clothing brands for babies and toddlers, Oakley’s The Spotted Goose helps your kids unleash their inner Rock stars by mixing and matching whimsically printed onesies with hipster hoodies and quirky graphic T-shirts. Complement outfits with items like snuggly beanies, floofy tutus, colorful moccasins or a pair of cat-eye sunglasses and snap a picture for Instagram (#youvebeenspotted). You’ll also find cuddly plush toys and accessories like wands, crowns, backpacks and locally made bibs. The Spotted Goose, 3048 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-351-9600,

Best Curated Cookware Collection

Husband-and-wife team Brad and Karen Hughes opened their Artichoke OTR storefront down the street from Findlay Market in order to offer marketgoers a convenient destination for cookware. From basics to unique pieces not available anywhere else — like the reissued Midcentury Modern Kobenstyle enamel cookware line from Dansk — you’ll find the tools you need to throw down in the kitchen like you’re an Iron Chef. And if you’re looking to enhance your skills, take a class in Artichoke’s demonstration kitchen — just make sure you don’t step on lazy shop greyhound Gus. Artichoke OTR, 1824 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-263-1002,

Best Deco Décor Throwback

Founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols, the Rookwood Pottery Company was the first female-owned manufacturing company in the nation. Taking inspiration from Japanese designs she saw at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition, Nichols built her company in a renovated schoolhouse with a team of potters, craftspeople, students and glaze chemists, encouraging them to exchange ideas, innovations and creative concepts in a sort of artists’ colony. More than a century later, Rookwood returns to its roots by reissuing classic molds, like its Abel Bear figurine or the 1920 Shirayamadani candlestick set. Designed by Tokyo-born Rookwood artist Kataro Shirayamandani, the holder is a simple elongated polyhedron with feet and a rounded cap — like a truncated base of the Eiffel Tower — decorated with almost royal natural markings. Is the relief a scepter? Or a budding tree branch? Either way, it recalls a golden design era in America and the Japanese influence of classic Rookwood.Rookwood Pottery retail store, 1209 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-579-1209,

Best Destination To Buy Some Old Stuff

Ohio Valley Antique Mall is the definitive place to go in Greater Cincinnati for collectors of old stuff, almost all of which is interesting if not destined for your home. Take our word for it: You could spend an entire day here. More than 550 dealers and an endless number of aisles will send you into a deep nostalgic trance. Even if you’re not a diehard antiquer or collector, there are a lot of things here great for decorating your home, room, store or work cubicle — sports memorabilia, bottles, rare toys, license plates, coins and vintage postcards, plus lots of Cincinnati memorabilia on these tables and in these display cases. To heck with walking laps at Kenwood Towne Center: Get your 10,000 steps here. Ohio Valley Antique Mall, 7285 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, 513-874-7855,

Best Do-Good Dog Treats

Each dog bone purchase at Brewhaus Dog Bones goes to benefit the parent not-for-profit Brewhaus Bakery Company, which provides vocational training for young adults with disabilities, dubbed the Brew Crew, who participate in all aspects of the program: baking bones, calculating costs, processing orders and making bank deposits. The organization produces handcrafted small-batch dog treats using spent whole grains from local breweries, including participating drinkeries Rhinegeist, Braxton, Taft’s Ale House, Nine Giant and Blank Slate. Each Brewhaus Dog Bone bag includes the name of the brewery from which the grains were sourced to make the treats, as well as the name of the Brew Crew member who packaged them.

Best Escape From The Perils Of Adulting

There’s nothing quite like getting lost among the shelves at King Arthur’s Court Toys, a purveyor of beloved classic toys for more than 25 years. Rediscover old favorites like LEGO, Playmobil, Calico Critters and Breyer horses and ride back home on a purple micro scooter for a little additional online shopping; shipping on orders over $99 are always free. King Arthur’s Court Toys, 3040 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-531-4600,

Best Excuse To Keep Your Shirt On

The brainchild of local duo Kysoc — a Covington, Ky.-based comedy writer and artist — Keep Your Shirt on Covington celebrates the quirky side of the Tristate. From “Straight Outta Covington” mugs to “I Wish I Knew How to Quit You” Bengals tees, there’s no shortage of ways to express your local pride (or, in some cases, shame). They are also the makers of the infamous Cincinnati Against All Sanity cards, a locally inspired add-on pack for your Cards Against Humanity deck. Stay tuned for upcoming scavenger crawls: Frankensteined pubcrawls meet scavenger hunts. Keep Your Shirt on Covington, 10 Pike St., Covington, Ky.,

Best Feast For Fur Babies

Argos, All-Natural Pet Food and Supply is an independently owned and operated shop dedicated to providing personalized service and products of superior quality. It stocks a wide variety of food for dogs and cats — dry, wet, treats and beyond — as well as health products like probiotics, calming chews and senior formulas. Their in-house signature pet food is made fresh each month without fillers (aka corn, soy, wheat or animal by-products), preservatives or artificial flavors and is certified by the Association Of American Feed Control Officials. Stop in and chat with knowledgeable staff or order online to have products delivered right to your doorstep. Deliveries are made throughout the majority of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky; go online for details. Your pets will thank you. Argos, 2801 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, 513-221-4451; 7713 Camargo Road, Madeira, 513-561-7966,

Best Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Great Outdoors

Founded in 1974, friendly outdoor mecca Benchmark Outfitters stocks everything you need to tackle the wilderness, from footwear, clothing and hiking gear to tools, luggage and electronics. The shop’s knowledgeable staff even hosts classes and events to help explorers of all ages thrive in the wild, including canoe nights and scout badge classes. Benchmark Outfitters, 9525 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash, 513-791-9453,

Best Honest Card Line

“No one wants to hear it will happen when it’s supposed to — people hate that.” That’s what the hand-drawn black and white script reads on the front of one of ap loves design’s fertility cards. Already a successful local card line with whimsical and cute sentiments for birthdays, babies and big events, designer Andi Ploehs says she realized there wasn’t a way to let someone struggling with infertility know that you care — a personal and painful issue she herself has battled. “I wanted to do something to encourage women and their families that they don’t need to be embarrassed or ashamed,” Ploehs says of her #infertilitywontsilenceme card line. “And then it came to me, I need to create a fertility card line. Not an overly sappy one, but one that was honest, cute of course, and one that came from my own personal experience.” ap loves design,

Best Imitation Of Borgin And Burkes

While the Harry Potter reference to Borgin and Burkes may seem a bit outdated (#harrypotterforver, nerds), Hail, Dark Aesthetics is definitely the place you’d go locally if you were in the market for a vanishing cabinet. Or a dark wizard. With a home base in East Nashville, the second location of oddities and record shop Hail is in MainStrasse, where the storefront is stuffed with taxidermy from local artists Meddling with Nature, tarot cards, religious ephemera, Black Metal-style jewelry, branded Ouija boards and a bunch of dead snakes. For good or bad, there aren’t too many other stores where you can buy a pig fetus and the Twin Peaks soundtrack on vinyl in the same transaction. Hail, Dark Aesthetics, 720 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-261-0107,